Open Thread December

Hollywood’s happy, even without a record year

Gentlemen, Stop Your Engines
A NASCAR fan makes the case to euthanize stock-car racing.
By Robert Weintraub
Dec. 15, 2008

But NASCAR’s biggest problem isn’t fixable with a couple of sexy drivers or a breathless season finale in Miami. The sport can’t escape the fact that the internal combustion engine and fossil fuels are technologies on a steep downslope. With hybrids and electrics on the way in, it’s hard to see where gas-guzzling, emission-belching stock cars fit in. Unlike the Indy Racing League and Formula 1 (open-wheel racing circuits famous for the Indy 500 and the Monaco Grand Prix, respectively), NASCAR has yet to implement alternative-fuel programs—hell, it only switched to unleaded gasoline last season! Open-wheel racing isn’t immune from the economic turmoil (Honda recently announced it was dropping out of F1), but it stands a better chance at survival. Formula 1 and the Indy crowd run machines that are less cars than science experiments, highly engineered equipment that can and will adapt easily to new technologies. Stock cars are just tricked-out Dodges and Chevys—you know, the ones that nobody’s buying anymore.

Indian navy captures 23 pirates

U.S. Navy: Land attack on pirates unwise

U.S. Vice Adm. Bill Gortney told reporters that striking pirate camps presents problems because it is difficult to identify them and the potential for killing innocent civilians “cannot be overestimated.”

“They’re irregulars — they don’t wear uniforms,” said Gortney, who oversees a coalition of navies fighting piracy off Somalia.

In a wide-ranging interview at his 5th Fleet headquarters, Gortney said such strikes are an effort to go for an easy military solution to a problem. He says the better solutions are to improve the security, stability and government in Somalia, and to clear up legal hurdles so that militaries that capture pirates can detain them and bring them to trial.

Thieves Winning Online War, Maybe Even in Your Computer

Security researchers concede that their efforts are largely an exercise in a game of whack-a-mole because botnets that distribute malware like worms, the programs that can move from computer to computer, are still relatively invisible to commercial antivirus software. A research report last month by Stuart Staniford, chief scientist of FireEye, a Silicon Valley computer security firm, indicated that in tests of 36 commercial antivirus products, fewer than half of the newest malicious software programs were identified.

Some of you may recognize this name. I’m glad he is finally doing something useful.

I’ve had some problems with malware recently on my own computers. I commonly deal with the problem on my clients computers. One thing I never do is pay for commercial anti-virus software. But the fixes and solutions are there. I’m putting together a checklist/report for how to deal with this stuff and hopefully I’ll get some feedback from the other computer “gurus” here.

The severity of the situation was driven home not long ago for Ed Amaroso, AT&T’s chief security official. “I was at home with my mother’s computer recently and I showed her it was attacking China,” he said. “ ‘Can you just make it run a little faster?’ she asked, and I told her ‘Ma, we have to reimage your hard disk.’ ”

Aren’t Moms great? Ma! I said,”your computer is attacking China!

I think we should make AT&T’s chief security official the next Defense Secretary. This guy really knows what’s important.

HDTV Flatscreens

Thanks to increasing worldwide sales and economies of scale, a wide range of large-screen HDTVs are now available for three-figure prices. At Wal-Mart, for example, 42- to 50-inch plasma and LCD sets can be found for $600 to $925. Some lesser-known brands in a 32-inch screen size are around $400.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m starting to dream in Blu-Ray HD. Last night I had this one where I was being chased by this bully from high-school. To escape I fled down these stairs leading into the clear waters around a coral reef. The colors and clarity were absolutely amazing. Once you’ve experienced 1020p in real-life, dreams will never be the same. Just make sure your brother-in-law gets it first, so you can spend hours laughing at him while he tries to set it up (and not taking advice from everybody else in the room who actually know something about technology) – well worth it.

33 Replies to “Open Thread December”

  1. Yeah, I’m hearing ya… today I opened up the temporary internet files folder to watch what was going on while I surfed the internets. Damn… it’s a busy place. And I thought it would just be a tranquil repository for incoming mp3 files as I stream Grateful Dead soundboard gems. As Jerry (at least) once said in between song banter, “You won’t take me alive!”

  2. Like I said, I use a Mac. We hear about these virus problems with PCs all de time. Must be really annoying…

  3. Sounds like repressed PC envy to me. Must suck not being able to do a third of the things a PC-owner can do. How’s life with only one mouse-button? I wouldn’t know.

  4. Ditto on the Mac for personal surfing. Although these links might be give pause, if for nothing else than muddy waters.

    On internal business servers/computers I use a business class commercial product. I use embedded OS NAS RAID boxes for all data storage and external redundant backup of business critical data.

    For clients, business class commercial product, multilayers of firewall (starting at the edge) with various anti-bad engines. Ditto with email servers – spam appliance near the edge, software on the server. Data on RAID 5 or better, on site HD or tape backup with nightly FTP syncs of business critical to off site inexpensive NAS appliances.

    Wherever possible, we have line-of-business computers (health care ERM for example) on isolated subnets with little or no Internet access or email on those machines. For email and white-list surfing, we use terminal servers with a bare metal restore at the ready. Where possible, standby virtual servers ready to spin up and take over.

    Wherever possible, white-list surfing and email, domain blocks on firewalls. Social networking sites, some web mail portals etc. are verboten as are browser plug-ins – especially ones from Google. Where not possible (a law firm for example), backups, bare-metal recovery, standbys and crossed fingers are in order.

    More important is the response/recovery scenario. Bare metal restore and a current backup (hard drive or tape) with the most recent tweaks/data. Just like hard drive failures, shit will invariably happen. Some user somewhere will have a lapse in email or website judgment or some kinda nasty will get through the gauntlet. Did I mention tornadoes?

    Most important, on top of prevention and recovery preparation, is end user education and maintaining awareness. End users are really the key to successful prevention.

  5. Anti-virus (I encompass virus, spam & malware in that term) is basically a past tense game – it the AV knows about a threat, it can usually stop it. Heuristic or other learning approaches to detection have been generally less than satisfactory.

    That AV depends on current definitions of known threats to be effective gives rise to the issue of definition file size, parsing of that file and what, if any, definitions get dropped to keep that file size manageable. How old of a virus is too old?

    Every AV engine has it’s strengths and weaknesses, which is why many use a layered AV engine strategy. X AV on the network edge where the internal network meets the pubic network, Y AV in the email server and Z AV on the individual computers. The gaunlet.

  6. Well, I’m taking portable Mac no. 2 with me on a week-long road trip to San Francisco and de Bay area. Like deciding to crawl into your refrigerator for a vakay. Maybe I’ll hook up with Bob Snowjob so he can continue to bore me for hours, in person.

  7. Actually Bush did a nice job of ducking that first shoe. It would’ve got him on the noggin. A rubber scuff mark on the forehead would have been a first for a president. As far as we know.

    The problem I see with throwing your shoes at people is you only get two shots. And then you have to go around the rest of the day in your socks. Maybe it would better to just throw the socks instead.

    Bush kind of blew off the episode as no big deal, and he was all cool about it. But then he started talking, and as usual gave an awkward, lame, and uninspiring speech.

  8. Bare metal = raw computer with no operating system (OS) installed. Installing an OS, adding drivers and then restoring a backup takes time. A drive image (via any number of software packages) allows you restore a fully operational image of a hard drive in considerably less time and hassle. Time is money on a business level.

    There are home user versions of many available, at a reasonable cost, that can reduce the stress of dealing with a hardware failure or nasty infection. Even with at home (on site) hardware warranty, most companies only replace the dead part(s), but don’t put all your data or even the OS back on – that’s why you have the restore ROMs. But they only put you back to the state the machine was in when you bought it.

  9. There’s not too much I care to say about Bush at this point, but it’s probably good form for him to take such things in stride.

    UR, I second what JR said. An underlying message seems to be to be that if the business model requires time in some or another figurative electronic brothel, such necessary evils can be attempted to be managed and, at the very least, are best perpetrated with as much care and moderation as circumstances permit. The hostile agents — maybe by definition — seem often to be a step or so ahead of would-be prophylactics. Unplug?

  10. Uhhh… make that threatening agents. So yeah, it certainly makes sense that what was once thought to have grown over time to be toothless, rather –further still down the road — reemerges as long in the tooth instead and threatening once again. The threat bucket, in practical implementations, can only hold so much I guess.

  11. “Unplug?” Oh, if it were so easy. But it gets my vote. And BB, I love the way you put it – “figurative electronic brothel” – indeed.

    Hostile, threatening – 6 of one…

    It’s a game of perception and if allowed, unending escalation. Perhaps not unlike the CF around us?

  12. So the NYTimes is reporting that the Fed printed $1T in new funny money since September to no avail. It also has a balance sheet increase from $.9T to $2T…

    Prophylactics indeed! I use a Mac, though have experience with trying to lock down multiple connections on a PC. Dear friggin lord. Later I find out that it is technically impossible to do so with a cell card. WTF! Mind you I have programed Cisco routers and IOS firewall software. Get a Mac. They aren’t that expensive compared to a dam flat screen television!

    Last week, I had my first Apple fail in 20 some years. The hard drive was replaced, and I restored from Time Machine. At least I wasn’t that busy! But, I am buying a Time Capsule, next time some coin arrives.

  13. BTW, I hear that Nascar is highly leveraged. We’ll be reverting to gokarts any day!

    This is the first week in a while that I neither read Jim’s post nor posted something. The place has become quite the cesspool.

  14. Yes, there are some quirks. Even with the Time Capsule, I need an offsite copy, so will have to have a hard disk connect to it. Not all drives are supported. Hopefully, it won’t cause too many issues. I currently use a Firewire raid array. It works, thankfully!

  15. YMMV! My experience with Macs versus Windows is exactly the opposite. Connect a printer? No problem. Recently, I helped somebody set up a printer on a network, and he couldn’t figure out how. It was really simply a matter of clicking on the option tab, but his experience prevented him from doing what seemed perfectly obvious.

    I do understand it is a preference, and nothing more, unless you run specialized software. I’m a designer, so Macs are what I need. About all I want from the Win side is Vizio and perhaps Project. But, computer based software will increasingly become a rarity.

    99% of the people need a browser…

  16. On the subject of electronic brothels:

    “This week Marissa Meyer explained that editorial judgments will play a key role in Google searches. It was reported by Tech Crunch proprietor Michael Arrington – who Nick Carr called the “Madam of the Web 2.0 Brothel” – but its significance wasn’t noted. The irony flew safely over his head at 30,000 feet.”

  17. “But, computer based software will increasingly become a rarity.”

    Perhaps – but for me the devil is in the details. Like, where is the work product stored, the temp files; then there is liability, confidentiality and even copyright. And there’s caching and indexing.

    The opportunity open source and Linux followers have wanted for so long may be coming as Microsoft et al have their Novell v4.0 moment and give up the SMB market, albeit perhaps unwittingly.

  18. Visio certainly has improved over the years. The 2007 version that I purchased even finds cute clip art that can be inserted into whatever it is that you’re working on. But I have to say that something about it just/doesn’t/feel/right. Holmes, is there a compulsory licensing scheme in place for clip art? Sound off (for a change) and make yourself useful.

    Nicholas, I’ve been meaning to ask you: What is an information designer? It sounds like an interesting gig. I’m imagining that some combination of marketing talent, visual aesthetics, propagandist instincts, persuasive oration and contrarian predilections constitutes at least part of the core skill set of the aforementioned trade… just guessing.

    As an aside, I’d be delighted to interview you for publication in these very pages. If interested, have your people contact mine. It’s painless and fun. Trust me. If not, that ‘s cool. This is a unique platform and I know what people want, so take that into account.

  19. BB,

    Painless? Really? OK!

    “Which is exacly why it doesn’t make sense to recommend anything but windows to someone who knows nothing about computers.” That is far from painless you sadistic MF!

    “[S]ome combination of marketing talent, visual aesthetics, propagandist instincts, persuasive oration and contrarian predilections constitutes at least part of the core skill set of the aforementioned trade.” Yep.

  20. I am going to crash however, as I just had dinner with some friends at a lovely little French place in Chicago, should you visit — the Red Rooster. Last week had a couple, or four, glasses of wine with a friend, and watched the old French guy pick up his crepes. I told her that I needed to visit soon. And, I did!


  21. Jim sez TypoKey must be b0rked and that he didn’t shut it down. It remains to be seen if his admin person fell asleep at the switch or if there’s a larger problem with the service. It’s widely known anyway that TypoKey blows goats.

    Woohoo, home internet is back up. Now I can go back to watching the economy crash in surreal-time. OTOH, take advantage of that currency exchange fluctuation to go pick up some mellow yellow while you still can.

  22. Plane crash here in Denver tonight about an hour ago. No major injuries reported looks as if it was a 737 but no model type given yet.

  23. The NASCAR article is wonderful. What an indictment. I’m sending the link to all my NASCAR fan friends. Both of them. Just to rub it in.

    Formula One is just a couple steps behind.

    However, I don’t agree people will look back in 20 years and think it was stupid. They will remember it as the good old days, especially in North Carolina. It will take several generations to get this out of our system.

  24. They shouldn’t dispair too much. What a great opportunity to go back to their roots. Running moonshine over the mountains. Of course they’ll have to run those hot rods on moonshine too. Drink the best, burn the rest.

  25. Dale is a property developer so he knows everything is honky dory and we hit a rough patch in history.

    Everything is going to be fine.

    Asko and Ryan has all the anwsers…

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