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.

40 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. Jesus, Remus, you are way out of my league. You might have to explain to people what “bare metal” means. I had to look it up. Turns out I knew and do it all the time, I just had my own lingo for it.

  9. 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.

  10. 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?

  11. 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.

  12. “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?

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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!

  16. I used Macs for a few years in the early 90s. Since then I will only use PCs. I’m perfectly at home with them. I have two laptops down from a peak of 6 at one point and I’ve got 3 desktops (2 at home). After that I’ve worked on hundreds of machines in various capacities and maintened up to half a dozen small networks at any one time. Yeah, all kinds of things go wrong with PCs, but I guess from where I’m coming from I just don’t have a problem with them.

    I personally like the ability to constantly upgrade stuff and be able to add in and take out various components. The key is understanding where the speed bottlenecks are in the technology at any given time. Right now I think the power of the software is tapped out, the machines are too quick. I just came into possession of a Windows Vista boot-DVD and I spent a lot of yesterday working with a 6-year-old HP to see what the minimum system requirements felt like for speed. I have the know-how and I had enough memory and parts lying around to make it work. And let me say – I was quite impressed. What I concluded was that the $400 boxes from Dell and HP selling in Best-Buy with Pentium E2200 series Processors and 2GB of memory are more than adequate to handle anything 99% of computer-users would want. And I know any piece of hardware or software available is going to work on them. A lot of which is not even available for Mac.

    The speed of these machines compared to just 2 years ago is amazing. And the speed at which the price of the components is constantly dropping is out of this world. I’m going shopping this afternoon for a hard drive and when I was doing some online research earlier I couldn’t believe some of the prices. A four-pack of 2GB USB key-drives for $24. Are you kidding me. 512MB video cards that were $500 a year ago are $69.95.

    I’m not sure if it is possible to take advantage of all this kind of stuff in the Mac/Linux world. But I wouldn’t know. Everybody that uses Macs or switches to them seems to be happy. Maybe they don’t have my needs. All I know is my one yearly experience with a Mac these days is on Labor Day weekend every year. I’ve been going down the Cape every year for about ten years to a friend of the family’s barbecue party thingamajiggy and these people have always been strickly Mac. The guy I grew up with there even runs some internet service in New York City and runs all kinds of servers for clients (all Linux stuff), but he claims to only use a Mac.

    Anyway, during the course of the day I might check the internet once, this past Labor Day I had this ridiculous need to track the progress of whatever that hurricane was – Ike? Every half hour (like it was gonna change direction). They always have this one wireless Mac laptop. And everytime I turn it on it takes me 5 minutes to figure out how to get on the internet. And then to open up a second instance of the browser or minimize something. Forget about it. Why did Steve Jobs need to make everything so goddamn complicated on those things?

  17. 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…

  18. Which is exacly why it doesn’t make sense to recommend anything but windows to someone who knows nothing about computers. On the other hand once people start to learn and understand about what they know about computers, then if they are unhappy, you can allow them to go down that path.

    I would have thought they made Visio at least for Mac. Or something like it. Apparently that was a good buy for Microsoft.

  19. 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.”

  20. “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.

  21. 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.

  22. 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.

  23. 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!


  24. “watched the old French guy pick up his crepes”

    Is this sexual innuendo or my lack of dining ettiquette?

    You know what, I don’t wanna know. I’ll email Jamie Oliver, he’ll fill me in. whoops, I mean…. nevermind.

  25. “That is far from painless.”

    Surprisingly, I ‘ve never been able to gauge this. I consider one of my main strengths understanding how the computer illiterate and computers mix. I believe I’m at the forefront of the field from experience and knowledge alone (I can detail that later).

    The problem with my observations is that the illiterate are incapable and unqualified to comment so I can only trust the views of those who have successfully advanced. It’s the classic Catch-22.

    The result looks a lot like CNN’s anchor team.

    The World has much to lose and nothing to gain from Anderson Cooper.

    There’s nothing wrong with pain. It makes one appreciate morphine more.

  26. 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.

  27. 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.

  28. 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.

  29. Formula is less than 90 days from the start of the new season. This is going to be wickedly exciting. I will post links soon.

    Man, You Have Balls. You are probably right. I salute you. When we look back I think the only thing we will see is you, Bif. Seriously, dude. I won’t even try and stand there. I never liked NASCAR. only Richard Petty.

    I will always tell everyone that I knew you though. There’s a reason your friends like you. That takes balls.

    NASCAR ain’t gonna pass so fast. Nudge keeps telling me she ain’t gonna post here no more. JHK says we gonna run outta oil soon. It ain’t like that.

  30. 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.

  31. “as aside to Doom. Dale is right about JHK’s predictions, but it’s plagiarism. I was saying these things last year. I have always backed up what I say with facts, numbers, and time-stamped references. Dale is an illiterate moron. Why you waste your time with him is beyond me. OEO is a hundred times more interesting”–JR

    I read your piece on oil but cannot comment there, so here is my response. You are correct about JHK’s predictions on oil. You are also correct that you were the first one, over a year ago, to criticise JHK in this regard. dale is indeed a moron, and since you do not comment there anymore, he and the talkative dunce Bob Snowjob like to dominate the discussion with their idiotic ideas and “wisdom”. They both piss me off. You’re right, I should just ignore them, but I do admit to the enjoyment of the occasional bitch slap, especially at the stupid cunt dale.

  32. 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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