Women in tech: The forgotten story of Vector Graphic

I frequently hear lamentations about the number of women in the technology field–or the lack of them. Although there have been a number of successful women in the field, such as Meg Whitman, CEO of HP and formerly Ebay; Marissa Meyer, CEO of Yahoo; and Carly Fiorina, former CEO of HP, men outnumber women in the field and often by a large margin.

That perhaps makes it even more sad that Vector Graphic is largely forgotten today. Last week Fast Company profiled this pioneering computer company that time forgot.

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Check your smoke detectors, please. And make sure you have more than one.

Early Monday morning, a fire broke out a couple of streets over from me. Sadly, there was one casualty, a seven-year-old second grader who attends the same school as my oldest son. His older sister heroically came and got him and tried to lead him out the front door, but they became separated and he lost his way.

The paper noted that there have been a large number of fires with fatalities in my area in this past year. It did not speculate on the reasons, but I think I know why.

I think inadequate smoke detectors have a lot to do with it. Read more

Ctrl-Alt-Del history: non revisionist edition

When it comes to Ctrl-Alt-Del history, there’s a lot of selective memory going on.

Bill Gates said last week that he regrets the use of Ctrl-Alt-Del as a logon sequence, while David Bradley, the IBM PC engineer who built that feature into the first IBM PC, says he doesn’t know why Microsoft chose to use that sequence for logon anyway.

Both of them, for whatever reason, are forgetting a few things.

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What keeps a good security guy from turning to the dark side

I’m reading the excellent Blackhatonomics right now. And one thing I read in it reminded me of a question that someone asked me last year. I was probably the third or fourth guy with an advanced security certification he’d met, and he asked me one day what it is that keeps us from turning criminal.

I said, “Well, for one thing, good guys have much longer careers.”

I didn’t cite a specific example, but Blackhatonomics cited the case of Albert Gonzalez, the infamous hacker convicted of breaking into TJX, Dave & Buster’s, and others. His crime spree, which ended when he was captured in 2008, netted him $2.98 million.

He was convicted in 2010, and had to give back what was left of his fortune, and now is serving 20 years in a minimum-security prison.

I like my approach better. Read more

This “Computer Maintenance Department” sure doesn’t know much about computer maintenance

“Peggy” from “Computer Maintenance Department” (1-645-781-2458 on my caller ID) called again. Lots of people are aware of these phone calls. They call, make vague claims about receiving a report that your computer is running slow and giving you errors, and are very careful not to say who they are or who they work for. Usually I just do whatever I can to get them off the phone.

But after having lunch with some other computer security professionals last week, a couple of them talked me into finding out how these guys operate. So I fired up a PC that turned out to have a real, legitimate issue. After resolving that issue myself, I turned the caller loose on my semi-functional PC so I could see what these scammers actually do. He had me connect to Teamviewer.com and run their remote access software. I followed his instructions, watched him connect, then slyly unplugged my network cable.

When my network connection dropped, “Peggy” quickly transferred me to a “senior technician” who used the name “Roy.” Read more

How to encrypt PDF files for free

Yesterday I wrote about the importance of encrypting documents before you send them via e-mail. But what if you don’t have a PDF creator, other than Microsoft Office or Open/Libre Office?

It turns out you can encrypt PDF documents, including those you create with office software, for free–with caveats.

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Replacing bad capacitors in failed electronics

If you’ve had a piece of electronic gear fail in the last few years, there’s a good chance it’s due to one or more bad capacitors inside. The problem most infamously reared its ugly head on motherboards produced in the middle of the previous decade, but that’s just a place where it’s highly visible. If you had a DTV converter box, a DVD player, or some other device fail in the same timeframe, it may have had the same problem.

If I had a failed motherboard, I’d probably just swap the motherboard. I’m more inclined to fix an LCD monitor or a DTV converter box. Read more

There’s room for several to gloat over the Britannica

The Encyclopædia Britannica is, after 244 years, calling it quits on its print edition, and I’m sure Wikipedia is gloating, because as I recall, that was one of its goals around a decade ago.

Wired argues that Encarta did more to kill Britannica than Wikipedia. I tend to agree.
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How to pass CISSP: Test taking strategies

The CISSP is a 250-question, multiple-choice test. You have six hours to complete it. It’s not like any college final I ever took, though cramming all of finals week into a six-hour session is almost a fair comparison. If you’re wondering how to pass CISSP, I can’t guarantee my method, but I’m glad to share what worked for me.

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Milestone! I’ve been pirated!

In searching for the abstract of my book, I found more than I expected: What appeared to be a pirated PDF copy of the book in its entirety. What’s worse is that it appeared #1 in Google’s search. Numbers 2 and 3 were various pages on my site, #4 was my Wikipedia profile page, #5 was O’Reilly’s page, and #6 was Amazon’s page. So it’s easier to download a pirated copy of my book than it is to buy it. (It’s $2.03 at Amazon right now. Maybe I should buy some copies.)

I’m having trouble deciding whether that bothers me. The likelihood of me ever making another 25 cents off that book is slim. There was some talk at one time of releasing the book under some kind of Creative Commons license, but I never received the paperwork so I guess they changed their mind. As far as I know, it’s still under copyright.

And the copyright doesn’t belong to me, so ultimately it’s not up to me. I wrote it, but O’Reilly owns the copyright. So I e-mailed O’Reilly to ask them if they care.
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