Commodore 64 vs Amiga

Commodore 64 vs Amiga

Looking at the Commodore 64 vs Amiga seems a little odd, at least to me. After all, the machines were never intended to be rivals. The Amiga was supposed to succeed the 64. Commodore bought Amiga because they couldn’t make a 64 successor on their own, so they intended for the Amiga to replace it. It didn’t fully succeed, and maybe that’s why the comparison is still interesting.

Looking back, the machines may seem similar today. But in 1985 they sure didn’t.

Read more

How to sell Lionel trains

Since I’ve covered other makes of trains, someone asked me how to sell Lionel trains. So I thought I would give similar advice on selling Lionel trains. Lionel is an iconic, legendary part of Americana, so there will always be some market for its products.

That said, don’t expect to get rich selling off your Lionel trains. But if you keep your expectations realistic, you’ll find an eager buyer, or ideally, at least two interested buyers so you’ll realize a good price at auction.

Read more

C64 vs. Apple II

C64 vs. Apple II

The C64 vs. Apple II was perhaps the most epic battle of the 8-bit era. Both companies sold millions of machines, yet both nearly went out of business in the process.

Comparing the two machines with the largest software libraries of the 8-bit era is a bit difficult, but that’s what makes it fun. The two machines are similar enough that some people ask if the Commodore 64 was an Apple product. The answer is no.

As a weird aside, it was possible, with a Mimic Systems Spartan, to turn a C-64 into an Apple II. Not many did, but the reason why is another story.

Read more

Are video games a good investment?

An article on Slashdot asked this weekend whether video games were a good investment. So are video games a good investment? Will they appreciate over time?

The answer is generally no. Collectibles in general are not–they follow a boom and bust cycle. I’ve seen it happen in my own lifetime.

Read more

Welcome, Tony’s Kansas City readers

Thanks to Tony’s Kansas City for the link this morning. Tony noted that “Security dude reminds us that Google Fiber could kill the software industry.”

That’s an interesting spin. I do think it will affect the software industry–but so long as Kansas City stays at the forefront and the rest of the country is content with being a technological backwater, the effect will be minimal. But “kill” is an awfully strong word, even if every major city in the country were to get affordable Gigabit Internet in the very near future.

I say that because of what I saw in college. Read more

How to tame e-books

I haven’t exactly been rushing out to buy an e-reader, for at least a couple of reasons. The practical reason is that I’m afraid of being locked in to a single vendor. Amazon is the market leader and the most likely to still be around for the long term, but they’re the worst about locking you in. The other vendors offer slightly better interoperability–supporting the same file format and, optionally, the same DRM–but the non-Amazon market leaders are Barnes & Noble, Borders, and Sony, all of which are scary. Borders is being liquidated; B&N isn’t losing money–yet–but its profit margins have shrunk each of the last two years; and Sony’s recent problems are well known to the security community. I’m not too anxious to climb into bed with any of them. Google is entering the market as well, but the first Google-backed e-reader doesn’t support highlighting or note-taking.

The Luddite reason is that I’m old enough to have an attachment to books. Physical books, printed on paper. Maybe this isn’t true for any generation beyond mine (I’m a GenXer), but for my generation and previous generations, having books on your shelf is a sign of being educated. And there are certain books–or types of books, depending on your field–that you’re expected to have on your shelf.

To a certain extent, the latter reason can be negated by playing the e-reader card. Of course I have the complete works of Shakespeare on my e-reader, so those Shakespeare books from college just became clutter…
Read more

The many troubles with e-books

A brief essay by free software pioneer Richard Stallman on the problems with e-books made the front page of Slashdot today. It’s everything I’ve come to expect from Stallman. I found myself vigorously agreeing with parts of it, and vigorously disagreeing with other parts of it.

But mainly I found myself disappointed that he didn’t really elaborate much. Maybe it’s because he covered similar ground once before in his 1997 dystopian 1984-ish short story, The Right to Read.

And, to me, that’s the problem. We’re on a slippery slope. Today it sounds ridiculous that it could be illegal to loan your laptop or your e-reader or your tablet to someone else. But prior to 2009, the idea that you could buy a book and then at some point the party that sold it to you could take it back from you without permission sounded ridiculous.
Read more

Why publish in Classic Toy Trains?

On one of the few remaining train forums where I do anything but lurk, the magazine Classic Toy Trains came up in discussion. Someone said, “It ought to call itself Classic Lionel Toys and be done with it,” and the discussion progressed from there.

Being that my next published work will be in that particular magazine, I thought I’d address some of the concerns/comments that came up.

Read more

The international man of mystery

I’ve been following the Clark Rockefeller story with a lot of interest, perhaps because I’m a parent now, and perhaps because the early news stories kind of made it sound like I should know who he was, although I’d never heard of him before.

Now that the new details are out there, I don’t feel nearly so bad now. Even the people who knew him well didn’t know the half of it.The Telegraph has a good rundown on the current theory about the man. Personally, I think it’ll make a great book and perhaps a movie someday.

The story basically goes like this. Last week, an eccentric and mysterious Boston millionaire disappeared with his daughter during a custody visit. Rumors about their whereabouts spread quickly, including the Caribbean, but the two were eventually found in Baltimore, in an apartment he had recently purchased.

There was no trace of the man prior to 1991. The famous Nelson Rockefeller had a son named Michael Clark Rockefeller, and this Clark Rockefeller seemed to want people to think he either was that person or somehow related to him, but Michael Clark Rockefeller died in 1961 at the age of 23.

As people around the country followed the story, they started noticing this man looked familiar, but they didn’t know him as Clark Rockefeller. But they knew various other people who certainly looked and acted a lot like this Clark Rockefeller, and like him, they would just appear and vanish mysteriously.

Rockefeller appeared in New York in 1991. He never said much about his background, but was well spoken, appeared to be highly intelligent and educated, and could converse with authority on various subject matters. He soon talked his way into high society circles, participated in community groups, and gained influence, particularly in New England, where he settled with his wife, Sandra Boss, an ivy league graduate and wealthy executive. They had a daughter, and he played stay-at-home dad while she earned $1.4 million a year. They divorced in 2007, partly because she believed he might not be what he said he was. Unable to produce any kind of government-issued identification, he didn’t put up much of a fight in the divorce proceedings.

No marriage certificate was ever filed. I wonder if this could cause legal problems for Rockefeller now. After all, if the marriage was never legal, why is there need for a divorce and a settlement? But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The story seems to begin around 1979 or 1980. A German teenager named Christian Gerhartsreiter or Christian Gerhart Streiter met an American and exchanged addresses. The American said to look him up if he was ever on this side of the Atlantic. Surprisingly, he showed up on their doorstep in Connecticut not long afterward. Unable to accommodate him, they put an ad in the paper. A nearby family who had sponsored a number of exchange students answered.

The young German attended school but seemed put off by a middle class lifestyle. The people who knew Streiter remember him as condescending and arrogant, yet charming. He claimed an elite background, yet there is some indication that his father actually painted houses for a living.

He also could creep people out, so he lived with several different people during the school year, although he remained in touch occasionally with his first host family. After a year of school in the United States, he headed west, first to Minnesota, then to California, where he said he was using the name Christopher Crowe.

In the early 1980s, a man named Christopher Chichester appeared in high society circles in California. Claiming to be British, he charmed his way into belonging. During this time, it appears Chichester applied for a stockbroker’s license and perhaps a driver’s license as well. The fingerprints he provided would prove interesting a few years later.

In February 1985, Chichester’s landlords disappeared. A couple of months later, he disappeared as well. Although Chichester wasn’t a suspect, the authorities wanted to speak with him.

In 1988, a man identifying himself as Christopher Crowe surfaced in Connecticut, where he attempted to sell a truck belonging to John Sohus, the landlord who had vanished back in California. Crowe couldn’t produce the paperwork for the truck, so the potential buyer alerted police. But Crowe disappeared again.

In 1994, human remains turned up on the former Sohus property. Authorities believed they had found John Sohus, although his wife has never been found. Authorities still wanted to question Chichester, who they described as a con man who would mingle in social circles and make friends with wealthy, influential people.

But it was 13 years before any trace of Chichester appeared again.

In August 2007, after Baltimore police arrested Clark Rockefeller, people in California noticed that Rockefeller bore a striking resemblance to Christopher Chichester and started calling police. After Rockefeller was fingerprinted, California authorities checked the prints against the prints provided by Chichester more than two decades earlier. They seemed to match.

Rockefeller has said little. Through his attorney, he says that he has little or no memory prior to his marriage in 1995, that as far as he knows his name is Rockefeller, and he most definitely isn’t Christopher Chichester. Other than that, he refuses to stay anything. He sits in a cell, held without bail, because prosecutors don’t believe any amount of money will guarantee he will show up for trial.

And investigators don’t buy the memory story. While they’re giving limited information to the press, new details about Clark Rockefeller’s possible past appear every few hours.

Some questions certainly remain. Early on, some people observed Clark Rockefeller had the distinctive Rockefeller nose, saying it was either genuine or a very good copy. Is the resemblance coincidental? Did someone note once that he looked like a Rockefeller, planting the idea of a new identity in this man’s mind? Or did the former Christopher Chichester decide to take on the Rockefeller identity and have plastic surgery in the late 1980s or early 1990s to make the claim look more believable?

And while it’s possible to track the movements of the various aliases from New England to California and back from 1981 to 1985 to 1988 to 1991, what happened in those gaps?

And perhaps most chillingly, if he wasn’t a suspect in 1985, why did Christopher Chichester flee? If he had nothing to hide, why wouldn’t he answer investigators’ questions?

Some may wonder how a mediocre student could display such knowledge of travel and physics, among other subjects, but it looks like this guy has a fondness for libraries and hasn’t had a job in 28 years. I’m guessing if he spent a significant part of the day in libraries with his nose in books while everyone else is at work, he could become conversant in pretty much anything.

Of course I also wonder how he managed to travel the country and keep up appearances for nearly a decade and a half without a job. Travel and housing cost money, and how did he finance his expensive taste in clothes? Marrying a millionaire certainly helped during the last 12 years, but where did he find the money to woo her?

This story is only going to get better. But I do hope there are no more literal skeletons involved.

Microsoft buys and then discontinues Linux/Unix antivirus products

First GeCAD, now Sybari.

Microsoft has been buying smaller anti-virus firms and discontinuing their Linux and Unix product lines.

Trust, schmust. When your god is Big Business, that means Big Business can do no wrong, so when you’re the U.S. government, you let companies like Microsoft do whatever they want. The problem is that Unix antivirus products are extremely useful, especially in Microsoft shops. Unix viruses are rare, and the heterogenous nature of Unix–never knowing much about the underlying hardware, binary incompatibilities between various dialects even when running on the same hardware, and never knowing for certain which libraries are installed–creates a hostile environment for viruses anyway.

So what good is a Unix server that detects viruses that can’t survive in Unix anyway? It makes a great buffer between the hostile world and the soft and chewy Windows boxes inside corporate firewalls, that’s what.

I love to put Unix boxes in between the world and mail servers that may be running Windows. Just set it up to relay mail to your Exchange or Domino server, but have it scan the mail first. Better yet, have it running on weird hardware. A slightly elderly Macintosh or Alpha or Sun box works great. Since the Intel x86 instruction set is the most common, most buffer overflows use it. While non-x86 processors aren’t immune to buffer overflows, an overflow using x86 instructions will appear to be gibberish and it won’t run. It’s like telling me a lie in Japanese. You won’t fool me with the lie, because I don’t speak Japanese, so I won’t understand a word you’re saying.

Fortunately, there are still antivirus products for Unix and Linux out there. And once Microsoft establishes its antivirus product, it will be more difficult–I hope–for it to simply continue buying antivirus firms and discontinue their products, since now they would be buying off competitors, rather than just attempting to acquire technology that they don’t have the ability to develop internally.

And even if they do buy and discontinue everything, there’s always ClamAV.

WordPress Appliance - Powered by TurnKey Linux