Listen to this if you think a router makes you invincible

One myth that I hear over and over is that having a router on your Internet connection makes you invisible, and makes you somehow invincible. I even heard someone say recently that if you have a router/firewall, you don’t need to run antivirus software.

Security researcher HD Moore appeared last week on Risky Business and he talked about ways that entire classes of routers can be compromised. Give it a listen. Read more

A reasonable analysis of the current copyright mess (updated)

Well, that was a disappointment. It was retracted nearly as quickly as it burst onto the scenes. Crud.

A reasoned, level-headed analysis of the problems that current copyright law creates rocked Slashdot yesterday. The amazing thing is, this thing came from Washington.

Here’s the highlight reel: Read more

Quoting famous people accurately

If you’re going to quote people on the Internet, you might as well quote them accurately. Here are some tips for quoting famous people accurately, based on my own detective work on one of my favorite quotes.

“The problem with quotes on the Internet is that you never can know if they are genuine.” –Abraham Lincoln

The death of bin Laden prompted a couple of quotes attributed to Mark Twain and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to be repeated endlessly on social networking sites. It turned out both quotes were false. Inaccurate quotes also tend to pop up in election years.

Here are some good tips to avoid spreading fake quotes the next time something really newsworthy happens. One nifty trick: A Google search, filtered by date, to see if the quote existed anywhere before the event.

“Abraham Lincoln” may be right, that you can never know for certain, but you can get a really good idea with a little bit of digging.
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The 15-second rule and other (non) myths

The 15-second rule and other (non) myths

Cnet investigated some computer wise tales, myths, conventional wisdom, or whatever else you want to call it. The one I take the most issue with is the 15-second rule. They asked Geek Squad, and, as a long, long-ago Best Buy employee, the answer they gave to the 15-second rule is, well, what I would expect. Read more

SSD myths

SSD myths

SSDs, like most disruptive technologies, face some questions and resistance. People will grasp at any straw to avoid adopting them. Thanks to this resistance, a number of SSD myths arose. Here are the myths I see repeated over and over again, and the truth, based on my experience actually using the things.

Note: I originally wrote this way back in 2010. The drive technologies I speak of as state of the art are rather aged now. But the principles still hold today, and will continue to do so. Hard drives have gotten better, but SSD have gotten better at a more rapid pace.

Read more

Upcoming

I’m working on a post about SSD myths/misconceptions. Hopefully it will be helpful to someone.

I don’t understand why some people are downright hostile toward SSDs–I haven’t seen anything like it since the hostility I saw towards Amigas in the late 1980s, and OS/2 in the early 1990s.

Maybe it’ll help some people.

And this is why I don’t drink

Early in the morning of April 9, 2008, just hours after pitching six shutout innings, 22-year-old Nick Adenhart was killed when a repeat-offender drunk driver ran a red light and plowed his minivan into the Mitsubishi sports car Adenhart was riding in. He died in emergency surgery a while later. Two other passengers died at the scene.This kind of bullcrap happens all the time, pretty much every weekend, in at least one major city. Usually it doesn’t even merit more than a couple of paragraphs in the newspaper because we’re so used to it. It made national headlines this time because one of the victims happens to be one of the California Angels’ best pitching prospects.

It’s a symptom of a macho culture where the measure of a man is how many six-packs he can put away, and what he can manage to do afterward. I saw this in college all the time, where the role models we were supposed to emulate were the losers who would stay up until 4 or 5 in the morning drinking, then sleep for two hours and get up, shower so they didn’t smell like a brewery, put on a suit, and go to the 7:45 church service.

At least my story doesn’t get any worse. Church was right next door, so they didn’t have to drive and put anyone else in danger. Of course, if they’re still playing the same game today and driving to church two hours later, that’s reprehensible.

But in some circles, driving 45 minutes to get home is part of the culture. Down a case of beer, make a lot of noise, then drive home without killing anyone, and somehow, that makes you a man.

Bull puckey.

Real men consider the potential consequences of their actions. Real men set out to do as little damage to the people around them as possible. Real men try to make the world around them better, not worse, as a result of their actions. There are even some men who manage to deal with high stress jobs with lots of responsibility, deal with that and with all of their other problems, and manage to deal with it all without ever turning to alcohol.

Now that’s a man.

I don’t care what the myths say. Supposedly if you weigh 400 pounds, you can drink about three times as much alcohol as I can, because you weigh almost three times as much as I do. And indeed, you may be able to drink larger quantities than me without passing out. But a beer or two still affects your judgment, whether you weigh 98 pounds or 400. I once saw a demonstration where a professional race car driver drove an obstacle course. He drove it effortlessly when he was completely sober. Then he drank a beer and got back behind the wheel. He still did fine. After two beers, he still did OK on the course, but he said he could feel a difference. After three beers, he could no longer drive the course.

So after three or four beers, you really don’t have any business behind the wheel. Your ability to react to emergencies is diminished enough that at that point, you’re putting yourself and others in danger.

I don’t know what the answer is. We can lock Adenhart’s killer up in jail, and that’ll keep him away from beer and out from behind the wheel of a car for a while, but eventually he’ll get out. Will he do it again? One thing I learned living with an alcoholic for 18 years is that alcoholics never really learn a lesson from their addiction, regardless of the consequences. At least not until it costs them something that they want more than the bottle, which is rare. I don’t know if he’s an alcoholic or not. If he is, you can make him go to treatment, but once again, if he’s not ready, it won’t take, and he’ll be drinking again shortly.

Taking his driver’s license away didn’t keep him from driving this time. Can you take his car away and prevent him from being able to purchase another one? That sounds good to me, but I don’t know if that’s legal.

Ultimately the solution is cultural, but I don’t know how you get rid of that. For some reason, a sizable portion of the United States is fascinated with people who can put away gutbusting quantities of alcohol. We don’t have the same admiration for people who can smoke a pack of cigarettes in one setting. We’re morbidly curious about people who can eat half their weight in hot dogs, but I’m not sure that we really look up to them.

And I don’t know why that is. Because frankly, all you have to do to be able to drink huge quantities of beer is to sit around and drink on Friday and Saturday nights. Do it long enough, and you get enough weight and tolerance to be able to drink a six pack or two without passing out. Some people see that as an achievement. I see it as someone desperately needing something better to do on Friday and Saturday nights.

Seriously. Get a hobby. It’s no cheaper than beer, but it doesn’t hurt anybody, and on Sunday morning you have something to show for it other than a bunch of empty cans or bottles and a headache.

Or in this case, a bunch of empty cans or bottles, a splitting headache, a wrecked minivan, and three dead victims. Not to mention a much-deserved new address, behind bars.

A big time test for Nlite

I saw an XP Myths page this weekend, and although I don’t agree with its assessment of XP’s security, most of it seemed credible. It said XP can do fine on as little as a 233 MHz Pentium with 128 MB of RAM.

I whipped out a P2-266 with 192 MB of RAM to see.The specs are humble, to say the least: P2-266, 192 MB RAM (upgraded from 96 because XP kicks into some kind of "reduced functionality" mode with less than 128), and a very old Seagate 1.2 GB hard drive.

I installed XP with lots of pieces, like Media Player and the Internet Connection Wizard, removed, although I did leave in Internet Explorer.

Initially I formatted the drive FAT, since FAT does perform about 20% better than NTFS on limited hardware. The problem was the cluster size got me. Formatted FAT, I had about 100 MB free when the installation was complete, which is dangerously low. Converting to NTFS brought that up to 170 MB, and gives the option to compress some items to get some more space.

Performance wise, it’s not as bad as it sounds. Windows boots in 1 minute, 15 seconds after defragmenting the drive. Considering this 1.2 GB drive probably dates to 1996 at the latest, that’s awfully good. Memory usage was 96 MB, so you’d be able to run an application or two on it, although a modern web browser would feel claustrophobic after a while.

If I were actually going to try to use this computer, I’d put a decent hard drive in it–the newer the better, of course.

I would also want to upgrade the memory to 384 MB, which is the maximum this one supports. A cut-down XP seems to do just fine in 192 MB of RAM, but it wouldn’t do so fine with antivirus software loaded.

I still think a cut-down Windows 2000 is a better choice for this type of machine, but it’s certainly possible to run XP on it. With either OS, though, I would use Nlite to remove as much of the fluff as possible, to give yourself some space for whatever it is you really want to do with the machine. I think it would make a good PC to run educational software for kids, for example. And it’s nice to have a choice of something other than Windows 98 for that.

Myths about the 1904 World’s Fair

I just spent some time over at Wikipedia attempting to demolish the myths that the ice cream cone, hot dog, and hamburger were invented in St. Louis at the 1904 World’s Fair. Hey, one does lots of things when there’s a big pile of stuff needing to be done that one would rather neglect.
The ice cream cone was independently invented in England in the 1880s and New York City in 1896 (the NYC inventor even held a patent on it, dating from December 1903). Perhaps the stories about a vendor running out of bowls and grabbing a Syrian waffle-like pastry and wrapping it up to put ice cream in, and the story of an ice cream sandwich vendor watching someone take the top off an ice cream sandwich and wrap it into a cone, and about a baker imitating with bread the paper and metal cones used in France are all true. Maybe three or four St. Louisans did independently invent the ice cream cone. (I heard today that all myths are true.) But even if they did, they weren’t the first.

The first example of prior art on the hot dog dates back to 64 A.D. The first example of prior art on the hot dog bun dates back to New York City around 1860. A St. Louisan supposedly invented the hot dog bun in the early 1880s (the story goes that a vendor, selling red hots, would loan white gloves to his customers, who then all too often walked off with the gloves. So his brother-in-law, a baker, baked him long dinner rolls to put the red hots in). And in another example of prior art in St. Louis itself, by 1893, the eccentric Christian Frederick Wilhelm Von der Ahe, owner of the St. Louis Browns, was selling hot dogs at Sportsman’s Park. (Whether his intent was to make his patrons thirsty and drink more beer, or to give them something else to keep them from thinking about the horrendous team he was putting on the field is open to speculation.)

The case for the hamburger on a bun is just as weak. But Wikipedia’s response times are down. Examples of prior art: 1885 in Wisconsin, 1885 in Hamburg, New York, and 1891 in Hamburg, Germany.

I don’t doubt that the 1904 World’s Fair made all three of these things much more popular. But it’s an awfully big stretch to say any of them were invented here.

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