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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Commodore 16 and Commodore Plus/4

Commodore 16 and Commodore Plus/4

Dan Bowman kindly pointed out to me that former Commodore engineer Bil Herd wrapped up his discussion of the ill-fated Commodore TED machines on Hackaday this week. Here in the States, few remember the TED specifically, but some people may remember that oddball Commodore Plus/4 that closeout companies sold for $79 in 1985 and 1986. The Plus/4 was one of those TED machines. So was the Commodore 16.

What went wrong with those machines? Commodore miscalculated what the market was doing. The TED was a solution to too many problems, and ended up not solving any of them all that well. Read more

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

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

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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