July 31, 2007

You May Want to Keep an Eye on This

A live blogged event from the US Joint Forces Command.

The U.S. Joint Forces Command (USJFCOM) Public Affairs Staff will blog live from the two-day NDIA-USJFCOM Industry Symposium July 31-Aug. 1. USJFCOM’s leadership as well as other distinguished military and state government leaders, including Virginia's governor, will speak at the "Hampton Roads... Supporting Joint Force Operations" 2007 symposium designed to raise industry and academia's awareness of joint warfighting challenges and solutions.

I wasn't sure if I could carry a live feed of the event, but click the link above and you can read it there or put it on your RSS reader if you want to see what they're talking about. You can add it here. As of this posting, there is only the opening address listed.

Posted by: Teresa in Military at 04:16 AM | Comments (2) | Add Comment
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July 30, 2007

One of Those Days

The hovering migraine type days. The kind where I don't "really" get a headache - not in the full out knock you down sense... but the pain hovers all day. It's gone now, but braincells are still sluggish. However I saw this and just laughed.

Mexico seeks changes in U.S. border fence plan to protect migrant species

Do you really need to read the story? Oh hell no. Second funniest thing I've seen today.

"What's the first?" you ask. Well of course it's...

Lileks and the great cruise adventure...

Posted by: Teresa in Ho-Hum at 04:48 PM | Comments (3) | Add Comment
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July 29, 2007

Drag Racing...

Is really cool in HD.

I'm just sayin'...

Posted by: Teresa in Sports at 06:12 PM | Comments (2) | Add Comment
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More Geekiness... this time for non-geeks

The other day Venomous Kate was blogging about wireless connections away from home.

The last time I took advantage of a hotel’s free Wi-Fi turned into a nightmare, although I didn’t realize it at the time.

See, my firewall conflicted with the hotel’s Wi-Fi service so, following the instructions on their “troubleshooting guide,” I made an ‘exception’ in the firewall setup so I could get internet access. It was that or be unable to monitor spam on my blogs for the five days I’d be there and, as any blogger can tell you, that’s just too long to go without checking in. So, against my better judgment, I did what they advised.

To quote part of my comment as to what to do when anyone tells you to mess with your firewall because of a problem connecting...

NO.NEIN.NON.NYET! DO.NOT.DO.THIS!

That pretty much covers the basics, but maybe I should give you a little more information.

First of all, wireless access sucks pond water. Period. It's not very stable, it's certainly not secure, and it tends toward lots of funkiness. That being said, most everyone wants to use it, so here are a few things to keep in mind.

1) It is NOT secure! Period. I won't go into various reasons, but just know that anyone with a few tools and a little know-how, can snoop your traffic over an unsecured wi-fi... with a little more know-how they can snoop your connection over a secured wi-fi.

2) Nearly everyone codes wi-fi access interfaces to work best with Internet Explorer. Deal with it. You can gripe and moan and stomp your feet, but that's the way life is right now. My suggestion - if you have a computer with Internet Explorer and you need to log on to the system in order to be able to browse, use IE to log in. Once logged in, you can use your browser of choice to surf the net. I use Firefox - I have often had to do this at hotels - it works.

3) Never ever turn off your firewall or change a setting in your firewall to fix a problem connecting to the network. This leaves your computer open to anyone else who is on that network not to mention any nasty malware floating about.

The authentication connections through hotels, coffee houses, and airports are all meant to go through the browser - port 80. The standard setup for firewalls is to allow browsing through port 80 - this is the only connection you need. They should be able to authenticate using this method and you should be able to get online.

If it doesn't work and most especially if they want you to mess with your firewall - you need to bite the bullet and find a different place to get your wi-fi.

I can't begin to tell you how many people have been badly burned by the advice "turn off your firewall and see if it works". After they do this, then they call me... "my computer is a complete mess - it doesn't work right. I was on the phone with my (ISP, tech support for a device, you name it) and they told me to turn off the firewall, now I can't do anything". I want very much to get hold of whoever gives out such advice and beat their collective empty heads against a wall.

So, there you have it. You may just be SOL when it comes to that wi-fi connection. Better to miss a few days online than to end up with a compromised computer sending your data to a server in Russia. You may get lucky and turning off your firewall for a time won't be an issue. Sadly, with all the automated scripts out there, just churning away looking for "open" computers, your chances of escaping unscathed are pretty much nil.

Posted by: Teresa in WebTech at 12:56 PM | Comments (5) | Add Comment
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For the Geeks

Network World has an interview with Russ Housley - First Chair of the IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force). While I realize this won't interest most people out there, I thought it was a great read.

Many of the IETF’s original protocols were designed without built-in security. How hard will it be for the IETF to go back and rework these protocols to require security?

Usually bolting security on after the fact leads to an incomplete solution, but that’s what we’re going to have to have. It’s not possible to turn off the Internet today and start up the secure Internet tomorrow. It just can’t be done, and no one would tolerate the outage if we could. The genesis of my continuous, incremental improvement philosophy is realizing that we can’t turn off the insecure Internet and turn on a more secure Internet even if we had consensus for what that meant.

This is one of the most sensible things you'll ever hear said. Far too many people who work with computer code in any form, are not satisfied with taking things in steps. For them it's "all or nothing" anything else is simply not good enough. They labor under the delusion that everyone has the time, energy, expertise, and/or cash flow to change every single system they have to the latest and greatest - right this very minute. Some of them are even young enough to have no idea that there are extremely old legacy systems out there that will never be able to change - but businesses can't stop using them for various reasons.

It's a huge job and I wish him the best of luck over the next couple of years. I also hope his sensible approach makes some inroads with others at the IETF. The internet needs the features that can slowly be implemented. If the steps aren't bogged down by those with a different outlook, I think he can accomplish some great things while he's First Chair.

Posted by: Teresa in WebTech at 12:01 PM | No Comments | Add Comment
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July 26, 2007

I Am Beat

The brain is fried. I just finished work for the day. Oh yes, there is still more to do, but I give up, my eyes are crossing. I've been picking through files looking for things, typing like mad, trying to explain via email why something isn't done right.

Since I can't think of anything else, I leave you with this...

British police seize sacred bull with TB

Y'know all it really needed to be complete was a rooster hanging around. It then could've been a story of a cock and a bull.

However, I wonder why the monks didn't try to sneak the Bull into the US across the Canadian boarder. Isn't that SOP now?

Time to go veg out and watch a movie or something.

Posted by: Teresa in Ho-Hum at 03:28 PM | Comments (7) | Add Comment
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It Must Be Nice

To have cell phone service at your home...

Tiny Mont. town finally within cellphone range

Makes me wonder when my town here in the wilds of Massachusetts will enter the 20th Century and allow cell phone towers.

Posted by: Teresa in Ho-Hum at 04:44 AM | Comments (5) | Add Comment
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July 25, 2007

US Senators Want Internet Censored

US Senators call for universal Internet filtering

Oh goodie - the US Senate wants to tell us what we can and can't see on the internet. How lovely, they are such wonderful arbiters of taste and refinement. I can't wait to see what they think is okay for me to see or not see.

US senators today made a bipartisan call for the universal implementation of filtering and monitoring technologies on the Internet in order to protect children at the end of a Senate hearing for which civil liberties groups were not invited.

So we have a bipartisan effort to stem the flow of free information. And as always, they call upon us to protect the poor little children of this country. The little darlings might accidentally see something related to sex that wasn't conveyed to them by their teachers... we can't have that you know. The government needs to stop this immediately.

“While filtering and monitoring technologies help parents to screen out offensive content and to monitor their child’s online activities, the use of these technologies is far from universal and may not be fool-proof in keeping kids away from adult material," Sen. Inouye said. “In that context, we must evaluate our current efforts to combat child pornography and consider what further measures may be needed to stop the spread of such illegal material over high-speed broadband connections."

Let's just stop a moment and note the incoherence of Senator Inouye's argument. He says:

"the use of these technologies is far from universal and may not be fool-proof in keeping kids away from adult material"

Knock-knock is anyone home? Senator, you just said you want to filter, yet you then say the filters don't work... which is it? Oh I see - the government will have better filters! I wonder how they'll do that. I also wonder how much this will cost us - because you know who will be paying for this don't you - the American tax payer.

From there he makes the wild leap to:

"we must evaluate our current efforts to combat child pornography and consider what further measures may be needed to stop the spread of such illegal material

So, it's NOT all about protecting the children. He also wants to block "illegal" content going to other adults. While I have no issue with going after the sick perverts who prey on children to get their jollies, this is not the way to accomplish the job.

I know people hate the term "slippery slope" especially when it appears to be something that would do so much "good". But once again the law of unintended consequences will be invoked. The end result will be nothing like what the good Senator is proposing in this initial foray. You can talk "child pornography" all day, that is not what the bill will say. To accomplish these things, they'll have to pass a wide open bill that will come back to censor everything on the internet.

But the biggest argument against any filter is - once you put it in, it's obsolete. Immediately you have hackers around the world looking for ways to circumvent them - and it certainly won't be hard to do, it's already being done on a daily basis.

Also, let's consider the security of the filters. For heaven sake, the Department of Homeland Security can't secure their own computers, how is the government going to secure content filters? These will necessarily have to be in places where content passes directly through. This means they are totally open to any hackers who want to have a crack at them. What type of hardware will they be on? What will be the OS? No matter what is out there, someone will crack it and start changing things.

Let's not mention how much this will slow the speed of the internet. Filtering is not "free" it has a time cost, especially when you're filtering billions or trillions of packets.

So once again you have a grandstanding gesture that is completely bogus. Even if they manage to pass the law, it will be hard to convince the Supreme Court that this is not a First Amendment violation.

Someone go take away the computers from the Senators, they can have them back when they grow up and start acting like adults.

Posted by: Teresa in Idiocies at 05:51 PM | Comments (8) | Add Comment
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Please Give

A couple of weeks ago Gigi lost her husband of 37 years and Irish lost her father.

I was waiting to say something until Gigi posted. But if you have a moment, please head over and drop them a comment, give them some moral support, send good thoughts and prayers for them. This has been a huge blow.

Posted by: Teresa in Life Stuff at 07:27 AM | No Comments | Add Comment
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Munu Blacklist and Comments

Last night I actually fixed a problem on our Blacklist and in the process I noticed something. But first let me tell you how Blacklist works.

When we receive a comment email, it also has a link at the bottom. Clicking this will instantly take us to the munu blacklist and allow all spammy comments from this piece of scum spammer to be deleted at one time - thus saving hours of time combing through entries and getting rid of the stuff. (unless you're like me and have the auto script that closes comments after 7 days - thus virtually eliminating comment spam)

The other thing it does is "look" at the spammy comment and try to determine if there are bits of it that would always indicate that "a comment with *this*" will always be spam. Thus these bits get added to the list blacklist uses to keep out the spam. These are displayed in a box for the user to review.

Spammers have known this for quite a while. In an effort to make every blogger's life a nightmare, they have worked it out so that common strings like "com" "it" "org" "blog" etc are added to the list. The hope of the spammers is that bloggers will eventually get so fed up with the hassle of figuring out what goes into blacklist or what doesn't - that they'll just remove blacklist, thus leaving tons of comments open for spammy delight.

Unfortunately, some people don't understand that all they need to do is clear out that review box before clicking the button to delete the spam and all will be well. After all, it's scary to change stuff when you don't know what you're doing. You might break something or maybe you'll mess up blacklist and it won't delete those nasty comments. It's a hard thing to do when you are simply trying to write a blog and you don't know how things work.

And sometimes a blogger is dealing with so much spam - they forget to clear the box and something gets blacklisted that shouldn't. This happens even more often.

This means someone has to go to the list and delete the innocuous string that was added - so people are able to leave comments again without the annoying error message telling you you're a spammer. *sigh*

Here's the fun bit. When I went looking for the string that was accidentally added to blacklist and remove it, something interesting happened. I went directly back to leave a comment, to test things... Lo and behold I got the "due to high levels of spam" message! This lasted for about 30-45 seconds after fixing the blacklist. Some of my messages were lost - one of them ended up being queued and displayed itself a few minutes later.

I conclude the following. At any point in the day when a munuvian uses the blacklist and adds strings to it (very few people actually remove stuff from it) this will cause a comment meltdown for 30-45 seconds with the dreaded spam overload message. Sometimes -if you hit the exact window - the comment will be held and eventually be posted, otherwise, the comment is lost. I'm pretty sure there's nothing that can be done about this, it's just the nature of blacklist. That's why I can't wait to move to Minx. (not to mention how much faster it will be)

And before anyone starts snarking about munu comments - I'll tell you now - I can't begin to count the number of comments I've tried to make, that have been eaten by haloscan lately.

Like everything else blogging is give and take - there are always issues because it's a growing, changing thing. And there are scummy spammers who want to use it to their own advantage.

Posted by: Teresa in Weblogs at 05:05 AM | Comments (8) | Add Comment
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