Archive | 2005

Business Week: A Watershed for Open Source

Business Week: “Looking back, 2005 will likely be viewed as a turning point. It was a year when CIOs signed off on open-source projects, a big change from previous years when that happened only after low-level engineers started such projects on their own initiative. It was a year when venture capitalists woke up to the new business opportunities of open source. It was a year when open source was the word on the lips of not just early adopters but of an early majority.”

Zero-Day Windows Meta File exploit

InfoWorld: Application development reports “Update: Malicious hackers busy exploiting zero-day Windows flaw. Fully-patched systems running Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 can be successfully attacked by malicious hackers, various security firms warned Tuesday and Wednesday. By (Juan Carlos Perez).”

Short form: IE seems to be subject to exploitation when navigating to a hostile site and received a Windows MetaFile (wmf). Site Admins should filter .wmf (and possibly .emf) files at the periphery. Limit IE use to a minimum, as always. FireFox users will receive a “what do I do with this file?” dialog. Doesn’t seem to affect Linux or Macintosh users.

Google Print and Hentzenwerke

Just to clarify that last post. Mike Sullivan pointed out that Google is posting pages from Hentzenwerke books with the publisher’s permission and/or cooperation. Google is not infringing on my copyright by doing this. I signed over the right to publish my books to Hentzenwerke, with some limitations, and I believe this is within those terms.

I’ve wanted to get Hacker’s Guide to Visual FoxPro on to the web for the past couple of years, but the publisher and authors couldn’t work out the mechanism. Google has solved that problem, at no cost to us. For some books, it’s possible this will lead to new sales. For others, it can make the work more accessible, perhaps elevating the reputation of the authors, leading to new work, which is the motivation for many technical authors.

Technical books face some unique challenges. Frankly, Sturgeon’s Law dictates that 90% of all technical books are crud. Technical books may even exceed that standard. But the grueling effort of assembling a complex technical book or reference book will have a challenging economic model: will publishers want to advance authors money to write a book that people will read for free on Google? You gotta read a novel from cover to cover, but you usually only need to read a single topic in a reference book. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the marketplace. For the moment, I’m not inclined to invest a lot of effort in another reference work.

Apple DRM: Lose your music, buy it again. And again.

There’s been a recent flap about iTunes and iPods losing all their content and the ugliness of it all. The ugly underside of Digital Restriction Management is epitomized by this Apple support web page:

Otherwise, if your hard disk becomes damaged or you lose any of the music you’ve purchased, you’ll have to buy any purchased music again to rebuild your library.

So, let’s make this clear: the oxymoron Intellectual Property means their property, not yours, their rights to sell you the same thing multiple times, not your freedom to do what you wish with your purchases. Unacceptable terms for me. Digital Restriction Management that prevents a legitimate, innocent user from time-, space- or device-shifting content they have purchased must not be allowed to succeed. Pirates won’t respect them. If Congress and the industry try to ban Fair Use, only criminals will enjoy the new digital freedoms. This is insane.

You Are What You Read

Check out Tag Cloud, a web site that processes RSS feeds and graphically displays the interesting tags found. Here’s my first attempt at a cloud, based on my RSS feeds, as feed to via mySubscriptions.opml:

[UPDATE] Apparently TagCloud started out as a lark, a non-profit toying around. While it was neat for a short period, it was overwhelmed by popularity and shutdown.

Do LUGs matter? Yes!

Slashdot asks Do LUGs Still Matter?, pointing to an article by Joe Barr, writing for NewsForge. The answer for all UGs hasn’t changed: User Groups matter if they matter to you. If there’s something you want out of a LUG and you’re willing to put some effort into a LUG, amazing things can happen. Everyone knows of a LUG that’s faded: there’s a natural rhythm to LUGs like all organizations. A leader with fire in his/her belly drives the group to new heights, burns out or gets distracted, and the group declines. A new leader may emerge or the group may fade away like the Cheshire Cat, leaving nothing but an empty web page or two.

The Greater New Hampshire Linux User Group is on another power climb, not its first, nor hopefully its last. Active volunteers are running chapters in Nashua, Peterborough, Hanover, Concord and Durham. A Python Special Interest Group shares many of its members and the groups resources and gives us a presence in Manchester as well.

In the past year, member of the group were present at Linuxworld Boston, the Software Association of New Hampshire InfoeXchange annual conference, the Hosstraders ham radio swapfest, the McAuliffe annual teacher’s conference, and Software Freedom Day.

LUGs can matter as much as you want them to.

What is the Internet?

Joho the Blog posts “Three models of the Internet. Grant McCracken blogs about three ways of taking the depth and seriousness of the Net’s effect on culture. Here’s a distillation, but you should read the whole thing: 1. Disintermediation – “The Internet is an efficiency machine. It removes the friction…” 2. Long Tail – “The Internet is a profusion machine. It allows small cultural producers to find small cultural consumers, and as a result, all hell is breaking lose…” 3. Reformation – “It change the units of analysis and the relationships between them. This reformation model says, in other words, that the coming changes will deeply cultural…and not merely…”

End of the year is a good time for some heavy thinking. The Internet has been through several phases. Like the blind men studying the elephant, each of us may have different perceptions of what it is and where it is. Tim O’Reilly loves to quote that “the future is here, just not evenly distributed.” I think this is how it has always been.

Dangerous flaw in Symantec anti-virus

Computerworld News reports “Serious flaw reported in Symantec antivirus software. Symantec’s antivirus software is vulnerable to an attack that could allow a malicious hacker to gain control of a system.”

If you’re using a Symantec product, temporarily stop scanning .RAR files and avoid new RAR files until the flaw can be patched.


Over at Shedding Some Light, Rick Schummer posts: IIS Dead in the Water “Dead as a doornail. Less useful than a pet rock. Internet Information Services (IIS) v5.1 on my Windows XP Professional SP2 (all the latest patches) development box has decided to take a holiday break. Normally this would not be a big deal, but I use it every darn single day to access the OpenWiki running on my machine and Fog Creek’s FogBugz for my bug tracking.”

Bummer, Rick. Fastest solution is to make a good backup and/or image, blow it away and start again. Anything short of that just prolongs the agony.

UPDATE: Rick’s up and running 18 hours later thanks to a pointer from Craig Boyd. Anyone tracking the Fox community on-line needs to be tkeeping an eye on Craig as well as Rick. These guys are doing some great stuff.

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This work by Ted Roche is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States.