Archive | June, 2006

Want to steal an election? Go electronic!

Ars Technica notes New e-voting study shows it's really easy to steal an election. “If you have some basic tech skills, a few readily available tools, and some hooligan friends, then you too could steal an election. Sadly, election fraud ain't that hard in the age of electronic voting.”

Tell your local officials: paper ballots are still the only reliable system. With audits. And reviews. And security. Electronics are just too easy to hijack.

SCO continues to fail in court

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols rejoices that “SCO hits iceberg,” but, while I'm relieved no poor judgement was rendered, this shouldn't come as any surprise. Most people felt SCO had no basis for their lawsuit, and that the entire process was targetted as a chilling effect, deterring the more risk-averse from trying or deploying Free and Open Source Software solutions. The question I have is this: did the SCO suit have the effect that SCO (and those who funded the effort) desired?

Novell executive changes

ComputerWorld reports “Update: Novell board ousts CEO Messman: COO and President Ron Hovsepian will take over CEO duties” I hope this turns out to be a good thing for Novell. Their SuSE distribution has a great reputation and their plan to merge Novell server technologies into their Linux offering is a promising avenue.

Apple ships patch upgrading Tiger to 10.4.7.

Looks like it's time for the monthly Apple patch-and-reboot. Get Patching!

The 10.4.7 Update is recommended for all users and includes general operating system fixes, as well as specific fixes for the following applications and technologies. It includes fixes for:

– preventing AFP deadlocks and dropped connections
– saving Adobe and Quark documents to AFP mounted volumes
– Bluetooth file transfers, pairing and connecting to a Bluetooth mouse, and syncing to mobile phones
– audio playback in QuickTime, iTunes, Final Cut Pro, and Soundtrack applications
– ensuring icons are spaced correctly when viewed on desktop
– determining the space required to burn folders
– iChat audio and video connectivity, creating chat rooms when using AIM
– importing files into Keynote 3
– PDF workflows when using iCal and iPhoto
– reliable use of Automator actions within workflows
– importing and removing fonts in Font Book
– syncing addresses, bookmarks, calendar events and files to .Mac
– compatibility with third party applications and devices
– previous standalone security updates

For detailed information on this Update, please visit this website:

For detailed information on Security Updates, please visit this website:

Is Desktop Linux going the wrong way?

Via OSNews, Jem Matson asks “Is Desktop Linux Distros Headed in the Wrong Direction?.” “The impending release of Windows Vista with its fancy Aero Glass special effects, along with the hasty addition of the similar XGL and Compiz technologies to the latest SUSE Linux release makes me think that programmers have a warped idea of what desktop computing is about. For some reason, many GNU/Linux users are concerned about competing feature-for-feature with Vista, while Apple and Microsoft struggle to add more graphical extras to their already graphics-intensive desktop OSes. It's gotten so that you need a serious 3D video card (with proprietary drivers) and a fairly fast computer just to keep up with desktop environments. Whatever happened to being productive and having fun?”

Many of us dissed Windows XP when it shipped with the Candyland theme and the Teletubbies hill as a background. A little 3d shading and a shiny thing or two is fine, but eating up half your processing power creating a glittering frame for your black-and-white text is pretty silly.

I've recently installed the Xubuntu desktop package onto a couple of older machines running Kubuntu and I'm delighted with the snappy performance I'm getting out of 5 year-old hardware. The Xfce desktop is plain, clean simple and fast. While I'll ooh and ah as much as the next person over glassy transparent effects, they don;t do a lot for my day to day coding (in text), email (in text) and blogging (in text). Hmmm. Maybe someone should consider better looking… text.

WinSCP updated

A WinSCP security flaw that would allow remote command execution on Windows machines where the WinSCP program had been installed as the protocol handler for sftp:// or scp:// links has been fixed in the new version 3.8.2. All users are encourage to update.

WinFS not a file system, not a product, scrapped or re-purposed?

Slashdot post: WinFS Gets the Axe. commander salamander writes “Over at the WinFS Team Blog, Quentin Clark states that Microsoft no longer plans to ship WinFS as a standalone software component. Instead, portions of the underlying technology will be included with the next release of SQL Server (codename Katmai) and ADO.NET. Does this spell the end for the true relational storage paradigm that Microsoft has been promising since Windows 95?”

Yet another disappointment. The best lesson to walk away with is that you can never count on commercial software that hasn't shipped yet. There are a vast array of shipping file systems you can consider. If you have a need for a relational database interface to a file system, you could look at Gnome Virtual File System, the Be File System (written by two guys in 1996 over 10 months), Apple's Hierarchical File System Plus (1998) — interestingly, the file system of the iPod. For a deep backgrounder, Wikipedia has an interesting and heavily annotated article on File Systems.

It also points to another advantage of Open Source and the principle of “ship early, ship often.” If an Open Source project wasn't going the way you wanted, you can fork the code and create a new project following your directions (with proper attention to the original licenses involved, of course). You might search for “database file system” and see if there's anything of interest. Seems like plenty of neat stuff.

A corollary of the first lesson is to never depend on roadmaps. Dates slip, market demand shifts, plans change. As the Register points out in “MS poised to switch Windows file systems with Blackcomb,” the best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry.

Macs are expensive. So are Windows PCs.

OSNews report 'The Misconception Macs Are Too Expensive'. “When one takes the seamless integration, stability, ease of use, quality engineering, the TCO, and the ability to boot Windows, one can easily conclude that a Mac is not necessarily a more expensive proposition. The argument that Mac's are too expensive no longer applies. Although you can spend between $600 and several thousand for a Mac, stay within your means and purchase a system that meets your computing demands.”

A friend at a recent LUG meeting observed that, even if this is true, he's been listening to this so long from Mac advocates, even when it was a far more tenuous position, that he's tired of hearing it and he's not inclined to believe it, even though he suspects it's a lot truer now than it ever was.

I just know the laptop I really want will cost $4000. It has cost that much for over a decade, and it still does.

RealVNC Server exploit

eWeek reports: Highly Critical RealVNC Flaw Fixed “A “highly critical” flaw in RealVNC's virtual network computing software could allow malicious hackers to access a remote system without a password, according to a published advisory.”

It's last month's news, but I didn't notice it when it went by. An associate told me of witnessing a machine being taken over by it. If you have RealVNC up and running as a server, make sure to update from the older 4.1.1 or earlier to the new 4.1.2 patched version

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