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November 24, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving!

The first American Thanksgiving was in celebration of survival and friendship according to history. Survival for the people who came on the Mayflower with a large and bountiful harvest, and friendship with the local Native Americans who helped and taught them how to survive in a strange new land. Many cultures used to celebrate the end of the harvest season with a festival.

These days, as most of the US holidays have become, it is much more commercial, and while in the modern world, there is little worry about having enough of a harvest to last the winter, there are many other things to be thankful for.

This year has been quite an adventure. We had to put our dog Kuma to sleep, then my Father getting his Kidney transplant after around 5 years of waiting on the list, followed by the trials and tribulations of the post-transplant complications. Perhaps our expectations were unreasonably high with this medical miracle of being able to transplant a working organ from a donor to replace a non-functioning one, but it the complications were a big disappointment. Yet we will always remember and give thanks to the anonymous family who in the midst of losing their loved one, made the decision that gave my father and others another lease on life.

All the advice and patient stories fail to mention that it can take more than a year for some patients to regain their strength. There is an extended period of trying to balance the medications through trial and error. And depending on the patient, there can be some...interesting...side effects. Emergency trips to the hospital, stints at a hospice care facility for physical therapy, the list goes on. All in all a very stressful time.

Yet, in the grand scheme of things, I have nothing to complain about. While we're still adjusting and monitoring, and still watching for those signs that mean another trip to the hospital, I will be able to sit down with my father, and the rest of my family and have a big Thanksgiving dinner, in a house with heat, running water, and electricity. Our home. I have many wonderful friends who have supported me over the years, and I have my own health. I have the freedom to write drivel such as this and not be jailed, or shot for it. Many cannot say the same.

I think that's a lot to be thankful for.

November 15, 2005

Sony/BMG Music

Dunno if any of you have been keeping track of this, but Sony/BMG music thought it would be a clever way to keep piraters from copying their music by introducing a small program that would copy itself to your computer when you put the CD in to rip it, and limit the number of times you could access the CD for ripping etc. Sounds great at first, but a couple of problems come up pretty fast: First off, they don't tell you that they're loading programs to your computer, and second, they hide the loaded program so you can't tell that it's there without doing some pretty sophisticated snooping. Third, they don't give you the option of removing or NOT having the program loaded. You put the CD in, it loads the program to your drive, whether or not you want it to or not.

There's another type of program out there that does this. They're commonly called "rootkits" because they install and hide themselves in the "root" of your drive. Hackers/virus writers are starting to use these to lurk unseen. At my workplace we had a problem with one of these buggers somehow getting onto our servers. Typical virus scans will not find these things, but they can still cause havoc on your system. The one we had kept causing our system to become unstable and crash. In the end we needed to use a rootkit removal tool to pull it out of our network.

I imagine Sony/BMG had reasonably good intentions with this, trying to prevent their music from being pirated, etc, but this was really a bad way to go about this.

Now, their rootkit is being used by hackers and trojan writers to breach the security of computers with it installed.

All in all a bad time for Sony/BMG's head honchos who approved this little bugger.

As a result, Sony/BMG released a tool to assuage the riled masses. Well, this tool only reveals the kit. It doesn't remove it. You need to contact Sony/BMG for instructions on how to remove it. And removing it, is not easy at all, and could potentially mess up your system even more.

And now even Microsoft is getting into the act, by removing the kit in their Anti-Spyware Beta removal tool.

Which begs the question a friend an I were laughing about...If they remove it, are they in violation of the whole DMCA rights thing?

edit: This just gets better and better. Apparently now, Sony/BMG does have a removal system for it, but, the removal program makes an even bigger security hole than the one generated by the rootkit in the first place. The cure is worse than the condition...

November 08, 2005

Been a while

Sorry for the long delay between posts. I've been utterly swamped for the past month so unfortunately the blog has been on the back burner for a bit. But, my schedule seems to be opening up a tad...at least until the holidays hit.

Anyway, saw this article today regarding the possible first documented use of sonic weaponry in combat. Very interesting implications.