Tuesday, March 31, 2009

April 1 Worm

I've gotten a number of emails and questions regarding the April 1 worm, or the Conficker worm. For those who asked me, I didn't know anything about it until today. What I understand is that it infects Windows systems and will activate on April 1, 2009 and run wild.

As usual, I don't keep up with security concerns around Windows because I don't use Windows (and neither should you). However, Microsoft has put together a nice page explaining the problem if you think you have it:
Protect yourself from the Conficker computer worm
Microsoft has made some patches available as well as an updated version of the Malicious Software Removal Tool.

If you really are interested in removing malicious software from your system, consider dumping Windows entirely. I doubt the Microsoft tool will do that, so you are better off installing Linux. I recommend Fedora.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The F'ing iPhone

As of today, I am on my third iPhone. I bought an iPhone in January of 2008. Along with it, I bought the AppleCare plan. I always buy the AppleCare plan when I buy Apple hardware because I find it incredibly easy just to go to Apple and say "it's broken" and get a new one. If you have AppleCare, they'll do that. If you don't buy AppleCare, they tell you to buy a new one or (if you're lucky enough to still be in the 9 second standard warranty window) replace or repair it under warranty.

I've had lots of Apple hardware and for the most part it works ok. I've run Linux on all of it for most of the time, having most recently given Leopard a try for a year (I didn't like it, but I think it's a vast improvement over Jaguar which I had last tried for an extended period of time).

The iPhone has been a bit annoying to me. Having been through 2 replacements now, I wonder how much I should trust it. Here's what's happened to me:
  • When iPhone Firmware 2.0 was released, the phone didn't take it well. I was running 1.1.4 just fine. I plugged the phone in to my MacBook and iTunes immediately backed up the phone and gently urged me to shove 2.0 on the iPhone. OK, fine, do it. The upgrade left the phone bricked and my AT&T account hosed. Apple's genius bar couldn't figure it out, but I don't think they tried hard because since I had AppleCare, they could just give me a new phone and send me on my way....to the AT&T Store to fix my now busted account. The upgrade to 2.0 required me to get a new phone, I lost all of my voicemail, and all of the data on the phone. Fortunately my number remained the same.
  • A couple of weeks ago, I noticed the iPhone having incredibly short battery life. In addition, calls were not coming through all the time. They'd go straight to voicemail. But then I wouldn't get an alert that I had a voicemail until 2 or 3 days later. Same with SMS messages. Visual voicemail wasn't working, so I had to call the 800 number and check messages the old fashioned way. Apple's genius bar thought it was probably run away processes keeping the CPU active and draining the battery. To explain the other problems, the tech said it was probably "bad configuration settings." They requested that I go home, back up the phone, and do a complete restore of the iPhone but set it up as a new phone rather than restoring from a backup. That put the phone in a worse state than it was already. Again, since I have AppleCare, the next solution was to just give me a new phone.
What I don't like is not knowing why the phone keeps doing this. I don't jailbreak my phone or anything like that. I just have the stock stuff on it. I did have some free iPhone apps, but those are now gone.

My guess is that each time a new firmware update comes out, the ugprade process goes poorly. It munges something, perhaps settings or lock files or state files or something. I can only speculate since I can't actually get in to the firmware and see for myself. With each upgrade, I'm guessing the state of the iPhone gets progressively worse.

So, what will happen with firmware 3.0 comes out? I imagine I'll be getting another iPhone when that upgrade fails and takes the phone down with it. My AppleCare service goes through January of 2010, so I'm keeping the phone until then. I might go through 20 more, but I don't care.

For those curious, I have the original 8GB iPhone model. It's not a 3g iPhone. And no, I'm not buying one.

If anyone has any suggestions for alternative smartphones, post. I've gotten used to having a web browser (and a real web browser, not stupid WAP), email, and google maps on my phone. The other stuff is fluff: camera, calendar, app store, music, movies, and so on.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

End of the Superferry

The Hawaii Superferry is no more. The supreme court of Hawaii ruled that "Act 2" (a law enacted in 2007 that allowed the Superferry to operate without completing an environmental impact study--EIS) was unconstitutional. The ruling halted Superferry operations on March 19th, 2008.

The Superferry had some difficulties from the beginning. Services to Maui at the beginning were delayed for one reason or another. Protesters on Kauai prevented the Alakai from docking for 9 hours. Once people got off the ship, some protesters damaged the vehicles of passengers. The Superferry suspended services to Kauai indefinitely after that. Services to the Big Island were scheduled to start next year when the second ship arrived. But now that won't happen because of this court ruling.

An environmental impact study is conducted in part by the state department of transportation and all sources I can find say that could take up to a year to complete.

I was able to take the Superferry twice while it existed. On the first trip we didn't take the car, the second time we did. Both trips were fun and less stressful than flying.

In a time where the economic situation of Hawaii is worse than it was during the Great Depression, I find this court ruling to be incredibly irresponsible of the state government. Should an EIS have been conducted before the Superferry began operations? Yes. But to halt service and put around 250 people out of work on Oahu and Maui at this particular point in time seems stupid.

I'll still wear my Hawaii Superferry jacket.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Target Assets Protection

Most big box stores have some sort of store security. For retail stores, one of the biggest problems they have to deal with is theft. They give the people who check receipts when you leave the store the fancy title of Loss Prevention.

Karen and I went to the new Target in Salt Lake today to buy a random assortment of things. Walking in to the store, I saw what looked like a Segway from an angle, but when I looked closer I noticed it was a stand-and-ride tricycle. Painted on the side were the words ASSETS PROTECTION. The Target name and logo were prominently featured on the vehicle. Actually, it's probably easier for me to just show you:

And from another angle:

I found this vehicle amazingly hilarious. It made me think of Gizmoduck from Duck Tales. Also, the thought of store security chasing someone down on this thing is a hilarious thought. Could you run faster than it? It looks street capable, but it was not equipped with license plates, so I imagine they aren't going to be taking it for a spin on Salt Lake Blvd.

As I stood there taking pictures of it, people chuckled or ignored me. I cannot be the only person who finds this vehicle both hilarious and ridiculous at the same time.

And, Assets Protection? It guess it sounds a little more intimidating than Loss Prevention.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

PowerPC G4 System Requested

Does anyone have a PowerPC G4 system they would like to part with, preferably a Macintosh? I do not need a current Mac, but specifically a G4 Mac system. The original Mac Mini, an older PowerBook, or an older G4 tower system (the B&W, for instance, or whatever).

If you would like to part with it, let me know. Post here or email me directly. I am trying to find a Mac system for Fedora work.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Store Loyalty Cards

My friends know that I am very much against the idea of store loyalty cards. If you haven't been to www.nocards.org, go there now and read.

But then there's reality and the fact that I can't really shop for groceries at a place that doesn't require one of these fake discount cards. Pretty soon you have a stack of customer loyalty cards in your wallet. I don't want to carry around a giant stack of these things all the time. Now there's a way out.

I heard of www.justoneclubcard.com today, which is more or less what I want. Now I need a printer.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Thanks To Everyone For The Birthday Wishes

I'd like to thank everyone who emailed me, sent a Facebook message, sent a card, sent a gift, or called to wish me a happy birthday. I am now 1E (or 30, for those of you who count in decimal). A lot of people asked me how I felt. I know turning 30 is a big deal for a lot of people and it certainly is a turning point for me, but what I'm really looking forward to is when I turn 20 (or 32, for the decimal counters). That will be 2^5, and the last time for me to celebrate a power of 2 birthday until I turn 2^6. It'll be a big party.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

I Miss The Old eBay

I first used eBay in 1997. That's so strange to say now. It's certainly come a long way. Back then it was definitely something new and everyone was a little skeptical about selling things to other people via this web site. But a lot of us took the plunge and did it. Over time there developed some standard procedures that eBayers did out of respect for each other.

eBay has changed a lot in the past few years. I have no desire to buy or sell anything on it anymore because it seems to be way more hit or miss than it ever was. Things I dislike about eBay in its current form:
  • Buy It Now - This seems to cause a lot of listings to just appear and never go anywhere. Post on craigslist if you have a specific asking price.
  • Automatic Shipping Charge Calculation - eBay now automatically calculates shipping charges for you when you buy something. Not only does this suck for the seller, but it also forces you to use UPS. What if I don't want to use UPS? I always offered buyers the option of FedEx, UPS, or USPS. The automatic calculation does not take in to account the fact that sellers need to buy boxes and other packing materials to make sure your crap arrives intact. That was always added in to the shipping costs. Usually a couple of dollars.
  • Forced PayPal - PayPal is frustrating. I have an account and have had one since they first started. Early on it was ok, but now that eBay doesn't really offer sellers a choice, I like it even less. If someone buys something from me for $50, PayPal gets a portion of that. Sorry. And don't forget you also lose money on your shipping and handling charges. Hope you don't care about that either.
  • Stores Running Their Business Through Ebay - Get your own web site. Or, at least make decent looking eBay listings. All caps, centered, bold, italics, 32 point font is not easy to read.
  • No Money Orders - I always preferred money orders when I was buying or selling. Now it doesn't seem like you can do that anymore. Have to use PayPal. Money orders were insured, guaranteed, and cost little compared to PayPal.
So I'm giving up on searching for ham radio gear on eBay now. Maybe 10 years ago, but not today. It's just a waste of time for me now. I miss eBay when we sent money orders, feedback was genuine, and you were only dealing with people rather than eBay storefronts.