Arcane Tidbits

Today I thought I’d cover a few items that I found interesting, but were not in and of themselves enough info for an extensive blog post. I call these Arcane Tidbits.

First up is an interesting new Trojan horse that is attacking computers. When you reboot the computer, something pops up that looks alarmingly like the Microsoft Windows Activation screen. It tells you another user has activated your copy of Windows, and demands you enter credit card info as a way to validate your identity, of course reassuring you that you won’t be charged. If you fail to do so it shuts down your PC. PC Magazine has an interesting writeup as well as a link on how to remove this pest at http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,1895,2147608,00.asp .

Another interesting story from PC Magazine, the first known spam sent out as a PDF file is now in circulation. Read more about it at http://blogs.pcmag.com/securitywatch/2007/07/more_pdf_spam.php . To quote Patrick Norton (http://dl.tv/ ) “Remember kids, never ever ever open attachments from people you don’t know, and sometimes even from people you do.”

If you’ve been working in the .Net space for a bit, you’ve probably heard of the new Microsoft Cardspace that is part of .Net 3.0. However, you may be looking for a good basic intro to give to your boss or non-programming friends like system administrators to help them understand it. In episode 98 of Security Now, Steve Gibson gives a nice basic overview of what Cardspace is and how it works.

You can this episode at http://www.twit.tv/sn98 . Steve does get a bit technical, so I don’t know I’d suggest it for your dad (unless your dad is a former CIO like mine) but for your boss, DBAs, or System Admins it’s a good intro on what it is and how it works without getting into the programming. You might want to listen to show 95 (http://www.twit.tv/sn95 ) on OpenID first, as OpenID and Cardspace go hand in hand.

Next a bit of a personal note, I feel like a kid in a Web 2.0 candy store lately. You see, up until this week I’ve been using Hughes DirecWay to get my internet via Satellite. The speed was slow, about 700k down, but better than dial up. The downside is their FAP, or Fair Access Policy. Now I was spending nearly 90 bucks a month for their Professional Level service. Under that plan, I would get FAPped if I downloaded “too much”.

And how much is too much? Good question, I tried to find that out myself and was met with evasive technical answers. The best I could determine, based upon the elusive answers given to me by several tech support personnel, was somewhere around 50 megabytes an hour. Yes, you are reading that correct, 50 megabytes an hour, or about 1 podcast.

And what happened if I downloaded to much? Well I got FAPped as they call it, my bandwidth was choked back to a speed so slow it made dial up attractive. And forget doing VPN on it, it won’t work.

In order to get the speed out of the satellite, Hughes compresses the packets before they go up and down to the satellite via the dish. With VPN however all traffic is encrypted, so it can’t see the packet to compress it. Oh, the sales people don’t mention this, and one even told me it “should work” and I have to admit that once, just once, I actually made a VPN connection to the office. It was so slow though I had time to drive to the office to see the results of a single keypress.

Well happy days are here as AT&T ran DSL to my house last week. The installer could not have been nicer and more professional, and they even called a few days later to follow up and make sure everything was still working. I admit I was a bit dubious when AT&T bought BellSouth, but so far they look like they really have their act together.

My rather long winded point is I now have an 8 megabit connection to the net, with no limitations on bandwidth. No more FAPping! No more latency! No more 90 bucks a month for a service I’m not allowed to use! I’m now free to go explore all the cool Web 2.0 stuff like Skype, YouTube, and more. I’m sure I’ll be blogging about my experiences, but if you know of some cool high bandwidth technologies I can go play with drop a comment and let me know.

And finally, my local Discovery store is closing (sniffle). True there’s still the online store, but it was a lot of fun to go in and browse. I picked up two books I’ve had my eye on for a while at a deep discount. One is Mythbusters: Don’t Try This At Home Unless We Tell You To. It’s a book of experiments you can do with your kids, I intend to give it to my daughters and we can have some fun with it.

The second book is also about Mythbusters, and talks about the founding of the show and covers the stories behind 30 of their most popular myths. I’ve already looked through the first chapter, this looks to be a fun read, and with discounts I bought both books for a mere 20 bucks. You might want to check your local Discovery store as well.

And there you go a few little tidbits for your reading pleasure.

Standard Disclaimer: I receive no considerations financial or otherwise from any of the business or products mentioned in today’s post, and being a geek think the Mythbusters are really really cool.

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