Computing Archives

July 1, 2004

Dump it!

It's official: The U.S. government's Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) is warning Web surfers to stop using Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE) browser.

"US-CERT is a non-profit partnership between the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the public and private sectors. It was established in September 2003 to improve computer security preparedness and response to cyber attacks in the United States."


"US-CERT researchers say the IE browser does not adequately validate the security context of a frame that has been redirected by a Web server. It opens the door for an attacker to exploit the flaw by executing script in different security domains."

So what are you waiting for? Get a real browser, like Mozilla, Firefox, or Opera...

August 29, 2004

Bill Gates is Satan!

For the three people who drop by regularly, I would like to apologize for not posting more, but I have a good excuse, as follows:

Two weekends ago I decided to re-install Windows XP. It was late, but it generally is when I do something like this. This time, alas, I encountered problems.

Continue reading "Bill Gates is Satan!" »

September 19, 2004

It's alive, it's ALIVE!!!

Not too long ago, I wrote about the Great Melt-down.

At the time I was pretty upset, and was still getting depressed every time I thought about it; something I tried to avoid.

Just last week I bought Spinrite, since I had read that it could work miracles recovering data, but that application showed an emptry drive, too. The good news is that they have a 30-day money-back guarantee.

When I wrote to them about my problem, they explained that Spinrite is designed to recover data from bad sectors on damaged or flaky hard drives, not from a formatted or re-partitioned drive. It's a different approach. Their system depends on the current file table, so it wouldn't help me recover from a format.

But they did tell me about Ontrack Data Recovery. These folks provide data recovery solutions from single-user/"roll your own" to clean-room lab services. Apparently they are qualified to open the seal on a variety of hard drives (to recover the data) without invalidating the manufacturer's warranty. The list includes Fujitsu, Maxtor, Quantum, Seagate, and Western Digital. Impressive...

Ontrack allows you to download a demo version of their "personal" level of data recovery software for free. It will scan the selected drive, display any files or folders that seem to be recoverable, and allow you to flag those you wish to restore. It won't actually perform the restore, but it's useful to see if the software can even find your data.

I downloaded the demo, installed and ran it, and it saw my data! I thought about it for about 15 minutes, since the good stuff is $199; they have an $89 version ,but you can only restore 25 files at a time. Feh! I had several thousand files on that drive...

After that I spoke a silent prayer, bought the $199 package, downloaded and installed it.

Now, let's backtrack here. XP install had over-written the original FAT32 partition with an NTFS partition. Then I deleted that, and created a new FAT32 partition, and quick-formatted that. I hadn't written to the drive since (for which I give thanks!)

Even after all that mucking around, EasyRecoverytm still found and recovered 98% of my data!!!

Alll my source code, all my papers, my memories; everything. I. Have. It. All. Back. I cannot describe just how ...happy isn't the word... I am.

The other 2%? some .MP3s, and a couple of vids. Nothing important. I think they had been deleted and overwritten before the mess, which would explain why they were damaged or cross-linked.

Anyway. If you ever find yourself in this situation, which -according to Ontrack- includes reformatted drives; do not walk; run to their website, and get their stuff. It's worth the money.

October 15, 2004

Eye candy

It seems to be the thing to do these days, so in celebration of my recent recovery, here's a screenshot of my desktop....


March 26, 2005

"Mac attack" gains new meaning

This will probably fire up some of the True Believers out there:

"Macintosh Hacker Attacks Are on the Rise - Symantec

Tuesday, March 22, 2005; 8:16 PM

SAN FRANCISCO -- Hacker attacks on Apple Computer Inc.'s Macintosh OS X operating system, thought by many who use the Mac to be virtually immune to attack, are on the rise, according to a report from anti-virus software vendor Symantec Corp."

While Symantec didn't release details of how they came to that conclusion, it should come as little surprise. As Gartner analyst Martin Reynolds said in the article

All these platforms have vulnerabilities - it's a fact of life ... The truth of the matter is that Mac is only a couple percentage points of (computer) shipments so it's not an interesting target.

Apparently the anti-virus company believes that strong sales for the new mini-Mac, which seems to be targeted to Windows users considering their next computer, could make things worse by increasing the number of Macs operated by "less-savvy users." They expect "the number of vulnerabilities can be expected to increase, as will malicious activity that targets them."

Now, before anyone blows a gasket, let's review a couple points. First technically-aware users will agree that the Free-BDS based OS X base is significantly more secure than today's Windows XP base. Which is a shame, really, since the Windows NT base was originally a very secure and powerful OS. Alas, Microsoft made it more "user friendly" in such a ways that damaged security.

Second, "more secure" doesn't mean "invulnerable," even though more than a few Mac-heads have a bad habit of saying things like "now that I own a Mac, I don't have to worry about trojans, viruses, or anything!" Um, no. You just have a lot less to worry about.

Third, while Symantec said it had documented 37 "high-vulnerabilities" in the past year in OS X, they have "almost always" been acknowleged and patched by Apple.

Finally, let's recall that selling anti-virus and other prophylactic applications is how Symantec makes money. Does this mean they're lying? Hardly. But I'm sure they wouldn't mind the extra income. :)

Bottom line: OS X still has a substantial lead over Windows XP in security, but it isn't invulnerable. No operating system is. And it is fairly easy to establish good habits while using XP to avoid 99% of the hacker/virus threat out there. Using Mozilla/Firefox is an excellent start. Just remember that no hardware or software solution is worry-free.

Me, I'd love to see the mini-Macs take off, if for no other reason to watch Redmond sphincters collectively tighten. They might even restore real security to their flagship operating system.

Heck, I wish I had the money to get a mini, but not right now. It would be great to plop it down next to my Athlon WinXP machine and my Thunderbird Win2000 system to see how it compares. The Apple networking is supposed to work very well with Windows nets these days.

July 15, 2005

Battlestar Galactica, the new download frontier...

Dean reminds us that the first episode of the second season will be shown in less than 24 hours...

Just lemme know where the torrents are. :)

You know, this show could be the Itunes of television. Me, I'm not going to fork out $40/month to see that one show -there's not that much on cable I want to see-, but I'd still love to watch Battlestar Galactica.

I certainly wouldn't mind forking over a couple bucks to pick up a digital capture of a given episode.

Continue reading "Battlestar Galactica, the new download frontier..." »

April 21, 2006

I just found a cold beer in Hades...

Hold, I say hold the presses!

This just in from Apple: Intel Mac users will be able to dual-boot to XP!

Yes, boys and girls, if you own a new Intel Mac, as well as a full-install CD of Windows XP with Service Pack 2 included, you will be able to boot into either XP or OS X, as desired.

Continue reading "I just found a cold beer in Hades..." »

May 25, 2011

Mozbackup is da bomb!

For those using Firefox, I would like to point out a truly premier utility: MozBackup. MozBackup will back up all your vital statistics for both Firefox and Thunderbird, and I can now attest to the utility of this ... er, utility. :)

Just last week, the S.M.A.R.T. routine in my computers' CMOS indicated that my data drive was bad, so I bought an external USB 2.0 drive, and backed everything up. Just for laughs, I also used MozBackup to backup my browser & email settings to the external drive as well.

...Come Monday night, all Hades breaks loose across the Midwest. I'm lucky in that that the power outage in my part of town was during my time at work. Alas, when I got home, I turned on my computer only to get the message NTLDR not found. Urk. Double-urk. Not good at all.

I was fortunate in that I had a spare 80Gb drive, and re-installed Windows XP. The challenges of installing Firefox & Thunderbird on the new drive, then restoring my old settings were daunting, but MozBackup restored Every.Single.Stinking.Thing; passwords and all. Amazing. Really.

Thunderbird was very nearly as painless, except for most recent email traffic, but that may be because my Roadrunner account hasn't seen much traffic. All local folders (I make a point of dumping everything over six months old to local folders) restored just fine. My account seemed to restore just fine, showing everything back to January.

Bottom line: this sucker is officially Da Bomb for backing up your Firefox settings. Bookmarks, passwords, preferences, themes, plugins; everything. Really. I installed Firefox, ran the restore, and BAMB!, I was back. This was one of the most painless restores I've ever seen, and I go back to CP/M days.

If you use Firefox, this utility is a MUST USE. It's just that simple.

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