Monthly Archives: July 2010

The spinning globe

I’ve long been a fan of TV idents, and I used to love seeing the late-80s BBC1 globe animation, when it occasionally popped-up on television here. As well as the Alas Smith and Jones spoof version.

Here are a couple of fascinating articles on how it was generated: by a standalone computer, which animated the 12 second rotation, at the PAL standard of 25 frames per second.

(Update: Found a better video)

Who’s eating all the old computers?

It’s hard rubbish here at the moment, and having just had a power supply fail on me leaving me with no spares, I thought I’d go scavenging. PC components are mostly interchangeable, I’ll just grab a handful of computers and pull the bits I need, and toss the rest out with the hard rubbish.

But someone’s taken them all.

Not only they, they’re cutting the cords off any CRTs lying around. I suspect scrap-metal hounds (copper in the power and video leads), but I can’t be certain because there seems to be a lot of steel things that weren’t snaffled.

Who’s taking the old computers, and why? Also: how do I lay my hands on a power supply – don’t tell me I’ve actually got to buy one!

Photo kiosks spreading viruses

Be careful with any USB drives you take to photo kiosks — thoroughly scan them afterwards for viruses.

Turns out Big W (FujiFilm) kiosks have been spreading viruses, and Fuji is now investigating equipping them with malware protection. Not before time.

This rung a bell for me. I’m sure a month or two ago after I got some photos, I found the drive I’d used had a suspicious autorun.inf file on it that I could’t figure out the origin of.

As Graham Cluley comments, it might be best to use a USB drive with a read-only switch.

USB stick vulnerability in all versions of Windows

Zero-day flaw. EVERYBODY PANIC! (Well, if you use Windows.)

Simply browsing a USB drive, Windows file share or WebDav directory can potentially infect you via a rootkit inside a .lnk file. All current versions of Windows said to be vulnerable.

Ebooks To Understand Fibromyalgia And Other Diseases com/technet/security/advisory/2286198.mspx”>Microsoft advisory: Vulnerability in Windows Shell Could Allow Remote Code Execution — no fix yet, but they do list a workaround.

Sophos’s Chester Wisniewski’s blog: Windows zero-day attack works on all Windows systems — Chester notes a good workaround:

Today, a colleague suggested the best mitigation I have heard so far: deploying a GPO disallowing the use of executable files that are not on the C: drive. This will work for most environments, and you really shouldn’t be running executables from USB drives and network shares anyway. We tested this solution against the vulnerability and it does in fact provide protection.

…which would be nice, but I’m buggered if I can find it in gpedit.msc.

From the looks of it, most of the big anti-virus vendors are onto it, and will detect it as long as your definition files are up to date.

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Josh has something even simpler than budgeting

Just write down what you spend your money on. At the end of the month, review.  You might want to classify things, graph total expenditure and other fiddling around with the numbers.  But that’s all you’ve got to do: just monitor things. If it turns you on, the monitoring etc can be done via a spreadsheet or personal finance application, but a sheet of paper marked out with every day in the month will do just fine.

When you become aware of what you’re spending your money on, and look at it as a proportion of your monthly spending, the awareness alone may be enough to change your behaviour to be more fiscally responsible.

Twitpic makes you follow them

The other day I noticed I was following @Twitpic on Twitter. I use Twitpic, really like the service (esp as I haven’t yet sat down and got my mobile to Flickr and Twitter posting working yet) but I don’t remember following them.

This morning, much more sinister, I notice I’m somehow following Twitpic founder @noaheverett.

Something is afoot. Could it be that Twitpic is abusing their access to my Twitter logon, and using the API to make me follow them?

A Twitpic Twitterer mentioned the option is on this page. But I’ve been using Twitpic for about 18 months, and I’ve never seen that before — and it’s only in the last week that I’ve seen @Twitpic and @noaheverett tweets show up.

Apparently it’s new, added 20 days ago, and people see if once, after logging on. Maybe they’ve sneakily switched everybody on by default, or maybe I just wasn’t paying attention, because I don’t recall seeing it, and I try and restrict how many people I follow very carefully. I might have opted-in for @Twitpic, but definitely not @noaheverett.

Or maybe, since only pops up during logon, I haven’t needed to re-login recently. I notice if you go back to it, it defaulted the option on again.

Not sure if this was something sneaky by Twitpic, or just not very well thought-through.

Keeping old content

Unlike many organisations, the BBC has a very enlightened policy on leaving old content up on their web site.

Among other things, it says:

Our view is that these pages often contain a lot of information about the programme or event which may be of interest in the future. We don’t want to delete pages which users may have bookmarked or linked to in other ways.

In general our policy is only to remove pages where the information provided has become so outdated that it may lead to actual harm or damage.

If only more web sites took this view.

Win2K and XP SP2 support ended yesterday

Windows 2000 support ended yesterday.

Ditto Windows XP SP2.

The latter is pretty easy; go to SP3. At least, it should be pretty easy, though Graham Cluley notes that that an alarming 77% of organisations are running Windows XP SP2 on 10% or more of their PCs.

As for Win2K, well, you should have known about it for some time and been planning for it!

Powerpoint file sizes

Was dealing with a big Powerpoint presentation (PPT) file.

In the older PPT format, 6063 Kb.

When zipped, 4826 Kb. Not a bad saving given the number of pictures in it.

Here’s the interesting thing: in PPTX format: 3293 Kb.

Remembering that PPTX and other Office Open XML formats (DOCX, XLSX etc) do their compression on the file as a whole, not the individual componenets, so this is an interesting result.

Perhaps the old binary format is inherently less efficient/compressible than the new XML format.

Mind you, another big PPT I tried it with didn’t compress down as much; the PPTX was about the same size as the ZIPped PPT, so it obviously depends on the exact content

Working on the server

Upgrading to WordPress 3, that kind of thing. Hold off new comments and posts until done. I’m also moving servers.

If you can see this, it’s done!

Here’s the process I’m following for moving these various sites:

Take an export of the database.

Run the SQL: update wp_posts set comment_status = ‘closed’ so nobody comes in and writes a comment subsequently lost.

Import into the new site and upload the new WP installation and the old theme and images etc onto the new site.

(I’ve found my new web ISP’s DDOS protection gets antsy if I use the default Filezilla setting of two simeltaneous connections.)

Hack the hosts file to look at it while getting it perfected.

Run /wp-admin/upgrade.php and let it upgrade the database

Go into the Admin screens, to the Permalink settings and save the default so the .htaccess file is updated

Apart from then switching the registrar so the domain looks at the new IP address, that’s about it.

Will also re-load the old .htaccess settings like the deny list for the big-hitting bandwidth thieves.

And I’m installing the W3 Total Cache plugin to optimise the site a bit. (I used to have WP set to deliver gzip-compressed pages; sometime before version 2.9, that option’s been removed.)

Update: Finally, WP3 seems to have fixed the weird bug that caused some comments and posts to be rejected dependent on particular words being present.