Archive for September, 2009

Digital Organization

Sunday, September 27th, 2009

There’s a great article on the Think Technica blog about digital document organization, and how to turn paper into searchable PDF’s using your cellphone.  Read up here!

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Annual Jensathon

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

Each summer I try to do something that reminds me that I’m not dead yet.  And now that I turned 40, doing this is even more important.  In 2007 Brent and I did a crazy, exhausting canoe trip / hike on Atlin Lake that pushed us to our limits.  In 2008 I did several 20+ km excursions in the canoe.  This year all I had time for was a trip up and down Alouette Lake in Golden Ears Provincial park.  It was a doozy, 24 kms in a hair over 5 hours.

There are a few pics and thing here on my Picasa page.  Here’s to being 40 and not dead yet.  Another 40 to go.

Alouette Lake

Buntzen Lake

Monday, September 21st, 2009

I went for a quick paddle on Buntzen Lake, 10 km on the nose to circle it completely.  I hit my speed record today, 9.0 km/h.  Previously 8.9.  I thought things would start to slow down now that I turned 40 … guess not.

Photos and geo-location stuff are all up here on my Picasa site

Launch

Sunday, September 20th, 2009

A real website will come shortly, but for the moment this will have to do:  www.thinktechnica.com

Technica Systems is my new business, and by the name you can probably guess what I do.

Systems.  Technical stuff.  Like servers, networks, software, that sort of thing.

biz-card-10

Oh great! Just what we need!

Saturday, September 19th, 2009

Mosquito-borne African virus a new threat to West

Awesome.  So glad I moved to Vancouver in ’98.  I think I’ve seen a total of 3 mosquitos this whole time.

“Unlike West Nile virus, where nine out of 10 people are going to be totally asymptomatic, or may have a mild headache or a stiff neck, if you get Chikungunya you’re going to be sick,” he said.

“The disease can be fatal. It’s a serious disease,” Diaz added. “There is no vaccine.”

Chikungunya infection causes fever, headache, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, muscle pain, rash and joint pain. Symptoms can last a few weeks, though some suffers have reported incapacitating joint pain or arthritis lasting months.

That about sums it up …

Friday, September 18th, 2009

This is me in a nutshell.

500x_earlyadopt

(Stolen from http://thisisindexed.com/2009/09/shiny-object-must-get/)

Top of the World

Friday, September 18th, 2009

A snapshot from the top of the Shangri-la Hotel in downtown Vancouver. This is the highest building in Canada West of Calgary, which still isn’t all that tall compared to other skyscrapers. Still, the view is pretty damned spectacular!



Computer Security is Easy

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

Direct quote from Wikipedia:

“The FBI confirmed the active development of Magic Lantern, a keylogger intended to obtain passwords to encrypted e-mail and other documents during criminal investigations. Magic Lantern was first reported in the media by Bob Sullivan of MSNBC on 20 November 2001 and by Ted Bridis of the Associated Press. The FBI intends to deploy Magic Lantern in the form of an e-mail attachment. When the attachment is opened, it installs a trojan horse on the suspect’s computer, which is activated when the suspect uses PGP encryption, often used to increase the security of sent e-mail messages. When activated, the trojan will log the PGP password, which allows the FBI to decrypt user communications. Symantec and other major antivirus vendors have whitelisted the Magic Lantern trojan, rendering their antivirus products, including Norton AntiVirus, incapable of detecting it. Concerns around this whitelisting include uncertainties about Magic Lantern’s full surveillance potential and whether hackers could subvert it and redeploy it for purposes outside of law enforcement.

Its old news, but I like to keep references like this handy for when people ask me what kind of anti-virus or system protection tools they should run.  It kills me that major vendors like Dell and HP are shipping computers to home consumers with all that horrible crap pre-installed on top of the operating system.  The very first thing I do when taking care of one of these systems is to do a full re-install of XP / Vista / 7 and start from scratch.

Another way to cleanse a new PC is to use this tool, which helps but inevitably leaves traces of crapware behind:  The PC Decrapifier

So how do I keep my own system safe, clean and virus-free?  Easy for me, a bit trickier for the non-technical home user.  I’ll outline my basic techniques and philosophies, email me if you want some more info.

There are three attack vectors you need to worry about, and what you need to do:

1 – Direct access to your PC over the internet by a hacker: Use a standalone physical router or firewall.  Do not rely on software firewalls, including the one build into XP / Vista!

This is the easiest to combat:  Use a router.   By function, all residential routers are also firewalls.  What they do is act as a gateway between your internal home network and the public internet network.  Unless you stupidly (ie purposely, since none of them do this by default) set up the router to allow external access with an easy to guess password, your internal devices are safe from direct attacks by hackers.  While the build-in firewall in XP / Vista / 7 is great, if your PC is directly connected to your DSL or Cable modem you are still allowing hackers direct physical access to your PC (see #3 below).

2 – Indirect access to your PC over the internet: Avoid bad websites and disallow automatically running stuff that comes through any bad websites.

You may think that the biggest source of viruses is files that you purposely download, but that’s far from reality these days.  The number once source of PC infections is through hacked web pages that trick your web browser into launching nasty code.  This is very easy to avoid!  First, do not run as Administrator for day to day computer use.  Set up a new user for yourself with basic, regular user rights.  This way you can’t install software and can’t be tricked into blindly installing software.  If you have something you need to install, log out, log back in with the administrator account, then log back out and in as a regular user.  Second, use OpenDNS.  Their website has tons of info, and a really easy to follow guide to get you running, click here.  What this does is help to prevent your computer from reaching those nasty infected websites to begin with.

3 – Direct, physical access to your PC: Well this one is easy, don’t let strangers use your computers.

Pretty unlikely to happen, especially at home, but worth mentioning.  At work this is harder to prevent, since “strangers” can include your own staff.  Physical access doesn’t just mean somebody comes along and sits down at your computer, take a glance at this list and you’ll see some ways data was stolen in ways that could have been easily preventable.  At work, make sure you lock your PC when you walk away.

Notice how none of those three steps involve running anti-virus software?  In my 25 years of computing, whether it be my home or business, the policies and techniques I employ at the border (router/firewall/gateway) and policies I force on the end users and their workstations, nothing has ever caused a problem.  I know this for a fact, I occasionally will run anti-virus for kicks.  I’ll occasionally thoroughly scan the outbound network traffic logs to see if any infected PC is “calling home”.  I’ll occasionally run other forensics tools on the systems to double check.  Nada.  Zip.  Ziltch.

I actually find it much, much easier to protect a corporate network than to protect users at home.  A corporate network will usually come with a modest budget that lets me really tweak the protection for the three vectors I wrote of above.  For starters, I’d run internal DNS servers, force all traffic through a standalone web filter device, and use server-forced policies that force users into running safely.  Home users need to employ a bit more self discipline, which is hard.

If anything isn’t clear, or sounds wrong, or needs more details, just add some comments and I’ll be happy to fill in the blanks.

Practice makes perfect

Wednesday, September 9th, 2009

Erik practicing his runs at the skate park down the road. He loves watching the big kids fly around on their bikes and skateboards. He sits on the grass silent and unmoving, spellbound by what they can do.