Archive for the ‘technical’ Category

I miss Assembly and BASIC. POKE 43602,0

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

Travelling back in my mind, inspired by this article Google executive frustrated by Java, C++ complexity

Today’s commercial-grade programming languages — C++ and Java, in particular — are way too complex and not adequately suited for today’s computing environments

I remember the good old days:

10 for a = 1 to 26
20 print chr$(a+64);
30 next
run
abcdefghij….

(or something like that, its been well over 20 years since I actually wrote anything in BASIC).

I also remember the good old days of programming in 6502 raw assembly code, man that was fun. I had no idea what I was doing at first or even what assembly was, but I coughed up huge allowance dollars for a thick, dry, purely technical book, figured it out, and churned out really cool things.

When I first caught wind of the C programming language, after having taken a few years off from doing anything with a keyboard, I just didn’t get it. Something about it became ugly, heavy, overly complicated and unnecessary.  I didn’t get why I couldn’t just inject my code straight into memory from a text file anymore.

I wrote some really nice stuff in assembly back in the day, sound and fast video and cool graphic effects.  At least that’s how I remembered it.

While I don’t have any source code for that assembly stuff anywhere, here’s a game in BASIC I wrote in that first 6 months of touching a computer.  Requires an Apple //c and every single spare byte of memory.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/6bp1g669cx0n5gs/Chopper%20Assault%20(All).jpg

I’ll choose Apple over Flash any day

Monday, February 1st, 2010

I fully applaud Apple’s defiant stance against having Flash capabilities on their devices like the new iPad.  I hate how unstable, unreliable, and insecure Adobe Flash is.  HTML5 all the way baby!

This just happened to me, thanks for crashing while doing the impossibly hard task of streaming music (rolleyes)….

Apple > Adobe

At least my systems are secure.  Don’t forget folks, update your systems or get screwed!  http://thinktechnica.wordpress.com/articles/adobe-flash-protection/

Thousand Ireland Dressing

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

Somebody should make that stuff.

Seriously.

I’d put it on all my salads.  Especially potato salad.  Mmmmm.

In with the new, in with the old.

Saturday, December 5th, 2009

Old and Busted

My 5-year-old miniature Dell Inspiron 700M laptop kicked the bucket a couple of weeks ago and I’ve since replaced it with a beautiful Asus UL20A that kicks its ass in every category but weight.  Meaning the 700M weighs much more.  Dimensionally, the Asus is the same but thankfully much thinner.

I’m tickled pink with a 6-hour battery and great processor (Intel Core2Duo SU7300 CULV or “Ultra Low Voltage” model), and finally I can run serious things like Server 2008 Hyper-V.  This will let me stay on top of the geek curve by allowing me to virtualize every relevant operating system and enterprise app under the sun.  Very important to keep up with these things if I’m trying to sell myself to clients.

So today after lunch I put the old laptop on the kitchen table and started to tear it apart, for science of course, its always good to see what’s in it and to see if I can take it apart and reassemble it myself.  Not something I’d typically do with a brand new laptop.

New and Awesome

While messing around I found a 2nd RAM stick, originally I thought the onboard 256 MB was, well, onboard.  But it turned out to be a regular SODIMM.  So I yanked it out, slapped in the other 512 chip that was underneath it in the expansion slot … and voila, it boots up perfectly.

Well, at least I have a testbed laptop now.  I mentioned I can use Hyper-V to test out other operating systems, but sometimes you truly need it on a seperate piece of hardware.  And hun, trust me when I say this was not a waste of money.  Having a 2nd laptop is infinitely useful and something I always wished I had.

Fancy Doo

Friday, December 4th, 2009

I was sick of the old theme, so today I spent a bit of time updating thinktechnica.com

Looks pretty slick if I do say so myself.

Technica Systems

Desktop Linux – bottom of the barrel

Saturday, October 31st, 2009

Every time a major linux distribution gets released I give it a shot.  I’ve been doing this since the beginning of linux.  Every time I walk away thinking I just wasted a few hours of my life.  Don’t get me wrong, linux for servers and embedded devices is beautiful, heck I’m absolutely in love with my Android phone.

This time around I installed the latest Ubuntu 9.10 for my older laptop, and as pretty as it is I just can’t shake the impression I get that the group managing it all is made up of the bottom of the barrel of software developers.  If I was hiring a programmer and he said he was one of the developers who did some of the god-awful crap I’ve downloaded in the last 24 hours through the Ubuntu Software Center I wouldn’t even give him a second chance.  I’ve seen better software in the mid 80’s on my Apple IIc.

I mean, Extreme Tux Racer for example.  In what world does clicking the UP arrow in the config menus mean a value should decrease?  Is there some long held joke that I just don’t get where these developers insist on doing everything ass backwards?  Up = more you idiots!

Sigh.

 

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!

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

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.

Redundant Array of Invisible Discs

Saturday, August 22nd, 2009

I had here an old Dell server with a failed RAID array – the drives were completely unresponsive, and every diagnostics tool came up clean. So all you can do is pull the whole system apart piece by piece until you get somewhere.

Thankfully life came back, possibly the PSU just can’t handle the juice, since things started working well once an unused SATA expansion came out. One of the two drives was now being reported as degraded, so it wouldn’t join the array. A quick verify and the Adaptec tool then allowed the array to be rebuilt.

I love it when it all works out in the end.