Monday, September 29, 2003

The Internet is not ALL bad

I love reading stuff by Dan Gillmor. His latest column for Silicon Valley, Remembering the People Who Give Back to the Net, and All of Us is a nice reminder that while the Internet has a lot of nasty folks doing nasty things, there's a lot more good out there than bad. He cites a couple of examples of this, not least of which was Verisign's decision effectively to hijack the world's DNS servers, promptly fixed by Paul Vixie's release of a patch to BIND to mitigate against Verisign's act of vandalism. It's nice, every now and then, to read nice things about the Internet now and then!

MSDN Has O2k3!

Office 2003 is on MDSN

The rest of Office 2003 is now up on the subscriber's download site. I've just pulled FrontPage, OneNote and am starting to get SPS and Visio. At last!

What I'd like to see at the PDC

What I'd like to see at the PDC

I'm getting fairly excited about the new stuff we'll see at the PDC. It's clear that this will be a key event on the road to Longhorn, as well as a useful update for both Yukon and Whidbey. Longhorn, if Paul Thurrot's Supersite for Windows' is be believed, will offer (yet another) new UI. And of course Scoble has been hyping some of the things Longhorn will do over in his blog.

But what I want to see is how Longhorn will make a difference in terms of getting real work done. The flashy new interface is, for me, a turn off - businesses don't want to have to upgrade machines to have larger disks, more RAM, bigger CPUs, and better graphics cards. What they need is systems that will make things faster for the end user and, for the IT staff, systems that are easier to support and manage.

WinFS will undoubtably make a difference for me - the ability to search my own hard disk faster will make it a useful upgrade. When I think that I can search the internet, via Google, faster than I can search my hard disk I have to smile a bit. WinFS should change all that!

But all the other stuff? I'm just not convinced. Where's the real business value in all this stuff? Is Avalon really something that will make a user truly more productive or will it really bring down the support? Or is it just eye-candy that will make folks want to upgrade? Frankly, a lot of this looks like bloat-ware. Stuff that, in the labs at Redmond are utterly cool, but in the offices of Mom and Dad Ltd are a gratutious waste of money.

So what I want presentations on at PDC are ones that also address the issues of security, real end-user productivity and administrations. I want to see how Longhorn is going to be managed, controled and how it will make a difference to TCO. Sure, I love the cool stuff - but I want to see the real business value too.

Sunday, September 28, 2003

Watching Videos Faster

Thanks to Dominic Hopton, I've found a really neat way to watch videos - it's Media Player 9. I've got a stack of videos I am downloading to watch. Stuff like all MSDN TV and the .NET Show.

With MP9, you can speed up the rate at which the video plays. This was one of those little features that I missed when MP9 was released, but now that I know about - I love it. It enables me to watch a video in much less time. Experimenting this morning, I was able to watch a video at 1.6 times normal speed. Dominic claims to be able to watch it at up to 2.2, but I think that might take some getting used to. A neat feature!

Some places I'm getting videos to watch from include:

Saturday, September 27, 2003

Broken Packets and Espionage

I came across a very interesting site today: The Museum of Broken Packets. For TCP/IP geeks like me, this is fascinating stuff. But what was most interesting was Exhibit 3, titled 'Espionage'. This is a very interesting packet, as it shows a really cool new sort of tracert program!

The original tracert program used to send packets to a random UDP port while varying the TTL. This worked as long as the receiver did not actually use this port - if it did, random things could hapen. Later versions of tracert send IPMP echo requests to the target host, which was a bit safer. But then came pings of death attacks, and many administrators would close ICMP off.

But the attack documented here is interesting in that it is effectively a tracert 'inside' an otherwise legitimate session. Using this approach, just about every stateful firewall and NAT devlce in existance would allow/pass the packet (since in theory the packet is valid within the session). Most sensible firewall administrators might close off traditional tracer-ing, but would be pretty powerless to stop this sort, assuming they even noticed it in the first place!

This is an entire new class of espionage tools for internal espionage. An employee could run a tool build to do this and pretty much blueprint the entire network in a matter of a few minutes. This is also open to attach from an "RJ45 hoover - a device brought in by the cleaners. They could just plug a device into the network, hit go and within a few minutes your entire network could be analyzed and blueprinted. Makes good food for thought.

Thursday, September 25, 2003

No more Cover Disk Patches?

The Register reports that Microsfot has banned cover disk updates. According to the story it's all because of Sun. This hits us harder in the UK, where not everyone has broadband and where phone calls are much more expensive. Sadly, not everyone in the UK is able to download 166mb DirectX 9 update or the 134mb Windows Service Pack 1a. I've made use of cover disk patches for years. It was one reason why I subscribe to PC Pro!

Please Microsoft UK, think again??

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Good-bye Powerquest?

The Register reports that Symantec is buying Powerquest. I suppose this is an end to the competition in the disk imaging arena.

Microsoft Monitor: PR Goes Splat Over MSN Chat

Some days you have to wonder. The folks over at Microsoft Monitor report that Microsoft will charge for Chat.

The theory is that this move will protect children. I susupect cost might have a thing or two to do with it. The costs of running the chat servers must be considerable, and Microsoft has not been slow to start to try to make money from Internet services (the extra for-pay services added to Hotmail, for example). According to the New York Times, Microsoft's key competitors will not be axing chat. For AOL, the chats are private to subscribers anyway. But Yahoo apparently has no plans to charge. We'll see what happens!

Monday, September 22, 2003

Some background info on patching

Just came across a nice little paper from Phil Liberman. The paper is Command Line Options for Microsoft Patches and Service Packs. Phil is a pretty switched on guy and the paper is useful reading. His paper also points to another cool resource - titled Summary of Command-Line Syntax for Software Updates, the kb article looks a useful one to bookmark.

Moving this blog

I've been in contact with the nice folks that run blogger and, sadly, they appear to not be willing to do an RSS feed from this site. I regard RSS as an important feature, so I'm planning on moving. I've set upa new blog home, but the RSS feed is almost, but not quite working right. Once I get this all setup and working, I'll be moving over to Web Crimson . At least that's the plan for today!

I did a look around the web for other tools - I must get around to doing a tools round up! In the mean time, here's a good starting point on blogging software.

Friday, September 19, 2003

How Much is Inside a Sharpie? - Part 1

How much is inside a Sharpie?

For those not in the know, Sharpies are meant to be the best tool to use for labeling the CDs you burn. I do NOT want to get into an argument as to whether this is true or not, but I use them and they work ok for me. One question, that we now know the answer to is: How Much is Inside a Sharpie?

Some folks clearly have too much time on their hands!

MS VPC gets close to RTM

MS is getting close to the RTM of it's Virtual PC product. This is part of the product set that Microsoft bought from Connectix in the spring. It's been through a security review, and is currently in beta and nearing release. The product will only be supported on Windows 2000 or Windows XP and will be aggressively priced.

There will be some restrictions. First, it looks like VPC will be supported on XP and Windows 2000 only - and unsupported on Windows 2003. Also, there will be no SCSI or USB support. :-(

Thursday, September 18, 2003

MS Competes with Linux

Microsoft has released some new tools to help customers 'compete' with Linux. Dubbed the Tools to Compete There are a bunch of tools here that might be useful. Funnily enough, the CD costs US$3.50 plus shipping/handling. Makes one think that Microsoft really does view Linux as competition.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

The Road To Longhorn, Whidbey, and Yukon

I am at a seminar this week looking forward to a number of new Microsoft products. We're hearing about Whidbey, Yukon and Longhorn. For those of you not up with the latest MS Code names, Whidbey is the next version of Visual Studio and .NET, Yukon is the next version of SQL Server and Longhorn is the next version of Windows XP/Win2k3 Server.

As far as Longhorn is concerned, I've been using Google's news alerts to get information about the product. Microsoft MVP Jim Eshelman is also tracking the stories on his web site. The site is not up to date (last entry is late July) but it's probably worth bookmarking. Take a look!

Sunday, September 14, 2003

Off to Redmond

Off I go again

Lap top is packed, tickets/passport organised, seat power adaptor packed, along with a bunch of DVDs, good book (.NET Security), etc. Oh clothes too. Time to go. Back home in a week.

Saturday, September 13, 2003

Jeff Key

A Cool Tool Gets Cooler

Jeff Key's Snippet Compiler that I posted about earlier this week has been improved already. There's a new edit control (thanks to those nice folks at Syncfusion which makes editing even easier. Cool!!

Friday, September 12, 2003

Yet more patches?

Another Windows patch!

Just when you thought it was safe, along comes another patch (and associated holes in Windows). :-(( Or as Mary Jo Folley puts it: Another Wednesday, another Windows security patch.

Do you need to deploy this patch? Well, there are actually 3 holes that are fixed (actually this should probably read as 're-fixed'). MS have marked this as critical so I guess the answer is yes: you do need to deploy this patch.

At TechEd in June, Scott Charney said some things that I sure hope he (and Microsoft) delivers on! He said "When I came to Microsoft...customers said to me that patch management was their biggest concern. So I started looking at it, and what I realised was that patch management was broken"

Patch Management was broken in June, and it's still broken Scott. :-(((

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

PDC Bloggers

PDC will be Popular

Judging from the PDC Bloggers site, PDC will be popular. I'm heading there too and will be adding comments here on what I see. It should prove to be a good week.

Jeff Key's blog and snippit compiler

Snippit Compiler

A tool for code weanies

In Tim Sneath's blog, I saw a reference to bothJeff Key's blog and to a cool utility Jeff's written called Snippit Compiler. If you've ever had to demo code and you want to compile it and see the results , this is a neat tool.

I am doing some training this week in the .NET Framework for a client and this would really, really have been useful today!

Monday, September 08, 2003

New Security Book

Microsoft Encyclopedia of Secuity

Just got a copy of the new MS Press Encyclopedia of Security by Mitch Tulloch. Mitch also maintains an interesting technical Blog at Blogspot.

This book is a good A-Z reference guide to all the key security issues likely to face any IT Pro. It's not a definitive look, by any means, with around 1000 entries in some 480 pages. But it is a good basic intro to all the key terms. It even covers .NET security concepts such code access policies which is good. The level of depth is not great - but there is a good introduction provided with some references for more information.

If you have to understand more about security - and let's face it, most IT Pros need this understanding, this book is worth buying!

Sunday, September 07, 2003

Keeping Up

I had an interesting mail from an old friend today. She asked me how I keep up. We've been communicating off and on for years after meeting many years ago on a training course. We run into each other now an then - and it's nice to say hi. So Hi - you know who you are!

The question of keeping up is a good one. At one time, I relied mainly on network news (NNTP) and mail. Increasingly, I'm relying on online content. Since May, I've been playing with both blogging software and RSS readers (the intenet was to read and consume via RSS). I can see the arguments for RSS, and Feed Demon is a cool tool. I've also started using Google News Alerts. Email is, increasingly, just a vechicle for spam. And I'm tired of it. I was away for a week and must have had 1000 spams. Even with filtering kicking out about 40% of the mails received! Jeesh. I am finding RSS aggregators as a better way of looking at things, but it needs RSS feeds. I'd love, for example, to get google searches via RSS. But this is a topic for another day.

Home Again - At least for a little while

I'm just back from a relaxing week in the US - a few days in Boston and then some time in Rhode Island. Took my wife and daughter and we had a great time. The weather in Boston was great - although it did Rain in Rhode Island. Never mind - the food was great and the wine outstanding. The flight over to Boston was kind of grim, although just bearable. The flight attendants were somewhat out of it and they now charge for booze in economy. But coming back was not too bad - American did well on that leg (and I had my own gin). It turns out now that the Boston crew no longer gets a full day's rest before the flight back. No wonder they were so beat on the way over to Boston. Anyway - it's nice to be home. For a little while at least.

The next few weeks look like being "hectic". I'm off to Redmond in mid-Sept. Then back for a week before a week in New Orleans. Then a week at home before the PDC in LA. Or something like that.

I'll try to keep up with the blog - but it may not be easy. And worse if blogger is DOS's again. Sadly, it appears from evhead's blog entry yesterday that the site had a DOS attack. Bummer.

I want my Blogger Pro!

So when will Google re-open it's Blogger Pro� - Power Push-Button Publishing service to new subscriptions?

I started using back in May for this blog - and would love to publish in RSS. I like the overall service at and am a long time Google fan. I'd like to upgrade to the pro version. Either that, or I move this blog. Choices...

Google bought Pyra Labs back in February of this year, reports Dan Gillmor. The folks at Six Log (the company behind Movable Type) also picked up on Dan's original story.

So now it's September - and where's the Pro version? Or rather the ability to sign up for it?