31 May 2006 · Comments Off on Sony Rootkit Settlement · Categories: Geek Stuff

I first mentioned Sony’s nefarious little rootkit in November.

Now the case has reached a settlement (from El Reg):

Federal courts have decided the penalty Sony BMG must suffer for exposing thousands of music fans’ computers to hackers with dodgy DRM software last year. District court judge Naomi Reice Buchwald granted final approval for a settlement yesterday.

Consumers will receive new malware and vulnerability-free CDs, a patch to remove the offending XCP or MediaMax code, and Sony will be dishing out free downloads.

By the way, if you or anyone you know had trouble with this software, follow the link to the story; it contains links about how to file a claim.

31 May 2006 · 4 comments · Categories: Uncategorized

Still making the rich richer, the poor poorer, and destroying the middle class:

A decades-long campaign by right-wing activists (brilliantly documented by Yale professors Michael Graetz and Ian Shapiro in their book “Death by a Thousand Cuts”) has convinced many Americans that the estate tax poses a threat to countless hardworking families. That was always nonsense, and under the estate tax revisions that almost all Democrats support — raising the threshold for eligibility to $3.5 million for an individual and $7 million for a couple — it becomes more nonsensical still. Under the $3.5 million exemption, the number of family-owned small businesses required to pay any taxes in the year 2000 would have been just 94, according to a study by the Congressional Budget Office. The number of family farms that would have had to sell any assets to pay that tax would have been 13.

Nonsense is the wrong word.

Lie would be better.

27 May 2006 · Comments Off on Secret Chimp · Categories: Uncategorized

Today’s Deep Thought from Jack Handy, in the sidebar, suggested, “There should be a detective show called ‘Johnny Monkey,’ because every week you could have a guy say ‘I ain’t gonna get caught by no MONKEY,’ but then he would, and I don’t think I’d ever get tired of that.”

Which reminded me of this great old show.

27 May 2006 · 1 comment · Categories: Uncategorized

My older daughter got married today. She found a good man, and a good man found a good woman.

I’ll be back blogging soon.

25 May 2006 · Comments Off on Yes, Virginia, There Is a Lady Justice. At Least, Sometimes. · Categories: Uncategorized

A federal jury today convicted former Enron chairman Kenneth L. Lay of each of the six counts with which he was charged and convicted his protege Jeffrey K. Skilling of 19 of 28 counts, holding the top executives accountable for fraud on their watch.

Now, of course, they will tie the damn thing up in appeals for years. Remember that appeals are about procedure, not about truth.

Twelve good persons and true saw through their lies and recognized that they sacrificed the hard work, good will, dedication, faith, and personal worth of their employees and shareholders for their own personal games–er, gain.

Hope they look good in orange.

24 May 2006 · Comments Off on Eleven Reasons To Take It Down and Pass It Around · Categories: Uncategorized

Yeasty reasons from the brewery:

In ancient times beer was named liquid bread. Today we possess the evidence that this is the truth. Depending on the extract, one litre of beer has 400-500 kcal. Of this, 250-390 kcal are the calories which come from the alcohol that is in beer. The rest of the calories come from the part of the extract the human body can use for its own maintenance.

With a tip to El Reg.

24 May 2006 · Comments Off on If You Use MS Word, Take Care · Categories: Uncategorized

Hackers have developed malicious code designed to exploit an unpatched vulnerability in Microsoft Word 2002 and 2003.

Maliciously-constructed Word documents containing the Mdropper-H Trojan have begun to circulate on the net in messages that pose as internal emails. The malware contains a number of objects (such as PowerPoint slides and Excel charts) along with Backdoor-Ginwui, which opens a back door that allows hackers to control compromised Windows PCs.

The article has links to more information about the Trojan and methods of defending against it.

Better, get Open Office.

24 May 2006 · 3 comments · Categories: Uncategorized

As it considered the immigration bill last week, the Senate passed an utterly useless amendment sponsored by Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) declaring English to be our “national language” and calling for a government role in “preserving and enhancing” the place of English.

There is no point to this amendment except to say to members of our currently large Spanish-speaking population that they will be legally and formally disrespected in a way that earlier generations of immigrants from — this is just a partial list — Germany, Italy, Poland, Russia, Norway, Sweden, France, Hungary, Greece, China, Japan, Finland, Lithuania, Lebanon, Syria, Bohemia, Slovakia, Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia were not.

But why should his opinion matter? After all, as he tells us in the column, his father spoke a furrin lingo, and those who speak furrin lingos are most likely subversives, ain’t they?

20 May 2006 · Comments Off on A Noble Experiment . . . Success! · Categories: Uncategorized

It’s been a long week here at the beautiful and luxurious Marriott Residence Inn Oyster Point/South San Francisco.

I’ve been here all week with my dog and pony show. Here is a picture of all my dogs and ponies:

Shipping Containers

This morning, big silver bird awaits. I shall be hermitically squeezed into the tube, united with the other human tennis balls, only to pop free later today back in PHL.

Yesterday, the hotel housekeeper forgot to leave filters for the coffee pot.

I can report with great confidence (and no small amount of gratitude) that paper towels work just fine. I’m starting to wake up now.

19 May 2006 · Comments Off on George Will Gets It. This Time. · Categories: Uncategorized

As I believe I’ve said before, I respect George Will’s reasoning and intellectual discipline, though I seldom agree with his conclusions. But on this issue he gets it.

No party monopolizes “values”:

It is odd that some conservatives are eager to promote the semantic vanity of the phrase “values voters.” And it is odder still that the media are cooperating with those conservatives.

Conservatives should be wary of the idea that when they talk about, say, tax cuts and limited government — about things other than abortion, gay marriage, religion in the public square and similar issues — they are engaging in values-free discourse. And by ratifying the social conservatives’ monopoly of the label “values voters,” the media are furthering the fiction that these voters are somehow more morally awake than others.

Today’s liberal agenda includes preservation, even expansion, of the welfare state in its current configuration in order to strengthen an egalitarian ethic of common provision. Liberals favor taxes and other measures to produce a more equal distribution of income. They may value equality indiscriminately, but they vote their values.

Among the various flavors of conservatism, there is libertarianism that is wary of government attempts to nurture morality and there is social conservatism that says unless government nurtures morality, liberty will perish. Both kinds of conservatives use their votes to advance what they value.

Regular readers know that I the political positions I favor are often the ones liberal ones. They spring from strong values about the meaning, course, had destiny of the United States of America; about fairness; about the intent of the Founders and the meaning of the United States Constitution; and about criminal, civil, and social justice.

Sadly, on the national platform, we do not seem to have anyone who can articulate those values, who has the courage to take stands and the leadership ability to translate those values into political victory and national policy.

Those who take stands don’t seem to articulate liberal values so as to reach others, and those who seek political value have become frightened of their own shadows from the rightwing’s tactic of painting them as traitors and wusses.

The right is right; many politicians who believe in liberal values, values of justice, cooperation, and honesty (a value notable missing from the current Federal Administration) are wusses. They fear speaking the truth–and, by that, I do not mean calling names–and are incapable of showing vision.

19 May 2006 · Comments Off on BellSouth’s Weasel Wording · Categories: Uncategorized

BellSouth wants USA Today to take it back and Verizon tries to say “not me” without actually saying “not me”:

El Reg points out the convolutions of BellSouth’s and Verizon’s statements:

Previously, following last week’s USA Today exposé, BellSouth had issued a statement claiming that it does not have a contract to supply the NSA with call records.

“Based on our review to date, we have confirmed no such contract exists, and we have not provided bulk customer calling records to the NSA,” the statement said.

Notice that the statement did not say BellSouth had not supplied any call records to the NSA. If it had, perhaps the retraction would already be in print.

But the statement is crafted to be letter-of-the-law accurate, even if there should be an informal agreement rather than a contract, or if something other than “bulk customer calling records” have been handed over, such as “pretty big piles of customer calling records”. It could also mean that a BellSouth billing contractor or other partner has supplied the information.

Meanwhile, Verizon has said that it “does not provide any government agency unfettered access to our customer records or provide information to the government under circumstances that would allow a fishing expedition”.

Another nice bit of Legalese. This could mean that almost anything is going on. Not providing “unfettered access” might mean that Verizon simply delivers the records to NSA, rather than letting them set up camp on its premises, as AT&T has been accused of doing. Also, as with the BellSouth statement, the wording leaves open the possibility that a contractor is delivering the data.

19 May 2006 · 4 comments · Categories: Uncategorized

I don’t know the right answer, but I know the wrong answers.

Here are some thoughts I’ve read recently that I find worth thinking about:

Illegal immigration is an entirely predictable consequence of a market economy. People go where the jobs are; employers go where cheap labor is. If you want to solve the problem of illegal immigration, solve that problem. Eliminate the minimum wage; that might do it. (But probably not; Americans don’t do jobs Americans don’t do, particularly for even less money than before.) Confiscate the assets of any company found to be using illegal laborers or confiscate the homes of anyone found to be employing illegal laborers as lawn-care specialists or nannies. That might make an impact, but it won’t happen — somehow, we’ve managed to work it around so employers are not the problem. Employers are citizens, and the problem is with people who are not citizens.

Does anyone think that the several thousand National Guard troops ordered to help the Border Patrol will have any impact at all on the flow of illegal aliens? Does anyone think that, a year from now, we’ll all be mopping our foreheads and saying, “Whew, that was a close call. Thank God those National Guard troops got there in time. At last, no more illegal immigrants”?

There are people who want to build a wall along the border with Mexico. What will that do? First, it’ll make the border with Canada a lot busier. Second, it’ll make the cost of getting across the border higher. Here’s the secret: Any form of smuggling depends on bribes. Customs agents, Border Patrol officers, owners of property along the border — they can all make money from illegal immigration, and a lot of them do. ‘Twas always thus; corruption is as old as society.

–Jon Carroll

But my view of sending in the troops hasn’t changed in the 15 years that I’ve covered this issue. As a solution to our self-induced immigration woes, I give it a “D” — for dumb, drastic and dangerous.

It’s dumb because — although this may come as a shock to the television personalities who parachuted into the San Diego area this week for live shots in front of barbed-wire fences — the front line in the immigration battle isn’t the U.S.-Mexico border. It’s the parking lot of the mega-hardware store in Indianapolis where people pick up day laborers. It’s in the restaurant in Las Vegas, and the hotel in Denver and the construction site in Atlanta. It is in American households where easy access to cheap labor lets middle-class families have nannies, housekeepers and other luxuries that were once the sole province of the upper class.

It’s drastic because, as a practical matter, the National Guard is already spread too thin thanks to the war in Iraq and natural disasters at home. It also makes Bush look desperate, as if he’s caving in to reactionary bullies on the far right who want — as New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson put it — a “repressive” immigration policy. It was just a few years ago that Bush, during an interview with Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly, pooh-poohed the idea of putting the Guard on the border. Now Bush has flip-flopped.

Finally, it’s dangerous because the roles served by soldiers and the police aren’t interchangeable. Ask any law enforcement officer who served in the military. Whereas the Border Patrol can — through techniques such as vehicle stops in border communities — tactically remove illegal immigrants, the National Guard is a blunt instrument. When that instrument is used indiscriminately, people can get hurt.

–Ruben Navarrette

Most of those funds (to pay for a fence as voted by the Senate–ed.) would be in addition to $1.9 billion the Bush administration is requesting from Congress for its “Strategic Border Initiative” for the coming fiscal year.

This huge investment would be justified if there was solid proof that it would work.

But there isn’t.

The United States has already spent billions of dollars fortifying the U.S. border during the past decade. Yet the number of illegal immigrants crossing the border has tripled during that period. “Fences are proven failures,” said Judy Golub, executive director of the Immigrant Legal Resource Center in San Francisco.

–San Francisco Chronicle editorial

I do not doubt the president’s sincerity in wanting to humanize and regularize the lives of America’s estimated 12 million illegal aliens. But good intentions are not enough. For decades, the well-traveled road from the Mexican border to the barrios of Los Angeles has been paved with such intentions. They begat the misguided immigration policy that created the crisis that necessitated the speech that purports to offer, finally, the “comprehensive” solution.

Hardly. The critical element — border enforcement — is farcical. President Bush promises to increase the number of border agents. That was promised in the Simpson-Mazzoli amnesty legislation in 1986. The result was more than 11 million new illegal immigrants.

–Charles Krauthammer

The vast majority of people caught smuggling immigrants across the border near San Diego are never prosecuted for the offense, demoralizing the agents making the arrests, according to an internal Border Patrol document obtained by The Associated Press.

“It is very difficult to keep agents’ morale up when the laws they were told to uphold are being watered-down or not prosecuted,” the report says.

The report offers a stark assessment of the situation at a Border Patrol station responsible for guarding 13 miles of mountainous border east of the city. Federal officials say it reflects a reality along the entire 2,000-mile border: Judges and federal attorneys are so swamped that only the most egregious smuggling cases are prosecuted.

–Associated Press

And, finally, the wages of heroism:

The widow of a man who died while trying to rescue two boys off San Francisco’s Ocean Beach on Sunday is facing another crisis: She could be deported to Kenya, in part because her petition for legal residency had not been filed before her husband’s death.

19 May 2006 · Comments Off on Language Po-leece · Categories: Uncategorized

It must be most distressing to Jesus’ General that his beloved Republican party has gone over the French side and started down the road to becoming language police.

The Senate voted Thursday to make English the “national language” of the United States, declaring that no one has a right to federal communications or services in a language other than English except for those already guaranteed by law.

12 May 2006 · Comments Off on Lawn Armament · Categories: Uncategorized

Are your weekends held hostage to your lawn? Or, worse, are you paying some outfit like Chemlawn to soak it with noxious chemicals and to cut it every week, even in August when it hasn’t grown an inch?

Today’s Radio Times has a fascinating segment on the history of the lawn in the United States of America. It was a drive-way moment.

I commend it to your attention.

12 May 2006 · Comments Off on My Little Gas Price Survey, 5/11/2006 · Categories: Uncategorized

It’s been almost five weeks since I last sampled gas prices. In that period, I’ve spent lots of time on airplanes and in the classroom and just haven’t had the energy to sample prices. Heck, for a couple of weeks there, I didn’t have the energy to blog.

But I finally took the sample in my little corner of the world, and this is what I found yesterday:

Way up since early April, about half a dollar. Highest price observed: $3.03 in Delaware (at a Gulf station that is usually among the lower-priced stations); lowest, $2.83 at two stations in New Jersey, one of which was a Gulf Station. Gulf seems to be burning the candle at both ends.

The wierd thing I saw was that prices in Delaware and in area of New Jersey where I now work were about the same, but prices in the portion of Gloucester County, NJ, that I traverse on the way to my new office were 13 cents higher than prices on either end of my drive.

New Jersey taxes gas at $.145 per gallon; Delaware, at $.23 per gallon, which pretty much accounts for the typical difference between Jersey and Delaware prices–but this week, Jersey and Delaware prices have been about the same, meaning the stations (or, more likely, the wholesalers) in Jersey are racking in an extra 10 or 11 cents per gallon.

Runnemede, NJ, Gulf, $2.83; Wawa, $2.87.

Bellmawr, NJ, Power Plus, $2.89 (up from 2.83 on Wednesday); Citgo, $2.83; XTra, $.2.84; Texaco and Valero, $2.85.

Woodbury Lukoil, $2.85.

Gibbstown, NJ, Valero, $2.96.

Paulsboro, NJ, Lukoil, $2.87; Exxon (TA Truck Stop), $2.88; BP, $2.89.

Claymont, Del., Exxon, $2.99; Sunoco, $2.87; Getty and Gulf, $2.87; BP, $2.89; Gulf (Cumberland Farms), $3.02; Wawa, $2.85.

Holly Oak, Del, Mobil, $2.87.