Monthly Archives: November 2005

Getting It Off Her Chest

The slogan on her shirt translates as Talk AFRIKAANS or shut your mouth.

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Kill or Cure?

According to this blog entry the uninstaller that Sony has made available could leave your machine in a worse state than the rootkit did.

A new internet

Many years ago I worked for a small software development company. Let’s call them InfoStuff, which is not their real name. We were bought by a larger group and the responsibility to construct a group WAN fell on myself and a colleague. We were programmers who had to program during the day and learn all about networking in the evening. Somehow we managed to set up a countrywide WAN and after a while it seemed logical to start a small Internet service provider. It was targeted at businesses using leased lines but a small number of dial-up accounts were available for certain staff members and naturally I had one of these.

The ISP side of InfoStuff grew, acquired more staff, grew some more, and so on until the group sold the ISP business along with the InfoStuff brand name. Being a part of the development business, my colleague and I stayed with the group. The group continued to use the newly sold business as our ISP and I still had my free dial-up account, as did one or two other of our staff members. Some years passed and our group moved to a new ISP, but still my free dial-up account kept working. I kept expecting it to be cut off or to start being billed for it but I never was. More time passed and the availability of the service gradually fell off. It seemed that the number I dialled into at the local POP was not one of their standard dial-up numbers, having a different login ID format. Sometimes their dial-up server would hang and not be reset for days. I obviously couldn’t complain and didn’t really mind as I had the number of another POP 1500km away and as I only am on a telephone scheme that limits after hours call costs to a fixed maximum, it cost me the same to phone this POP. A few months ago the local POP stopped answering at all and I started calling the distant one exclusively. Then on Friday evening I was connected and the line dropped. When I tried to reconnect all I got was Line busy. The dial-up server was hanging. By Sunday morning I was suffering from Internet withdrawal and as I needed to do some online banking I came in to the office to get on the net. At the same time I started looking for another ISP.

I asked for recommendations on the mailing list of my local LUG (Linux User Group) as I wanted to avoid M-WEB, South Africa’s largest ISP, who are notoriously Windows-centric. I got several suggestions and also looked at Polka, who have advertised quite a bit on TV, and Webstorm who came up in a Google text ad when I searched. One of the LUG members suggested his company, Frogfoot, a smaller one running all Linux equipment. Although they were a little more expensive than the others the idea of supporting them appealed to me. Sadly their web site did not have an online sign up and there was no answer on their 0860 number. I was not keen on Polka as they are just another face of the M-WEB Borg so I looked at Webstorm, who happened to also be the cheapest at R69 per month. I started their online sign-up procedure and gave them all my name and address details. This page was not secure but I wasn’t too worried until I got to the next page where I was to enter my banking details. This page was also not secure and there was no way I was going to send my banking details unsecured so I gave up on them. Lastly I had a look at Webmail ISP, suggested by another LUG member. They were a few rand more at R79 per month but offer more, giving 4 mail boxes instead of the single mail box and aliases offered by others. I signed up with them and was able to connect when I got home. I was connected until late last night and the speed seemed to be a little slower than I used to get with InfoStuff but that might have been just the connection I had then as dial-up speeds are always quite variable from connection to connection.

A question of masks

I am quite comfortable with the idea of using bit masks to test variables for specific values. What came up the other day is the need to test a byte for the presence of only a single set bit, where the specific bit is not known.

I wanted to know whether the byte had any of the following values, without caring what the actual value was;

    00000001
    00000010
    00000100
    00001000
    00010000
    00100000
    01000000

The consensus from everyone I’ve discussed this with is that a loop with multiple tests is required, but I can’t help thinking that out there somewhere is someone that has a clever bit mask or mathematical way to test for this with a single expression.

Boycott Sony!

Dave Slusher over on Evil Genius Chronicles is calling for a boycott of Sony Music after it came to light that their CDs install a rootkit on Windows PCs. Sounds like a good idea to me.

Car Guards

Here in South Africa car theft is a big problem so every parking lot has car guards.  Some are uniformed and employed by malls while others are unemployed people who work daily for an organisation that issues them with a vest carrying the information that they are car guards.  They pay a token fee to use this for the day and then get to keep the tips that motorists give them.  I have no problem with this and always try to give them a reasonable tip, although I sometimes wonder whether they could actually stop someone from stealing a car.

What really bugs me is that when it comes time to reverse out of the parking bay, they feel that they must direct me.  Now, in order to get a driver’s licence one must be able to do this unaided so I don’t need any help.  They always seem to stand right behind your car and in effect only add another variable to the problem of reversing out.  Instead of only having to worry about hitting the cars on either side and watching out for cars approaching down the lane, you must also watch out that you don’t run over the idiot standing behind you waving his arms.

Pseudonym

I just received a spam e-mail from someone calling himself (or herself) Maltreatment U. Homburgs. I thought this a rather grand-sounding name and have decided that in the unlikely event that I write a novel, I shall adopt it as my pen name.