thewayne: (Default)
Or a computer geek with something to prove!

I succeeded in sucking the files off my wife's computer, though it took some time to configure it. I couldn't do it with a Win 10 computer, so I dug out the OOOOOOLD box -- XP. Only two generations newer than the Compaq. They both spoke the concept of Workgroups, which 10 does not. Once I set up a common workgroup and confirmed they could see each other through the router with a ping, I created a share on my XP box, linked the Compaq to it and had no problem copying stuff to it. I even went and xcopy'd her bookmark*.html to it so if she had anything interesting there, it'll be preserved.

I even found her PhD thesis from 20 years ago in LaTex files!

It was pretty small, only 100 meg. Copied it on to a flash drive, then up to Dropbox.

Mission accomplished. I'm leaving everything set up so she can review the Compaq before I break it down, then we have to figure out what we'll do with the old beastie.
thewayne: (Default)
I've been on a mission of late to purge a storage locker to eliminate (A) a bunch of crap that I don't want or need, and (ii) a monthly debt that we definitely don't need as I'm in my 14th month of being unemployed. To further get rid of clutter, and to get some files off of my wife's ancient Compaq desktop (Windows 98 anyone?), I ordered a Vantec IDE/SATA to USB 3 adapter from NewEgg for $20 with free shipping. That allowed me to check A LOT of hard drives that have been sitting around for files that I might be interested in. Only one, clearly labeled BAD, was not readable. Some had already been wiped. Unfortunately pretty much all of them are unusable: the smallest is an 800 MEGABYTE laptop drive (HUGE amount of space in DOS days), and aside from an old 4 TB drive from my previous iMac, the largest was only 8 gig. So I'll end up opening them up, stripping some of them for their magnets and platters because it's fun, and tossing the rest.

My wife's Compaq posed a different sort of problem. First, let it be proclaimed far and wide, that as a rule I HATE COMPAQ COMPUTERS! HP also falls under this broad proclamation. This goes back to the '80s when I first had to open them up and work in their guts. They're notorious for being fickle in their configuration and requiring that you buy components only from their makers. Well, this one is not much different. It's running Win 98, and I didn't want to try and put it on a network since the concept of trying to find network drivers for such an old OS, not to mention an OS CD!, was pretty much unthinkable. And I had just bought this spiffy Vantec adapter, so I figured I'd just remove the hard drive and suck it in to my iMac and copy the contents on to a USB stick for my wife.

Fat chance. First off, they secured the hard drive with screws on both sides. The motherboard is on the far side, so those screws are inaccessible. So remove the entire hard/flopy drive cage! They even secured THAT with screws on both sides! So without removing the motherboard, I can't get the damn hard drive out. I tried undoing the ribbon cable header and plugging in the Vantec adapter, but for reasons unknown that did not work: I used the Compaq itself to power the drive during that experiment. Now I'm going to grab my Windows 7 box and my router, plug both computers in to the router side-by-side, and get them talking to a local workgroup so I can just suck the files directly to the Win 7 computer. THEN I can copy the files to a USB stick. I couldn't even get the 98 machine to recognize a 256 meg USB stick without it wanting additional drivers!

Hopefully this will work. If not, I have an even older XP machine sitting in the corner that should boot.

But here's the clever bit.

I had an old 15" CRT VGA monitor sitting around, so a monitor for the Compaq was set. I was able to find a PS/2 keyboard in its original box, so that's set. Couldn't find a mouse. Not a big deal, I can navigate old Windows with a keyboard just fine, it's just easier with a mouse. But while cleaning out my storage shed, i found a full box of Belkin mice! I'm talking an actual factory box with something like 10 mice in it, all of them PS/2 or serial! I brought one home and plugged it in!

And it only moved the cursor sideways.

Being the geek that I am, and more than a little handy with a screwdriver, I took it apart.

The vertical sensor axle had popped out of its far side. Simply popped it back in to place, snapped the housing back together, popped the ball back in (yes, pre-optical mice), and it worked just fine. THEN I put the screw back in.

So for the first time in almost 35 years of working with IBM PCs, I fixed a mouse.

Now let's hope my little networking misadventure works. My previous wireless access point had the radio die, but the router side continues to work just fine, so I've kept it in service for that use as my Apple wireless router has only one user ethernet port.

(Tech lesson: the way that the original mice worked when they had the little rubber balls was that they had two sensors, X and Y axes, connected to rods that were in physical contact with the ball and rotated as you moved the mouse. Electronics in the mouse and software translated the rotation of the rods for the computer to move the mouse pointer on the screen correspondingly to the mouse movements. Very clever design. Then they went to optical mice, 'rubber eraser' pointers, and trackpads. Trackballs were just upside-down mice with billiard balls, nothing particularly innovative there. The rubber eraser pointers used strain transducers to sense where the pointer was being bent and how hard it was being pushed to provide mouse pointing information, trackpads use a similar strain transducer tech.)
thewayne: (Default)
I successfully replaced the battery in my wife's previous MacBook Pro AND transplanted my hard drive from my MBP in to hers. Mine, aside from also needing a new battery, has developed a fault with the MagSafe port and I don't have the bucks to replace it. Fortunately, they're both 2011 model year computers, which made everything pretty easy.

In other Rights of Manhood performed over the last couple of weeks, I assembled my first Lego kit: a Batman/Phantom Zone thingy from the Lego Batman movie! It was a giveaway when I saw the movie, it's been sitting on my desk for ages. AND I baked a cherry pie which was extremely successful! More on that, along with pix and recipe, later.
thewayne: (Default)
Finally it has been decided. A long time ago in this galaxy, Lexmark filed a suit against a company called Impression who not only refilled Lexmark-brand toner cartridges, but Impression also jiggered with a chip that Lexmark built in to the cartridge. Lexmark claimed that this was a DMCA violation. Impression said that Lexmark lost its patent rights once the cartridge was sold as part of first sale doctrine, and finally the highest court in the land agreed.

The basic issue has been that all printer manufacturers have been selling printers at cut-rate prices, expecting to make huge profits on ink cartridges. To ensure this, they followed Lexmark's and HP's leads by putting microchips in the ink cartridges that told the printer that these were "Genuine" cartridges - accept no substitutes. Or if a substitute were to be found, bitch endlessly that a substitute was present and that a complete meltdown was imminent and that it was all the printer owner's fault for not using Genuine Ink or Toner Cartridges! And it was illegal, or at least a violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, to break the code in the chip and spoof that the third-party refilled cartridges were original. Sometimes the printer would lie and say the third-party cartridge would exhaust quicker.

So it's all over, barring printer manufacturers buying more congressmen to change the laws to make it illegal again. We can not only legally get ink cartridges refilled, we can legally get the chips reset.
thewayne: (Cyranose)
Did it New Year's Day. A brand-new 27" iMac, top of the line, 4 GHz i7 with 16 gig of RAM, 3 TB hybrid drive, and AppleCare. Should be here next week. Don't ask the price, it's kinda painful (I did get an education discount), but I expect many years of service out of it making the cost per day more bearable (just the sales tax was over $200, at least the shipping was free). Insurance is paying for most of it, I'll be out about $750, which hurts being unemployed but it will definitely help my sanity, which has really taken a hit. Plus eventually I'll need to drop $80 for an external DVD R/W drive, I can borrow the one that I bought for my wife occasionally, but not permanently.

I don't understand why, but it was less expensive than going with the middle line computer with the same features. Very odd.

I caught an upgrade sale on Parallels, so I'll be able to run Windows 10 on the new box, so that'll be good. I also bought DxO's FilmPack Elite on sale. I'm really looking forward to working with this! While I could install it on my laptop, I just don't feel like working with this for the first time on a 15" screen. I'll wait for my 5K 27" display. I wanted to buy the entire DxO software suite, but it was more money than I'm capable of dropping right now. I was quite pleased when my credit card company sent me an email saying "Excuse me! We just noticed an unusually large charge!" Fortunately all I had to do was click on a button embedded in the email.

Speaking of laptops, mine has been giving me fits. It has been doing kernel panics almost daily. I bought an extended warranty, so once the new iMac arrives, I'll be shipping it off to Phoenix to get MacMedia to do something about it. After refreshing the backup, of course.

Speaking of other laptops, my wife's new laptop was slightly goofy on January 1. She tried running World of Warcraft and the graphics were absolutely horrible. Very weird, there were strange blue polygons like icebergs in the foreground that persisted with rescaling the game window. She remembered me telling her an old story involving the Mac/Unix command UPTIME: turns out the computer had been running just shy of 50 days. She rebooted it, problem went away.
thewayne: (Cyranose)
Excellent article by Bruce Schneier. "Last year, two Swiss artists programmed a Random Botnot Shopper, which every week would spend $100 in bitcoin to buy a random item from an anonymous Internet black market...all for an art project on display in Switzerland. It was a clever concept, except there was a problem. Most of the stuff the bot purchased was benign­ -- fake Diesel jeans, a baseball cap with a hidden camera, a stash can, a pair of Nike trainers -- but it also purchased ten ecstasy tablets and a fake Hungarian passport."

Artificial Intelligence has been getting a lot of press recently with Elon Musk and Bill Gates talking about the danger of AI running wild. They have some valid points, but I'm not too worried about it: how long does your Windows machine go without crashing? ;-) Anyway, there's no way to implement Asimov's Laws of Robotics, it's debatable if we'll ever have an AI along the likes seen in HAL or Terminator. But who knows.

But I have to wonder: what would a computer do with a fake Hungarian passport?
thewayne: (Cyranose)
First, Isaac Asimov wrote about the 2014 World's Fair after attending the 1964 World's Fair.

My blatherings on it....
Read more... )

While on the subject of the future of computers from the perspective of the past, this interview with computer pioneer Alan Kay was really good. He was a researcher at Xerox PARC, the Palo Alto Research Center, that brought us more inventions that benefited computing than I'll ever be able to name or count. His biggest disappointment with what they wanted to do back in the '70s and '80s compared to what became reality was the iPad and Android tablets. The fault is in the DRM preventing sharing, not in the tablets themselves.

And finally, how about a full-size replica of the Starship Enterprise, built in downtown Las Vegas? It came down to one person and one meeting to being reality, and that person said 'no' and killed the project. Very sad.
thewayne: (Cyranose)
Well, it's a new wireless data transfer specification. 802.11 is the IEEE standard for "... is a set of physical layer standards for implementing wireless local area network (WLAN) computer communication in the 2.4, 3.6, 5 and 60 GHz frequency bands" (Wikipedia), and currently there are four finalized and approved standards: A, B, G, N (not in their order of approval). The latest is N, it was only finalized a couple of years ago.

Now wireless networking makers like Belkin, etc., are advertising AC networking! Isn't that wonderful! Well, not really. First off, AC is not yet an approved, codified, standard. So lots of people are working on it, and it's guaranteed that it will change before it gets approved. Which means any equipment that you buy now that supports AC may or may not work when the standard is finalized and approved. I personally don't like throwing out equipment if I can avoid it. Second, faster networking may or may not benefit you. There are numerous bottlenecks in networking and the internet, and the biggest bottleneck is totally out of your control: it starts where your router plugs in to the wall. Internally, maybe your router is a 10/100, which means it can handle both 10 megabit per second and 100 mb/s data transfer over a wired connection, and if it's a wireless router, maybe it's a 54 mb/s router. Wow!, you think, that's really fast! Well, yes and no. If you have two computers on your network moving large files back and forth, like ISO images or video files, then yes, faster routers and faster wireless specs can be beneficial. But the bottleneck is at the wall: when your router plugs in to the cable modem or DSL router or whatever, the speed on the other side of that device drops drastically. I get about 1.5 mb/s download from my ISP, I haven't seen faster than 8 mb/s in residential installations. So internally you can sling files around pretty fast, but once you hit the actual internet, you're back down to a crawl. It's still hugely faster than the fastest dial-up modems, but most won't appreciate the speed increase.

So unless you sling huge amounts of data around your internal network between connected computers, you're not going to appreciate much of a bonus there. Of course, you might be paying for a faster internet connection, but chances are you're still going to be slower than what your router can really crank out.

Why do I mention this? At Apple's annual World Wide Developer's Conference recently they announced including AC in their new line of laptops. I believe they also have a wireless router that's AC. But this, by itself, is not a selling point. I do think that Apple will have a good enough wireless card that it can be updated when the AC spec is finalized, whenever that is, but in and of itself AC is not sufficiently compelling to replace equipment at this time.
thewayne: (Default)
A computer pioneer of a different sort, Jack was the maker of the Commodore 64, undeniably a seminal computer in the PC revolution. He had quite a history: born in Poland, interred at Aushwitz, and started a typewriter company that became a computer company that made one of the first truly affordable computers.

Oddly, neither Wired nor Slashdot seem to have mentioned it yet.
thewayne: (Default)
I had this long post about how my desktop Win XP Pro machine in Cloudcroft toasted its power supply.

It was really boring.

Or I'm in a very bored mood.

I'm not certain which.

SO. Long story short. A big power transformer that supplies Cloudcroft blew up and the house was without power for pretty much 24 hours. Friday night I learned my computer was dead, probably the power supply. We replaced the power supply. The computer seems to boot normally, but I didn't feel like reconnecting all of the crap to check it out, so I'm not certain if anything else is fried or if the drives are intact. My core data: documents, game development stuff, music, has been copied to both my ThinkPad and my Mac. My only loss if the drives are fried would be the digital photos that I've shot in the last yearish. If they're gone, they're gone, and I'm not going to cry over it.

I'll reconnect everything next weekend. And it will work. Or it won't work. If you see the Buddha on the road, kill him.
thewayne: (Default)
A lot of this is Windows-only, but the concepts are broadly applicable to all platforms.

A couple of points that needs to be clarified. When he's talking about using an antivirus program such as Norton, there is a problem. Lots of computers today come with Norton or McAfee AV, the problem is that these are limited 90-day trial editions. Most people don't buy the full editions when that trial period expires, and then the program stops updating. At that point your system is wide-open. There was a recent thread on Slashdot asking what was the worst computer cleanup that you'd ever experienced, more than one person replied that it was on new computers where people had failed to renew their AV.

And that's why I suggest using AVG Free. First off, it's free. Zero cost. Second, it updates daily. So you have pretty good protection against brand-new viruses.

I shall include other notes as italicized comments after Mitnick's points.,72116-0.html

Protecting yourself is very challenging in the hostile environment of the internet. Imagine a global environment where an unscrupulous person from the other side of the planet can probe your computer for weaknesses, and exploit them to gain access to your most sensitive secrets.

They can even use your computer to store data like stolen credit-card numbers or child pornography, or to attack another innocent home user or business from your system.

Here's my Top 10 list of steps you should take to protect your information and your computing resources from the bad boys and girls of cyberspace.

* Back up everything! You are not invulnerable. Catastrophic data loss can happen to you -- one worm or Trojan is all it takes. (Buy yourself a DVD burner and just copy files onto DVD+R media. Go ahead and buy a dual-layer burner as they're pretty cheap, but don't bother with dual-layer media as the cost-per-megabyte just isn't worth it compared to single-layer media.)

* Choose passwords that are reasonably hard to guess -- don't just append a few numbers to a no-brainer. Always change default passwords. (I cannot emphasize the latter point strongly enough.)

* Use an antivirus product like AVG or Norton, and set it to update daily. (See introductory notes.)

* Update your OS religiously and be vigilant in applying all security patches released by the software manufacturer.

* Avoid hacker-bait apps like Internet Explorer and disable automatic scripting on your e-mail client. (Also, DO NOT install third-party tool bars! They are rife with malware packages. If you must have a third-party tool bar for your browser, use Yahoo's or Google's, shun all others. And you'll have fewer vulnerabilities using the Firefox browser anyway.)

* Use encryption software like PGP (pretty good privacy) when sending sensitive e-mail. You can also use it to protect your entire hard drive.

* Install a spyware detection app -- or even several. Programs that can be set to run frequently, like SpyCop, are ideal. (I highly recommend Spybot S&D which has recently added a lot of support for worms and trojans. They also include a program called Tea Timer which prevents changes to your registery unless you allow them. Best of all: it's free.)

* Use a personal firewall. Configure it to prevent other computers, networks and sites from connecting to you, and specify which programs are allowed to connect to the net automatically. (I recommend Zone Alarm Pro. A free version is available at their site, but I'd say go for the Pro.)

* Disable any system services you're not using, especially apps that could give others remote access to your computer (like Remote Desktop, RealVNC and NetBIOS). (This is tricky, there are a lot of services running and it's possible to disable important things. Maybe I'll address this in more detail later.)

* Secure your wireless networks. At home, enable WPA (Wi-Fi protected access) with a password of at least 20 characters. Configure your laptop to connect in Infrastructure mode only, and don't add networks unless they use WPA. (A few things to do with your wireless. First, change the default SSID. Second, change your administrator password. Third, configure your SSID to not broadcast, that way only people to whom you tell your SSID can connect to your wireless. WPA is the best security readily available for wireless at this time, adding MAC filtering is a good enhancement. The problem with MAC filtering is that if "Bob" comes over and needs to use your wireless, you have to modify your router's security to add his address, a bit of a PITB.)
thewayne: (Happy Happy Joy Joy),70604-0.html

It'll be a month or few before they're available, which means that by the time that I can afford to get a nice Mac Intel laptop, they should be stable!

I was pretty confident these wouldn't be too far away once Apple announced their Boot Camp system.
thewayne: (Default)
Not that any of you can exploit it. :-)

As I was leaving my algebra class an hour ago and heading for my lab, I noticed LOTS of books stacked on a table in the lobby area. Anything there is free game, so I started browsing....

I now have about ten computer books in my car.

Fortunately Russet doesn't read my blog, so hopefully I can sneak them into the house safely.

A teacher was clearing out junk from his office and apparently taught a lot of computer science and programming. I qot some cool stuff on Ada, Lisp, Prolog, AI, and a reference to UCSD Pascal which is probably hopelessly dated but might be useful (for those of us who are Ex-Buffalos, UCSD Pascal is what Steve wrote Heroic Fantasy in).

There were some amazing antiques there, too. Books on CP/M, Wordstar, Multiplan, VisiCalc, dBase II. He had a book for writing programs in BASIC for the TRS-80 Model I/II.


The frightening thing was that I'd owned or used several of the books that he was trashing!

The coolest thing that he was giving away was a computer -- a Texas Instrument TI-99/4A. I USED TO SELL THOSE THINGS WHEN THEY CAME OUT! It had the Frogger cartridge and a couple of semi-trashed joysticks. Geez, it's amazing the stuff that you stumble across that can make you feel a little bit dated.
thewayne: (Accio Brain)

"When you are dealing with rootkits and some advanced spyware programs, the only solution is to rebuild from scratch. In some cases, there really is no way to recover without nuking the systems from orbit," Mike Danseglio, program manager in the Security Solutions group at Microsoft, said in a presentation at the InfoSec World conference here."

We use a program at the university called Deep Freeze. It locks the computer so that every time the computer is rebooted, it is effectively instantly wiped out and reloaded. Virus hits you? Reboot. Malware making popups? Reboot. All gone, all clean.

The down side is that you can't do system updates without unfreezing your machine, I spent probably five hours over spring break updating computer labs: unfreeze machine, apply updates, refreeze. We also use a rather nifty feature in the computer lab: all of the machines turn themselves off at 10:30pm.

Their more advanced versions offer a lot more features. Basically, when you run this, your C: is read-only. Anything written to it goes away. So you have to be absolutely sure that your data is written to another drive or to a network area.
thewayne: (Catnip)

This is a general list of utilities for protecting your Windows PC, improving usability, or do other spiffiness. Everything on it is free, in some cases there are versions that cost a nominal amount. Myself, I'm in the market for a new anti-virus package as Norton just expired on my laptop, so I'll be investigating this list's offerings in that area. The particularly sucky thing about said expiration is that a couple of weeks before it expired, it stopped updating.

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