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Monday, May 07, 2007

Don't miss out on my brand new blog at

posted by Kusari 1:44 PM

Friday, January 21, 2005

"Free! Where?"

As the cogs and wheels of Internet time have turned, the overall tenor of the World Wide Web has become a tad too commercial, especially from the viewpoint of wired warriors that remember the "good ole' days of 1996".

However, there are still the odd corners of the 'Net that remained unscathed by commercialistic sinkholes and sometimes they are provided by the least likely sources, such as everyone's favourite target of derision, Microsoft and my favourite purveyor of wicked "ÜberTechnology",

In a recent press release, Microsoft declared that the Internet would be spam and spyware free in less than two years. While slightly pretentious in the face of the current spam cyclone that assaults our inboxes every day, Microsoft has taken a first step towards a spam free future by purchasing software developer, "Giant" and repackaging their somewhat obscure, but critically acclaimed anti-spyware package. Currently available as a free beta download from:
, Microsoft's "AntiSpyware" is well worth watching, let's hope that it remains a free add-on for Windows!

Another type of popular freebie are add-ons for Microsoft's Internet Explorer, most of which are actually nasty spyware components in disguise, however, there are two toolbar add-ons for IE which are perfectly safe and quite useful. One comes directly from Microsoft, called the "MSN Toolbar" ( ) and one from Google, called, oddly enough, the "Google Toolbar" ( ). Both of these toolbars offer easy access to web searches,
plus the ability to block annoying pop-up advertisements on websites.

Going a step further, UK software firm, "Netcraft", has released a special toolbar for IE ( ) that helps people avoid being hooked by "Phishing" scams by blocking the websites of known "Phishermen".

Following Microsoft's practice of purchasing useful software developers and then releasing their programs for free, Google recently purchased a nifty little tool for viewing, organizing and manipulating picture files called "Picasa", which they have just updated and released as Picasa 2: .

Not to be outdone, Microsoft also has a free picture utility called "Photostory": and a huge, searchable, selection of free clip art for users of their popular Office software, available from: .

There are actually tons and tons of useful freeware programs available online, so it's often worth poking around the download sections of large websites. Microsoft's and Google's are just the start, exploring the freeware collections of sites like can be the start of some excellent adventures! Just be sure to carefully read the description of any software you are considering downloading.

posted by Kusari 11:48 PM

Friday, November 19, 2004

"The Early Adopter Gets the Worm"

In the acronym-laden landscape of computer technology the term "early
adopter" refers to consumers who are willing to invest their dollars
into the "latest and greatest" gadgets and doodads despite the
often-exorbitant prices associated with new technology.

The reason why new technology costs so much, only to later be devalued
significantly after a few months, has to do with the enormous cost of
developing modern technology. Once the cost of developing a specific
technology have been paid for, corporations are happy to lower costs, as
they know sales will boom and profits will be enormous.

In a recent issue of "Backwoods Home Magazine", one of the senior
editors asked the burning question "Do we really need Yuppies?" The
answer was a resounding "Yes!" Without a middleclass, burdened with
disposable incomes (often larger than their supply of common sense) and
passionate technology lusts, there simply wouldn't be enough early
adopters to drive technological progress.

But, does it pay for the average consumer to be an early adopter? From
my perspective, then answer is a resounding "No!" and especially not
during the holiday season, which often sees the greatest introduction of
new technologies to the mass market.


Well, beside the increased expense. New technology, especially in the
last few years, is less and less reliable when initially released.
Computer components will often go through multiple hardware and firmware
revisions during their first year on the market. This turns early
adopters into guinea pigs for technology companies and what is worse,
consumers have paid for the privilege of "testing" the technology for
the company! Thorough testing is something that should have been done
well before releasing it to the general consumer market.

This is especially true for computer games, which more often than not,
are overpriced and in serious need of patching when first released. Not
to mention the fact that the newest titles often require relatively
up-to-date computers to run optimally. It almost always pays, literally,
to wait a year to 18 months after a game is released to purchase it.
This gives the publisher enough time to work out all the bugs and will
usually provide significant price reductions to the patient consumer.
Publishers are also fond of releasing "add-ons" to games that have been
around for a while, which can again often be found bundled with the
original game for a discounted price.

posted by Kusari 7:38 PM

Friday, October 15, 2004

"Shields Up!"

It is an unfortunate fact that a base installation of any Windows
version is riddled with security holes and while the fine folks at
Microsoft work day and night to patch various problems, it is seldom
enough to keep your computer protected from the dangers that lurk
online. The following are some additions that can be installed on your
computer in order to offer some extra defence.

Javacool Software's ( ) "Spyware
Blaster" may have a slightly goofy named, but it has proven to be one of
my newest favourite system additions. Once installed, Spyware Blaster
patches over 3,000 known security holes in both Internet Explorer and
Mozilla/Firefox web browsers. Javacool is also continually updating
their database of known exploits, the free version of Spyware Blaster
requires manual updating, but for a small donation the program will
automatically update itself on a regular basis.

A common, but often misunderstood, security term heard on the Internet
today is "Firewall". This is due to the fact that Firewalls can take
many forms, including hardware and software, both of which serve the
same function of existing between your computer and the Internet in
order to protect your system against intrusion.

Hardware firewalls afford the best protection, but can also be expensive
and difficult to configure. Software firewalls are much more common, in
fact, Microsoft has included a firewall with Windows XP since Service
Pack 1, which has gone through a major upgrade with Service Pack 2.
However, as with many Microsoft products, the XP Firewall suffers from
an overabundance of user friendless of the sort that can render Internet
connections non-functional with no apparent cause.

It's also apparent that most of the energy directed against breaching
computer security will always be focused at the company that occupies
the largest consumer base, which is, of course, Microsoft. This is why
it is sometimes considered preferable to use software from smaller
computer security firms, which makes Sygate's "Personal Firewall Pro" ( )
a perfect firewall choice. PFP does require a
bit of configuring when first installed, as it has to learn which
programs are allowed Internet access. This configuration is very
straightforward, as PFP will ask you if individual programs are allowed
access as they try to connect to the Internet. If you just launched or
are familiar with the program that is trying to connect, you answer yes,
if an unfamiliar program attempts to connect, then you can block its
access, until it can be confirmed as valid or as a malady.

posted by Kusari 11:25 AM

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Googlewhacking has become a bit of a passionate pursuit of late, here's a list of stacked whacks from the last 2 nights (With the first vowel of each work replaced with its "L33t" version to preserve the whack).

p@rticularisms s@ndwiches (and everyone thought I was a picky eater)

c0rnucopian t@blecloth (dinner with googlewhack addicted friends)

syst3mic s3squipedalianism (subroutine for agents from "The Matrix" addicted to whacking)

z0omorphic @rquebus (my new bunnycannon©)
s@tori pustul3 (zen and the art of acne repair)

p0stulation blund3rbusses (conspiracy minded and proud of it)

1rradiation h3llions (fresh from the post apocalyptic wastes)

w1gglers bl0whards (before)

bl0whards wrigglers (after)

und3monstrative g@lapagos (Darwin was sadly unable to prove his point)

sc0ffed t3ssellation (M.C. Escher's garbage pail)

0celot c@nnonades (kitties with howitzers)

drumf1re 0rchids (I love the smell of Cypripedium in the morning)

p0ssessive c3stodes (Ripley's best friends, Caduceus where are you now?)

posted by Kusari 9:45 PM

Re: New Pattern File Numbering Format

Dear Trend Micro,

It is with great sadness that I have noted that the so-called “NPF” is incompatible with the DOS virus scan, Scan.exe, which you last included (to my knowledge) with PC-Cillin 2000.

Up until this change, I employed scan.exe everyday in my business as a freelance computer repair technician and found it to be an invaluable tool.

You must understand that not every computer user chooses to employ your fine products and sometimes other anti-virus products fail to do their jobs, leaving the only salvation for corrupted or malfunctioning operating systems in a 3rd party DOS virus scan, such as was previously provided by scan.exe.

I do applaud the availability of such services as your online virus scan (Housecall), but again, systems infected by viruses, especially in an area where Internet services are limited to dial-up only cannot benefit from such tools.

Scan.exe is not only a viable solution on older DOS and Windows 9x systems, it is also quite useful when run from a command prompt inside NTFS partitioned Windows XP systems, if for nothing more than virus identification.

I urge you to reconsider your decision to no longer support scan.exe, it could not possibly take that much effort to update scan.exe to recognize the New Pattern Number Format and in the process not remove one of the most effective Virus clean up tools available to everyday computer technicians.

Thank you,

Dylon Whyte
Manitoulin Island, Ontario, Canada

posted by Kusari 9:33 PM

Friday, October 01, 2004

“Playing Hopscotch in a Minefield?”

There is no doubt that today’s home computers are a powerful educational resource, as well as pretty nifty toys. But, as with all power, computers and especially computers connected to the Internet must be wielded with an educated, thoughtful hand, or the potential for extreme corruption exists.

The following are a few pitfalls that everyone and especially parents and those responsible for educating the first generations of Internet enabled youth should be aware of.

#1 – Browsing the Web, aka “Surfing”.

With the ability to access pretty much the sum of all human knowledge, “The Web” presents the most amazing educational resource ever imagined and as such, it also present the greatest, although sometime subtle, potential dangers.

Some of these pitfalls are obvious, armed with a search engine like Google, it is possible for our youth to find any amount of wildly explicit material. And while there are software safeguards that can be invested in, there is no solution that is guaranteed to be 100% effective. Leaving the only viable resolution in the realm of education and the passing on of deeper morality, lessons that unfortunately may leave the toughest parent cringing.

Education through the web also takes on harder to define issues when it comes to mischievous and potentially dangerous information. Again, some information is obvious, do you really want your son or daughter to know how to construct explosives? And again, some is not so obvious, such as general information on computer security. In fact, there is an entire culture, which is derogatorily dubbed “script kiddies” by true computer experts, who are devoted to collecting and exploiting information about computer security that they truly don’t understand. It’s hard to define how dangerous wielding this kind of information is. Let’s just say that it is analogous to letting your son or daughter run loose in a room full of running power tools without any supervision. Where the ultimate result can be as striking as a knock on your front door from the RCMP, as opposed to simply losing a limb.

#2 – “File Sharing”

Sharing files over the Internet is an activity that is specifically targeted at and marketed to young people. Sharing files sounds quite friendly and rather harmless initially, but is actually an activity that stands on precarious moral ground and is once again potentially dangerous to the proper functioning of your computer, and thusly your pocketbook.

I have written about the potential dangers of programs such as Kazaa and I-Mesh when it comes to infecting your computer with spyware and viruses in the past. Since that time, these programs have become even more dangerous, with more aggressive spyware inclusions and viruses, such as “Bagle”, which specifically target and spread over file sharing networks.

It is also important to consider what kind of files are being “shared”. Most of the time these files are actually copyrighted materials and while the Canadian Justice System currently specifies that downloading copyrighted music is legal, the morality of such downloading is certainly questionable. How many people would walk through the local variety store and pick items off the back shelves and put them into their pockets without paying, just because they know that they can get away with it?

Perhaps your daughter dreams of becoming the next Shania Twain, take a moment to think about which activity may potentially provide them the skills required to achieve such a dream. Sitting at a computer day after day, downloading as many songs as they like, without restriction and for free or working at a part time job to earn enough money to purchase their favourite CDs.

It would certainly be hypocritical to dictate any morality on this issue, other than to say that any person that has been given something for free has trouble truly appreciate its value.

Also, sharing other kinds of files, such as copyrighted computer programs is most certainly not legal. In the long run, it is still cheaper to purchase that new office software, as opposed to paying the legal fees to fight the extradition sought by the FBI against your son or daughter.

#3 – “I know how to do that Dad, my friend showed me how”

This is a syndrome that computer professionals, such as myself, run into constantly, as today’s youth become more and more educated in the ways of computer technology. And while it is wonderful to see education booming, it also creates situations that strike parents in the pocketbook more often than not. The problem, as best as it can be defined, is that a general, yet incomplete computer education, creates children that can be defined as “knowing just enough to be dangerous”.

That is, that while they possess a general understanding of how computers work, they aren’t often educated in the deeper operations of computers, nor the subtleties required to repair a malfunctioning computer. In general, this leads to attempted repairs that often do more harm than good.

Perhaps worse, is actually letting your child’s friends work on your computer. I mean, you may have saved a few bucks getting your son’s buddy to hook up your new wireless router, instead of a trained professional. But do you realize that you are now unintentionally (or worse, intentionally) providing highspeed Internet access to all your neighbours, including the script kiddie across the street that thinks he can impress his buddies by attempting to break into the CSIS computer network?

Think long and hard about how you are going to explain things to men in dark suits sitting across from you in the interrogation chamber.

#4 – “Instant Messaging and Chat Programs” (IRC, MSN, Yahoo!, AIM, ICQ)

One of the few certainties in our reality is that all of reality is relative and nothing is truly certain. While the Internet is an amazing resource, it is also an amazingly dazzling illusion, nothing read online and no person talked to online can ever be believed to be 100% true or honest.

It’s a simple fact, there are sick and disturbed people in our world that have no desire beyond exploiting our children’s and our trust. And it is unfortunate to realize that the Internet has provided these people with a direct line into our homes and has given them the ultimate to disguise for potential abuse.

While it is certainly possible to find and make amazing friends over the Internet and speak with them on a regular basis, using instant messengers and even see past certain societal illusions to make even deeper connections. It is also possible to deceive, lie and manipulate feelings just as easily, in fact, for some people it’s a form or entertainment to meet and tell wild lies to people via online chatting.

While it’s somewhat easier for adults to see through this kind of deception, in theory at least who would honestly develop feelings for a person whose eyes they have never looked into in person? It is nowhere as near easy for children who are just looking for attention and acceptance to be as easily discriminating.

Today’s headlines are ripe with stories related to young girls being lured into all kinds of dangerous situations via the Internet. While these tales may seem like sensationalism, I have personally run into several situations with friends and their families that curdle my blood and they don’t even involve my own offspring. It is hard to imagine the situations faced by today’s parents when it comes to these dangers and in the end, it certainly is a reality that must not be ignored.

# 5 “Online Gaming”

There’s a reason that Sony’s Everquest massive multi-player online game is known as “Evercrack”, it is designed to be highly addictive, how else would they keep raking in money from monthly subscription fees if it wasn’t?

While there is nothing wrong with computer gaming, both online and off, as a form of relaxation and entertainment in limited doses, lines are often crossed with this kind of game. Offering little in the way of real content and relying heavily on repetitive goals and tasks, combined with a sort of artificial peer pressure, these online worlds drain wallets and can relinquish “users” of thousands of hours. Which could perhaps be put to better use accomplishing tasks and activities in the real world, especially with our short summers. Remember when you were a kid and used to play outside or had a summer job that provided you with a bit of experience regarding real life?

Philosophers have said that the pen was mightier than the sword. If we think of personal computers as the ultimate evolution of the written word, then it can be postulated that the Internet, in allowing computers to make the evolutionary jump to “information technology”, has granted our pens the power of H-bombs. The duck of cover mentality of the past has always been insufficient in the face of such a force, leaving the only viable protections education, understanding and awareness.

posted by Kusari 9:31 PM

Friday, September 03, 2004

"Turing the Countryside, O Frabjous Day!"

While it seems simple to press the keys on our keyboards and see words appear on our monitors and then e-mail them halfway around the world, the base science of such matters are what an old guru I once knew described as an "FM Unit".

"My Boy", he would begin, "Folks today just don't understand how computers work, they all expect to open the cover and find an FM Unit controlling everything". I would inquire just what an FM Unit was. "Friggin Magic", he would respond, "they all think technology runs on crystal balls and pixie dust."

To the same end, Arthur C. Clarke, author of "2001: A Space Odyssey", stated: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic".

But has modern technology really advanced to the point where it is indistinguishable from magic?

There are thousands of computer scientists in the world who would chortle a resounding "NAY!"

Alan Turing ( ), founder of modern computer science would most likely be responsible for the loudest chortles, but at the same time awe-struck at the evolution of his conceptual "Turing Machines" to today's personal computers to tomorrow's thinking machines.

Always a visionary ahead of his time, in 1950, and without benefit of today's motion pictures such as "The Matrix", "Terminator" and "2001"", Alan Turing asked, "Can a Machine Think?". To his logic, the only answer was yes, but this belayed an even larger question to his philosophical mind, "If a computer could think, how could we tell?" Turing went on to develop "The Turing Test", a practical methodology for testing a computer's ability to think by attempting to deceive an interrogator into believing they are chatting with a real person.

Each year the Loebner Prize ( ) is awarded to the computer program which is best able to fool its interrogators. The winner of the 2003 prize was a program called
"Jabberwock" ( ).

Today, "Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart" or CAPTCHAs ( ) have recently become commonplace on the Internet, taking the form of code boxes that are currently only decipherable by human minds.

Magic or Science? That's for you to decide, just be aware that "I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that" may take on a whole new meaning when the Turing Police show up with a warrant to arrest your home computer!

posted by Kusari 9:38 PM

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