Saturday, December 31, 2005

NFL Week 16

This week ended the post season hopes for a few more teams, MN and ATL both dropping must win games and were eliminated. However aside from those two teams, which I follow dropping out of the picture it was a good week for fantasy football. I won my league with the 13-0-1 record going into the playoffs, then of course won my next two games, to take the league with a final record of 15-0-1. Yay!

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

John Porcaro: mktg@msft: Keep Checking Back for Xbox 360

John Porcaro: mktg@msft: Keep Checking Back for Xbox 360

Did you miss out on an XBOX 360? Know some little tike that wants one? Cannot find one? Have you heard the rumors? All these questions are answered and more...

J2ME Downloads

J2ME Downloads

Those of you who have a Blackberry and are stymied on accessing Local for Mobile may want to take a look at this link until Google offers support for RIM phones.

Monday, November 28, 2005

OSCON 2005 Keynote - Identity 2.0

OSCON 2005 Keynote - Identity 2.0

Very interesting presenation and discussion about identity, technology, and where things may be going. Good to look at the presentation style and the message as well.

Presentation Zen: Gates, Jobs, & the Zen aesthetic

Presentation Zen: Gates, Jobs, & the Zen aesthetic: "Gates, Jobs, & the Zen aesthetic"

The title says it all. It is an interesting read.

Monday, November 14, 2005

EFF: DeepLinks

EFF: DeepLinks

Need to know which CDs to avoid this holiday season? Wonder if you already have purchased a CD with a root kit? (You still buy CDs?)

The EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) has a listing of the known CD's which have the root kit on them. I would expect this listing to grow as there are rumors circulating that some other labels are using similar technology and the company that actually programmed the root kit is still selling the core technology to other companies, and it is doubtful they will stop anytime soon.

Now... This just makes you want to run out and buy some CDs doesn't it? I had a membership to BMG; which I just canceled and I had not purchased a CD in some time, I do have a Yahoo Music subscription but the music companies and collectively RIAA continue to be there own worst enemies.

Friday, November 11, 2005

F-Secure Computer Rootkit Information Pages: XCP DRM Software

F-Secure Computer Rootkit Information Pages: XCP DRM Software

This is a link to the F-Secure page about the Sony rootkit. More interesting reading.

'Bots' for Sony CD software spotted online | CNET

'Bots' for Sony CD software spotted online | CNET

Sony's problems just for worse by an order of magnitude. I have been too busy to really follow this story but this will be an interesting one, which will have long reaching after effects for the entire music industry.

Saturday, November 5, 2005

Mark's Sysinternals Blog

Mark's Sysinternals Blog

My, oh, My... I knew this day was coming but I though it would be a while yet before it arrived. DRM and media companies going too far. This links to Mark Russinovich's blog, where he has uncovered Sony doing some very unscrupulous actions and where because of their actions they are actually able to cause harm to a system. Which company is next?

Better yet, how to combat this when most of the people who need to combat behaviours such as this do not understand the even basics of technology... Many more questions than answers.

Wednesday, November 2, 2005

NFL Week 8

Well it was bound to happen. A set back, but not a loss. Despite most of my FF team being banged up, my QB scratching, and a goose egg from a WR I managed to squeak out with a tie at 7-0-1

Monday, October 10, 2005

Description of the Windows Installer CleanUp Utility

Windows Installer CleanUp Utility;en-us;290301

This is a nifty little utility to clean up corrupted Windows Installer Configuration Files. If you are familiar with MSIZAP, you will like this little utility. If you are not familiar with Windows Installer, MSI Exec, or MSIZAP, then take some time to goolge them, more than likely you will encoutner a corrupted Windows Installer configuration set in the future.

Sunday, October 9, 2005

Another NFL Week

And another win. 5-0 in Fantasy Football - Yay! (still one other player in reserve ;))

Atlanta Drops another One

After 18 innings of record setting baseball, the Atlanta Braves drop yet another year. This was a nail biter through 13 plus innings in the longest post season game ever played. Atlanta did not look good through this game or the entire series. The brave’s bullpen having a rough season all year did not blow for them. The game was lost by the usual heroes, Giles, Chipper, Andrew, and Furcal. They had many chances to shut down the game shortly after the seventh inning; however they did not manage to capitalize on it. Francour was a non-factor since before the close of the season after having being figured out by opposing teams (he was still a good player just not on the record setting pace he showed upon his call-up) however they did manage to hang on through 9 extra innings. Yet in the end the last pitcher Houston had to call, Roger Clemens was able to close the game for them.

Thursday, October 6, 2005

Guardian Unlimited Technology | Technology | Breaking America's grip on the net

Local politics are always fun, now expand that to the world and toss in the internet... Wow fun stuff. Here is an interesting article about root control of the "internet". The internet has long been a global utility. Is it right that it moves to a more decenralized and world wide control? Sure (as long as you are not a control freak :)), what will this mean in terms of changes to come? Time will tell.

Wednesday, October 5, 2005


I have been out of the the nitty gritty technical side of hardware for a while now, however I still need to dig into the guts of a processor or mainboard every now and then (for kicks or business). That said I am not as up to speed as I should be on some of the current hardware reporting appliations as I should be (Most of my archived ones were PII era tools). I stumbled upon this one when I got sidetracked digging around on some processor information. If you do not already have this one bookmarked for your toolbag, it is one you should consider.


Monday, October 3, 2005

Secret Order of Buffalo's!?

Wow, I turn around and a huge amount of time has passed... Let us see here. It is now football and hockey season, The Atlanta Braves have cliched their 14th straight divisional title, two hurricanes have slammed into the gulf coast (I believe about 4-5 typhoons have hit the other side of the world as well.), fall is here, and it is almost time to start shopping for gifts for christmas time. Egads... That is all I can think of off hand.

Ever heard of the Secret Order of Buffalo's? Me either until today. This is one the closest restaraunts near my residence, which has a decent atmosphere and some decent bar specials. So some friends and coworkers have been gathering there every so often. Now I find out they have a secret order. I cannot help but think of the flintstones!

Fantasy Football

I casually play Fantasy Football, in the casual leagues I tear it up! Three championships and I am always a top contendor into the season. This year is no exception. Going 4-0 thus far and if I keep up with the management of the team more wins should be rolling in. It definatly makes following football more exciting and even bearable at times. There are a number of items about the game I would love to tinker with, most importantly would be the flow of the game. It needs to be sped up just a tad!

Thursday, August 18, 2005

In Memoriam - Little Betty

Yesterday Betty shed this mortal coil. Hers was a hard life, yet one filled with periods of joy of which we are blessed to remember. She was a small kitty who sauntered into our lives one summer afternoon...

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Monday, August 15, 2005

Uptime – Longer is better?

A while back Windows 2000 and Windows XP were touted as much more stable and secure operating systems than their predecessors. By in large that is true (despite the monthly patching cycle). However, with that very same patch cycle we now are to the point that if a machine is online for more than 30 days, you can be 100% assured it is missing patches or a patch has not been 100% applied (e.g. Reboot Pending).

I also see machines, which are behind on anti-virus updates. The typical trend I have noticed is that the machine has usually been online for 20, 30, 60 or more days. (Current longest I can recall is 72 days). Up, but not entirely stable, eh?

Hell, which is great right. A mature robust operating system that can stay up and work for 72 days without a reboot. Back in the Win9X days or even some of the NT days who would have thought that? Well, some people I am sure, is that a good thing?

If you have a machine in your environment today that has an uptime of 72 days, you can be assured that it is vulnerable to many exploits. Some minor, some severe. Taking today’s example you would have a machine that is vulnerable to MS-038, MS-039, and MS-043, all wormable exploits. (Some in the wild already, and more to come)

On the workstation side of the coin, you do not want to see long uptimes, and even in the server world you do not as well, because that means the machine has not been patched. Today most patches still require a reboot. We can get them all chained together upon boot, but if that machine is not fully bounced it is not fully patched.

What is the answer? Two fold.

Microsoft must implement patch installs that do not require a reboot (Not much chance for XP/2000 and probably even Vista).
System Administrators will need to ensure that one measure for problematic machines is an uptime report; perhaps even schedule automatic reboots at 7, 14, or 21 days if the patch cycle alone is not enough.

Even with having to shorten the uptime of all machines, we are still a lot better off than the Win9X days…

Tuesday, August 9, 2005

Microsoft Patches for August

Today, Microsoft released their security bulletins for August. Six updates (Windows Update returned eight updates for my machine; which was 100% current as of the last patch cycle).

Microsoft Security Bulletin Summary for August 2005

Some more information on the patches and some guidance from Marc Maiffret on the possible ease of developing exploits for these vulnerabilities,

The two most critical patches to install ASAP are MS05-039 and MS05-043...

This is a very easy to exploit vulnerability. The time to
reverse engineer this patch and find the vulnerability to exploit should only be a few hours (it took us an hour, as we didn't report the bug).

Marc Maiffret

See the full email on the listserv archive

Monday, August 8, 2005

Spyware Warrior ? Massive ID Theft Ring Discovered

Spyware Warrior - Massive ID Theft Ring Discovered

Which are you more worried about? Spyware or viruses? The lines between these types of malware are merging, but they are still separate issues. As this .blog thread will illustrate I think the real threat is Spyware!

Inside Tech Support

Inside Tech Support

Ever wonder what happens in a technical support call center, this is a good example of all the little things that are wrong. You could call this deep dark true humor (It gets a chuckle from me), or you could call it stress therapy where this individual is venting off stress from a rough job.

Both are true. This set-up is a mirror image of many IT support environments. The only real question is, can it be fixed? Does overseas support provide better support (even if you cannot always understand them through the accent), than the unskilled or skilled but angry individual?

Wouldn’t a grand social experiment be the following… (many people on some forums are waiting for the day this anonymous OOL tech gets caught and fired), however instead of firing him take the “Office Space” approach and promote him/her, give them the power to making sweeping changes and see if it solves problems.

Okay, now, which company is going to do that!?

Technology apathy?

Lots of talk about patches and vulnerabilities of late, just when I was thinking some of the bigger items were behind us there looms some huge potential issues. However, I have taken a moment to step back to try to look at the larger picture. The following are some key points I noticed,

  • Sloppy software development techniques
  • Rushed release dates
  • inflexible software developers (e.g. support and patching)
  • irresponsible vulnerability disclosure
  • general acceptance for BETA software in production environments
  • unskilled administrators
  • unskilled end users
  • lack of resources

I could grow that list a bit more of I wanted, but that is a good enough start. What do those bullet points mean? Overall, those are all contributors to the larger problem that is facing us today… What is it?

I would tenetivly call it technology apathy.

Each of those is a symptom of this issue and often are found in the business world driven by non-technology skilled decision makers. They all have technology apathy…

moreover, they embrace it!

Now how many times are these same people babysat with the technology they need to do their jobs. How much money have they cost their organization by their apathy? That is the possibly one of the deepest roots of the problem.

How many front line administrators have stood up and stated that XYZ needs to be changed or implemented, but it was not allowed for a myriad of reasons? (E.g. Budgets, politics, time issues, or worse apathy towards understanding the true need for the change, product, or service).

There is virtually no job function or industry that is not impacted by technology today and is only going to continue, however as long people are allowed to embrace technology apathy, the symptoms above and many more will continue to plague us.

Small Dog Rescue and Humane Society

Small Dog Rescue and Humane Society

Remember those two little dogs we found? The humane organization updated their website. They are about 7months old. Wee little ones. Still looking for homes. Click on the link in the title then head over to the adoptables page for more information on those two and more.

Thursday, August 4, 2005

Windows 2000 open to IP attack

Windows 2000 open to IP attack - Security Strategy: "Windows 2000 open to IP attack"

Hmm… Here we go again! This could be interesting and I do not mean that in a good way! Microsoft has communicated pre-release details about some of the patches coming next Tuesday, and they have communicated that they will be re-releasing the Windows 2000 security roll-up package… Now comes news that eEye has found a wormable security vulnerability in Windows 2000 and there still exists the possibility that other OS versions are affected also.

No details have been released as is stated in the article on one can only hope this get patched and gets silently left behind, however, expect to hear more about this one sooner rather than later…

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Small Dog Rescue and Humane Society

Today we transferred the two dogs to this organization Small Dog Humane. They agreed to take the dogs in, run a microchip check, get them dewormed, caught up on meds, and neutered. We dropped them off this afternoon. We never did settle on nicknames, as that probably would've gotten us to attached to them.

They will update their website soon with a picture of the dogs (they are a pug/pekenise mix), and will also state when they have placed them in a good home. We have received no word from the fliers placed out where the dogs were found. It is now believed they were dumped there and are not runaways.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

EA - Battlefield 2 - Community Update - Weapons Unlocked

EA - Battlefield 2

Forgot to grab the official notice in the previous article to the offical EA blurb about the issue. Quoted below as well,

Profiles with all Weapons Unlocked

Many users logged into Battlefield 2 today to discover that they had access to all of the game's weapons unlocked in their profile. We have fixed the root issue that caused this to occur and by tomorrow morning all users will return to having access only to the weapons which they had earned. Once our solution is in place, if you find that you do not have access to weapons appropriate to your in-game rank, please direct inquiries to the Support sites linked below. In some cases users may be prompted to re-select the Unlock weapons that they are eligible for (if you are eligible for two weapons you will get to choose the two you wish to have unlocked)...

Electronic Arts (EA) BattleField 2 (BF2) Stats Servers Hacked

Electronic Arts (EA) BattleField 2 (BF2) Stats Servers Hacked

This topic is being discussed in many forums online as many people (myself included) have all the weapons unlocked for their accounts when playing on BF2 Ranked servers. The following quote is from one of the persons who has claimed responsibility,

Well, what a wonderful few days it has been. Since EA didn't take the time to respond (or maybe even read) our emails about various stats-server security holes, it clearly showed us how much they care. Therefore, we came to the conclusion that modifying 5 million accounts wouldn't be that big of a deal.

That being said, accounts with ids from 40,000,000 to 45,000,000 now have all of their weapons unlocked.

What will be next week? Perhaps we'll give everyone their Distinguished Service Medal, or maybe we'll elevate everyone to the rank of Sergeant Major.

The ball's in your court, EA. Time's up at the buzzer, how well will you play?

In addition, the following quote is from an EA representative,

In the future, if you really are concerned about "exposing security holes" to EA (which I sincerely doubt) rather than grandstanding, please e-mail me personally since it appears that you don't have the correct contact info. I will PM you the address.

All of the changes made will be rolled back in the next couple hours. Users may have to rechoose any unlocks they would have legitimately made in the last day or so as a result of the roll-back, but no stats should be lost.

-ben aka [EA]Die Fledermaus

I deal with many vendors and many different patch methodolies and vulnerability report methodologies in the course of my professional services. The question has been asked about the vulnerability reporting in entertainment products before and now here again.

These incidents are no where near as interesting as mission critical servers and services being patched/hacked (usually containing sensitive information such as social security numbers, credit card numbers, etc.) as is the case in the broad IT field, these are usually proprietary applications and services which do not contain sensitive personal information. However, where are the clear guidelines for people to report issues and vulnerabilities with the software?

The retail helpdesk and support services? They often are hard-pressed to handle their current jobs and are not trained enough to handle such escalations, its not that they cannot it is just they there are not trained nor do they have the support infrastructure to do so. When and how will this change things for EA? Is this going to be a small time issues swept under the rug? On the other hand, is this going to wake things and be a catalyst for some improvements in the gaming industry, that the rest of the IT and business world have already been forced to come to grips with.

If as is stated in the claim to the hack, EA was notified? However, not through the “correct” channels? What are the correct channels? I have worked in the gaming industry, and I currently deal with the security industry on the IT side and know what to look for and where, but there exists little information to direct an individual to the correct contact point. (Does one even exist in the some organizations?)

Does that make the actions right, no. As stated by numerous laws local and federal, a crime was committed here, and as such, I am sure EA will pursue all legal interests in this going forward, but there is clear room for all entertainment companies to improve the vulnerability reporting of their products going forward.

More Information:

DSL Reports (AKA: Broadband Reports),13979964

Total BF2 (Thread 1)

Total BF2 (Thread 2)

Total BF2 (Thread 3)
Claim to hack is Post #1 and EA response is #42

Monday, July 25, 2005

Doggie Guests

Doggie guests. This weekend, my better half rescued two small dogs from a busy road. They were winding along the roadside, and all the homes along the way have fenced in yards, such that the animals could not get back into their residence if they were from the area.

Could be they dug under once of the fences and escaped, but they have no collars on them at this point, so hard to say. We will get them scanned for microchips in short order, however in the mean time the house is a lively place with pets galore!

Cute little buggers, Suggestions on nicknames. Click-n-Clack? Ratchet-n-Clank? Bits and Bytes?

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Google Weather Maps

Google Weather Maps

Seems the folks linked in the previous blog entry have a new site they are migrating towards. It is up at the above link, and supports the radar overlays driectly on the website, if you don't have the Google Earth client loaded. (However the full client is half the fun!)

Monday, July 11, 2005

Weather Radar in Earth.Google

I have posted about and referred many people I know towards the old keyhole trial and now as it is branded Earth.Google… This is a very interesting and novel application, which can have many uses both for business and for recreation.

However, the one item I immediately wanted to see was a real time link to weather data. Would that would be cool. Well it is, this site has tapped in to the database to generate real time weather data,

Real Time Weather Data
Note, the site may be slow, as it has gotten popular…

Development server is having difficulty keeping up with high levels of site traffic. Investigating migration to more stable production environment. Migration to Google Maps version 10 should fix some of the reported issues with Opera, Safari, and Internet Explorer.

However the interesting thing I noticed on this site was on the bottom right hand corner of the page was a pull down to down a .KML file, which is an overlay for Google.Earth. This is what I have been looking for in regards to some of the weather data imports. Should only be a matter of time before someone has something truely wicked pieced together.

Choose your state, and download the .KML file. Then (as long as you have the Earth.Google client loaded, double-click on this file and it will load up the radar data into the application.

By default this is loaded in a temporary place, which you can then choose to save into your “my places” once you have done so you can then view the properties of the specific radar source and then change the update interval. The default is 5 minutes.


Google Map Hacks – Weather Maps Blog

What is a KML File?

Probably the greatest technological advance in Google Earth is the patent pending Network Link(TM) mechanisms described by Google's Keyhole Markup Language(TM) specification. These Network Links allow individuals, businesses, governments, and other organizations to easily publish dynamic geospatial data layers and have them seamlessly integrated into the unified Google Earth environment where it will be seen by millions of users as they search the globe.

Keyhole Markup Language

Sunday, July 10, 2005

War of the Worlds

Despite my little rant about rehashed movies I have just contributed to the problem a little bit further… My better half wanted to see War of the Worlds in the theater. So we went. (Cha-Ching goes Hollywood)

It was a decent flick, but you know what. It was the same rehashed storyline just “modernized” and had a plethora of eye candy. I did not need to see it, and if she did not want to see it, we would not have until later (when it was free for me to view it, thanks to advertising dollars).

All in all it was a decent movie, but Spielberg could have been better served working on new IP material. Watching the movie you saw all the “typical” Spielberg directorial fingerprints. I would state that nothing new was added from him. The one good thing, is that the storyline eclipsed Tom Cruises persona so you really only see him as his character (that is a good thing too).

If you do not mind forking over money for rehashed material and (literally) nothing new under the sun, then this is a good flick to see. However if you are tired of the rehashed movies and sequels then you can let this one slip by. You will be able to see in 12-24 months anyhow on TV.

Friday, July 8, 2005

More Rehashed Movies to Come!

Movies. Most people love them right? Well of late, I have become rather disenfranchised with Hollywood. Why? There is nothing original under the sun (heh, sorry could not resist). Seriously, though, they are releasing more crap-rehashed movies than ever before!

Now I have heard the age-old adage that there are no new stories, they are only six plot variations for any actual story, but that is not what I am talking about. Hollywood is just dumping rehashed and remade movies for us to consume… and you know what?

It works.

They no longer have to take risks on some new IP material new directions in story telling you have the same old movies being remade after an appropriate cooling down period.

They sell at the box office enough for them to post a profit and continue. The only problem is I do not want to see that shit. My in theater viewing experience has dropped from one a week to about one every six months or so. If I watch a movie it is when it hits the streets on normal television or the odd pay-per-view, I rarely even rent DVDs anymore. It is not because I do not like or enjoy movies, there is just such schlock being released it is not worth my time.

Here is quick list example list of movies for this year and next year and I am sure if I took the time I could flesh out a nice and robust listing too, keep in mind this is just what I can think of off hand and pluck from a page or two on Google.

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
War of the Worlds
King Kong
Don’t Look Now
The Pink Panther (2006)

Then there are plenty that have already been remade in the past couple years

The Ring
Texas Chainsaw Massacre
The Manchurian Candidate
Dr. Zhivago

Now when it is not a remake of an already good classic movie, then it is a sequeldom of a moderately successful new IP plot.

Blade 1, 2, and 3 (Okay, based on a huge plethora of stories from the comic book, a bad example perhaps.)
The Santa Clause (1, 2, and soon to be 3)
Austin Powers 1, 2, 3
Stuart Little 1 and 2

What is the moral of this little rant? Well just this… Hollywood, if you want a shot at my money do not create another meaningless sequel, do not remake something already made, and if you need ideas for some good and fresh IP (intellectual property – The modern term for stories and ideas) to bring to the big screen, by all means give me a call and my agent will get back to you.

Wednesday, July 6, 2005

Tom's Hardware Guide Business Reports: Dual Core And The Future of Gaming - Introduction

Tom's Hardware Guide Business Reports: Dual Core And The Future of Gaming - Introduction

I previously blogged about an interview GameDailyBiz had with Mark Rein about next generation consoles, rising development costs and more. Tom’s Hardware guide recently posted an article which explores some of those concepts as well.

There is no clear direction or guidance provided by either articles and leave more questions than answers, but you can start to see some of the trends in gaming industry and what is more interesting the clear technological advances already present and those just around the corner.

This holiday weekend (BTW: Hope you had a good Fourth of July!) G4’s show Icons highlighted the history of Star Wars games starting back with the Atari 2600. I always knew there were many Star Wars games, but I had failed to realize how many they were and how well these products can also parallel the technical advances of the gaming industry in terms of platforms on both the consoles and the PC. If you have an interest in looking at the advances in game play and of the Star Wars gaming universe this may well be worth catching a replay.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Non-Compete Agreements - Let's get real

Non-Compete Agreements - Let's get real

“I had a friend of mine recently show me a non-compete employment agreement that was absolutely ludicrous. It stated that he basically could not do his job anywhere in the world for 2 years post employment and any idea he thought of within 7 years of termination belonged to his current employer. To top it off the agreement also stated that by signing this he acknowledges that this agreement will not hurt his future chances of employment and he waves the right to a jury trial. I don't know about you but that just makes my skin crawl and my blood start to boil.”

I have to sound of on this one as well. Our society is moving so fast nowadays, there are so many concerns with terrorism, the economy, our daily lives and interests and through it all, every single legal document (which includes EULAs) that comes out further erode the rights and good nature of any agreement… The nature of an agreement is (supposed to be) a two-sided barter to come up with an acceptable agreement that both parties can live by. Today, that process is only one-sided… Have you ever tried to say, “Umm, I am not comfortable with this agreement, can we work on this?” What was the result? 98% of the time, it is… “Oh, you don’t like this, then get lost!”

Another one that rankles me is that IMO a salaried employee is salaried for 40 hours a week, which includes reasonable overtime. Yes, you have project due you are salaried you stay late to get the job done. No overtime pay for you! However many, many companies are now of the mind that a salaried employee is 100% working all the time for them, no matter what… but what is worse, everyone follows suit.

I know people who currently work 60-70 hours a week, on the norm, on top of that they are on call 24/7 and are called or paged by systems they support nearly 24/7… but the funny thing is this, they all take it in stride. No complaints and when I question them on it, they look at me funny.

Next as is pointed out in the quote above and on Tim’s blog every EULA, legal agreement, or document today, is requiring you to waive your right to a jury trial couple that with the non-compete agreements that are popping up everywhere. I have to state that I agree fully with Tim on his Chimp, but in reality, that is only the tip of the iceberg on a much greater list of erosions.

However, the greatest enemy here is the individual who just says, “OK” and moreover, signs away those rights and continues to work over excessive amounts of overtime including uncompensated on-call work. Many people have forgotten the pains and sacrifices of those who came before to give us what some of these people are casually throwing away.

I urge everyone to take a few moments and research some of the history of workers rights and the labor. I have seen some interesting articles and productions about the actual costs some of these people bore when standing up to question and change the system. I am actually amazed that data to those references is not more readily available, those changes and revolutions were not bloodless, despite some of the following quick references,

Saturday, June 25, 2005

BF2 and Folder Redirection

Technology is a pain in the ass! Just when I get off my ass and fix many small problems that have been plaguing me for a while, some developers go and do something that causes me more problems.

More Battlefield 2. I finally got off my ass and enabled folder redirection on my home network. Great. My files are now centralized and on a redundant storage array. (Whew!). Using my machines this afternoon, was great. Click on my documents and all my machines had access to the same data. (As it should be). Okay, evening rolls around. Time to relax and play some Battlefield 2.

Simple, it worked before, why should it not now… Well why, is because the developers of Battlefield 2 decided to dump all the user settings into the my documents folder. Great right? Well no.

The game would not load at all. Okay. I know they were being stupid, so I uninstall the game and reinstall. This properly caches the proper file locations in flat files and perhaps the registry. The game menu now loads; I can reset-up all my customizations to the interface, video settings, etc. I’m breathing easier now, because the game menu loaded the game should load right? WRONG!

Loading the game state for a map, the game crashes to the desktop. Looking the folder structure, they also cached the shader information for the game in the My Documents folder.

Not great and not smart for any developer to do… Why?

Folder redirection. This is a folder that can be redirected to another computer or server. This is by design for document access (and has been around since Windows 2000); this is a folder that has multiple data entries, could be redirected by a network administrator or an end user and they are dumping critical (temporary) files into this directory. (Hello!? Earth to programmers?)

So the game is no longer playable while I have folder redirection enabled by group policy, because I cannot redirect where they store this temporary data. User settings, sure, but shader information. Comon!

My hope is that I can create a local user account on the CPU, which will not get the folder redirection policies, and use that to play BF2, however this step should not be necessary. They should be able to handle folder redirection, and under no circumstances whatsoever should they be storing temporary data in the My Documents folder.

Okay. Local account cleared up the issue, and I can play again. Time to pretend I'm playing with some of the programmers of BF2!

Friday, June 24, 2005

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Amazon CS Update

Seems that Amazon was being proactive. I just recieved an email from a CS representative who apologized and stated the issues was being corrected.

This is even better than the fast customer service idea. Proactive service. They screwed up, Admited it, fixed it, and moved on. Good enough for me.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Customer Service

Today Electronic Arts (EA) released Battlefield2, a much anticipated game for the PC. Pre-order sales have been strong, and I anticipated this game enough to pre-order it as well with a gift certificate I received for my birthday back in March. They also had a nice promotion to receive a free headset/microphone as this product support integrated VOIP.

I ordered mine from They tend to get a decent amount of business from me. I know at the time I pre-ordered this product with the “bonus” materials there were no special hoops to jump through… Well at least they did not publish the ones, which were needed.

You see my order shipped on Friday. (Great I may actually get the game on the release date (today)). Well the package did arrive. However, upon opening it, it is just the headset. Okay, maybe they cannot ship the product until today, so I check email to see if there are any status updates.

None, Hmm…

I head to the site check the order. It is completed. No mention of another shipment, no mention the “game product”. Okay, now this a little bit irritating. I click on the link to look at the product I ordered; now I see some text stating,

“This product is the pre-order bonus free Logitech headset only and does not contain the game. This bonus product must be added to your Shopping Cart in addition to the game. See the Special Offer details on this page to find out how to get the game and this free, bonus headset.”

This text clearly was not present before. Okay, time to dig in and contact customer support… And that was not easy navigating through the pure maze of links. All I want to do is email a customer service representative with the pertinent details so they can track down what happened. After about 10 minutes of searching, reading, and clicking links, I finally get to what appears to be the correct area. (Yay!).

Email sent. Now to wait until tomorrow or something. Wait… A few moments later there is an email in my box. Now at this point I do not know if this was a pre-emptive move by Amazon, who noticed they made an error, or a fast-track response from customer service… time will tell if I get an email tomorrow from a customer service representative if this was preemptive.

Either way, it is good. Fast service or better yet positive service, they requested that the order be replaced, and had created a gift certificate to cover the amount of the order including 2-day shipping. As long as there are no shipping delays, I should have the product by Friday. (Alright, so I should have had it today in a perfect world, but we all know this place is far from perfect).

I have chosen to look at the silver lining and say, wow, good customer service from Amazon. Yay! I know of many others companies, who would not have done anything at all in explain what happened or attempt to make it right.

BTW: The demo for this game is Great. If you like first person shooters and have not seen this game yet, check it out. You can download the demo from many places. Or if you still need to order the game you can from here… Battlefield2 DVD

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Georgia Navigator :: Cameras

Georgia Navigator :: Cameras

Speaking of traffic problems, today is a wondeful day. A Tractor trailor lost control hit a sign and all southbound lanes of GA 400 are closed (with a detour in effect) until approx 10:20PM today.

However, the GA DOT does have some nifty cameras online if you want to check out some of the Atlanta traffic. (Just be happy you are not here ;))

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Road Enhancements

One of the problems with the Atlanta metro area is the traffic. Anyone can and will tell you about it. (Hell you want an earful just ask me). Well in my neighborhood, they are working on some proposed road improvements. Namely converting a two lane road into a four lane. This is something so desperately needed in this area and the entire metro area it is not funny… Well it appears that some people are standing up to say no. (This is the reason the traffic situation already is so bad) Well in this great country we have the ability to free speech and to express our thoughts and desires. That is our right!

There are well over a 50,000 people in this area (EDIT: Link to census numbers Ack! 650,000+). However, these 22 people have organized and are planning a campaign to stop this enhancement project. Okay, they have that right. However, the elected officials are listening to them, and actually proposing alternates (That will only make the problem worse because there is a clear right and wrong way to fix this problem) or scratching the system all together… In this situation I am of the mind the needs of the many out weight the needs of the few.

If 22 people have a complaint about this upgrade project, fine, state your option. However when 22 people can actually impact the lives of well over 50,000 other people who are not speaking out on this issue then there are some serious issues in play here. That is the reason we have elected officials to think about the needs of the many (including those who do not and cannot speak out for themselves)… not to listen to the clear minority. If there are efforts to turn out the vote or campaign for or against, and those against win the battle. Fine, I will accept that, however I will reserve the right to bitch about how everyone is a moron!

A member of the subdivision I live in has passed out a leaflet outlining the issue. Great care was taken to present the facts of the issue, without attempting to influence anyone’s thoughts on the subject and has asked those who are concerned for or against to speak up on the matter. I can state that I will be speaking up on this matter, and I can also publicly share, I will be for the efforts. For if we fail to do what is needed now, we will pay the price later, whether in lost time or in lost tax payer money to go back and fix it later a much greater cost.

Hell, despite all the news of how the economy is lackluster in this area if you look around you see nothing but construction. New subdivisions, apartments, business offices, retail establishments. There are not any (none-what so ever) road enhancements (other than beatification projects). There is the interesting issue of Wal-Mart turning up to build yet another super center in the area. The only interesting thing at this point is that there already is a Wal-Mart Super center less than 4 miles down the road. Two massive super centers within 4 miles… What gives!?

Perhaps, the folks at Wal-Mart have the correct thought-lines and are thinking ahead for when this area is fully built up. (Let’s say the next 7-10 years at the current pace). Hell they can always turn one of them into a Sam’s Club (which they have stated in the press they have no intentions of doing).

All I can say, is there should no dissent to road enhancements, failure to enhance the road infrastructure in our area, the greater Atlanta area, or any urban area in the U.S. is foolhardy and will cost us all time and money. If you want more time to spend with your friends and family you need to support these enhancements, otherwise you will be sitting in a line of cars 50-60 or more in length waiting to go through a four-way stop sign on a two lane road, in a major urban area.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Product or Process?

Wow… Another week runs by. Just when you get used to the daily grind and you don’t think it can get busier… Well it does. My current employers a medium sized organization, which has grown rapidly, through both acquisitions and business growth.

They are currently struggling with the operational and managerial framework that is required to shift from a small time IT environment to a large scale enterprise environment. Progress is made, however there is still a lot of room for growth.

Topics such as desktop administration, asset management, domain administration, delegation, and locked down workstations, licensing controls, SOX Compliance (Sarbanes-Oxley), and others are coming to the forefront in additional to the daily tasks that have already existed in the organization.

One of the current realizations this organization is undergoing is that of, Product vs. Process. Most small and some medium sized companies are able to solve problems with a single item called a product, you have a need for a service or function you buy a product install it and then use said product.

Many larger organizations have already realized that you often need to replace the word product with process. Desktop administration is a process. This process can be made easier with a number of products, but the larger the organization the harder it is to find a product to single handedly resolve the pain in an area.

The following products are some that are viewed as solution by some medium and larger organizations when they also should be looking at the process that needs to be wrapped around those products.

Desktop Deployment
Managed and Locked Down Workstations
SMS 2003
Patch Management

You can find many products, which will advertise they can solve the pain points associated with these areas of IT management, however, if they are not wrapped in a solid process the root problem will only be marginally mitigated or only covered up to rear its ugly head again later. (At the much greater expense)

If you have installed products and they are largely underused, misunderstood or failing in the implementation it may not be the product itself (although it could be) it may be a failure in the process surrounding the product or the lack of any coherent process in the first place.

Friday, June 3, 2005

Mark Rein On Next-Gen, Rising Costs, and More

"Every year, there seems to be an article on the "death" of the PC gaming market..."

Mark Rein On Next-Gen, Rising Costs, and More

There is always the talk of a death knell for the PC gaming industry. I always was on the opposite side of that thought line as the PC is still central to everything (including console development), I was stunned with the advances on the next generation consoles and started to consider that PC gaming could soon fail, but as Mark Rein states in this article the PCs will still be central around console gaming development, and with further hardware integration the PC gaming side of the industry could see a growth spurt.

Entirely possible. Time will tell.

Thursday, June 2, 2005

XChange - BellSouth Completes Contracts for Next-Gen Network

XChange - BellSouth Completes Contracts for Next-Gen Network

Oohh! Even more news on the planned upgrades for BellSouth's Broadband network. Yay!

Just Say No!

"He said that he would sell me the bed frame without collecting any information, and that I was in the 1% of people that was not willing to give him their drivers license number or personally identifiable information. I didn't doubt this information, as it was probably the first truth that came out of his mouth."
From JD's Blog on MyItForum

I am sure this is too true, when someone asks for your personal and indentifing information, Just say no, or if they persist, just ask them for their credit card number. That will shut them up.

Wednesday, June 1, 2005

Reply To All: Syndrome

Most people who work in a larger organization (e.g. anything over a few hundred employees) have more than likely encountered this situation. Internal company SPAM emails. What is this?

It is email that is sent from an internal user of the company to multiple other employees of the company. Most of whom have no idea what they hell they are talking about or no abilities or responsibilities to correct the issue they have, yet this clueless, hopelessly flustered person thinks that the entire (internal)world needs to know about their problem.

I just call it internal SPAM. Before you hit the send button make sure all people who are included on the email need to actually read it. Otherwise… DO NOT CLICK THE SEND BUTTON!

As an additional thought, if your organization uses internal mailing lists and you do not know who will receive the message? DO NOT CLICK THE SEND BUTTON!

Those who wonder about proper email etiquette, here is an link to email etiquette…

Note, you can also Google: Email, Etiquette

If you know someone who suffers from excessive CC: syndrome, Reply To All: Syndrome, or any other please email some of these links to them!

Monday, May 30, 2005

broadband ? Forums ? BellSouth ? 100Mbps DSL

broadband ? Forums ? BellSouth ? 100Mbps DSL

Rumors abound regarding the future of BellSouth's high speed network. With fiber to the curb already for a lot of newer subdivisions this could bode well for next gen speed upgrades. The only questions are, When? and How Much?

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Verizon Fios - Thank You

Verizon Fios - Future Notification

As I stated a while back, the submit button on the form for information about fios did not work. It appears they caught the error and it is now working again. Yay!

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

USB Hard Drives, NFTS, and MFT

USB Hard Drives, NFTS, and MFT

Seems to be an interesting issue that should become more common in the near future. Large USB and firewire based drives… and data corruption. Why?

Many people have data. They want it backed up. Tapes are (usually) slow and legacy technology, CDs are small nowadays almost to the point of floppy drives in the late ‘90s. DVDs are still pricy and also somewhat slow. Today you can buy a 120, 250, 300, or larger external drive and have fast movable storage. Great, eh?

Perhaps, as long as you plan for how to use it. Remember this is just a normal hard drive in an enclosure, of which almost none of them offer any sort of shock absorption. Most manufacturers are concerned with heat dissipation. Now you have a normal computer hard drive in an easily movable format... and one which people may actually move while the drive is spinning… eGads!

We began to explore the usage of these drives to get around a data storage crunch. Images of drives made for service grow exponentially each year along side Moore’s Law. Each year drives are bigger and people cram more files onto them, however even as drive sizes increase and prices fall, truly redundant network storage is still expensive.

We bought six (6) external USB/Firewire enclosures and large drives to store images on until the network groups are able to upgrade the SAN arrays (They just did this past year). To support the images and document storage needed. Great, fast portable drives to store and move data. Simple and cost effective right?

Well the first drive took a vacation. Not a terribly big issue, we plan on the drives failing usually not this soon (less than six weeks out). It is easily recoverable just means a loss of time to replicate the work which generated the data.

However, we are also looking deeper into the function of external drives. A drive failure could be just a manufacturing flaw, damage from shipping after manufacture, improper usage practices by the user, or some other uncataloged flaw. In this case with external drives there are 4-6 more points of failure which we needed to look into. Many we have not checked out before based on no actual need.

On the drive that failed the issue is a more problematic one… the partition structure was completely corrupted and in the first trace of the problem actually wiped out.

The drive was moved to a known good configuration; none of the partitions were seen. A blank drive according to the CPU. We used some hard drive recovery tools to recover the partition information. This worked, however mere minutes later the drive was corrupted again.

At this point we checked into the connection of the drive to the PC,

Was the cable damaged or loose?
What drive policies were assigned to the USB device?
Is the drive overheating?

All checks provided no answers. We then swapped USB cable just to be sure.

We were able to recover the logical partition not the primary, which is present and has a corrupted MFT (Master File Table) thus rendering any of the data inaccessible.

All check disk tools report the disk is fine (No impending hardware failures) all partition tools report the partition as either fine or corrupted, however those that report it corrupt (e.g. Partition Magic) are not able to reconstruct the data they just toss up a nifty little error message.

The drive was scanned with Ontrack to see if that would repair the MFT structure or if the data is lost from conventional (non-service related recovery) recovery means. This would not repair the MFT; however we were able to successfully extract data from the drive to another drive.

Based upon some quick research the some of the following are areas which can cause or contribute to these types of errors when used in a Windows environment.

Drive Policies
System Restore
Safe Hardware Removal

Proper planning and usage of these external large storage media is required to save yourself from a rather large data recovery bill or a lot of lost time and data… Take the time to think about what you are putting on the drives and whether you can afford to loose it when the drive fails. If not, come up with a different solution.

The following keyword search on Google, will generate a listing of results, the following are some of the interesting ones,

How do I repair a corrupt master file table?
Error Message: The File or Directory Is Corrupt...
Inside NTFS

Friday, May 20, 2005

Kent's Farewell

A few people gathered to say farewell to Kent. He is moving to the other side of the country. I managed to snag a shot of Karl taking a photo of Kent.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

How do you take your music?

I take mine in many flavors. I have CDs, .MP3s, and .WMA files; I have not gotten esoteric enough to play with other file formats. I have looked at them, but as my collection grows I find it better to standardize on one or two formats, however as the collection grows it gets harder to consider converting to another format.

New music services are pushing .WMA files for the copy protection, .MP3s are the tried and true and have much greater device support (right now) than other formats, so I will stick with those for a while.

I currently take my music in the following ways,

1. Streaming – I privately stream my own collection to wherever I am. This is great, but is it limited to the upload of my ISP, and any bandwidth (currently to leave enough room for remote administration of my LAN I can only stream 192Kb files) or ToS (Terms of Service) restrictions they may or may not have.

Currently using Andromeda for HTML display and streaming of my collection

2. CDR – The car stereo is wondrous for those long commutes (35 miles one way). This means I can churn through a lot of radio, audio CDs, and MP3 files. It is even more wondrous when it can read CDRs, MP3 and WMA files.

3. Portable Hard Drives - Yes, this a great if not a little bit bulky. Drives are large enough and cost effective enough right now that you can very easily move just about any moderate to large music collection with a portable drive today.

Need storage with redundancy? The entry level network attached storage devices from Lacie and Buffalo should get you going well.

4. Music services who needs these right? This is the natural evolution of online music, IMO they are in a state of infancy and should offer some real break throughs in the coming years. The talk of pros and cons of these is another article of its own. Napster, Yahoo Music, Rhapsody, iTunes, and more? Who will be left standing?

Patch Experience Databases

On the mailing list, there has been some discussion about a tracking database for patch management experiences. There are a couple of folks who have started efforts to fill that need and I am sure more will pop up in the coming weeks or months.

Here are those from that list,

PDA Based

Monday, May 16, 2005

Verizon Fios - Fios For Home

Verizon Fios - Fios For Home

A friend tosse me a link for Fios and the article for about it in Keller, TX. 15Mbps + speed with fiber to the house... for $35.00/mo plus a hefty set-up fee. Well I checked to see if it was available in my area (Yeah, right!)... Nope. They have a nice an nifty form to fill out to be informed on future news and rollouts, but guess what... The damn submit button does not work! (Morons!).

Talk about a clogged nozzle!

A friend of mine stated the following to me, “there” being a place of work.

“dentist was a little less fun this time, i almost passed out a couple of times still better than being there though”

Clogged or not… You decide!

Many Questions

What do you do when everything is urgent!?

Where has the art of triage gone? It seems few people are left with the art/skill of diagnosing issues, which can wait with those that cannot wait. Is this common in other fields and businesses? If so, I worry…

Growth by acquisition.

Lately at work we have gotten a lot busier. Enough that some people complain, others withdraw into themselves, and few even manage to continue on unphased.

They also stop thinking about how to work smarter… A few minutes here or there to re-work or automate a process can save literally hundreds of hours of labor over the coming weeks/months… yet it is not done... Despite attempts to introduce such improvements into the fold. It really is amazing some times.

What about personal skills development? I have always viewed life as a constant learning experience. Some people think they can actually “stop” learning. “Hey, I completed my degree, I am done!”.

Yet, when it comes time to turn around the landscape has changed, new legislation, new IT infrastructures, new software versions, new markets all advancing at an exponential rate… yet, the skill sets are from 3, 5, 7 years ago!

Where is the balance, where does it end? I guess I am filled with many questions today.

Friday, May 13, 2005


Do you have a clogged nozzle?

BITS, SUS, and Windows Update...

We had recently been battling an issue with a laptop; whereas a user was not able to pull updates form SUS or Windows Updates. We had run through a listing of normal troubleshooting steps and were not able to resolve the issue. We finally got to the heart of the issue. The BITS queue was clogged with errored out or suspended transfers.

Windows Update, SUS, and SMS 2003 use BITS. Also a number of third party applications are starting to use BITS as well. (What is BITS? Background Intelligent Transfer Service) BITS has an Admin tool which is part of the Windows XP Service Pack 2 Support Tools.

Full information and instructions can be found at

In the case of this machine, the command syntax needed was,


12-14 bad transfers in the queue.


Once the queue was cleared, Windows Update was able to download and install updates normally.

I am going to start to post on this section again after a few years off. Check back later.