Monday 32

Dyslexia font

Filed under: Computers, Open source — Tags: , — zundel @ pm

A fiend brings to my attention news of a font to help with dyslexia: Dyslexie.

I forget not everyone lives in open source.

See OpenDyslexic:

We most easily read proportional text with serifs: quickly and smoothly — and go right past error.s We best edit mono-spaced text.


Mono-spaced text also works well for dyslexia.
A mono-spaced font with slab serifs may work especially well.

I do almost all reading and editing in dark green mono-spaced text on a soft yellow background (“#003300 #FFFFCC“), reducing glare and eye strain, and assisting acute vision spotting errors.


Saturday 30

Off to Idaho

Filed under: Computers, Open source — Tags: — zundel @ pm

Fin by Keith Wesolowski

Want a ranch hand?

Meanwhile the most trumpeted “advance” of the last 10 years at the bottom of the stack is UEFI, which replaces parts of the system firmware… with a slightly modernised version of MS-DOS. It’s painfully obvious that the sole purpose of UEFI is to enable Microsoft to continue collecting royalties on every computer sold, a brilliant move on their part given the steady decline of Windows, but an abomination for everyone else. UEFI solves no problems for the operator, customer, or OS vendor. If anything, it creates more of them. There’s a better way to do this, but my central observation is that the solutions that would be better for everyone else are not those that would be best for the vendors: AMI, Microsoft, and Intel are quite happy with their cozy little proprietary royalty machine and have no incentive to engineer, or even enable others to engineer, anything better. The bottom of the stack is designed to serve vendors, not customers.

The net result of all this is that we have data centres occupying many hectares, filled with computers that are architecturally identical to a Packard Bell 486 desktop running MS-DOS long enough to boot a crippled and amateurish clone of Unix circa 1987…


I became a bicycle mechanic (by accident).
Not nicer people.
Not nicer businesses.
But more pleasant problems.

We, computer tech, have great tools. I love using them.
But the problems became old, repetitive, and uninteresting decades ago.
Didn’t matter if I developed or customized accounting software or recovered another server hosed by a rank amateur with all thumbs. Old uninteresting problems.

Bicycles have old repeated mistakes (stuff known a hundred years ago). I try to avoid those. But the day to day problems, what needs fixed, I enjoy.

Friday 29

How it’s done

Filed under: Computers, Open source — Tags: — zundel @ am

Making it Virtually Easy to Deploy on Day One by John Goulah

Oh hell yes.

Some people just set it up better than others.

Wednesday 108

Apple and the little guy

Filed under: Computers — Tags: — zundel @ pm

Seattle Rex vs. Apple: The Verdict Is In

Monday 85


Filed under: Politics — zundel @ pm

Havel’s Specter

What prevented rebellion was “the general unwillingness of consumption-oriented people to sacrifice some material certainties for the sake of their own spiritual and moral integrity.”

In Havel’s analysis, in other words, the basis of Communist power was consumerism. The Communist regimes were not different in kind from the West; they were merely, to borrow a phrase, the avant-garde, and Havel thought the West should consider them “a kind of warning.” In hand-to-hand combat, the dissident’s antagonist was banal greed, a force not destined to pass out of the world with the fall of the Iron Curtain.

Thursday 25

Linux at 20

Filed under: Open source — Tags: — zundel @ am

Linux turns 20

IBM decided in 1999 that Linux was its friend. It correctly deduced that Linux would help it sell more hardware and services.

A good read

The quiet colossus:
The Linux kernel processes almost everything you touch.

Linux vulnerabilty

Filed under: Open source, Security — Tags: , — zundel @ am

Much in the news lately about a vulnerability in recent Linux kernels.

If you use a kernel before 2.6.39 you have no problem.
Stable distributions like Debian 6 and Ubuntu 10 have no problem.

Patches released and in the process of release for newer versions.

The kernel gets careful development, but still people do make errors.

Yet another argument for using stable distributions.

Tuesday 23


Filed under: Poetry — Tags: — zundel @ pm

Randall Jarrell had a knack for criticism that makes you want to go read the poem.

Likewise, Francis-Noël Thomas‘s article Moving and Memorable on the newest edition of Larkin sends me out to reacquire a volume, hopefully one of the original books.

quoting Larkin:

It was Eliot who gave the modernist poetic movement its charter in the sentence, “Poets in our civilization, as it exists at present, must be difficult,” and it was Betjeman who was to bypass the whole light industry of critical exegesis that had grown up round this fatal phrase by demonstrating that a direct relation with the reading public could be established by anyone able to be moving and memorable.

Thomas and Mark Turner co-authored one of my all time favorite books: Clear and Simple as the Truth: Writing Classic Prose; second edition recently published.

Hail, hail the end of menus

Filed under: Computers, Open source — Tags: , , , — zundel @ pm

Introducing the HUD. Say hello to the future of the menu.

HUD to replace menus in Ubuntu 12.04

I like Ubuntu again and eagerly await Ubuntu 12.04.

(And Mark’s affirmation of the centrality of the desktop heartens me.)

Menus offer discoverability: you can find out what a program does. But digging through them to issue a command takes time.

Experienced users issue commands from the keyboard rather than dig through menus.
They also start programs by typing using Gnome Do, KRunner, Spotlight, or Start menu search. Now Ubuntu brings type to execute to menus. Excellent.

Canonical has matched Apple with the quality and integration of Ubuntu.
They now out innovate Apple.

Friday 19

Et tu McAfee?

Filed under: Computers, Security — Tags: , — zundel @ pm

McAfee customers used to spread spam

McAfee’s Security-as-a-Service product Total Protection allowed attackers to use customers’ computers as spam relays.

They fixed it, but it should never have happened.
And only customer complaints brought the bug to their attention.

Wait, there’s more:

Critical hole in McAfee products still open after more than 180 days – Update

Great job auditing your code guys.
No one has every had any security problems with ActiveX?

Just don’t allow ActiveX on your systems.
Or McAfee.
Or …

Thursday 18

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Filed under: Computers, Security — Tags: , , — zundel @ pm

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

There is no security through obscurity.

Symantec admits to more exposed code

Symantec’s code got taken, and now we have reason to doubt the security and usefulnes of their products, such as: Norton Internet Security, Norton Utilities, Norton GoBack, and pcAnywhere. We also have reason to doubt Symantec’s competence. If they cannot protect themselves, how can they protect you?

If you cannot publish the source code openly and still have a secure product, then your product is only as secure as your ability to keep it secret.

Symantec says hackers stole source code in 2006

Yet Laura DiDio, an analyst with ITIC who helps companies evaluate security software, said that Symantec’s customers should be concerned about the potential for hackers to use the stolen source code to figure out how to defeat some of the protections in Symantec’s software.

Many eyes make all bug shallow.

The bad guys now have the code.
If everyone had seen the code all along,
the good guys could have fixed the vulnerabilities in the code.

RSA got owned last year. Supposedly the very best at security had a very serious breach, the full consequences we don’t yet know and probably never will.

Then there’s the black farce of HBGary and defense and government attempts at security.

As I wrote in the takeaway: “If you need security, don’t use anything these guys mentioned.”

If you like the product on the supermarket shelf that implies it will make you look young and beautiful (whether cereal or shampoo) you’ll love the security in a box at Office Depot or for download. You can no more buy security than you can buy youth. Stop falling for the silicon snake oil.

Symantec discovered (admitted) that source code stolen in 2006 does compromise the security of their product. Symantec now recommends disabling pcAnywhere until they release a final set of updates.

Symantec publishes pcAnywhere security recommendations

In addition, an attacker with cryptography knowledge could conduct man-in-the-middle attacks on encrypted connections and create unauthorised connections to remote machines, thereby potentially gaining access to whole networks.

Monday 15

Microsoft Server 8 deprecates Windows

Filed under: Computers — Tags: , — zundel @ pm

Windows Server 8: The Microsoft Server Fork

Maybe someone at Microsoft has paid attention to the various Linux servers they’ve had over the years. Or maybe they have looked over the shoulders of Linux sysadmins (explains the draft).

Digging through windows, and dialog boxes, and tabs is a damned slow and frustrating way to administer a system.

but the center-thrust of Windows Server administration was encouraged to be PowerShell-driven, rather than through the maze of administrative GUIs that have been the mainstay of Windows Server versions for nearly two decades.

Yup, a damned maze.

Linux sysadmins working at a command line with command completion, history, tech manuals, environmental variables, and sophisticated screen management (screen, wmii, i3) at our fingertips get at lot more done is less time with fewer errors.

I get frustrated every time I have to work on Windows (so I don’t).
I can’t just type a few quick queries. Check a few settings. Issue a few elegant one line commands. Then check with a few tests. And call it good.

I have today’s billing log at hand. Latest item: Read scheduler error report. Check settings. All the settings. (“grep — /etc/cron*” can tell you a lot.) Make modification. 8 minutes. Try that with Windows scheduler.

(Having spent most of the day working in the shell, I’m getting a bit frustrated typing the blog: I keep wanting to hit the tab key to complete the word I type.)

While seemingly radical for Microsoft, there is much pressure on operational efficiency, coupled to increasingly complex control options and infrastructure character of the operating system.

So what’s left? What’s Microsoft’s competitive advantage?
Windows Server was always for those that came to it a bit late or were a bit young and couldn’t type. Programmers (not cut & paste) have always hated that point and click shit in our working environment. (Can I get a shell for Tivo? Hmm, Android api… One day when I have a spare moment… February 2015?)

But if you have to type anyway (there is much fretting in basements across America) why would you use Windows? Unix, then Linux is designed for efficient typing. We’ve been perfecting it for forty years. And security.

It’s Official: The Windows Server GUI Is (Slowly) On the Way Out

(Sitting here waiting for that server’s cron to pop another error. Deliberately made only one change.)

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