Friday, April 29, 2011

Ubuntu and the family con't

I'm not sure what came over me.  I'm insanely busy right now, but I decided to go ahead and upgrade the family computer to Ubuntu 11.04.  I think my curiosity about the Unity desktop got the best of me.

Anyway, I started the upgrade last night before going to bed.  When I got up this morning, the computer was waiting for me to click through several prompts.  After about another 30 minutes or so, it was done.  After a reboot, I was rockin' with Ubuntu 11.04.  I tried to enable rotating cubes and wobbly windows with Compiz and suddenly I lost the Unity bar and panel.  Grrr.  A quick Google search turned up this forum post:  Look for the post by mc4man for the solution.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

How to beat a phishing attack

Well, there really isn't any way to ensure your organization is completely protected against phishing attacks.  As long as people are involved in the process, there will be times when people fail to be vigilant and one of the bad guys reels someone in.  You and I are probably more aware of what to watch for in phishing attacks, yet I've certainly come frighteningly close to clicking on a questionable link. 

I've been a fan of Michael Kassner for quite a while.  He recently interviewed Roger Johnson, head of the Vulnerability Assessment Team at Argonne National Laboratory.  They talked about the recent phishing attack at Oak Ridge National Laboratories.  Hey, if a phishing attack can be successful there, it can happen to your organization. Check out the interview.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Wizards and electrons, wands and's Augmented Reality

My early excitement for smartphones was founded in a desire to cut down on stuff I was carrying.  I loved the idea of a single, pocket-sized device that could serve as my phone, contact list, calendar, and music player.  Oh, and it was important that it sync easily with my computer for the sake of simplicity.  I'd been waiting for something practical to come along and finally took the plunge with a Treo 300, a clamshell device running PalmOS that, at least in theory, did it all.  How limited was my imagination at that time!  My new Android phone, of course, makes the Treo 300 seem like Eniac, by comparison.
Advances in Augmented Reality (AR) are already providing services beyond my wildest imagination of ten years ago and application developers are creating inspired applications, some practical, some whimsical, that will make today's smartphone seem like the old Treo by comparison.  If AR is a new term to you, you've seen it in action in NFL broadcasts when the first-down lines are super-imposed on the field. Another great example is Worldwide Telescope.  Here's a TED video in which Microsoft's Blaise Aguera y Arcas demos augmented-reality maps:

Blogger Bill Bulkeley wrote this story on AR for Cisco news.

Friday, April 15, 2011

How important is it to have 64-bit apps on a 64-bit OS

Now that more and more computers are shipping with 64-bit processors and 64-bit operating systems, just how important is it to have 64-bit applications?  What are the benefits of 64-bit applications?

I've been using an HP dv6661se laptop with an AMD 64-bit processor for four years.  In the early days, there were quite a few frustrations such as finding hardware drivers and application compatibility issues.  (There was one particular frustration with a lack of 64-bit drivers for my USB-to-serial adapter.)  Today, the compatibility issues are much less of a challenge than they used to be, but what are some of the issues and benefits?

Adobe Premiere CS5 only runs on a 64-bit system.  I'm sure there are other apps out there that will only run in a 64-bit environment.  This is almost exactly like the move from the 16-bit to the 32-bit world.

I ran across this discussion at that may be helpful.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

How to handle people who ask for computer help

It's happened to all of us at one time or another.  We've just met someone, he or she finds out that we work with computers, and those feared words come out, "Oh, you work with computers.  Maybe you can help me."
Many times we'd like to help, but we don't want to sit down and work on computers for free in our off time.  We're happy to offer advice, but please don't ask us to sit down and look at a computer!  Here are ten ways of responding to such requests.

Read more on my Computerworld blog...

Navy successfully demos a ship-mounted High Energy Laser (HEL)

I was expecting spectacular explosions, a la Star Wars, so I was slightly disappointed by their absence.  Regardless, this is pretty cool technology!
This is the first successful use of the Navy's Marine Laser Demonstrator (MLD).  It's a ship-mounted High Energy Laser, developed by the Office of Naval Research in cooperation with Northrup Grumman, which was fired at an unmanned motor boat.  More info is here.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The fallacy of the brilliant criminal mind (or how geeks help catch the bad guys)

I've known several police officers in my life.  Even today, one of my best friends is a police officer.  One of the things they've all said is that criminals, as a group, are pretty stupid, or at least make really stupid decisions.  Otherwise, they wouldn't be criminals.  Stories abound of dumb criminals doing dumb things and getting caught, but this article from Mental Floss really drives the point home.  Those of us who enjoy technology love opportunities to use what we know, especially when it involves righting a wrong.  Never underestimate the wrath and cunning of a geek crime victim!

Buckle up for Patch Tuesday!

Tomorrow is Microsoft's Patch Tuesday and this month, they're releasing 17 bulletins to fix 64 security vulnerabilities in Windows, Office, Internet Explorer, Visual Studio and .NET Framework.  Nine of the bulletins have a security rating of critical, the rest have a rating of important, and they're all related to remote code execution.  Seven of the bulletins require a restart.  According to Fahmida Y. Rashid at eWeek, this massive update ties the record for the most bulletins released at one time.  Wow!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Top 10 Windows security best practices

TechRepublic blogger Brien Posey recently published his list of Top 10 Windows security best practices.  I love lists (like many people), so I reviewed his list and decided to share it with you.  Even Linux/Unix admins can benefit from most of the items on the list.  You'd think most of this stuff would be common sense, but if common sense was so common...(fill in your own list of stupid things people do).

An open-source VPN alternative

Setting up a VPN is about as common a task as there is in today's IT world.  Problem is that proprietary VPNs such as Cisco's VPN solutions, although highly effective, can also be pretty expensive.  When you're working in a budget-conscious environment or simply don't want to be tied to a particular vendor, you can consider implementing a VPN solution with OpenVPN.  Author Vincent Danen has this how-to guide with all the steps.

Friday, April 8, 2011

God forbid they re-create the TRS80 model 1

Some of us remember the Commodore 64...perhaps even fondly.  It's back, but instead of 64KB of RAM, the new one includes 2 GB of DDR3 memory and is expandable to 4 GB.  It also includes a slot or tray load DVD R/W(Bluray optional) on the left side of the unit and a multi format card reader/writer and a USB slot on the right side of the unit. There are an additional 4 USB slots on the rear of the unit.  I'm not clear on why this is needed, but the company claims to be selling out of them.  What's next?  A re-release of the TRS80 model 1 or a TI-99?  (My first computer was a TRS80 model 1 with a whopping 48K of RAM and a 5 1/4 inch single-sided floppy drive, which was a HUGE improvement over the more common cassette tape drives.)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Workplace critics: casting a cloak of dread

Although this post is not directly related to IT, we've all had to deal with workplace critics, those "nattering nabobs of negativisim" who, for political or personal reasons, cast a cloak of dread over new ideas, innovations, and the normal process of organizational evolution.  This is not about thoughtful people genuinely offering constructive criticism.  Art Perry, in his Management Excellence blog, recently wrote this great post on how to deal with those negative types in Leadership Caffeine: Coping with Workplace Critics.  Coincidentally, my 26-year-old daughter, a middle-school teacher, recently had to deal with such an individual and, without having read Art's post, used several of his techniques.  I'm still going to send it to her.