Showing posts from April, 2014

Heartbleed Really Is A Bloody Nuisance

Over the past weeks, [Nicholas Weaver, a University of California, Berkeley computer scientist] and researchers at the University of Michigan have been scouring the internet for systems that are vulnerable to the bug, which lets hackers steal information from a machine’s memory. As expected, he found that most websites have now patched the flaw, which was in a common piece of encryption software called OpenSSL. But the [Western Digital] My Cloud is just one example of an enormous problem that continues to lurk across the net: tens of thousands of devices — including not only My Cloud storage devices but routers, printers storage servers, firewalls, video cameras, and more — remain vulnerable to attack.

In other words, the Internet of Things needs a patch. “It really is disturbing, the number of devices that are affected by this,” Weaver says.
Read the rest of "It’s Crazy What Can Be Hacked Thanks to Heartbleed" at

Windows XP Users - Well, That Didn't Take Long

(Reuters) - Microsoft Corp is rushing to fix a bug in its widely used Internet Explorer web browser after a computer security firm disclosed the flaw over the weekend, saying hackers have already exploited it in attacks on some U.S. companies.

PCs running Windows XP will not receive any updates fixing that bug when they are released, however, because Microsoft stopped supporting the 13-year-old operating system earlier this month. Security firms estimate that between 15 and 25 percent of the world's PCs still run Windows XP.

Microsoft disclosed on Saturday its plans to fix the bug in an advisory to its customers posted on its security website, which it said is present in Internet Explorer versions 6 to 11. Those versions dominate desktop browsing, accounting for 55 percent of the PC browser market, according to tech research firm NetMarketShare.

ET's Home Found

For reasons that escapes me, the resting place of thousands of old Atari E.T. videogame cartidges has become a bit of a mini obsession for many around the web; so much so, that a documentary is being made about it. Stories circulated about the dumping of many unsold cartridges of the el stinko game back in the 1980's, supposedly in a New Mexico landfill. Turns out the stories were correct, and the proof has now been unearthed and witnessed by the film crew and a bunch of fans.
Photos at CNET here

That Thud You Hear Is Windows XP And MSE

An update to Microsoft Security Essentials, the software company's free anti-malware software, crashed Windows XP computers last week, causing business disruptions to customers still relying on the outdated—and, in many cases, now-unsupported—operating system.

The update caused a variety of Microsoft operating systems to restart and then fail to reboot, displaying an arcane "MsMpEng.exe application error" message, according to online posts by affected users.

Many point-of-sale systems, which some businesses are protecting using Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) as a way to meet the antivirus requirement of the Payment Card Industry PCI), still use Windows XP or related operating systems, including Windows XP Professional for Embedded Systems and Windows Embedded POSReady 2009. Those systems were affected by the update as well, according to one New England value-added reseller with more than 500 clients in the hospitality industry.
Read the rest of "Bug in Microsoft…

Windows 8 Not So Ghastly On A Touch Device?

I don't like Windows 8 - or more specifically, I don't like the new interface. I think it was a surprisingly heavy handed attempt to fit a square peg into a round hole, at least for home and business users with traditional desktops and laptop computers. By "traditional", I mean ones without touch sensitive displays; on those computers, the Windows 8 user interface is tiresome and obscure. The Surface tablets make a bit more sense, although those lumbered with the "RT" version of Windows 8 are still pretty lame. 
Having said all that, I did see a rather cool implementation of the full Windows 8, but on a small Nexus 7/iPad style tablet device from Dell (The Dell Venue 8 Pro) - and just watching someone use it for a couple of minutes, it actually made sense and seemed to work well. I guess I was not quite aware of that form factor being able to run the full Windows 8, rather than the RT version. Maybe I dislike Windows 8 a little less....

Sadly, Apple Maps Has Not Found Nessie (Yet)

We had a bit of excitement this week as a story surfaced (see what I did there) about a possible sighting of Nessie in one of Apple's map images of Loch Ness, in Scotland. The Loch Ness Monster (Nessie, to her admirers) is reputed to inhabit the freshwater lake, and is allegedly sighted from time to time. On this occasion, an interesting looking wake is seen in one of the satellite images, and looks like it could be a large submerged whale-like creature. Whoa.

HOWEVER, (dang it), it turns out to be an image of a boat wake, where the boat appears to have been processed out of the image. See the whole explanation (with a cool animated sample) at GrahamCluley.com

Why Is Speech Recognition So Vastly Improved?

FOR a long time speech-recognition software was poor, confirming the saying that computers find it difficult to do things humans do easily, and vice-versa. But lately it has got much better: most modern smartphones now have a host of voice-activated features which actually work. Not only can programs such as Google Now or the iPhone's Siri handle restricted tasks like finding a restaurant or dialling a phone number; smartphones are also getting much better at free-form speech recognition, such as taking dictated text-messages or e-mails. How did computers get so much better at understanding speech?
Almost any word can begin a sentence, so the first word in a sentence can be one of tens of thousands. If any word were as likely as any other in any position, a five-word utterance from a vocabulary of 20,000 words would have 3.2 x 1021 possibilities. Faced with such odds (and a sound signal degraded by cheap microphones, background noise and compression), the task would …

Star Wars Prequels - The Good Bits

I was hugely disappointed in the Star Wars sequels, like a lot of people. I won't launch into a diatribe about it, but it was a shame. However, even among all the Jar Jar Binks stuff, there were some good thing - hard to believe otherwise, with all the money and talent thrown at the three movies. So, the Nostalgia Critic has put together 11 examples he found across the 3 movies - take a look and see what you think...

Java Jiggered Again - Patch It Up!

Oracle has pushed a critical patch update for its Java SE platform that fixes at least 37 security vulnerabilities in the widely-installed program. Several of these flaws are so severe that they are likely to be exploited by malware or attackers in the days or weeks ahead. So — if you have Java installed — it is time to update (or to ditch the program once and for all).

The latest update for Java 7 (the version most users will have installed) brings the program to Java 7 Update 55. Those who’ve chosen to upgrade to the newer, “feature release” version of Java — Java 8 — will find fixes available in Java 8 Update 5 (Java 8 doesn’t work on Windows XP).
Read the rest of "Critical Java Update Plugs 37 Security Holes" at Krebsonsecurity

John McAfee Launches Android Audit Utility DCentral1

John McAfee, technology entrepreneur, eccentric, and one-time murder suspect, now brings us an Android App that is filling a real need. He has not be associated with the antivirus company bearing his name since the mid 1990's, and now brings us an app that audits the permissions of installed apps on Android devices. Some app permissions can be almost shockingly invasive, and could be considered to be operating more like malware on a Windows computer. 
The new app, named DCentral1 is available free from the Google store. After a brief scan, the utility presents a sortable list of the apps it was able to evaluate, and offers a both an overall score (higher is "worse") and a breakdown of the permissions the particular app currently has. While the affected permissions are usually presented as Android Apps are installed, the sense is that most people just blast through the install process, and it may take some thing like this to let them them see that app xyz has access to yo…

A Zero Energy Home

Forty percent of all energy demands comes from real estate, so if you can solve that, you will be richly rewarded. After all, the cleanest and cheapest energy is energy saved.

A zero energy house that guarantees no energy bills for 10 years is capturing the attention of communities and may redefine home ownership. “Our mission is to make every home a zero energy home, that’s smart, stronger and affordable for the masses,” says David Goswick Founder and CEO of Houze (pictured above), a man on a global quest to  build the most energy efficient homes possible. In addition, he’s aiming at a $250,000 price point for his homes, making them affordable to the widest market possible. While his take on the spelling of “house” is attention grabbing, the companies full name, Houze Advanced Building Science, suggests a far more serious mission.
Read the rest of "Is This The World's Most Affordable House?" at

Also see video here at BloombergTV

Windows XP Kinda Sucked

Now that Windows XP has been essentially cast adrift by Microsoft, at least as far as we consumers are concerned, we start to hear the wistful musings about a popular operating system being put out to pasture. However, the reality is that Windows XP was pretty controversial and unliked by many for a good part of it's life. Much like an old man memorializing the "good old days", when in reality those days were actually pretty rough when not seen through the gauzy filter of the years. The biggest problem with Windows XP was that it was Microsoft's first operating system to feature Product Activation, the licensing system that tied product keys to hardware fingerprints. Gone were the days of buying one copy of the software and installing it on multiple machines. With Windows XP, every system would need its own copy. ArsTechnica

We'd Better Not Catch You Carpooling!

Ridesharing -- also known as carpooling -- involves members of the public contacting each other via a smartphone or PC internet networking service and arranging to ferry each other to various destinations for fees.  The practice in informal form is almost as old as the automobile itself, but in the digital age app-enabled ridesharing has seen an explosion in interest, threatening the commercial taxicab industry and the city officials who depend on that industry for revenue.
Read the rest of "Cities To Carpoolers: Sharing You Car Is Illegal, We Will Sieze Your Cars" at DailyTech

Crackdown On Those Who Deny Climate Change

Those who question the certitude of man-made climate change - formerly global warming - are being manhandled into the same box as flat-earthers and other "heretics". It's another example of an unsettling trend we seem to be following, where those who don't fall into the currently-accepted "norm" are labelled and marginalized. If you are a white person with few or no friends of color, you are a racist. Conversely, African-Americans may be labelled as an Uncle Tom if they behave "too white", and those who disagree with the concept of same-sex marriage are of course raging homophobes. 
I find this "us" and "them" thinking to be disturbing; it's the kind of sentiment that can be whipped up by those unsavory types who enjoy employing those sorts of tactics to meet their ends. I personally do not enjoy arguing with people, but I do like being able to have an opinion without it seemingly falling into the area of a "thought c…

SQL Injection Baffles Speed Traps?

Typical speed camera traps have built-in OCR software that is used to recognize license plates. A clever hacker decided to see if he could defeat the system by using SQL Injection…
The basic premise of this hack is that the hacker has created a simple SQL statement which will hopefully cause the database to delete any record of his license plate. Or so he (she?) hopes. Talk about getting off scot-free!
Read the rest of "SQL Injection Beats Speed Traps And Clears Your Record" at