11 November 2005

Random Ramblings: Backing Up Your Thumb Drive

I have most recently become the proud owner of a 1 GB thumb drive. I finally splurged on a biggie because I keep so much stuff on it. For example, I have John Haller's Portable Firefox, Portable Thunderbird, Portable Open Office and Portable FileZilla on it. (In fact, I have FIVE email programs resident on the thumb: Portable Thunderbird, Eudora, TheBat, PocoMail, and Sylpheed because I'm doing some SSL mail testing at the moment.) I also have my todo list on it, my fnancial data (encrypted of course), and the website I created and constantly maintain. If I could figure out how to put my blogging software (i.e. Thingamablog) on it and make it work, I would do so as well, but there are still some technical details to work out first.

It didn't take long for me to become fearful about what would happen if my thumb drive died. Granted, thumb drives are lot sturdier than other removable media, but then they can still die. I'm just not sure when this will happen because I haven't used a thumb drive long enough to find out. Thus, I soon wrote a quickie batch file that I run once a day that syncs everything on the thumb drive to my hard disk.

Of course, I'm the easy one. My wife manages to have (at current count) FIVE thumb drives and presumably she has less time and/or inclincation to make sure her thumb drives are adequately backed up. I finally decided to do something about this. But ugh, five batch files for five thumb drives? What if she gets more drives, and what if she makes a mistake and chooses the wrong batch file, and copies the wrong thumb data overwriting another thumb's backup?

While waiting for a red light to change in traffic recenty, I figured it all out. The result is a single, generic and customizable batch file that can handle all five thumbs (or more, with some minor tweaking). It's nothing fancy, but it does work. This is what it looks like:

  @echo off
  set THUMBD=f:\
  set BAKDIR=d:\thumb\
  set MARKER=none
  if exist %THUMBD%_black_ set MARKER=black
  if exist %THUMBD%_white_ set MARKER=white
  if exist %THUMBD%_blue_  set MARKER=blue
  if %MARKER%==none goto nomarker
  robocopy %THUMBD% %bakdir%%MARKER%\ /mir
  echo The %MARKER% thumb drive has been backed up ...
  goto end
  echo Thumb drive not recognized - nothing backed up
  set MARKER=
  set THUMBD=
  set BAKDIR=
  @echo off

There are a few things you have to do to make this work. First, you have to edit lines 2 and 3 to indicate what drive letter your thumb drive appears as and where the backups should be saved (don't forget the trailing backslash!). In my wife's case, each thumb drive is differentiated by color, so I have a line for each color (lines 5-7). Second, I have to create/copy a "marker" file called _Black_, _White_, and _Blue_ into the root directory of each thumb drive. I also made these files Read-Only to help prevent/reduce the chances of their being accidentally deleted. Third, you have to avail yourself of a program from Microsoft called "Robocopy" (i.e. "Robust Copy Utility"). This is a very useful DOS backup program that's part of Microsoft's Windows Resource Kit. A version for Windows 2003/XP can be downloaded for free from here. (Incidentally, this version of Robocopy also works under Windows 2000.)

If you try running Robocopy without any parameters, you will be innundated with a whole slew of options. Not surprisingly, this program isn't meant for use by home users, but it CAN be a network administrator's best friend. In fact, I use it every night to backup several gigabytes worth of data on our file server at work. Anyway, I'm only using the /MIR option which creates a "mirror" of a folder elsewhere. Or put it another way, it synchronizes the data on the thumb drive to a backup folder on your hard disk.

17 July 2005

Post Database: The Ins and Outs of Software Licenses

In the July 6, 2005 installment of "Computer Currents", James Hein wrote about his friend's trials and tribulations in obtaining Microsoft software here in Thailand. While I'm hardly a Microsoft insider, I have had the opportunity to purchase Microsoft software over the years, both on a personal and a professional basis. As such, I thought I'd offer a few observations.

(Caveat Emptor/Mea Culpa Department: Although most of my observations are based on what I know/believe to be fact or are from personal experience, I do occasionally make educated guesses. I've tried to make it clear when I do though.)

1) As a general rule, Microsoft doesn't sell directly to end-users. (I believe exceptions are with gargantuan accounts who require direct Microsoft involvement.) Instead, it relies on layers of resellers and dealers (I may have the terminology wrong here, but hopefully you get the point). The top layer resellers each focus on some segment(s) of industry. If you're a corporate or institutional buyer, chances are you'll deal with this level of reseller. On the other hand, if you buy boxed software from a store, you're buying from a dealer who's further down the "food chain".

2) Most of the big software companies (including Microsoft) sell software in either of two ways: a) as "boxed" software that usually comes with physical media and documentation, or b) as "software licenses" - i.e. pieces of paper that acknowledge your right to use whatever software in whatever quantities that was paid for. For more information, check out: https://www.microsoft.com/licensing/programs/open/default.mspx.

3) Microsoft software sold in Thailand has been sourced from Singapore for as far back as I can remember. Apparently, Singapore is a major manufacturing and distribution point for Microsoft software in the Southeast Asian region (and maybe even farther afield). Thus, it's not surprising that Microsoft software in Thailand should come from or at least be routed through there.

While in-country resellers and dealers do keep boxed software in stock, I doubt that they do so in any great quantity owing to the stocking costs involved, the limited volume of demand, and the sheer range of products in Microsoft's stable. More often that not, they'll just stock the most popular items and place orders for everything else - hardly a surprising business strategy.

Software licenses are dealt with in a different way. For one thing, there is no physical "stock" of licenses. My guess is that the process of generating a software license involves the customer placing an order with a reseller, the reseller forwarding the order details to the in-country Microsoft office, who then forwards the order to a Microsoft regional office (perhaps Singapore or perhaps even directly to the U.S.). Once the customer's information is duly recorded in a licensing database and the transaction approved, the license flows back down to the customer. This multi-step process takes time - three weeks is mentioned in the article. (Incidentally, I have a Microsoft re-order in the works and have been waiting for 3 weeks already as well.) In this day and age, this may seem agonizingly slow, but then again, consider how much longer it takes for a new magazine subscription to start!

Purchasing software in this manner is different from walking into a store and buying a box of software off the shelves or ordering software from a reseller or vendor who has it in stock and can deliver it in a matter of days. In the latter case, you can expect instant or near-instant gratification, but you can also expect to pay A LOT more for it as well.

4) Is there a comprehensive price list for Microsoft software? Of course there has to be one, but I suspect few local buyers ever get to see or access it. For me, this isn't a major problem since I've always been able to get an approximate price over the phone with my reseller, and it never takes more than a few hours to get an "official quotation" faxed to me (probably the time to get a higher up's approval for the pricing and/or the time to generate/send the fax). If I were to wager a guess, my reseller accesses a secure Microsoft website where they obtain the most current prices.

Why doesn't Microsoft publish this or at least make it publicly accessible? I suspect: a) the sheer number of Microsoft products makes this list cumbersome to distribute and update, especially in paper form, b) I'm sure it can be argued that digesting such a massive/complicated price list would be daunting for us mere mortals (sort of like airline pricing), c) Microsoft products are always priced in US Dollars, but always quoted in local currency - thus, prices can change at a moment's notice, d) there MIGHT be regional differences to the prices of some products, something Microsoft may not wish to highlight, e) the same products are often priced differently depending on how they're sold. I have a sneaky suspicion that f) limiting access to the prices also provides a modicum of "flexibility" when it comes to adjusting prices.

Actually, if you need a ballpark figure, U.S. retail prices are easy to come by. Just go to Amazon.com, Buy.com, any office supply website, any computer mail order website, and do a search. Sometimes these prices are discounted, sometimes they aren't. Sometimes they clearly state what the list prices are and what THEIR prices are. Of course, these aren't necessarily Thailand prices (which tend to be higher due to import taxes, shipping costs, etc.), but with some experience you should be able to guesstimate what the Thailand prices would be by multiplying it by some factor.

Even U.S. volume/licensing prices can be determined, albeit they're a lot harder to find. One website that conveniently lists prices for the various types of "Open Licenses" (e.g. business, academic, government, charity) is https://www.wasatchsoftware.com. These prices are practically identical to the prices quoted to me locally (at least the academic prices), which seems to confirm my supposition that licensing prices are based on a global/common US$ price list.

5) Are there differences in prices offered by resellers/dealers? My guess is "No" and "Yes". "No" in that I assume resellers are required to use the official Microsoft price as a guideline and sell only within a set range. "Yes" in that they probably have some leeway to reduce prices - taken from THEIR profit margin, I would think. If this is true, whatever differential exists probably isn't too significant, although I've never verified this because I've only dealt with one reseller at a time over the years.

However, price differences between boxed software and software licenses CAN be substantial. (This is especially true: a) if you're not a business, and b) compared with prices of local boxed software.) That's why buyers who are prepared to buy at least a minimum quantity (5 units at the outset, but just 1 unit for additional orders) opt for volume pricing. Given that this is a licensing scheme, it doesn't involve physical media per se, although you are permitted to buy or not buy these at your discretion.

James seems perplexed by this, especially by Microsoft's supposed suggestion that his friend to get a temporary copy from Panthip (believe me, I've heard this as well). This may seem odd in light of Microsoft's oft heard exhortations to avoid software of this ilk (due to legality issues, due to fear of viruses, due to lack of support, etc.). But if I may play devil's advocate for the moment, I think the bottom line is this: as long as you pay the Microsoft piper (or your pound of flesh, depending on how you look at it), no one cares any more where you get your software from. Can't update to Windows XP SP2 because you're using a Panthip CD key - that's your problem.

Re: James' incredulity that software could be purchased without media, again I emphasize that this is a licensing scheme. If you were to license 20 copies of a given software, you don't really need to keep 20 copies in your possession to prove you're a legal user. Rather, your licenses can be verified simply by accessing Microsoft's eOpen licensing website (https://www.eopen.microsoft.com). No doubt, Microsoft prefers that end-users track/maintain licenses this way - when it comes to audits, it's far less laborious than counting physical disks, determining their authenticity, matching COA's (some of which are stuck to computers), and maintaining lists of CD keys.

In practice, when licensing software, one usually buys just one copy of the physical media and then one legally makes as many copies as needed, up to the quantity licensed. In fact, we order a single media set, copy a working set and then stick the originals in a safe. There's almost no paperwork to deal with, only one CD key per software product, and no product activation!

6) James' article mentions that his friend was required to pay up front for the software he ordered. If he placed his order with a dealer, I wouldn't be surprised at all. If he ordered from a reseller in the name of his company, that would be a bit more unusual, but still understandable if he hadn't had a previous relationship with the reseller. Remember, what the reseller is ordering/buying on the customer's behalf is a piece of paper imprinted with the prospective buyer's name. If the order gets cancelled, the reseller may end with something he can't get resell elsewhere and may not be able to return to Microsoft either. Presumably, once you're already "in the system" and have a history of purchases with your reseller, this requirement might be relaxed - but it all depends on the reseller.

* * * * * * * * * *

All in all, James' friend did the right thing (although he may not have known it at the time). It wouldn't have made sense to buy a boxed version of his Windows 2003 Server. Besides being nearly impossible to find in stores (it would have to be ordered), it would have been expensive to purchase at local retail prices. Besides, he would have had to go through a reseller anyway since Client Access Licenses (CAL's) aren't sold in boxes - you have to go the licensing route for this.

With his proposed purchase of server software + CAL's, he should have had no problem meeting the minimum buy-in point for Open Licensing. And with his software licenses recorded on eOpen, he doesn't need to deal with original program CD's and doesn't need to fear losing or damaging them either. He has a single CD key for each software product (not for each PIECE of software), and doesn't need to go through the detested activation process during installation.

As for his up front payment and lengthy waiting time for fulfillment, granted those may have been surprising, but they were just part of familiarizing oneself with the modus operandi of obtaining software licenses.

15 July 2005

Post Database: NOD32 Anti-Virus

For quite a while now, I've noticed that many Helpdesk readers tend to use free anti-virus solutions such as Grisoft's AVG and Alwil's Avast! I love using free software myself, but after trying/using these programs, not to mention the biggies such as McAfee's VirusScan (VS) and Symantec's Norton Anti-Virus (NAV), I've settled on what I consider to be a good compromise: Eset's NOD32 ("NOD" for short).

Why did I abandon these AV freebies and AV biggies? The freebies were knocked out of contention due to a question of trust. After all, what are the free versions of AVG and Avast! except feature-reduced versions of commercial programs offered by their respective companies. While I can justify the use of feature-reduced programs for many applications, I believe it penny-wise/pound-foolish to use a less-safe AV program.

Shouldn't this be a prescription to stick with the biggies only then? Not necessarily. In fact, I had used VS and NAV for years before I was tempted by the freebies. One major annoyance of the biggies is that their performance hit on your computer can be fairly significant. Furthermore, after a period of free updates, you'll be forced to pay a pretty penny for an annual update subscription (at least $25/year). This is above and beyond the original cost of the software itself (about $50).

My choice of AV programs was also influenced by my role as an administrator of several dozen computers at a company I help out at. From a licensing standpoint, the freebies couldn't be used in a corporate environment anyway - you HAD to buy the commercial versions. This put the freebies into the same boat as the biggies - too big and too expensive.

So far, I haven't addressed the question of virus fighting effectiveness. Using the results of Virus Bulletin (https://www.virusbtn.com) as a guide, the freebies - in fact, their commercial versions! - tend to have less than stellar performance, at least historically. Among the biggies, NAV performs the best, but even it isn't the top performer.

Which finally brings me back to NOD. I've known about NOD for years before I started using it in earnest. Previously, the need to re-license it every year was a bitter pill to swallow, but my mind was changed when NOD officially came to Thailand a few years ago. The "Home" version is now available for a mere 250 Baht/year. This was a significant discount over the regular $40 buy-in and $27 renewal price for buying NOD through regular channels.

Why do I like NOD so much:

  • It's very affordable. Granted, it's not free, but at 250 Baht/year, the home version costs as little as a 1/4 tank of gasoline. The corporate pricing is more expensive at approximately 1,000 Baht/year/computer, but it also includes the ability to do "local" updating (i.e. only one central computer downloads updates from the Internet - all other networked client computers update from this "mirror" at LAN speeds). With NAV, this feature is only available on the considerably more expensive Corporate Edition. But even NAV's standalone version is more expensive than NOD's corporate version.
  • NOD is VERY light on your computer. The performance hit is very small, even though it defaults to updating its definitions HOURLY (you can change this if your Internet connection is slow).
  • There is only one version of the program - no "lite" versus "full" versions. Granted, there are home and corporate versions - not to mention cross-platform and specialty server versions - but the virus fighting features are essentially the same. The corporate version simply adds hooks for local updating, remote administration, etc.
  • Lastly, and most importantly, its virus fighting capabilities are top notch. (Note: When browsing Virus Bulletin's test results, I suggest you look at both current AND past results.) And I can vouch for this: in the past year, I've never had to lift a finger whenever a new virus scare arose. This is also why I install it on every computer I'm asked to fix/reinstall/build.
  • If there is a downside to NOD, it's the fact that it's rather techie and filled with tons of configurable options. Its interface is hardly aimed at the casual user, but fortunately, it works pretty well "out of the box", in an "install and ignore" mode. Also, it's not really an anti-spyware tool, even though the latest version 2.5 has added some adware/spyware detection capabilities. Unfortunately, it's too early to tell how well this works.
The Home version of NOD can be obtained from SE-ED and B2S book stores. For the corporate versions, contact NOD Thailand through their website at https://www.nod32th.com. Free 30-day trials of all versions can also be downloaded from there.

09 July 2005

Post Database: Internet Browsing from Public Computers

In the June 22, 2005 installment of HelpDesk, George Masaoka asked whether there was any way to safely use computers in Internet cafés for such things as online banking or online buying. Clearly, this wouldn't be an issue IF one could be certain that Internet café computers were clean of viruses and/or spyware.

The best way to ensure this is to ignore the operating system installed on the Internet café computer and to boot/run/operate from a known/clean environment instead. There are a few ways to accomplish this, but by far the easiest involves the use of a "Live" (i.e. bootable) Linux CD. Even if the computer were infested with Windows viruses or spyware, the chances that the "Live" Linux operating environment would (or even could) become infected is next to zero.

A few caveats though. First, you may need to learn your way around Linux a bit. For this particular need though, it shouldn't be too difficult - just find the web browser (these days, probably Firefox) and run it. Second, if your target websites require Internet Explorer you're probably out of luck. In this day and age though, this should be less of a problem (all of the Internet banking/credit card websites I use work pretty well with Firefox). Third, the Internet café computer MUST have a CD drive, and it must be configured to boot from the CD device BEFORE the hard disk (granted, this isn't too unusual a setup). Lastly, and more problematical is the fact that booting from a Live CD will override any usage/time metering that may be running under Windows. As long as you can come to an amicable agreement with the Internet café proprietor on how to calculate your time used, this shouldn't be a problem either.

Two related matters. First, is it possible to create a Windows "Live" CD? The answer is: "perhaps". If the name "Bart Lagerweij" means anything to you, you'll probably suspect that it IS indeed possible - even though it would hardly be a simple undertaking and may not even be legal as per Microsoft's EULA. I suggest you ignore this possibility.

Second, is there any way to create a pristine "bubble" all the while running the (presumably Windows) operating system installed on the Internet café computer? In my opinion: probably not. Granted, you could reduce your risks by running a lesser-known web browser on a thumb drive, or you could use the likes of the "Anonymizer" service (https://www.anonymizer.com) to minimize the risks on the Internet side. But you would still be at the mercy of any malware that exists on the local computer. Short of installing anti-virus/anti-spyware software and then going through the cleansing process on every computer you intend to use (assuming you were even allowed to do so), this too is an untenable option.

Having said all that, if you frequent Internet café's, I would still recommend that you to look into the possibility of running your own web browser from a thumb drive. Chances are most Internet café computers aren't likely to have any web browser other than Internet Explorer. Worse still, said computers aren't likely to be fully patched against Windows or IE vulnerabilities. A better alternative would be to run a safer web browser on your own portable device. Introducing: "Portable Firefox". Portable Firefox is designed to run from writeable, removable storage device such as thumb or Zip drive. It's not an officially sanctioned/supported release of Firefox, but it IS based on official Firefox builds.

Portable Firefox was developed by John Haller and is available from his website (which unfortunately is currently inaccessible). Alternatively, it can be obtained from the Major Geeks website at: https://www.majorgeeks.com/download4424.html.

Final note: Portable Firefox is also excellent for use on school/university computers that may not have Firefox installed. It's also an awfully useful way of having your bookmarks handy wherever you go.

28 October 2004

Random Ramblings: Command Line Nero

I've been using Ahead Software's Windows-based CD burning software Nero Burning ROM for quite some time now. The versions that I've used (v5.x and v6.x) were/are the full retail packages, not the limited, "Express"-only versions that come bundled free with numerous brands of CD writers. Nero has performed nicely over the years for me, with my only real complaint being the lack of a decent (or even a half-decent) manual. Their online FAQ's and forums alleviate this problem somewhat, but personally I'd still prefer a comprehensive manual, even if it were a PDF file on the program CD.

Like most people, I use the GUI version of the program. Wait, does that mean there is a non-GUI version of Nero? Indeed there is and I found out about it quite by accident (no thanks to their lousy manuals). At work, we back up our file servers using Windows 2000's NTBACKUP utility. This program is scheduled to run daily during the wee hours of the morning. Most system administrators (including us) run NTBACKUP as part of a batch file that probably does other things as well. After the backup file has been created, we then manually burn it to a DVD-R using Nero. This is done 2-3 times a week.

One day, I made a casual remark to my co-worker Petch that wouldn't be it great if we could have our daily batch file burn the DVD-R for us too, so that we wouldn't have to wait 1/2 hour for this to be completed? Immediately, a light bulb switched on in my head and I surmised that a command line version of Nero MUST exist! And indeed it did, as a quick Google search confirmed. Meet Nerocmd.exe, the command line version of Nero. The full Nero v5.5 and v6.0 packages certainly have this, but I'm not sure if the limited/bundled versions does as well.

As is par for the course, written documentation for Nerocmd is non-existent. The only thing that was available to help me get started were a dozen pages of help screens when you ran the program without any parameters. Through trial and error, I got it to run properly for both CD-R's and DVD-R's. For what it's worth, this is what the command looks like in our batch file:

    nerocmd --write --real --drivename G --iso BakDCYK --dvd --disable_eject --enable_abort --no_user_interaction d:\Backup.bkf
This tells Nerocmd to perform a REAL burn (as opposed to a simulated one), that the DVD-writer is on drive G:, that the media format is ISO9660, to use a volume name of "BakDCYK", not to eject the DVD tray when it's finished, to allow the program to be manually aborted if necessary, not to wait for any responses from the user (i.e. to automatically assume the defaults unless instructed otherwise), and to burn the file named D:\Backup.bkf. Remove the --dvd parameter and this command will write to a CD-R instead of a DVD-R. Change/add a few parameters and this will work with CD-RW's and DVD-RW's also. Add a parameter file and you can backup a disparate collection of files, rather than just one or a wildcard of files.

Okay, I admit that this ain't pretty, but it does make my life as a sysadmin a bit easier. And assuming that you periodically back up your data onto CD's or DVD's, you too can create a similar batch file that can be scheduled to run or manually run with a single click of a shortcut.

07 October 2004

Random Ramblings: NOD32

Like most cautious Windows users, I have anti-virus protection installed on my computers. Over the years, I've bounced back and forth between McAfee's VirusScan (VS) and Symantec's Norton Anti-Virus (NAV), the de rigeur choices of most Windows users. However, I've also had the occasion to try less well known programs such as Grisoft's AVG, and can even remember using Frisk's F-Prot back in the good DOS days.

Earlier this year, upon hearing news that NOD32 had arrived in Thailand, and being annoyed by almost daily multi-megabyte downloads of VS/NAV virus definitions, I decided to give NOD32 a good going over. Getting NOD32 is pretty easy - aside from a 30-day trial download, there was also a home version that was being sold for a time-limited promotion price of 199 Baht at SE-ED bookstores. (P.S. The promotion is over and the current price is now a still affordable 249 Baht. Also, the aforementioned prices are for one year of updates only.)

Bottom line: I'm sold. The program elicits a much smaller performance hit when compared to VS or NAV and updates are performed seamlessly (due perhaps to my broadband use). How good are its virus seeking and virus cleaning abilities compared to the big TWO? Well, there are reviews and there are reviews, just as there are lies, damn lies, and benchmarks. In my humble opinion, the differences aren't that significant so long as the company provides AND you get timely updates. As a default, NOD32 checks for updates hourly.

Another thing I like about NOD32 is that they have a wide range of higher level products. The next step up from the home version is an SMB (i.e. "small and medium business") version that includes the ability to set up a "mirror" server. On a local area network, only this mirror server would connect to the internet to obtain program and definition updates; all local NOD32 clients (assuming they're configured to do so), would get their updates from this mirror server at LAN speeds, thus saving time and oodles of bandwidth. This is how we have things set up at work and it's worked flawlessly so far.

The NOD32 folks also have a remote administration module that allows a network administrator to control all facets of all NOD32 installations from a central point. I was impressed by the power of this product and it could save a lot of legwork in large deployments. Finally, for Linux users, there are versions of NOD32 for Linux file and mail servers. I've had my eye on the former for a while now, but haven't actually tried it yet.

Perhaps what impressed me the most was NOD32's educational pricing which was VERY sweet indeed. For more information, contact/check out the local reps, ActiveMedia Thailand, at https://www.activemedia.co.th and/or the NOD Thailand website at https://www.nod32th.com.

10 June 2001

Random Ramblings: Defeating SDMI, Gnutella

The latest issue of "Wired Magazine" (https://www.wired.com) includes a story on how a group of Princeton University researchers, as part of the SDMI (i.e. "Secure Digital Music Initiative") Challenge, defeated several watermark schemes intended to copy-protect music files. Further details can be found at: https://www.cryptome.org/sdmi-attack.

Speaking of music files, with Napster thinning down, the Gnutella network appears to be taking up the slack. Unlike a few months ago, I can find most anything I look for on Gnutella now. If you're curious how this works, two of the more popular Windows Gnutella clients are "BearShare" (https://www.bearshare.com) and "LimeWire" (https://www.limewire.com). For other clients, check out Gnutella's home at: https://www.gnutella.wego.com; or more precisely: https://www.gnutelliums.com.

12 February 2001

Random Ramblings: Anti-Virus Program Updates

An unscientific observation: on the day that the Anna Kournikova virus hit the headlines, I managed to download McAfee's VirusScan update at a speed of 66Kbps. Meanwhile, Norton's Anti-Virus update dribbled in at less than 1/10th that speed (5 Kbps). Interestingly, Network Associates (McAfee's mother company) uses Akamai's (https://www.akamai.com) network enhancing services.

Of course, this has no bearing on which program is BETTER. But for what it's worth, I use NAV. And for what it's further worth, my previously up-to-date NAV didn't catch the virus. Of course, yours truly being a die-hard Steffi Graf fan, deleted the five virus-laden email attachments I received from the head office today with nary an iota of hesitation.

30 January 2001

Article: Thoughts on Backup

I've just uploaded a piece titled "Thoughts on Backup", a fairly lengthy piece on data backup strategies.

10 January 2001

Random Ramblings: Crypto Article in Newsweek

I was browsing the local Barnes & Noble bookstore today when the latest issue of Newsweek Magazine caught my eye. The front cover read "Beating Big Brother" and featured a number of articles relating to cryptography that were excerpted from a new book by Stephen Levy titled "Crypto: When the Code Rebels Beat the Government - Saving Privacy in the Digital Age". Check it out at Amazon.com or your favourite online bookstore.

While the subject matter is definitely interesting to me, I wasn't too enthused about paying US$3.50 for what seemed like an awfully thin issue. Thus, I sat myself down in a comfortable chair and proceeded to skim through it, all the while reminding myself to re-read it on the web. Unfortunately, the web version (at https://www.newsweek.com) doesn't contain everything the printed copy does. Most notably it's missing the section(s) on the RSA guys (Rivest/Shamir/Adelman).

I don't know if this story is available in the Asia/Pacific edition of Newsweek yet, but if you're interested in this sort of thing (it's not all technical - there's a lot of interesting stories of behind-the-scenes government shenanigans for all you conspiratorial types), do read it soon before it gets replaced by next week's news.

16 September 2000

Articles: Backlog of Stuff

Oops. Wobble took another long vacation, but it's back again. A small backlog of articles, letters, etc. that I've written are as below (in chronological order):

01 March 2000

Article: An Ever Changing Password

A new article, "An Ever Changing Password", has been posted. This contains thoughts on how to create a password that changes daily.