Thin clients not suitable for prosecuting wars?

A recent Wall Street Journal article, The Office PC Slims Down talks about the benefits of thin clients. I'm a fan of thin clients for many business situations (especially for point-of-sale).

The article had this interesting yet ... (odd? scary? pathetic? mind-boggling?) bit of insight into the operation of the US Military Bureaucracy in Washington:

"Getting rid of Office wasn't an option," Mr. Durante notes. "You can't run a war without PowerPoint."

(According to the article, Ryan Duarte is a program manager involved in "switching some 30,000 users in various intelligence services from Windows-based servers to Sun Microsystems thin clients.")

It's good to know that people in the intelligence community would be moving to more secure computing environments ...

... But one has to wonder whether recent controversies might be partially the result of the corrosive dumbing down PowerPoint presentations lead to?

What a relief that our enemies in Iraq, North Korea, Cuba and elsewhere don't have access to Microsoft software... I'll sleep better tonight knowing they are denied such a key military advantage over us.

(Hat tip: The Volokh Conspiracy)

— Michael A. Cleverly

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My first gmail phishing report

I don't expect the slimeball behind gmail-account.com will be operational for very long. But at least as of this morning when I received the phishing attempt for my password (see below), they were still alive, giving me my first opportunity to use Google's "report phising" link.

Somehow I suspect Google won't find the situation very funny, and I imagine they have considerable legal weight they can bring to bear on the perpretrator, along side obvious technical measures.

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from now if you need more than 2 GB of space use this link to login into your

gmail account only for one time then your gmail account will upgrade to 10 GB of space after 24 hours http://gmail-account.com



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service@paypal.com

Update and Verify Your PayPal account

I'm confused... did Google acquire PayPal now?! (eBay too?? ;-)

— Michael A. Cleverly

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Profiting from prolonging the problem?

One of my favorite Demotivator's posters talks about consultants: "If you're not a part of the solution, there's good money to be made in prolonging the problem."

Though not new news (dateline 2002), I happened to stumble across what seems like the poster-child case of this concept being taken to heart this evening...

— Michael A. Cleverly

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Chuck E. Cheese's

We had a birthday party for Jacob at Chuck E. Cheese's, "where a kid can be a kid."

What I found interesting was the physical security they employ at the front door. When you enter (as a group) they stamp your hand with a unique serial number that isn't visible under normal light. As you leave they check (with an ultra-violet light) that the adults hand stamp matches that of the kids.

It was nice to be able to feel free to let the kids run around and play the various games and indoor rides without worrying as much that they might get lost, etc.

— Michael A. Cleverly

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Going to New York in the morning

I'm going to New York for more Vignette training in the morning. This time I arranged to have Shauna come with me (I'm paying for her flight out-of-pocket).

We've been to NYC together once before, but only for a day. Suggestions on what we should do while we're there (in the evenings) would be welcome—leave a comment.

— Michael A. Cleverly

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"Enterprise" Software Development Lessons in Fiddler on the Roof

Last night after the Vignette training concluded Shauna and I took the subway up to Times Square to see Fiddler on the Roof at the Minskoff Theater (Shauna had gone in the afternoon and gotten us 50%-off tickets—six rows back, stage right).

We ate dinner at the Brazil, Brazil churrascaria before the show. (Incidentally, the food was good, but overall the menu and atmosphere are—in my opinion—more authentic/superior at the various churrascarias along the Wasatch Front.)

I've seen first hand that many times "off the shelf" or "in a box" software perceived as being more valuable because of the (sometimes staggering!) prices paid.

With that in mind, the concluding lines of one of the stanzas of "If I Were a Rich Man" struck me as being very insightful when it comes to understanding the "enterprise" software market:

The most important men in town would come to fawn on me!
They would ask me to advise them,
Like a Solomon the Wise.
"If you please, Reb Tevye..."
"Pardon me, Reb Tevye..."
Posing problems that would cross a rabbi's eyes!
And it won't make one bit of difference if I answer right or wrong.
When you're rich, they think you really know!

(Emphasis added, obviously :-).

— Michael A. Cleverly

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Cadê o Pão de Queijo??

Yesterday Shauna called all five of the NYC Brazilian Restaurants she found in the phone book. Unbelievably, not a single one of them serves Pão de Queijo! How pathetic for America's largest city...

We ended up going to Brazil Grill where the food was delicious. Some of the best farofa I've tasted in years. Our waitress, Adriana (who is from Florianópolis) was surprised when we ordered guarana to drink. ("Where did you hear about Guarana?" :-).

— Michael A. Cleverly

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Papal election security

Security expert Bruce Schneier has a detailed analysis of the procedures involved in the papal election process up on his blog. "Hacking the Papal Election" is quite interesting reading.

— Michael A. Cleverly

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"As a matter of law, the house is haunted."

Some friendly advice to Becca & Cade: make sure your clients disclose if they think the home they're selling is haunted...

No, really. While on break at the training class I'm attending this week, I was catching up on the latest over at GrokLaw when the .sig of cranesable caught my eye. It reads:

"As a matter of law, the house is haunted."
NY Supreme Court, Appellate Division
Stambovsky v. Ackley
169 A.D.2d 254, 572 N.Y.2d 672

Searching for the citation on Google turned up two hits with details about this case, both from the same site, with extensive analysis of the facts of the case:

  1. Helen Ackley was owner to a Victorian home in Nyack New York. For many years she publicized the house as being haunted.
  2. She openly conveyed, in describing these specters, that the house was inhabited by at least three ghosts thought to date back to the Revolutionary War. Phenomena included the appearance of a red-cloaked woman often seen demurely descending the staircase, a Revolutionary-era sailor seen with a powdered wig and an elderly gentleman sitting in the living room suspended four feet above the floor.
  3. The Stambovskys bought Helen.s Nyack Victorian house for $650,000 and gave $32,500 as a down payment.
  4. In negotiations, Ackley did not share the key piece of information that the house was haunted to the Stambovsky's before they signed the contract of sale.
  5. Mr. Stambovsky at some point after signing the contract, had had a conversation with a local architect, who, when finding out which home the Stambovskys had just bought, replied, "You bought the haunted house?" This was allegedly the first time that the Stambovskys had heard reference to their new home as being haunted.
  6. The Stambovskys later brought action to rescind the contract, claiming that the house's reputation or condition/state, by it being haunted, made the home not as valuable.

The Stambovskys lost initially, but won on appeal.

So, the moral of the story: if you're selling a haunted-house, disclose it!

— Michael A. Cleverly

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Lua + XML = Customized World of Warcraft

A couple weeks ago I broke down and purchased World of Warcraft. I'm impressed that it was released simultaneously for Windows and for OS X.

The game is fun to play, and at least on the realm I'm on, fairly family friendly. Meghan likes to fish and Caleb enjoys exploring the cities within the game. What's a father to do when his kids ask him to play WoW so they can watch? ...

Very intriguing to me (but as of yet unexplored) is the ability to customize the interface:

The interface of World of Warcraft is built from XML files which describe the look and layout, and lua files which contain scripting functionality. . . . Customizing the interface is a very technical endeavor, and you should not attempt it unless you have a good working knowledge of XML and Lua.

While I don't have any prior experience with Lua I trust it wouldn't be too hard to pick up, having had exposure to as many other languages... I should learn it, since it was created at a Brazilian University.

Half the fun of playing Ancient Anguish a few years ago was developing mudfest, my own customized mud client. I'm already starting to think of UI customizations/features I'd like to have. Yet another language to learn ASAP I guess!

— Michael A. Cleverly

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Economics of "Silver Bullets"

"The Market for Silver Bullets" (written by the author of the Financial Cryptography blog) is very interesting reading.

— Michael A. Cleverly

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Setting the record straight: Barbra wasn't a navy nurse

For the record, just like Becca, I don't think I realized Grandma hadn't really been a navy nurse until sometime after she died (which happened about eight months before I returned from Brazil).

Grandpa did serve in the navy during World War II in the Pacific Theater. He was on a destroyer that was torpedoed by the Japanese; but, it turns out Barbra and Marvin didn't meet at a naval hospital...

Instead, they were setup on a blind date while they were both students at the University of Utah after the war.

— Michael A. Cleverly

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Dipping a toe in the Asterisk/VoIP pool

In addition to splurging on books, I also purchased some hardware to work with Asterisk (an open source Linux-based PBX platform).

Last night Cade (Becca's husband) installed the card in his server, and then Lou guided me through some of the initial installation process (he'd done that himself earlier).

Today I got the system to the point where I can use the Xten-Lite software SIP phone on my PowerBook to dial out on Cade's 2nd analog line, as well as place calls to extensions on both my Asterisk server (running on Cade's server) and to Lou's Asterisk server.

For future reference, here's the steps we used to getting the software compiled and installed:

tar xvfz zaptel-1.0.7.tar.gz
cd zaptel-1.0.7
make
# oops, we need the kernel headers
sudo apt-get install kernel-headers-2.4.18-bf2.4
make
sudo make install
sudo modprobe zaptel
sudo modprobe wcfxs
sudo ztcfg
cd ~/
tar xvfz asterisk-1.0.7.tar.gz
cd asterisk-1.0.7
make
# we'll want music on hold ... at least, the option of it.
sudo apt-get install mpg123
vi cdr/Makefile
# add cdr_pgsql.so to the MODS= line
# :1,$s/ -lz//g
sudo apt-get install postgresql-dev
make
sudo make install
sudo make samples
sudo make progdocs
# oops, we need doxygen
sudo apt-get install doxygen
sudo make progdocs
sudo apt-get install graphviz
sudo make progdocs
sudo asterisk -vvgc
# verified that chan_zap.so was loaded
# verified that there were no errors (only a warning or two)
# Entered "stop now"
# ended with: Asterisk cleanly ending (0).
sudo asterisk -p
sudo vi /etc/zaptel.conf
# added "fxoks=1" prior to the tone zone settings
# added "fxoks=2" prior to the tone zone settings
sudo vi /etc/zapata.conf
# deleted the entire contents
# copied contents of a sample file
# commented out ;group=1
# commented out ;pickupgroup=1-4
# deleted context=bell up through (but not including) context=home

I've come across a lot of useful links in the past 24-hours. I'll gather them all up and post them tomorrow.

— Michael A. Cleverly

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801.317.0261

Continuing my foray into the world of Asterisk and VoIP, I signed up with BroadVoice.com tonight.

They have a great BYOD plan (bring your own device) for as low as $5.95 a month (the plan I opted for). They provide instructions for a variety of devices, including Asterisk!

The BOYD-Lite plan I chose is lite in that I only get 100 minutes of outbound calls. But that's not a big deal considering I'm more interested in receiving calls—I need a sandbox I can use to practice programming telephony applications, etc.

Speaking of practicing, here are a couple of practical "hello world" type applications that I plan on creating first:

  1. Dial a 5-digit zipcode and get the weather and 7-day forecast
  2. Dial a 10-digit ISBN number and get the current prices at various online bookstores (especially useful if you're shopping at Deseret Book and have a cell phone with you)
  3. Driving instructions (from the address of one phone number to another)

If the title of this post didn't give it away, the phone number for these forthcoming applications is going to be (801) 317-0261. Anyone have any other interesting applications? If so, leave a comment...

— Michael A. Cleverly

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Not DeAnn's call center by a long shot

This definitely does not describe the call center my good friend DeAnn manages, though I imagine there are powers that be who might wish she ran hers in a smillar fashion...

— Michael A. Cleverly

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Double standards exposed

Oh, the delicious irony...

— Michael A. Cleverly

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