Showing posts from February, 2005

The importance of security beyond virus checkers

Was talking to a friend late last week, who thought their PC security was adequate because they had a software firewall and a virus checker with auto-update. Here's a concrete example, a hack involving e-mail which a virus checker won't catch, which shows why that just isn't so any more.
Here's a few recommendations which could ave your bacon:1. AVST Free from Grisoft is adequate: Better you should buy Symantec Anti-Virus or some other good antivirus program.

2. Run a full scan for viruses at least weekly; leave your machine on overnight, and let it scan for you.

3. Get a firewall, one good, two better. A recent study with decent methodology showed a PC connected to a cable modem was, on average, hack within four minutes of installation. Even dial-up users are not immune; it just takes a few minutes longer for your machine to be infected if you don't use a firewall.
Software firewalls which run within your PC, like ZoneAlarm (not the Pro version, just the standard…

WIreless security improvements with better antennas

If a WiFi hacker can't get your signal, he can't hack your system. That's why many power users are adding these kinds of passive reflectors to limit where their WiFi signal goes to within their home or office.

Green Bay Professional Packet Radio. Includes relevant FCC regulations on power and antennas, so you know when you must reduce power to compensate for that very high gain antenna... but you're still ahaead of the game if you do.

Aluminum foil, cut-up can or wire mesh antenna reflectors.,4495753%7Eroot=dslalt%7Emode=flat

I promise to write about something other than SMS soon

But, really, texting is just so darned useful, so here's a follow-on to my earlier article.

With my Palm Tungsten W (gee, two-and-a-half year old tech, how Twen-Cen of me), I can get an immediate automatic confirmation as soon as the recipient opens the message on their mobile. I can't count on Return Receipt working in RFC822-standard e-mail, why is this so reliable?

I can throw a $50 GPRS cellular card in my one-kilo subnotebook PC, running Windows XP, and use it as a phone and for SMS, and Microsoft even gives away an advanced SMS messaging program.

And, Thailand's government is upgrading their cell system to blitz emergency messages out to over 100,000 phones a minute. Traditional pagers can't do that, and radio sure can't be counted on raching that many people now the Emergency Alert System is optional, courtesy your corporate-friendly up-for-sale FCC.

Welcome to the 21st Century

PizzaHut order-by-wire within EverQuest II, for gamers too hyperfocused to pick up the phone and dial.

Portland ground zero of computer-simulated smallpox outbreak: Why we just might find SMS alerting useful

A discussion over in rec.arts.sf.fandom on of the possibilities of pandemics of H5N1 influenza, kinda makes yesterday's post on mass alerts via cellphone SMS texting relevant. It inspired me to put together this story, which I stumbled across at Christopher Franconis' (aka BiX) most excellent blog COMMUNIQUE .

Start with this illustration from a fascinating Scientific American article in which a very rich computer simulation, one far more detailed than previous state of the art in epidemiological modelling, estimates the possible consequences of a smallpox outbreak in Portland, OR. Yes, right here in River City.

Got N100? Or a Stryker? Anyway, I digress. Often...

Make sure to look at the difference between quick vaccination and inactivity.

An overview of the study authors' concept (they're from Los Alamos, BTW), and a quote from the February, 2005 Scientific American issue, in which this was detailed
Our group was able to construct this kind of individual-based epidemi…

Replacing pagers with cellphone SMS message alerts

Enrolling for SMS message alerts: One option to automate notification for volunteer emergency workers

(C) John E. Bartley, III 2004-2005

Preface: SMS (Short Message Service) sends a message of up to 160 characters (including the sender's address and subject line if used) over the control channel of digital cellphones. Brevity is the sould of SMS wit, so here's a list of SMS abbreviations.

Analog cellphones, and digital phones on Analog Roaming, cannot receive these messages, and others require users to log in to a WAP or HTML based site to receive them.

Before subscribing, please check with your cellphone company. Some companies (SprintPCS, for one) charge to receive messages (a dime a message) on some plans, so don't sign up unless you know it won't cost you dearly.


1. Go to the TxtMob.Com Login Page and enter a username (perhaps your callsign?) in all uppercase, please, then click on [GO]

New Member Login Screen 

2. The Edit screen appears. Enter a passwor…

Time accuracy without the Internet

A discussion over at Chaos Manor led me to recall the utter provincalism of folks in the US, which is puzzling, considing most of y'all's only been here for a couple of hundred years, due to unfortunate lapses in Homeland Security:

"Geoff" wrote:
>Motorola /Nextel makes at least one series of cellphones (i710, i730,
i733) which contain a GPS chipset.

However, these won't work without the NEXTEL iDEN cellular network... and, iDEN is not deployed in Uganda. Global Systeme Mobilé phones which work on 900 or 1800 MHz might, if they are available, can provide a time check, but like most other cellphones, they are small and easily stolen, plus require a service agreement for each phone (spendy).

Instead, WWV and its sister station WWVH & WWVB can be tuned with inexpensive shortwave radios. However, the 5.000 MHz frequency commonly used is shared with other stations, including ZUO on Cape Town, RSA. There are non-US alternatives which might reach Uganda better, espe…

An Important Omission from The Top 100 Gadgets of All Time

To: Mobile PC Magazine

Dear Sirs and Ms:

After reviewing your feature The Top 100 Gadgets of All Time, I must admit the Ronco Inside-the-Shell Egg Scrambler (#84) may be very useful to someone, but the genius of John Moses Browning is sadly neglected in your panoply of gadgetry.

The M1911 semi-automatic pistol has saved more lives than all other devices on your list, combined. It works when wet, when dirty, when muddy or sandy, below freezing, as hot as humans can stand, and has for the past 94 years. Its current standard incarnation, the M1911A1, Mark IV, Series 70, and dozens of its offspring from manufacturers and designers all over the planet are the best for practical pistol competition, as no other design works as well in comabt or at PPC.

Its flexibility is also well recognized; with a .22 adapter, it's been used to train millions of American servicement and servicewomen in pistolcraft. It's also elegant, certainly a unstated qualification, as it gets a very big job don…

WiFi Finder Review and Handtops in general

Years ago in days of old when magic filled the air, this was 'portable computing'. Yeah, only 28 pounds. That's why my right arm's 2" longer than my left, from schlepping around with sych.

Nowadays, instead of a 1 MHz CPU w/ 64 KB of RAM and a 10MB hard drive, you can drop into your pocket a 1GHz CPU with 256MB and a 20GB hard drive. is a handy place to visit if you need Windows XP in the field, a laptop's too big, and a PDA won't do the job.

There's even a nice review of WiFi finders; not computers, these only look for Hotspots to tell you when it's worth the time to haul out your WiFi machine. Tubular.

Hacking into cars via wireless

The excellent RISKS DIGEST has a better analysis (with some gentle debunking) of car firmware hackability than I've seen elsewhere, including this lagniappe:There is a wonderful cartoon from the German computer magazine *c't* pinned to my group's noticeboard. A passenger is sitting in an airliner using his laptop, and on the screen appears:

Bluetooth: new device found: Airbus A310

Talk to the hand. No, really, this is a GOOD thing.

Here an inventive lad creates a Glove Phone (well, really a Bluetooth glove for Bluetooth phones). Handy (pun intended) in January, eh?

"30% of warranty problems on cars software/firmware errors?

Bad firmware the cause of "30% of warranty problems on cars? By Jove, this bears further study!

Taking Control of your TV

Here's a blog which remoptes of improvements for TiVo PVRs. The PVR has made TV watchable for me; no more heaps of tapes, no more waiting for tapes to reqind, no more labelling and re-labelling, and no more losing programs because the tape ran out. A recent enforced hospital stay found me mentally reaching, over and over again, for the "30 second fast-forward" button on my DISHplayer. If you don't have one, get one.


This automated surveillance system surely could be useful at the North Clackamas Acquatic Center pool... and I wonder if it would work at outdoor riverine trouble spots?