Friday, October 21, 2005

April 7, 2009

Mark your calenders! A Senate panel has set the date as the end to analog TV broadcasts (CNET Better buy your HD set or et your converter box. The best part of the story: The date was pick to avoid interfering with NFL and NCAA game schedules.

What about baseball? Ha! Nobody cares about baseball on TV.

Top 50 Science Fiction Television Shows of All Time -

The Boston Globe has given us a fun list: Top 50 Science Fiction Television Shows of All Time. All in all, they did OK, though we could easily haggle over the rankings. They had several dogs in the list, and missed a few gems, but isn't that the way it goes.

What would I have included, you ask? How about:
Star Lost, The Invaders, or Brimstone

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

HOWTO - Linux VNCserver

I was playing with the idea a remote desktop on one of my home systems. Under Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4, you can share your desktop, but only if you've launched the GUI. This meant that the system was running X, even when I wasn't logged in: not what I wanted. With Googles help, I found HOWTO - Linux VNCserver, and setup a VNC Server to run in the background. When not logged in, VNC Server take less than 1% of CPU.

I don't think much of the "authentication" process-- more correctly, the lack of good authentication. The server is configured to run as a specific user ID, and all the remote user is doing is connecting to the target users account. (Scary though: Don't run it as root!) For my environment, it should be good enough. The target system in on rack in my basement and I'm connecting via a dedicated ethernet from my another room.

CommonCensus Map Project

An interesting project. The site, CommonCensus Map Project asks a few unintrusive questions and uses the data to create maps of cultural networking. I especialy liked the NFL map, as it showed the Redskin's sphere of influence to extend into South Carolina. What I wonder, is what would it look like if Washington was having a bad season?

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Next, CUA

Catholic University of America on a cloudy day.
Catholic University of America was the next stop. The adjacent basilica is the largest traditional church in the western hemisphere. They have the second largest library in the US. There campus is home to the second tallest building in DC. I was almost surprised when my son raised his hand, as if to ask a question... But he was only fixing his hair. He didn't like CUA-- it smelled funny.


Statue of University of Maryland mascot, Testudo

I'm touring colleges today, not that any of them offer degrees in heavy metal loafing. University of Maryland was the first stop. My son spent more time fixing his wind blown hair than listening to the tour guide. Hum, I wonder what I could spend $15,000 a year on rather than education... I shouldn't complain: next stop costs $33,000 a year!

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Rodin Sculpture Garden- The Thinker

A correction to my earlier post: There is a life size version of The Thinker. It is at Musee de Rodin (Paris, France, near the Eiffel Tower) in The Sculpture Garden.

National Gallery of Art

I took my wife to the National Gallery of Art yesterday. We only spent about three hours, so we only saw about 10% of the West building. Being the cultural Neaderthal that I am, I didn't recognize many of the works. I did immediately recognized one painting as a Rembrandt (Portrait of a Man in a Tall Hat). Initially, I did not know one of the featured artists, Rodin, but when I saw The Thinker, I realized who he was. (A side note: I expected The Thinker to be much larger-- it was only about 2 feet tall.)

One very interesting thing about the way NGA displayed the art may be incorporated into my present home. Generally, when one hangs a picture, they bang a nail in the wall, toss it up there, and hope its level. The NGA had tracks embedded in the walls where they joined the ceiling, and would run cables from the tracks to suspend the art. Thus, no wholes in the walls to repair. Given the fact that the art is moved, this seemed very efficient. As I have only recently moved, none of our art is in place.

In retospect, I think the main thing I took from NGA was the understanding of why some art is worth millions of dollars. I'm not certain that I've ever seen a 300 year old masterpiece before, but there is absolutly no comparison to what is sold commercially. The attention to detail, color, and lighting was incredible.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Blogger Spam

Ha Ha. Blogger got hacked-- sort of.

Somebody setup a spambot to watch for new Blogger posts, and comment on them. The comments tend to say things like: "Great blog. We have alot in common. I bet you'd like my site,, for low cost perscription prices." It's really very cleaver, though annoying. Now, every time I post, I have to go back and delete the comments.

Luckily, there is a way to make it a little more difficult for the spambot. In the Blogger Dashboard, you select the "Settings" tab, and the "Comments" link. Change "Show word verifiction" from the default of No to Yes.

The folks at Blogger are not of the same mind as am I. In my neighborhood, we err on the side of more secure, rather than less secure.

Anti-Virus Software Comparison

Over the years, I've worked with many different anti-virus software products for the Microsoft platform. Most corporate customers used Symantec, but I always felt it placed too much of a drag on the system. Eventually, I decided that McAfee VirusScan was the better product. I purchased Version 6, when loaded Windows XP, and was happy with it for several years.

A few months again, my update subscription ran out, and I was disappointed to find that McAfee would not support Version 6 any longer. Like a good consumer, I dutifully marched to CompUSA, and bought version 9. I was immediately disappointed. To make a long story short, McAfee had chosen to use Active-X as the engine to fetch virus signature updates. This presents two problems:

First, Active-X requires Microsoft Internet Explorer, but my default browser was Firefox. Thus, the update utility would launch the browser to check for updates, but the process failed becuase the browser was not IE. I used tech support chat, but they insisted that I had no choice but to use IE as my default browser.

Second, Active-X is the mechanism that the majority of Spyware uses to get onto a Windows system. Thus, the anti-virus program was opening a vulnerability. McAfee tech support said I shouldn't worry about spyware, as they had a seperate product that I could purchase guard against that threat.

The good news: McAfee offered a money back guarantee. When I called to exercise that option, they escalated my issue to Tier 2 Tech Support. Eventually, they conceded that Version 9 was a product for the mass market, rather than people truly interested in security.

Anti-Virus Software Comparison: McAfee vs Trend Micro

So, what was I to do? I needed an alternative. I chose to try Trend Micro PC-cillin Antivirus 11. One really big issue: Trend Micro was $39 with a $20 rebate, whereas McAfee was $59 with a $20 rebate. Thus, it was 50% cheaper. Of course, if it didn't work, then cheaper was meaningless.

After loading Trend Micro, I was very quickly, very impressed with the product. Not only did it have no problem with Firefox, but it recognized and operated seemlessly with my Mozilla and Thunderbird e-mail programs. McAfee would only support Outlook variants.

Furthermore, Trend Micro's basic package claims protection from Spyware, as well. McAfee required a second product. This now made Trend Micro 68% cheaper. Another neat feature: Last night there was an indictor that a new virus had been discovered, with a warning that I should update. I initiated a manual update, only to find the system had already downloaded the new signature file.

As far as I'm concerned, the Trend Micro is a vastly superior product to the McAfee product.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

GPG and ssh-keygen

I never can remember these commands, mainly because I don't use them that often.

Before using GPG, create the directory:
mkdir ~/.gnupg; chmod 700 $_
Now, encrypt a file:
gpg -c /path/file
Encrypted file is created as /path/file.gpg.
To decrypt to standard output:
gpg -d /path/file.gpg
(You might want to redirect to another file.)

To use SSH without a entering a password, we do a key exchange. First we need a key pair:
ssh-keygen -t dsa
The key is stored as ~/.ssh/
Transport the key to the remote system, then add it to SSH:
cat >> ~/.ssh/authorized-keys
If the permissions are not correct, the login will fail.
chmod 700 ~/.ssh
chmod 600 ~/.ssh/authorized_keys
Make sure to check permissions on both sides!