Book Reviews

[Day Permalink] Friday, November 22, 2002

[Item Permalink] The [SpamAssassian] arms race has officially begun -- Comment()
iRights writes that the arms race cycle applies to the methods for blocking spam:
  1. A new technique is developed.
  2. Early adopters use it, and acheive amazing fantastic spam reduction rates.
  3. It starts to increase in popularity.
  4. The critical turning point is when a major ISP uses it as part of its spam filters, keeping the spam away from the few people who would actually respond to it.
  5. The spammers counter-attack and get around the filter, and rapidly spread how to do this amongst themselves.
  6. The resulting endless arms race, where taken over time only a fraction of the spam is blocked, finally ends when the spam fighters give up on the technique and go to a new one.
Every technique up to this point has followed this Arms Race pattern. Looks like SpamAssassian is now moving from four to five.

In light of this further analysis, I'll refine my challenge. Three months after a major ISP affecting hundreds of thousands (or more) of mailboxes starts using Bayesian filtering server-side, I predict that the filters will be largely useless. Takers?

What about more specialized segments of users? For example, the Mac users constitute only about 3-5 percent of all computer users (according to market statistics). Even if all Mac users had 100% effective spam filtering, I think there would be little incentive for the spammers to refine their methods for this segment. Is there any point in trying developing a spamming method which would target a small minority of computer users? Thus there is hope, at least for those who are not using the most common software platforms.

[Item Permalink]  -- Comment()
A Kinder, Gentler Web: "Microsoft announced a really nasty bug in their Data Access Components (MDAC) yesterday. Microsoft Security Bulletin MS02-065 has the details. I'm a sysadmin, I'm going to have to do something about this and I'm going to have to do it tonight. I work for a small company, not only do a lot of our applications use MDAC, I don't have enough budget room to build a testing environment for our application servers. I figure I'll do the patch and test starting at 1:00 AM, should be done by 4:00 AM. Our Ontario warehouse starts at about 6:00 AM my time so I'll be able to bring a pillow and grab a couple hours snooze under the rack or something. I can't help asking myself, why are you doing this?" []

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Justin Hall: From Weblog to Moblog: "Weblogs evolved as eager Web writers merged personal journals with amateur journalism, liberally sprinkled with links to other like-minded sites. So what might happen when these eager webloggers take their mobile devices into the field, and work on some mobile weblogs? We[base ']re likely to see something that doesn[base ']t look like any weblog that yet exists." [Scripting News]

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On the Microsoft FTP server leak. "Microsoft made customer details - along with numerous confidential internal documents - freely available from a deeply insecure FTP server earlier this month. [...] A well as numerous PowerPoint slides, such as Linux Vs Windows comparisons and .NET strategy papers, Microsoft "published" files an estimated 11 million customer email addresses and seven million snail mail address on the server." [The Register]

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Macworld Review: Battle of the Browsers: "But what may turn out to be the biggest surprise is how and the promising Gecko rendering engine have risen from the ashes of Netscape Communications to mount a credible challenge to IE's dominance. Although Mozilla is still too similar to its Netscape cousin in performance, Navigator's speed and rendering fidelity make it the OS X browser to watch." [MacCentral]

[Item Permalink]  -- Comment()
Earthweb writes about the use weblog software by IT managers: "For one, it's an excellent way to allow anyone to publish content on an Intranet Web server quickly. Most weblog software design acknowledges that not everyone is conversant in HTML, so it's usually possible to simply type the content without worrying about tags. The content is almost instantly available via a Web browser, which is another score for simplicity where readers are concerned. Informal documentation, announcements, link-sharing, and limited dialog about any of those are prime territory for weblog software. Even if your users don't need the tools weblogging software provides, you can use it to keep them up to date on technical issues in a way I wish I'd had when I was writing static update pages and tossing them up on the local servers. They'll even be able to talk back." [Scripting News]

[Item Permalink] Replacing a desktop computer with a portable -- Comment()
At home I have replaced a desktop machine with a portable. A year ago I decided to try the iBook instead of a desktop system, although I had a lot of reservations. Would the screen be big enough, and what about speed, or ergonomics?

I bought the 600 MHz model with 384 MB of memory and a 30 GB hard disk. This machine has been a fine match for my home needs. I can store it up on the bookshelf, so that our small childen don't reach it. It doesn't need room on the desk, so we can have flowers there. And writing ergonomics is good. In fact, I started to bring the iBook to work and used it instead of my desktop machine.

For a couple of months I even played games on the iBook. I had an overdose of computer games some years ago, and couldn't touch them for years. But the iBook made me addicted to gaming for a while.

The suprising thing is that the iBook has been getting faster during the one year of use. This is mainly due to the optimizations in new Mac OS X versions, but also improved applications (and new applications, for example new web browsers like Chimera). And I have been getting more and more skillful in using Mac OS X.

However, the iBook lacks the capacity to run dual displays, and it is not good with video projectors. Based on my five-day test experiences, the new PowerBook G4 is what I'm looking for in a portable which can replace a desktop machine.

The PowerBook G4 can work with the lid closed attached to an external display. First you have to attach an external keyboard and mouse to the USB ports. Then you close the lid to make the system go to sleep. After this, you attach the external monitor to the PowerBook. (The system has to be connected to the power adapter.) Then just press a key on the external keyboard, and the system wakes up. The LCD screen of the portable will be switched off, so you can keep the lid closed. All the video memory is available for running the external display, up to 2048x1536 resolution with millions of colors.

[Item Permalink] Keeping Radio UserLand reponding on Mac OS X 10.2.2 -- Comment()
I installed the KWSU tool for Radio on Mac OS X 10.2.2. Now the Radio desktop web server keeps on responding, and I don't need to restart it every few minutes.

How I did this? I replaced the previous version of the KWSU tool in the Tools folder of Radio. I restarted Radio, and now KWSU works fine. I changed the interval to 15 seconds, but perhaps the default 30 seconds would be enough.

Thanks to Andy Frangen for making the KWSU tool and for helping me out. Now using Radio is not so painful.

[Item Permalink]  -- Comment()
MS Patches Windows Flaw, But IE Hole Still Gapes: "Acknowledging yet another major security flaw in its flagship product, Microsoft has issued a patch for a critical vulnerability in most older versions of Windows. The company also released a patch for several IE flaws -- but a vulnerability that allows hackers to erase a computer's hard drive through a Web page has not yet been addressed." [osOpinion]

[Item Permalink]  -- Comment()
Matt Croydon::postneo writes about Web Services: "Scott Hanselman gave a talk entitled Web Services, Behind the Music last night in Oregon. He points to several things that were mentioned at the DevCon, and he also put together a great list of tools that he used in the presentation. All of the web services heads in the audience should check it out."

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Apple 'It' Girl Breaks Silence: "Ellen Feiss talks to a college newspaper about her surprising fame after being featured in an Apple ad. Among the revelations: she was on drugs, the infamous advert was a lucky accident and Hollywood is keen to make her a star. By Leander Kahney." [Wired News]

[Item Permalink] Digital Typography Using LaTeX -- Comment()
Yesterday I received a review copy of Digital Typography Using LaTeX from Springer (written by Syropoulos, Tsolomitis and Sofroniou, 510 pages, publishing year 2003). This is a nice new book on LaTeX. It will not replace the classic manuals by Lamport or for example Math into LaTeX (by Grätzer). However, Digital Typography Using LaTeX has a really good description of multi-lingual typesetting. And the book also describes the future directions of TeX and LaTeX. It shows examples of using pdfTeX and pdfLaTeX, and other new tools, plus the upcoming XML-transformation tools developed in the Omega and Lambda projects. The future of TeX and LaTeX looks bright indeed.

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Mad scientist Venter seeks to create life: "J. Craig Venter, the gene scientist with a history of pulling off unlikely successes, and Hamilton O. Smith, a Nobel laureate, are behind the plan. Their intent is to create a single-celled, partially man-made organism with the minimum number of genes necessary to sustain life. If the experiment works, the microscopic man-made cell will begin feeding and dividing to create a population of cells unlike any previously known to exist." [Ars Technica]

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Microsoft security flaw opens big hole for hackers, foot: "This one is big enough that it warrants mention: a bug found in an older version of Microsoft's Data Access Component (MDAC) exposes both IIS webservers and Internet Explorer to potentially horrific exploits. [...] The flaw, in a component of Windows that allows Web servers and browsers to communicate with online databases, could be as widespread as the flaws that allowed the Code Red and Nimda worms to spread, said Kurtz. It likely affects the majority of the more than 4.1 million sites hosted on Microsoft's Internet Information Service (IIS) software. In addition, millions of Windows 95, 98, Me and 2000 PCs could also be vulnerable to the software bug." [Ars Technica]

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DNA Study Traces Fido's Family Tree: "The dog has long been considered man's best friends. Now new findings may explain just when humans first domesticated their furry friends. According to reports published today in the journal Science, today's dogs originated from East Asian ..." [Google Technology News]

[Item Permalink]  -- Comment()
Creating a new life form: "Washington: US scientists say they plan to create a new form of life in a laboratory dish to finally illuminate the complex biological system that drives living cells." [Google Technology News]

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IBM leverages SoC tech in supercomputer design_ "In a move that some see as setting a new trend for how the world's fastest supercomputers will be designed, the US Department of Energy has tapped IBM Corp.'s system-on-chip (SoC) technology to build a 65000-processor machine." [Google Technology News]

[Item Permalink] A new channel for thoughts -- Comment()
I have been posting here at Universal Rule a lot of pointers to topics elsewhere, so I decided to make a new channel (or category) for more personal postings. I came up with the title Universally Personal, not terribly original perhaps.