Category: "Computers and Internet"

Microsoft Self-Serving Security

Even though we're converting to all Apple all the time, we do have some Dell WindowsXP computers that we're still using. On one of these, the hard drive recently died. When I saw that I could get a Maxtor 200GB hard drive for $34.95 after rebate, I decided to replace the old hard drive with the new, and start over with it.

I feel like I'm in that Apple vs. Microsoft advertisement, where the security guy is standing behind the PC guy constantly asking for verification and permission.

The drive install wasn't bad at all. Unhook all the peripherals, pop open the tool-less case, unplug the IDE and power cables, squeeze the plastic rails, pull out the dead drive, unscrew four screws to detach the rails and attach them to the new drive, slide the new drive in, reattach the cables, and close up the patient. The patient, er, computer, recognized the drive with all 200GB right from the BIOS. Success.

I installed WindowsXPsp1 from the original CD, and that also went well, even the anti-piracy activation required by Microsoft - no hassles. Then I started the updates:

  1. Four updates to install more anti-piracy, like Windows Genuine True Checking to Make Really, Really Sure that you Didn't Steal This Copy Advantage
  2. Sixty-two, yep, 62 more updates to get to the point where I can do the big one...
  3. Service Pack 2
  4. Which then did another 27 updates, the last of which was IE7
  5. And IE7 did another two, and after all the restarts required, it was done, and ready for anti-virus software
  6. Our TrendMicro PCillin installed, activated via registration, updated, and after the required reboots, did a full scan - and only found one tracking cookie - I guess the router's firewall is working
  7. Maxtor insists in the manual for the hard drive that after installing the OS updates, you must install MaxBlast to assure that the OS will properly recognize data stored above a 137GB limit, even if BIOS and MyComputer recognize the full drive capacity - I'm not sure what the patch that it installs really did, but it's done too
  8. Now, time to install Microsoft Office... Why? Because we have the license, so why not?

This is where I felt like I was in the commercial. At the end of the Office install, in the last dialog box is a link to get updates. I clicked it. And the cycle began.

  • A pop-up: Did you notice the Information Bar? Hunh, what bar, I guess, click OK
  • The ActiveX verifyer checking to make sure I'm not a pirate fails to install
  • After a couple more cycles of this, I finally see the information bar that's appearing in the browser, buried among everything else, in the same blue as everything else, and click to allow the ActiveX control to install - but it fails again
  • After three more failures, each bringing me to a web page with different advice on how to achieve success, adding the website and clearing https requirements for trusted sites, allows me to install Microsoft's distrust of me as a customer - after of course, twice verifying that it's OK for the microsoft URL I'm on to go to the trusted site that doesn't use any security [how is that deserving of trust?]
  • After the ActiveX install, the updates still wouldn't happen, and again, after each failure, I was brought to a web page with different advice
  • Finally, the advice is that Office hasn't been activated, and to activate the product, I must launch one of its applications - WTF? Why is there a link to click on to go to this cyclic mess if you can't actually do the updates before starting the product?
  • I close IE, start Word, go through the dialogs and verifications to activate Office, and finally, after more ActiveX controls, I can do the two sets of service packs and updates to get to where this machine was before the hard drive failed.

Next will be to install any other programs used on that machine - first and foremost being Firefox and Acrobat. Then, I get to see if the last backups worked, and I can restore the content to the machine. Oh wait, no I can't. I still need to go back to Windows update website and click "Custom" to check for non-priority updates I may need or want, and I should check Dell for drivers and the like. Hmm, and I better check the DirectX version, and, and... /sigh

Maybe I should have just bought that Mac Mini [to keep using the relatively new monitor and other peripherals as opposed to an iMac]. I've gotten really accustomed to downloading and mounting the disk image [dmg], typing in the superuser password, dragging the application icon to the application directory icon, and watching the progress bar go quite quickly through its install, ejecting the dmg, backing it up, and done.

I think I deserve lunch, maybe even a nap.

DSL is Back

The DSL at our home was out for several days. The worst thing about this is that the outage was the result of poor procedures at the "new" AT&T, and has hit several "legacy" accounts with static IP addresses on the Coastside.

As best as the three techs who were here [on separate visits] can figure out, the DSL operations center is performing a migration, moving ports from rbacks in Brass14 to Pleasanton. Unfortunately, they're doing this without regard to the type of accounts on those ports. Moving someone with a static IP address from one network [or subnet] to another is going to break the connection to the Internet, as those poor, forlorn packets of data no longer have a "map" to their gateway to the wild, woolly, web.

What's truly troubling is that there is no guarantee that this won't happen again tomorrow.

Simple Backup Strategy

One of our hosting customers emailed me with a question not related to their account with us, but I was happy to answer anyway.

My wife’s hard drive crashed and after diagnostics, we had our desktop support provider replace it with a new one. We lost all data on the old one. They tried to retrieve but there was nothing there. They sold us a back up drive: Maxtor OneTouch III 300 GB/ Firewire 400 to add to her computer for automatic backups. I thought it was a good idea to buy another one for my desktop. When I got on Amazon and read some of the product reviews I realized that people either said it was very bad or very good. I’m confused. What would you suggest? Any specific product? You know my skill level. I need something that I don’t have to do too much tinkering with or have to periodically remember to turn it on. Anything you could add would be of help.end quotation

We don't test hardware, so we can't comment with any authority. If memory serves however, I believe that the Maxtor One Touch did get a good rating from Consumers' Union [publishers of Consumers' Report]. That being said, any drive can fail at any time, but most consumer drives last at least a year.

A good backup strategy includes a weekly full backup, with daily incremental backups. The Windows Backup software's Wizard can help you to set this up, or you could use any backup software that came with the Maxtor. One failing of the Windows Backup software is that it doesn't "ghost" your drive, so you may still need to reinstall applications to get them working correctly with the Windows' Registry. I'm not familiar with how the Maxtor works, but perhaps you can learn more from its instruction manual, perhaps on a CD?

You should also keep a backup offsite, such as in a bank safety deposit box, or at a server elsewhere via the Internet [there are companies that provide this service]. I found an article about business class services. There are also some startups aimed at the home office/consumer market that are less expensive.

Remote backup services get affordable By Beth Pariseau, News Writer 27 Jun 2005 |

Robert Gerace has a series of blog posts about "survivable systems", the first part of which can be found at Help Your Users Build Survivable Systems — Part 1.

Here's a simple strategy that you might want to consider.

  1. Buy a second drive. If you like the Maxtor, and its' easy to use, buy another one of those. Each drive should have enough capacity to hold the backups for each machine you may want to restore: personal machine(s), business machine(s), older machines that may have stuff you'll "use one day", your children's machines, whatever. There are drives available that plug into your home office network, rather than plug into the computer. I don't know if the Maxtor does this. There are also WiFi routers that have USB or Firewire connections that can act as network file servers, into which you plug the drive. This allows all machines on your home network to access the drive. You can also plug the drive into one machine and "share" it to the network, and then "mount" that shared drive on any other machine from Windows Explorer. If none of these work for you, you'll need to plug and unplug and plug again, the drive into each machine every day. That last one is bound to work though.
  2. Manually do a full backup to each of the drives. Take one to your safety deposit box.
  3. Set up your software to do a full backup weekly, and incremental backups daily to one of the drives.
  4. Weekly or, at most, Monthly, take the drive from home, and exchange it with the drive in the safety deposit box, do a full backup, and continue with your weekly and daily backups on the second drive.
  5. Test the backups and the ability to actually recover the data. Even large companies have discovered that the backup was no good, or didn't actually bring them back to full operation.

You may even want to buy a third backup drive, six months to a year after you bought the first backup drive, just to have handy for when one of your backup drives fail. If you're really paranoid, you can also copy to a "thumb drive" or CD, anything that's immediately important, like a report for a customer, or a school paper [no more "the dog ate my hard drive" excuses].

It may seem a bit extreme, to have so much redundancy, but we did have a case where the hard drive on my laptop died, and when I plugged in the backup drive, it just went chitter, chitter, chunk, clunk. Sad, very, very sad.

With so many things, like pictures and videos and music, as well as business data, being in digital form only today, a good backup strategy makes a lot of sense, and isn't that expensive anymore.

Cisco, Apple Settle iPhone Dispute -

According to the Wall Street Journal, Cisco and Apple have come to an aggreement over the use of the iPhone trademark.

Apple Inc. and Cisco Systems Inc. agreed to resolve a trademark dispute over the term iPhone, which had threatened to put a damper on the introduction of Apple's most eagerly anticipated new electronics products in years.

Under their agreement, Cisco and Apple said both companies are free to use the iPhone trademark on their respective products throughout the world. Cisco will drop a lawsuit it filed in January against Apple in federal court in San Francisco, accusing Apple of infringing a Cisco trademark with a forthcoming cellphone called the iPhone, due out in June.

In a joint statement issued by the companies, Apple and Cisco said they will explore opportunities for making their products work better together "n the areas of security, and consumer and enterprise communications."

The companies said other terms of the settlement are confidential, and declined further comment.end quotation
-- Cisco, Apple Settle iPhone Dispute By NICK WINGFIELD, February 21, 2007 10:01 p.m.

Apple Future is iTunes not Computer

MacWorld SF 2007 is now over, and my take away is that Apple is betting its future on iTunes becoming the center of your entertainment universe.

  1. The Apple iPhone is an iPod with a far better UI and screen than previous generation iPods. Oh, and by the way, it has a GSM phone as well as EDGE and WiFi networks so you can enhance your entertainment experience by communicating with your friends and researching what's entertaining you.
  2. The Apple TV is an iPod that gets your iTunes content to your home theater; especially video to your TV. And that is all it does.
  3. Like Dell before it, Apple has dropped the word "computer" from its corporate identity. Apple, Inc. is now a consumer electronics firm.

What will this mean for MacOSX, and the computers that run it? Well, TiVo's product is software and a web service running on Linux. They've been proving for a decade that there is room for a computer in your home theater system. They haven't provided other computing experiences that might enhance your enjoyment of the show you're watching, as I still need another computer to give me Firefox in a PiP window on my TV.

It took Roxio, in Toast 8 Titanium to bring TiVo to Go to Mac. Apple TV goes the other direction and brings iTunes video to your TV. I can get TiVo to Go on my Palm Lifedrive, and TiVo to Go is available for iPods [though TiVo desktop for Windows or MacOSX and/or Roxio Toast for the Mac is required]. Perhaps one of the blank spaces on the iPhone home screen will be some version of TiVo to Go, but likely you'll just get it through a playlist like any other iPod.

Even with its great new xServe though, it would seem that Apple, Inc. isn't very interested in the business market, except perhaps as servers for video-on-demand, iTunes music stores, and becoming the TelCo backend infrastructure Apple might need to sew this all up very neatly.

The consumer converged entertainment/communication market is Apple's direction, and with its great sense of style and design, innovative interface, and market panache, I think Apple, Inc. will be a booming [pun intended] success in that space.

To bring a point to my thoughts, imagine an Apple home with entertainment, communication and computing converged through various Apple devices: an Apple grid of Mac Minis [maybe a laptop or two, maybe not] and iMacs, Apple TVs, iPods and iPhones; TiVo to Go or similar Apple branded service, and VoIP to supplement your current video and phone carriers. At the center of it all is iTunes - your entertainment source, and maybe, to a lesser extent, some version of .Mac [dot-mac] separately or integrated into iTunes, as the hub for all your other online needs.

This could truly help to bring the converged experience to the non-geek.

Looked at in this light, the iPhone isn't as bad as I originally had thought. It still won't replace my Lifedrive. Where would I read my eBooks? The scenario imagined above doesn't help me live the TeleInterActive Lifestyle. It doesn't help free work from geography, nor integrate access to and management of both business and personal data. It won't let me renew a prescription from anywhere, any time, nor access a productivity dashboard or customer history whenever, wherever. Though it might, to an extent, through Safari. I'm not the target market.

If my analysis is correct, Apple is more completely focused on the consumer than ever, and has completed its withdraw from the business battlefront.

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The TeleInterActive Lifestyle is about the business processes, life choices, management challenges and technical issues facing organizations and individuals as individuals and organizations adopt the Internet of Things, Mixed Reality, wireless networks of all levels, mobile devices, long-distance collaboration, social networks, digital transformation, and adjust to growing urbanization.

Sensor Analytics Ecosystems for the Internet of Things (SAEIoT) brings value from emerging technologies through data management and analytics, advances in data science, as the IoT matures through the 5Cs: Connection, Communication, Contextualization, Collaboration and Cognition. The socialization of machines will allow for Privacy, Transparency, Security and Convenience to be flexibly provided with two-way accountability to build Trust among Humans and Machines.

AsDataArchon, we have evolved our consulting data scientist work from learning how to incorporate sensor analytics into data warehouses, business intelligence and analytics to focusing on IoT data management and forming sensor analytics ecosystems.

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