Sirius Stuff

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Got XP? Download LSP-Fix now. Right now.

January 18, 2005 at 01:01 AM | categories: Home Computers | View Comments

I was really pleased with myself. Not only have I been running AdAware and SpyBot - S&D on a regular basis but now I’d added Microsoft’s real-time anti-spyware to the mix in addition to running Norton. I’m locked down, right? So I downloaded a home page editor that looked good and didn’t pay too much attention to the agreement. Who does?

Then it wanted to update the toolbar it brought along with it. Looked at the agreement. “Oh, dear” as Maxine, my two-year-old would say. Track everything I do in IE and send that off? I don’t think so. Even though I almost never use IE any more. So OK, remove that sucker. Hmmm. Things are acting funny. Must be time for a reboot. Hmmm. This is weird. I can’t get out to the network. Haven’t touched the cable. But XP says we’re operating with reduced or no capacity. That’s OK, I’ll switch cables. After all Max or her younger sister Charlie might have damaged the cable.

Oh, dear. Didn’t do any good.

What was another program that I installed recently? The anti-spyware program from Microsoft. Go into that. Hmmm. It’s pointing the finger at Google Desktop as the thing that damaged the LSP chain. Oh yeah. I removed that because I didn’t think it was very useful.

Credit to the anti-spyware program for identifying the problem. But I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to not have a fix either in the anti-spyware program or in XP to fix the problem. “Oh, dear” doesn’t cover it. I’m not a power user, I’m somebody who tries to stay a bit ahead of the curve so I can help my mom and sisters and other family.

If Microsoft is going to let programs jump up and down with hobnailed boots on essential parts of the operating system, they also need to have a fix. Removing the device and reinstalling it doesn’t work. And in my humble opinion, it should.

Don’t have the modem connected. Hey, I’m on broadband. And if the modem’s not connected, I don’t have to worry about something getting onto my system and dialing Botswana or Kazakhstan. Hmmm. Will the modem work if the winsock is busted? And what’s the password I set up for Mom’s dialup account? Hmmm.

Brought the laptop home. Turn it on. Go in search of LSP. Ah-ha, got a solution. “Repairs Winsock 2 settings, caused by buggy or improperly-removed Internet software, that result in loss of Internet access” OK, that’s what I want. Trudge up to the third floor to get the floppy drive for the laptop, which has the CD-ROM/DVD installed. Copy to floppy. Put in floppy. Run LSP-Fix. Reboot.

Sigh of relief. I can see the internet again.

Today’s lesson? Download LSP-Fix right now. Click on the link and download it. So if something nasty or just badly written snags your LSP chain (whatever the heck it is), you’re back on the net in a few minutes.

Thanks to the folks at CounterExploitation for making it easy to find and download a fix.

Microsoft adds anti-spyware

January 17, 2005 at 01:01 AM | categories: Home Computers | View Comments

Well, Microsoft had decided to do something about the bad publicity that they’re getting over peoples’ computers being hijacked by various things that IE downloads. So they’ve released their own anti-spyware program.

As usual, it’s got a gotcha: it not only requires you to let it look around by running an ActiveX control but you also have to type in your 25 digit validation key. In the picture they show, the sticker is neatly attached to the side of a tower case. In my world, the sticker is attached to the back of my Sony mini-tower. Or on the bottom of my Dell laptop. So I got to practice building up my short-term memory by remembering 5 digits at a time.

I was surprised and impressed that it found a couple of things that AdAware and Spybot-S&D didn’t. I like that it does a check every day. I like that it downloads the updated files automatically, unlike AdAware or Spybot.

I’ll keep running AdAware and SpyBot but I feel much more solid about having something running every day.

One thing that I did find interesting, though, was Microsoft’s insistence on the sticker. Guess I had thought that activation of the OS had made it much more difficult to pirate XP than it is. If it wasn’t easy, they wouldn’t be such sticklers for the sticker ….

Preventing Malware and Spyware

January 16, 2005 at 10:11 PM | categories: Home Computers | View Comments

Two programs that every Windows user needs on their machine:

Lavasoft’s AdAware Free for personal use and I’ve found it a little more updated on bad things people are trying to put on my computer.

Spybot - Search and Destroy Totally free and very good.

I like to run AdAware once every two weeks and Spybot once a month. They take a while to work, since they go through every file on your computer and all the entries in the registry. You can set them to work faster but I feel like thorough is better. Maybe if you ran them every day it’d be good to run them in smart mode.

Interesting Week for a Community-Based Website

January 16, 2005 at 11:33 AM | categories: General | View Comments

The week outside MyPages started with an article in the paper about LiveJournalLiveJournal, based here in Portland, being sold to Six Degrees. Because we consider user involvement so important for MyPages, I’m very interested in hearing what happens with any community-based website. Whether the community is online, as with LiveJournal, or more local like Craigslist.

No outsider is going to know the terms of a deal between two private companies unless something goes very wrong or very right. Either somebody sues or they’re written up in Fortune or Forbes. But it seems like a good time to be running a community site.

So it was surprising to see that LiveJournal was sold to Six Degrees.

At the end of the week, I got IM’d by J that LiveJournal had been down for hours because of a power outage at their colo provider, Internap. The first thought was “wow, good time to sell”. And the second thought was “wow, glad we didn’t colo with Internap”. Which we had thought about.

Ultimately, the feeling was one of “it could have been us” instead of Schadenfreude. Based on what I’ve seen from a glance every six months or so, the folks at LiveJournal seem to have done a lot of things right starting with no money. They came up with smart solutions for difficult problems, like memcached.

Picking the right people to work with is important. Which is a “duh” comment but I certainly wish I knew a magical way to tell that this was going to work or no, it absolutely wasn’t. We’ve had some fits and starts with outside folks on advertising or public relations and programming and web design. We went with hosting rather than putting in our own servers to keep costs down. And having the hosting company short on bandwidth - though it took a while to figure that out - affected the way we felt about the web designers.

In a previous life, I started and ran an internet service provider. One of the reasons I sold was that there were things that I wanted to do, like putting in redundant this or a system to handle a failure of that. I’d been in a few bad situations, where I would have gladly written a big check to get us out of that particular bad situation. But there’s some things that you can’t easily fix. Converting this system into a cluster or buying a hot swap drive works for some things.

There are the situations you know about, vaguely know about and don’t have enough experience to realize that there’s a problem … until it shows up. Then you know about it. Boy, do you know about it. Usually only a few customers are screaming. But all of them are interested in knowing when it’s going to be fixed. And everybody gets pretty tired of saying “we’re working hard on the problem and we’ll have it fixed … soon”.

The people you’d want to hire to prevent those situations won’t work for you long-term or at all because you don’t have enough interesting work for them to do besides fixing that problem. And if you deal with a contractor, well, they may or may not be available when you need them. So the issue becomes dealing with a company. Which means trying to figure out whether they’re going to be around and investing a lot of dollars. Which means that you need to do that very carefully, which means it takes lots and lots of time.

And that’s another thing you don’t have. Watching the pennies means that you don’t have experienced management sitting around to find a business solution (hiring an outside company) to a technical problem. Not being big means you can’t hire some people because you can’t pay them and you can’t hire others because you want them to take webhosting support calls as well as design the ultimate reliable email system.

Once in a while, you get lucky. You get somebody between jobs and his wife is wondering where the mortgage payment is going to come from and you get somebody for a while that you’d never get otherwise. Or you get somebody you’ve brought along internally who keeps improving. But that also assumes a big enough company that you can hire people as tech support and bring the good ones into technical areas.

So there’s a fear issue that got to me after a while. Which is “I know there are icebergs. And I bet there are icebergs I don’ t know about. And some of them could put me out of business. Everything I’ve got is at risk here, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And I’ve got a responsibility to the folks who work here to make sure that doesn’t happen. And to our customers who trusted us. And I would like to keep my house and car, too.”

I’m guessing that Brad Fitzpatrick decided it was time to let someone else worry about that for a while. Just ironic how good his timing was.