Monthly Archives: October 2004

A fresh, new look

No, you haven’t come to the wrong place. This is still “It’s News to Me.” I’ve just decided it was time for a new, cleaner look, and when I saw Steve Sloan’s blog this morning, I really liked the look of it. I was able to locate his template in the list of possibilities at Blogger so I decided to take the plunge and make the switch. The only down side is that it may have killed previous comments to posts, but there weren’t many of those anyway, so I’m willing to live with that side effect.

One of the reasons I like this template better than my former one is that it suits my style of post better. I tend occasionally toward verbal diarrhea so a wider area devoted to the text of my posts means that a long post doesn’t require as much scrolling down. Also I guess I’m just old-fashioned enough to prefer the black text on the white background. The whole thing just looks cleaner to me.

Let me know what you think about the change.

Linux and Mac OS X targeted by malware writers

This article at ars technica, Linux and Mac OS X get some love (?) from malware writers, reports: “Over the past few days, a couple of exploits for Linux and Mac OS X began circulating. Some of you may have seen e-mails purporting to be from the Red Hat Security Team. The e-mail contains a link to and prompts users to download and install a patch for fileutils-1.0.6, stating that a vulnerability could ‘allow a remote attacker to execute arbitrary code with root privileges.’ The ‘patch’ actually contains malicious code that will compromise the system it is run on. “

For a long time, MAC and Linux users have smiled smugly as those who use Windows wrung their hands and whined about viruses and the vulnerabilities of their operating system. Now it appears that even folks on those admittedly more secure systems may not be spared from attack.

The author concludes the article by commenting: “The central lesson is this: no matter which platform you are on, being vigilant about security is the best way to ensure that your machine remains clean of worms, viri, and Trojan horses.”

A voice from the past

What a wonderful surprise! I’ve just gotten off the phone with Brenda Jernigan, with whom I worked at Behaviorial Systems, Inc., from about 1972 until 1978, who was calling to invite me to participate in a surprise event for a friend with whom we both worked. I won’t mention his (or her) name so as not to spoil the surprise in honor of his (or her) retirement. She commented that I was really easy to find by just looking in the phone book — sheesh! such old technology! — and I asked whether she thought that I should have obscured my address more effectively.

At any rate, I gave her my email address and encouraged her to drop me a message letting me know what she was looking for from me for the event. I am really pleased to have the opportunity to reestablish contact with members of a workgroup that was very influential in my life … a long time ago.

Catching up — Again!

Yet again, I find my self having to “catch up” my posting here.

This past week has been full of many things. My work schedule has shifted so that I work from 12:00 PM until 8:30 PM and that change has disrupted my routine. My mornings are filled with my daily rounds on the Internet, reading blogs, news sites, sports updates, and more recently listening to Podcasts. Then I rush to get myself ready to go to work. I usually get home about 9:00 PM, and this past week was filled with watching the Major League Baseball Division Series. Then it’s to bed about midnight and up the next day to repeat the cycle. All of that seemed to leave little time for posting here, despite the fact that much of what I’ve read or seen on the Internet could have been blogged.

I’ve also been carrying on a conversation with my friend, David Steele, about the wisdom and value of doing a corporate blog. Robert Scoble, who works for Microsoft and is a well-known blogger, posted these comments that address why doing a corporate blog is an important way to interact with your customers/constituents. Then Mark Cuban, the somewhat-famous owner of the Dallas Mavericks, posted these ideas on his corporate blog, in which he talks about the importance of presence on the Internet in getting his attention. I passed along both of these links to David.

In one of our email exchanges David said: “So it’s a company diary of sorts? But, open to the public?”

And I responded:

“Yes to both questions.

The more important one, however, is that it IS open to the public. This is in keeping with the belief that a company REALLY wants to have a conversation with its constituency rather than just to talk AT them. In other words, the risk of being real and actually listening to the public is at once its greatest positive asset and also its greatest risk. However, in this age when customers talk to each other in ever greater numbers and more immediately than ever before because of the Internet, where email can be sent to hundreds of friends and web sites spring up like mushrooms overnight, a dissatisfied customer can and WILL use the technology to blister companies who want to hide behind walls of public relations blurbs and ‘official’ corporate statements. That is the whole point of The Cluetrain Manifesto, that ‘markets are conversations’ because everyone in the world is connected with everyone else, and positive word-of-mouth advertising about a company’s openness is more valuable than the security of carefully parsed ‘official’ propaganda.

I suppose a lot depends upon how strongly you believe, as I do, that customers interact with each other about how you treat them. There’s a web site called DSL Reports, where customers of all the ISPs like Comcast and BellSouth regularly describe the nature of their experience with their provider. Neither Comcast nor BellSouth can prevent that from occurring; they can only choose to provide a means by which the customer can speak directly to them so that they can benefit from the feedback and react to it in a way that might win them some credibility and good will for trying.

As you might imagine, I could go on and on, but I won’t. However, you have hit upon the primary value of a corporate blog — making itself available to its customers in an open and straightforward way, so that the words that pour forth from it have some authenticity because they are spoken by an individual in a “real” voice.

I hope that helps to stimulate your thinking. At the very least, it should provide you some material for your next presentation to some group somewhere about how the Utility industry interacts with its public in the 21st century.”

One very valuable resource that I’ve discovered in the last couple of months is a site called IT Conversations, where Doug Kaye hosts a number of audio presentations of discussions and interviews with leaders in the IT industry. One of the weekly presentations at that site is The Gilmor Gang, hosted by Steve Gilmor. The Gilmor Gang presentation on October 22nd was particularly interesting to me because the participants were Dave Winer, Adam Curry, and three members of The Firesign Theater, and the discussion was about Podcasting, its short history, the ideas behind it, and its future possibilities. Of course, I’ve blogged about Podcasting before here and here. If you haven’t yet tapped into sites like IT Conversations or these podcasts, I think you are missing one of the easiest ways to consume information from the Internet, and I’d encourage you to give it a try.

I learned something today

I participate in a mailing list, called TBUDL, which stands for The Bat! User Discussion List, so that I can keep up with developments taking place with my favorite email program, The Bat!. And I’m not just there to learn about what is new; I also find that reading this list is the best way I have found to learn how to use the many powerful features of the program. Occasionally I learn about other things that I didn’t know by reading the messages that are posted there. Today proved to be one of those occasions.

One of the participants had posted a comment in which he said he wished that the latest version of the installation program for The Bat! had a version number on the installation file that he had downloaded, because he couldn’t recall which version he had downloaded. I wrote the list to let him know that when I download something that has a name like, setup.exe, I usually change the file name (but not the extension) to something like setup_Program_XYZ_ver_1-0.exe, so that I can recall what the program is and what version I have downloaded. But I added this paragraph:

“What I’d really like to see though is for the OS (Operating System) to provide some way to enter a narrative description of each DL (download) as metadata so that I could enter a paragraph of information about each thing I download and what motivated me to do so. There are some programs, I know, like Total Commander for example, that provide the option to enter a one-line description, but that’s not quite the same thing. I am not, however, optimistic that the option to enter metadata tags about downloads is on the horizon.”

In short order, I had a reply to my “wish” from a physician and fellow participant named, Allie Martin, that said:

“XP does this for you.

Right click the download and look at the properities. You’ll see a summaries tab. You can type what you wish under Comments.”

Then he added, “What’s even nicer is that you can display these comments in Explorer’s details view. Enable details view and then right click the details view list colum header bar. From the menu, select comments. All you comments are displayed.

I think you can search on this attribute as well.”

Here is a graphic that illustrates what Allie is describing. You can click on the image for a larger view.

The Properties Dialog Box Posted by Hello

Like on many other occasions, participating in this mailing list has taught me something that wasn’t even related to the general purpose of the list. You just never know when you are going to learn something new and useful.

I hope you find this information that serendipity threw into my lap to be as useful as I think it will be for me.

Google’s Desktop Search Tool

Google has released a beta version of their desktop search tool here. The idea is to use the power of Google searches for finding information on your hard disk. As usual when a tool like this comes out, those concerned about the potential abuses of it are many. This thread on the Metafilter web site, presents a number of the arguments, both pro and con, about this tool. It’s probably a good idea to read these comments so that you can make an informed judgment about whether you want to experiment with it or not.

After reviewing them, I have downloaded and installed it, and I am experimenting with using it. My first impressions are that it is very fast in pulling up information on my system. I have chosen not to allow it to send any information back to Google about my search habits, and I have excluded secure web sites from having Google index them. So from my perspective, I’m not really concerned about the information it may have indexed on my computer. In the preferences section, you can also exclude specific web sites where you don’t want it to index the temporary Internet files, so there are safeguards there too, if you want to use them.

The only down side from my point of view is that it only indexes Outlook and Outlook Express emails, so because I use The Bat! as my email program the searches don’t include my emails. For those who do use either of those two email programs, and there are a lot of people in that category, I would suspect that it would prove even more useful for you than it is for me. Also it will index AIM, AOL’s instant messenger application, but it doesn’t apparently index any of the other IM clients. Again, this is unfortunate from my point of view, simply because I don’t use AIM.

Whether this is the right tool or not, the need it is designed to address is very real, so it will be interesting to watch what happens as companies compete to meet this need.