Category: Personal

Um… personal?

More info on Microsoft’s push to track Windows 7 and 8 users

Surely you’ve already read that Windows 10 includes some pretty disappointing user tracking baked into it.  Microsoft is also pushing this tracking down to its Windows 7 and 8 operating systems.

Aside:  I get the Win 10 thing.  It’s free.  Do what you want with your free operating system.  But quietly inserting anti-privacy shit into operating systems that people have already paid for?  Ludicrous.  Offensive.  Ridiculous.  It’s prompted me to finally get off my ass and move all the machines I can off of Windows and onto Linux, for good.

Anyway, yeah, MS is pushing this stuff into your operating system without really giving you any indication.  The current list of updates that should trouble you are as follows:

You can remove these updates via command line thusly:


wusa /uninstall /KB:2952664 /norestart /quiet
wusa /uninstall /KB:2990214 /norestart /quiet
wusa /uninstall /KB:3021917 /norestart /quiet
wusa /uninstall /KB:3022345 /norestart /quiet
wusa /uninstall /KB:3035583 /norestart /quiet
wusa /uninstall /KB:3044374 /norestart /quiet
wusa /uninstall /KB:3068708 /norestart /quiet
wusa /uninstall /KB:3075249 /norestart /quiet
wusa /uninstall /KB:3080149 /norestart /quiet

In fact, you can save the above to a .bat file and run it.  This takes them off, but unfortunately doesn’t prevent them from presenting themselves for install in the future.  To fix that you’ll have to head to Windows Update, let it scan what you’re missing, and then go through that list hunting for each of these.  When you come across one, right click it and choose to hide it.

This is the list for now… I sincerely doubt this is where it will end, however.  Have you tried Linux lately?

Sickbeard and The Late Show With Stephen Colbert

My Sickbeard doesn’t like it, and doesn’t find it when it’s out there.  Turns out the problem is how it’s being named out there in usenet land, and Sickie can’t figure it out.  It also turns out Sickie has an exceptions database just for handling these sorts of situations.  Problem is, this database doesn’t get updated very often.  Good news is, you can update it yourself!

The database is cache.db, found in the program directory for Sickbeard.  To add to this file you need to use a SQLite shell interface.  You can see basic information on obtaining and using the shell interface on a previous post here.

Once you’re ready to go, fire up your interface from a command line:

SQLite3.exe

Open the database (Pay attention to pathing.  In this example I’m already working from within the directory containing cache.db) :

.open cache.db

And use the following to insert “Stephen Colbert” as a general search term:

INSERT INTO scene_exceptions (exception_id,tvdb_id,show_name,provider) VALUES (9999,289574,'Stephen Colbert','custom_provider');

Breaking down this line a bit: 9999 is the exception ID you’re assigning to this exception.  We’re just looking to get past all the existing exceptions without conflict.  As of this writing my scene_exceptions table has 777 legit autofilled exceptions defined in it.  289574 is the TVDB.com ID for the Late Show,  the next field is a the search term to be used for the show name (Stephen Colbert), and the final field is the provider, which is the tvdb.

Restart Sickbeard.

Ubuntu Linux The cache has no package named “wine1.7-i386”

That’s the error that seemingly randomly popped up on my screen.

The cache has no package named “wine1.7-i386”

I’m using Wine because there are some Windows specific things I need to be able to run.   It seems that the updater may just not like Wine too much, because when I manually ran updates with a simple sudo apt-get update it upgraded without a problem and the error disappeared.

Microsoft slips it to you on Windows 7 and 8

Microsoft is slipping into Windows 7 and 8 the same data mining and privacy violating tracking that has made news for being a part of Windows 10.  I’m in the midst of absorbing it all, but for now further info, including updates to block, can be found here.

Also, instructions on how to opt-out of their CEIP (Customer Experience Improvement Program) which if you’ve installed Office you’ve surely inadvertently joined, can be found here.

This is getting to be a bit much.

CMS dangers: Plugins. This episode – Sweet Captcha

First, an apology for anyone who recently visited this site and found themselves bombarded with pop up ads or alarmist claims that they’d contracted viruses.  I’m incredibly sorry.  A plugin that I use(d), SweetCAPTCHA, is now injecting pop ups in what appears to be an attempt to monetize their plugin.

Now, whether SweetCAPTCHA’s been compromised (I don’t think so) or has turned to nefarious means to try to fill their coffers (ding ding!), the ease at which this happened should set off alarm bells for CMS users everywhere (after all, SweetCAPTCHA’s not WordPress specific).  I’ve been absolutely guilty of thoughtlessly hitting the “upgrade” link on plugins, especially on sites of my own.  I’m a bit more cautious with client sites after having been bit more than once by an upgrade that rendered inoperable an important plugin, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that sometimes I don’t do sufficient research before and adequate QA after some upgrades.   And that leads to a night like tonight, logging into all my personal and client sites in a panic to see who had SweetCAPTCHA installed and activated (thankfully no clients – only this site and one other personal site).

Plugins are third party.  They’re dangerous.  We’re trusting them to do what they say they do and nothing more.  And we placing that trust in them again and again each time we agree to an upgrade.  We need to be careful.

So again, I sincerely apologize.  This site doesn’t get a whole lot of traffic, but the traffic it does get are mostly people looking for help.  Every time I receive an email or comment from someone telling me this little site of mine has helped them it makes me a bit warm inside.  That SweetCAPTCHA hijacked my little warmth generating site to take advantage of its visitors pisses me right the fuck off.

Read more about SweetCAPTCHA’s shitty new business model here and here.

USB Game Controllers and Windows 8

Once upon a time, long ago, I had an Unreal Tournament problem. The problem was that I was playing too much Unreal Tournament. So I gave it up and, since then, haven’t played games much at all.  Recently, however, I found myself pet sitting a puppy that needed to be kept in a confined space, eg: my office, and needed company, eg: me, so I grabbed a game I’d read about: Guacamelee.  And I had some Nintendo style knockoff controllers laying around from having built a Raspberry PI MAME machine for fun.  I installed the game, plugged in the controllers, confirmed Windows saw them, and fired up the game.  It couldn’t see the controller at all.

I did two things to fix this problem.  First, I installed DirectX.  Secondly, I downloaded x360ce, unpacked it into the root directory of the game, renamed the xinput1_3.dll to xinput9_1_0.dll (which is already done for you in the download above), fired up x360ce.exe to confirm it could see the controller, killed it, and fired up the game.  Voila – controller.

TrueCrypt Open Audit

Phase 2 is done.  Read it here.  The findings summary is basically:

During the engagement, CS [Cryptography Services] identified four (4) issues, and none led to a complete bypass of confidentiality in common usage scenarios. The standard workflow of creating a volume and making use of it was reviewed, and no significant flaws were found that would impact it.

The most severe finding relates to the use of the Windows API to generate random numbers for master encryption key material among other things. While CS believes these calls will succeed in all normal scenarios, at least one unusual scenario would cause the calls to fail and rely on poor sources of entropy; it is unclear in what additional situations they may fail.

Additionally, CS identified that volume header decryption relies on improper integrity checks to detect tampering, and that the method of mixing the entropy of keyfiles was not cryptographically sound. Finally, CS identified several included AES implementations that may be vulnerable to cache-timing attacks. The most straightforward way to exploit this would be using native code, potentially delivered through NaCl in Chrome; however, the simplest method of exploitation through that attack vector was recently closed off.

So basically, unless you’re concerned about the Windows API generation of the encryption key, the last version of TC prior to the developer bailout remains an effective encryption solution.  And TCNext is out there, though they’ve got no new version as yet (7.1 is available there).

Auto Repair and The Web

One of my clients (and friends) hit me up the other day, out of the blue, asking about the value of domain names. He’d been contacted by a squatter sitting on a name relevant to his business.  He called and spoke to the squatter and ultimately agreed to purchase the rights to the name.  Immediately after the call Mr. Squatter began snarfing up any and all other domain names similar to the one he’d just sold and started mailing my friend about them.  His emails sounded technical and official:  “I managed to procure XXXXXXX.com domain name and would like to offer it to you for $150.”

I explained to my client friend that “procure” sounds fancy, but all this dude did was snatch up some domains available out there in the wild for between $8 and $15 apiece, which took him all of 3 minutes and anyone can do, and now he’s marking them up 1000%.

Domain squatting like this is a strange business to be in.  Really all a squatter is doing is making a living taking advantage of the ignorance of non-technical people.  I imagine that successful squatters fancy themselves clever.  Beats accepting the truth, which is that they’re sleazy.  I associate squatters with shitty auto mechanics and shitty home contractors.  We all know a story about a mechanic or a contractor that told someone something completely untrue to use their ignorance to try to rip them off.

My own story is this:  as a kid I owned a Datsun 310gx manual (which I dearly wish I still had, but I totaled it).  It was having trouble getting into 2nd gear so I took it to a mechanic who told me that the transmission needed replacing and it was gonna cost me somewhere around $450.  That didn’t sound right based upon my driving experience, and I didn’t have the money regardless, so I took my car back.  A friend recommended a different mechanic, who within 10 minutes diagnosed my problem and said “You need a clutch adjustment.”  Less than a half hour later my car was ready and I think I paid the guy $25 for the fix.

Domain squatters make their money being that first mechanic. And just like that first mechanic does to the second, they make all of us people trying to make an honest living on tech look bad.

Cisco VPN Command Line

I work remote, and use the Cisco VPN client to connect to the network.  There’s a timeout set on our concentrator that gives me the boot every day.  It’s a minor annoyance to be sure, but still.  It’s no fun being deep in thought on a server only to be unceremoniously kicked from the network.

So I’ve been fiddling with the command line interface of the client, to see if I can cobble together a script I can schedule to log me out and back in on my time frame rather than that of the concentrator.  Here’s what I’ve come up with so far.

"%programfiles(x86)%\Cisco Systems\VPN Client\vpnclient.exe" disconnect

@echo y | "%programfiles(x86)%\Cisco Systems\VPN Client\vpnclient.exe" connect %1 user %2 pwd %3 nocertpwd stdin

The first line disconnects the current connection (if already disconnected the script continues gracefully).  The second line needs 3 arguments fed to it in this order: profile, username and password.  the @echo y | exists because the concentrator I connect to has a disclaimer splash that requires a Y response to bypass in order to fully establish the connection.

Thus far my only problem is I’ve not found a way to suppress the client GUI window that appears when the disconnect occurs.

What’s Art?

wander1I made this to submit as a possible logo for an event.  Ultimately I’m pretty meh with how it came out, but making it started me thinking about art.  Thanks to technology my generation in particular has seen quite a change in the creation, and potentially the definition, of art. Bearing that in mind, is this creation of mine art?  Is it even my creation?  The owl began a photo I did not take, as did the moon.  The background originates from an image I did not create.  The text is in a font I did not create.  They’re all found items that I digitally manipulated – some dramatically – to suit my purposes.  So is this art?  Is it just theft?

The music on The Beastie Boys 1989 release Paul’s Boutique, ranked 156 on Rolling Stone magazine’s greatest 500 albums of all time, is comprised almost entirely of samples.  It’s an album that, thanks to changes in laws, would be impossible to make today.  The cost of securing the rights to all the samples would be enormous.  Here’s just a partial list of samples featured on the album.

Is Paul’s Boutique art?  Is it just theft?  And, if Paul’s Boutique isn’t art, then what of Warhol?  Shepard Fairey?  Banksy?  Where is the line drawn?

PS:  Three things.  

1. The word “art” doesn’t mean “good.” There’s bad art. Obviously that’s mostly (entirely?) subjective. So simply not liking something doesn’t make it not-art.

2. Obviously I’m not putting anything referenced above on equal footing. They’re all examples of projects created from existing media or artists known for works created from existing media.

3. It’s my personal opinion that, for the most part, art is the product of exercising creativity. To that end, every time a person picks up a guitar and plays something they came up with, it’s art. Even if they never play it again, and no one ever heard it other than them, for that moment there was art afoot. I believe a carpenter can be an artist. A cook can be an artist. I do not like the line some people try to draw between “art” and “craft.” I understand that crocheting something from a pattern is different from crocheting something of your own inspiration, but too many critics use the former activity to label the medium of crochet not-art. You can make art out of anything, dammit. And art doesn’t have to be paid for or displayed to be art. Art doesn’t have to be shared at all. The pictures my son draws, pulled from his own mind, that he discards once he’s done with them… they’re art. Rare art at that.