Windows IE buggy hell

It’s unfortunate to hear Internet Explorer 6 for windows may be the last version to be released as a standalone application. I don’t use the browser much anymore, and it does have several long-standing CSS bugs I wish could be fixed, but the biggest problem with the browser is the lack of security.

When the DOJ went after microsoft for bundling the browser so close to the operating system, I never really considered the potential pitfalls of such an arrangement. That is, until I used my dad’s computer the other day.

It’s ridiculously easy to install software through IE on windows and that’s great for necessary stuff like quicktime and flash players, but it has been exploited to the fullest by unscrupulous developers. Web sites can cloak some pretty hideous installers with innocuous popups that ask you if you want to speed up your connection or some such nonsense. Sometimes they go for the double negatives, so you can’t tell what option needs to be checked to prevent something from being added to your system.

My dad is retired and disabled now and is computer savvy enough to read email and search the web, but I have to help him with installing some apps and working with the filesystem. When I fired up his copy of IE, it went to a get-rich-quick site, launched a sidebar search engine that I’ve never heard of, and then a barrage of popups and popunders began that slowed the machine to a crawl. After about two minutes, the computer became stable again and I proceeded to close all the advertising windows, but through the use of various exploits, phantom popunders continued as I used it. Toolbars were featured in the app that couldn’t be removed. A couple strange things were running the taskbar, one in a character set not used by his OS, that monitored everything he was looking at.

I ran ad-aware and found a couple processes running and untold numbers of registry keys and cookies used by advertisers. I uninstalled everything I could, but there were still spyware remnants everywhere. Just opening a file explorer window caused the machine to dialup and send data to god-knows-who.

I installed mozilla on the machine and showed my dad how to use it, but I never realized just how much normal people get taken advantage of as they wander the depths of the hinternet, thanks to slimy spyware and advertising companies.

There exist businesses with business models that rely on the lax default security of popular applications combined with the technical naivete of typical users. While I wish those companies much ill will, to hear one of the most popular internet applications will no longer be updated in major ways… that is unfortunate news for millions of people trapped by the software.

IM idea

I change my AIM icon fairly regularly, since I discovered iChat’s wonderful applet for sizing/cropping buddy icons. After I rotated through all my personal photos I decided to check the web for some new ones.

I searched Google Images for my last name and picked out the best photo I could find, regardless of whether or not it was me. Since then, everyone has been asking me who my buddy icon was (some guy named Dan Haughey’s 1982 picture — how could you not use it with a moustache like that?), and after explaining it so many times I figured I might as well post about it here. So go forth chatters, and find the gems within your surname.

update: holy crap, I found the same guy’s current page (and photo)

The South shall buy again

While stopping off at a tourist trap during a drive home, I noticed a Civil War reenactment was taking place nearby. Apparently it was over earlier in the day because they were populating the diner where I got a bite to eat.

I find any sort of past reenactment amusing but what is really amusing is seeing these fake former war heroes mixing it up with regular folk. You haven’t lived until you’ve witnessed Sherman’s march to the cash register. Later in the nearby tourist trinket stand, I was going to buy some candy but the line of confederates was too long. On the way out, I was stuck behind a guy pulling a howitzer on a trailer that was covered in confederate flag stickers.

Speaking of the gray, what kind of inferiority complex or low self-esteem must you have to play “the south” in a reenactment? Yeah, yeah, yeah, you could believe all you want in states’ rights, independence to continue slavery, and “the war of northern aggression”, but at the end of your fake war day you’re going to lose. You know the result of almost any reenactment is going to end up with you losing. You already know you lost the whole thing. It’s not like they play reenactment as do-overs, they follow the battles as they happened and the south lost more of them. It’d be like having a WWII reenactment and playing a german. Who in their right mind would want to take that side?

Holy cow, they actually have WWII reenactment societies. I bet they don’t get a lot of people volunteering as loser nazis though.

Best hour of daily TV today

This article on cartoon shows beating late night TV talkshows for the 18-24 demo doesn’t surprise me at all. Among my friends, it seems like everyone passed along the secret of Adult Swim on the cartoon network to each other. Ever since I found out the family guy and futurama are on every night, I’ve been watching them religiously. Perhaps they’ll spark new development deals for both shows, so we can see new episodes.

A layman’s guide to the history of the world

I’ve spent the past few days devouring Bill Bryson’s latest work: A Short History of Nearly Everything. It’s an incredible read and reinforces how amazing the history of the earth really is. Bill’s wit and comedic timing that has made all his previous travel books instant classics is absent, but it has been replaced with an enthusiastic and somber tone that is just as interesting to read. I’ve enjoyed all his previous books, but I like this one just as much, even though it’s a bit of a departure.

Bryson took three years to research the book by conducting interviews and reading lots of history and it comes through in the text. You almost feel like you were in the room with Bill, following prominent scientists around, asking newbie questions. Bryson comes off as genuinely enthralled by the subjects at hand and you learn new things along with him. The narrative reminds me a great deal of James Burke’s books and Connections TV series. Bryson not only tells the tales of how things came to be, but he’s constantly weaving a link between all the various stories and pulling similar themes out.

It’s a fantastic book and reminds me why I was so enamored by science in school. It also drives the point home many times that we are very, very lucky to be standing here, doing what we do everyday. The chances that the universe came together to enable it are insanely slim for all sorts of reasons as you will quickly find out.

So long, cousin Emily

I haven’t talked to Emily in probably 3-4 years. That was the first thought going through my mind when my mom called to ask me “Remember your cousin Emily?” There was an ominous tone of the past tense used after that and I knew something terrible had just happened. I don’t get out to Arizona very often so I’ve lost contact with much of my family there. It didn’t really hit me until now, seeing this article about her, but I miss her.

r.i.p. Emily

People who get it

I love how cafes have been adopting wireless nationwide here, but I’ve been dismayed at the number of them that require paying several dollars for just a few hours of use. More often than not, even when I’m willing to pay I’ve had problems signing on at starbucks in strange towns.

Now that prices have fallen on hardware, a cafe owner only needs a $40-50/mo DSL line and a $80 wireless access point to offer wireless to customers. That’s essentailly $2-3 a day of cost for the owner, which one extra grande latte would cover, and I’m glad many small cafe owners have figured this out. Customers will flock to places that offer it for free and buy more coffee.

Today I was at a cafe in rural Oregon that advertised wireless, but I assumed I’d have to sign up with Verizon or t-mobile. After popping open my laptop I found out it just worked. I checked email and my sites for the first time in a couple days and later on I met some friends for coffee. In total, I spent about $15 at the cafe, mostly because they offered free unlimited wireless. Thanks for getting it, Corner Coffee Roasters.

The older I get, the more Andy Rooney I become

I grabbed some fast food tonight from a drive-thru, and I couldn’t help but notice some serious problems with the name “Sprite” for the soft drink. The “audio interface” to the name sucks. Nearly every time I order it from a drive-thru, this happens:

me: …and a large Sprite
them: …and one large Fry
me: no, that last item is a Sprite
them: Frys?
me: Sprite
them: large fry?
me: large Sprite
them: Sprite?
me: yeah

I’m sure they test marketed the name to death back in 1961 before Sprite was introduced and it certainly sounds like an optimistic, pick-me-up word. They probably didn’t think ahead to how it would be used in other media, but I have a feeling today’s beverages are tested for how the names sound as well as how the name appears in print along with the general meaning of the name and any associated logos.

Fresca, Citra, and Sierra Mist don’t sound like anything they might share a menu with, and even with the scratchiest speakers, weakest microphones, and loudest engines, I’ve never had anyone at Taco Bell confuse my Sierra Mist with a burrito.

Another bump in profits?

I wonder if the music industry’s embrace of the Apple Music store was due to them realizing MP3s could be another lucrative (to them) format shift for customers. Music fans have gone from LPs to 8-tracks to cassettes to CDs, and now to MP3. Electronically-distributed music is semi-permanent at best (what do you do when a hard drive fails? Will you be able to play the tracks three years from now?) and there is plenty of past precedence to show how much the movie and music industry love selling easily destructible formats to consumers, who often have to re-purchase the music later on.