Man demands that book about book-burning be banned -- during Banned Books Week

Submitted by jbreland on Fri, 10/06/2006 - 10:34

Via Boing Boing:

"Last week, a 15-year-old girl at Caney Creek High School (near Houston) complained to her father [Alton Verm] about "bad language" in Ray Bradbury's classic SF novel Fahrenheit 451. Dad complained to the district and pushed for the book -- which tells the story of a man in a futuristic, totalitarian society whose job is to burn unapproved literature -- to be removed from the curriculum. As the icing on the cake, his request came during the last week of September, which just happens to be the American Library Association's Banned Books Week."

Best line in the article: "It's just all kinds of filth," said Alton Verm, adding that he had not read 'Fahrenheit 451'.

And as a bonus (also found on Boing Boing), here's some helpful family planning advice.

Google Code Search

Submitted by jbreland on Thu, 10/05/2006 - 14:00

Google recently introduced a new search service specifically for source code. Google Code Search "helps you find function definitions and sample code by giving you one place to search publicly accessible source code hosted on the Internet." I played with it very briefly, and it definitely seems to have potential. A FAQ is also provided to help you get started.

CRN published an article covering Google Code Search. It's worth a quick read if you ever have a need for this sort of thing (which, admittedly, most folks do not).

Full links:
Google Code Search -
CRN article -

Universal Extractor 1.3.1 Released

Submitted by jbreland on Wed, 09/27/2006 - 22:19

I just updated Universal Extractor to version 1.3.1. This is primarily a bugfix release for version 1.3, focusing on improved 7-zip support, improved "default" checks for unknown .exe files, and Windows 9x compatability. I also made a few other small tweaks and fixes. As usual, full details can be found in the ChangeLog.

Version 1.3.1 can be download from the main Universal Extractor home page.

Updated Version of Modify Path Released

Submitted by jbreland on Wed, 09/27/2006 - 22:09

I just updated my Modify Path (ModPath) Inno Setup script. This is a small bugfix release that forces Inno Setup to prompt to restart if ModPath() is applied on a Windows 9x system.

If you're an Inno Setup developer, you may want to take a look. I also have a standalone script written in AutoIt that can do the same thing from the Windows command line for anyone else that may need this functionality. Photo Gallery Working Again

Submitted by jbreland on Mon, 09/25/2006 - 16:36

... mostly. The Photo Gallery has been down for quite some time now, due to an unintended upgrade of the backend software that made it incompatible with my website. It's taken a while, but I finally got the new version up and running, and I've imported all of the existing photos into the new gallery.

The problem, however, is that integration with the rest of the website is still not available. So, if you click on the Photo Gallery link, you'll be taken to a separate, standalone page to view the gallery.

I'm planning a rather thorough overhaul of in the near future, so this lack-of-integration will probably remain until then. Hopefully it won't be too much of an inconvenience.

If you find any problems, please let me know.

Yearly Database Self-Examination

Submitted by jbreland on Fri, 09/22/2006 - 16:49

I just came across a really useful post on security/privacy blog 27B Stroke 6 discussing various resources available to check what data companies may have and sell about you, as well as how to opt out of some such schemes. I recommend checking out the full article, but in the interest of saving time I'm posting the major points below.

  • If you have ever applied for health, life or disability insurance on your own, it's likely the information about your health and lifestyle that you had to provide ended up in a database run by the MIB Group. The easiest way to check your record is by phone at 866.692.6901. The group will then mail you your report if they have one.
  • ChoicePoint, the folks who sold 145,000 data reports to Nigerian identity theft scammers in 2004, sells auto and home-insurance risk scores (among other things) and you can check your file for free once a year via their web page
  • ChexSystems keeps tabs individual's banking habits and sells that data to banks vetting new customers. Give them a call at 800.428.9623. They also run a system that keeps track of people who have reportedly passed a bad check. Track down that report here or make their phone jingle with this number: 800.262.7771.
  • Acxiom, another big data broker, will let you opt-out of their marketing database for free if you call 501-342-2722 and press 5. You can also ask them to send you a form that lets you check the non-marketing information they have on you. They won't let you opt-out of this, and they will charge you $5 for the privilege. Be aware it could take them months to send out the report.
  • Stop some direct mail via the Direct Marketing Association's web page. It's free if you print it out and mail it in to them for hand processing, but costs $5 if you just want to do it online. That's how much they like this opt-out list. DO NOT join the DMA's phone or email opt-out list. That's just begging for spam and telemarketing calls.
  • Stop almost all credit card and life insurance direct mail solicitations (this won't stop ones from your own bank) by calling 1-888-5-OPTOUT.
  • And of course, the ever handy Do Not Call list is here.

Full link:

Microsoft's Masterpiece of FUD

Submitted by jbreland on Tue, 09/19/2006 - 17:22

Microsoft recently commisioned research whore firm IDC to research and produce a report entitled, "The Economic Impact of Microsoft Windows Vista" (link to PDF). The executive summary essentially states that the upcoming release of Windows Vista will provide a huge boon to the European economy, and is a direct response into the Europeans Commission's inquiry into whether Microsoft is playing fair with this new release.

Now, I haven't posted much about either Microsoft or Linux in quite some time (nearly 2 years in fact, which probably isn't all that surprising given that I only posted 4 articles in all of 2005), simply because I'm content to sit and watch from the sidelines at this point. However, the news I read about this report struck me as rather odd. For example:

  • In 2007 this ecosystem should sell over $40 billion in products and services revolving around Windows Vista.
  • Windows-related employment is expected to jump by 100,000 jobs.

There are some other odd conclusions included in the report, but these are the two that are most puzzling to me. For example, the "$40 billion" statement doesn't sound like something they should brag about. To me, this reads as, "Microsoft will drain the European of up to $40 billion in the form of upgrades and license fees. Additional money must be spent replacing hardware that doesn't meet the minimum requirements of Microsoft's next OS, but could continue to function fine with current software or alternative operating systems." The only boon I see is for Microsoft, in the form of transferring an obscenely large amount of money from the European economy into its own coffers.

The second example is equally as puzzling. We're talking about an upgrade, not an entirely new or revolutionary product. IT workers today will continue to provide IT services tomorrow. The only reason I can think of that Windows Vista would provide such a huge increase in IT jobs is that it will take that much more manpower to deploy and support Vista-based systems. Again, this isn't exactly something I would brag about.

The reason I bring this up now is that I recently came across two good articles discussion the issue. The first, in Business Week, gives a broader overview of the issues involved, and is a good read to get caught up on this topic. The second, in Linux Journal takes a more focused approach by specifically discussing the IDC research report, comparing the report's "benefits" to real-world benefits obtainable through Open Source software.

If you're curious about this issue, I encourage reading both articles below:

Liar, Liar, and Pretexting

Submitted by jbreland on Tue, 09/19/2006 - 15:47

SecurityFocus Mark Rasch has written a great article concerning the , including consumer protection laws, deception, fraud, and spyware. From the article:

Not only does the GLBA only cover a narrow scope of records, it also has some exclusions which are, well bizarre. It excludes law enforcement agents acting within the scope of their duties. This suggests that if the cops want your financial records, rather than going down the hall to the prosecutor to get a subpoena (or issuing an administrative subpoena, getting a search warrant, a FISA warrant, a FISA order, a National Security Letter, the consent of the bank, or any of the myriad legal ways to get your information) it would be permissible for the cops to simply call the bank, pretend to be you (or anyone else) and trick the bank into ponying up your records. Pretty cool. And if you challenge the legality of the search as a violation of your privacy, a court might very well conclude that these records about you aren?t your records, but rather records of the financial institution. Therefore, even if the search is unreasonable, you don?t have what the law terms standing to challenge it. Lovely.

Full link: