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HTMLfixIT Archive for April, 2005

Friday, April 22nd, 2005 by Franki

Forgent is one company that makes me wonder if my dislike of Microsoft’s business tactics could have been better directed at them. Forgent has been handed around 100 million dollars for the compression patent that they claim is used in the Jpeg image compression standard. Apparently that is not enough as they’ve just added Microsoft to their list of targets. This comes in the same month that they have started targeting DVR companies, no doubt expecting the same hand outs they’ve been getting from the likes of Sony and Adobe. Microsoft has asked that the court declare them non infringing and invalidate the patent in question.

If we needed another reason to swap from JPG format to the open and free PNG format, we now have it. The only upside in this sorry saga is that Forgent went after Microsoft, a company that owns a huge pile of software patents and who has enthusiastically encouraged the official adoption of software patents in the EU. Perhaps this will make them wonder if opening themselves to a whole new era of software patent lawsuits is such a good idea. They are after all, one of the biggest targets with the deepest pockets. They have paid out huge sums of money to settle many such claims in the past couple of years, but if they keep coming at this rate, it will eventually significantly hit Microsoft’s bottom line and that is something that their shareholders won’t be very happy about. Microsoft is still working hard to extract itself from the Eolas browser plug in patent lawsuit. How many more does it need to become embroiled in before it sees how software patents are doing more harm then good?

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. If the giants upon who’s shoulders the current Internet stands had been as patent hungry as the current proprietary software developers are now, we would not have the (mostly) standards compliant cross platform Internet we have now. (for example, consider one Internet for Macintosh users, one Internet for Windows users and one Internet for Unix/Linux/BSD users all incompatible with each other. Much like the Instant Messaging mess we have now.)

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Friday, April 22nd, 2005 by Franki

I’ve long been an advocate of Linux as an Operating system, I’ve been using it for many years now, starting first with Slackware, then moving on to Redhat 4.x – 6.x then onto Mandrake then Debian and finally to CentOS (a free clone of RedHat Enterprise Linux). It’s been a fun journey, but during that time, one thing that has always stopped me from fully adopting Linux on the desktop is that my favourite development tools were not available for Linux. Linux has lots of editors and tools, but editors are like old friends, once you learn the in’s and out’s of one, you don’t really want to change. And my favourite Editor is Textpad. My primary uses for an editor is for HTML/XHTML/CSS/JavaScript, Perl and PHP, and Textpad has served me pretty well on all counts. It’s replacement would have a hard act to follow. I believe I’ve now found one of it’s replacements. It is called Gphpedit and it’s almost exclusively a PHP editor. The best tool for a given task, is one that was designed specifically for that task. That is an age old UNIX adage that hasn’t changed over the years. If you don’t have to cater to 100 different programming languages, you can better handle the one language you are concentrating on. In this area, these two free tools really shine. I’ve been only just started playing with Gphpedit a few hours ago. I must say that I’m very impressed with what I’m seeing though. I’m not going to go into a summary of the benefits of Gphpedit, for that you need simply head to the site listed above yourself. Suffice it to say it does all the things you’d expect of a dedicated Integrated Development Environment.

So now I have one less reasons to boot to Windows in future. Unfortunately I’ll likely always have to have a Windows partition because I have to support it with my clients. In future however I hope to only have to boot to Windows for that purpose, (or to play Half Life2). If you don’t want to swap completely to Linux, but want to benefit from Gphpedit, then you can always dual boot with Windows, and make use of the best tools available from both Operating Systems. After all, it won’t cost you anything and Linux on the desktop has advanced to the point where it is no harder to use then Windows so you really have nothing to lose. If you want to get the easiest to use free Linux distribution, you could do worse then to try Mandrake/Mandriva. (see the link above.)

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Thursday, April 21st, 2005 by Franki

According to CipherTrust, one hundred and fifty seven thousand (157,000) new zombie computers are found every day. A zombie machine is one where the owner is not in control any more and instead a malicious outsider has taken remote control. The reasons are many, but primarily among them is the ability to use your machine to send SPAM (so you get caught and not them.) for attacking other computers, (same reason as SPAM) or to use as a general anonomizer system to make their activities much harder for law enforcement to follow. They can also be used in conjunction with other compromised computers so that the malicious party has thousands of machines at his immediate control. He/she can then take down popular sites and possibly extort money from sites like online casino’s or betting sites.

Did I mention that if you use said compromised machine for online banking, or e-commerce, it is likely that the malicious party also has your credit card details or other information they can use to steal from you or to impersonate you?

How did all those machines become zombies? I hear you ask. Well basically they didn’t keep their systems fully patched (Windows update for Windows machines), they didn’t have up to date anti-virus software, and they didn’t have a firewall of some sort in place. In other words most of them use Windows without understanding (or possibly without caring about) the security repercussions of doing so. I wrote a page to help Windows users take control of their computers and protect themselves, all using freely available software. The site is and if you are not sure you’re protected, you need to go there and spent about 30 minutes making sure you are. (If you have Linux or use an Apple Macintosh computer, you are already an order of magnitude less susceptible, to Viruses and Spyware, Congratulations.)

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Thursday, April 21st, 2005 by Franki

TheInquirer has just released an article comparing the results of a HP 4 dual core AMD Opteron CPU (eight core) server and a 16 way 3 gig 4MB L3 Cache Xeon server from Unisys. The conclusion drawn is that the 4 CPU dual core AMD Opteron is 20% faster then the 16 core Xeon server. They are also much cheaper as the Xeon CPU’s go for nearly 4000 dollars each.

TheInq was also nice enough to direct our attention to an Anantech review which shows the 2.2 gig dual Opteron is 18% faster then the fastest (3.3 gig) quad Xeon solution. The Inq article can be found here.

These are all very preliminary results and the results might vary once the products become more widely available, but the indicators are good that AMD wasn’t exagerating about their dual core performance and that Dell will have to really drop their pants price wise to be able to offer similar price/performance solutions based on Intel CPU’s until 2006 when Intel unveil their dual core server CPU’s as I intimated 4 days ago. The saying that nobody ever got fired for buying Intel may not be true for the next 8 months or so if these results are true indications of the dual core Opterons worth. The fact that the Opterons are lower clocked, use less power and generate less heat probably won’t hurt AMD either. So there you have it, early tests show that AMD has it all over Intel in price, performance and heat/power production. Lets see what Dell has to say after a few months of trying to explain to customers why they should buy a lesser Intel based solution. For myself, I’m planning to find out how well a 64bit Athlon X2 dual core 4600+ handles running a web server. Even people that bluntly refuse to buy AMD should be happy about this because it means Intel is going to really have to drop it’s prices to stay in the game for the rest of the year.
For a second opinion, see tech-report.

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Wednesday, April 20th, 2005 by Franki

Sometimes you are just handed a freebie and it’s all you can do to stop yourself from swooning in delight. This is such a freebie. Microsoft is about to start a big new ad campaign to promote all the wonderful things you can do with the aging Windows XP Operating System. Their ad department apparently don’t agree as they did at least some of the art work using Adobe Photoshop on a Macintosh. To see for yourself, get yourself a copy of Textpad or another text editor that can handle binary (HEX) formats and then download this image from Microsoft’s web site and open it in your editor. If you look down a few lines, you will see this: “Adobe Photoshop CS Macintosh 2005:04:07 11:35:29”. (Be aware that the image is nearly 8MB in size.) Get your copy of the image from their site while you can as it isn’t likely to be around for long now that Microsoft know the secret is out. Apparently all the wonderful things you can do with Windows XP doesn’t include making advertising images for Microsoft, at least for one or more of their artists. For that/those creative soul(s), a “no Microsoft software” solution was the answer going by that text string in the image. This bodes very well for Apple’s upcoming OSX Tiger release and if they are smart, they’ll make good use of it.
Click thumbnail for a bigger version.
Isn’t irony a hoot? (click the image for a closer look)

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Wednesday, April 20th, 2005 by Franki

Recently, I’ve noticed that Anti-virus/spyware/firewall software has been in the headlines more for their flaws then their benefits. Today you can have protective software all over your PC and get compromised anyway. Worse, your security software may have provided the hole that is used to compromise you, or that a bug allowed malicious software to turn off your protection. Some recent examples of flaws in security software: idefense has released an advisory about a McAfee flaw that could be used in conjunction with a web browser flaw (for example) to replace McAfee’s files with malicious versions and potentially fully compromise a machine. Prior to that other examples abound. Symantec had an ActiveX flaw in their online scanner that could allow malicious hackers to use their ActiveX control to install malicious code. Around the same time (mid 2003) Trend Micro had a similar ActiveX problem with their own online scanner. These are by no means the only flaws found and nearly all the top security companies have had such problems. Google reveals much if you just ask it nicely. See here for Trend Micro, here for Symantec and here for McAfee. The question this should have users asking, is “If we can’t trust the people putting the locks on our doors to do a good job, who can we trust?”

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Tuesday, April 19th, 2005 by Franki

Microsoft have just patched a serious hole in Windows explorer that can be used to execute any command based just on a user highlighting a file. Such a command might easily be an FTP command to download a Trojan horse or other nasties. Microsoft were told about the flaw at the start of February, so don’t believe them when they tell you patches come faster when you’re with Microsoft. The flaw advisory can be found at Greymagic.

In other news, Microsoft have finally patched the Media player hole in MP9 and 10 after promising to do so months ago. More evidence that Microsoft is no better, and potentially worse at releasing critical patches then any other OS provider (contrary to their “Get the facts” campaign).

Some more Microsoft related tit-bits.
Yet another variant of the Sober worm (Sober-N) that has been punishing Windows users for ages now has appeared and this one is spreading quickly by spamming copies of itself with English or German messages to any addresses found in a myriad of file types on the infected computer. The Virus industry seems to advance at an astonishing rate as Sophos already has news on a Sober-M variant. If you run Windows of any version, it is critically important that you don’t open attachments you were not expecting, and don’t open any unless you have scanned them with an up to date virus scanner first. It isn’t hard advice, but surprisingly an amazing amount of people don’t do it. Actually that advice should go for all Operating Systems, but it’s an order of magnitude more important for Windows users.

Recently Fred Langa of Langa list fame wrote an article critical of the Firefox web browser. Among other things he claimed that Firefox had had more security flaws then IE in the past months. What he doesn’t look at is how many were exploited, how they were found (often because Mozilla pays people to find them), how quickly they were fixed and most importantly, how serious they were. Tom Raftery has done an excellent article explaining how much more vulnerable people were with IE then Firefox in the past year. (For one thing IE has many more critically serious flaws, most of Firefox’s were fairly trivial and none were exploited.) The Langa list has been very beneficial to millions of computer users over the years and it is a shame to see such a poorly researched article from him. One thing I did find while looking into the issue was this page, which explains in detail how to create your own copy of Windows 2000 completely bereft of Internet Explorer, (along with Outlook Express, Media player and IIS). Proving that Microsoft wasn’t entirely honest when they said IE couldn’t be removed from Windows. Be warned though, that creating the new win2000 CD is not for newbies.

Resolvo Systems has released their “MoveOver” Windows to Linux migration software as Open Source. The software could be very useful for enterprise and government mass Linux migrations like those happening in Munich and various other places around the world. The software collects all your user data from Windows and implements the same settings and appearance in Linux. The new homepage can be found at Sourceforge.

Lastly Techworld has some interesting information on the amount of SPAM we are getting and where it comes from. The answer to the first item is between 68 and 83% of all mail depending on who you ask. The answer to the second item is the US who are apparently responsible for 35.7% of the worlds spam. Head over to our Windows security site for information and free software you can use to combat Virus, Spyware and SPAM threats.

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HTMLfixIT Site Stats.

Browser Statistics
Internet Explorer 85.88%
IE 717.63%
IE 62.3%
IE 50.00%
IE other8.6%
Moz Firefox 3.x3.03%
Moz Firefox 2.x0.18%
Moz Firefox 0.x/1.x26.65%
Netscape 8.x0.00%
NS 6+/Mozilla2.73%
Moz Seamonkey0.00%
Netscape 4.x0.00%
Opera 9.x0.00%
Opera 8.x0.00%
Opera 7.x0.42%
Opera 6.x0.00%
Opera other0.42%
Safari Mac/Intel5.21%
Safari Mac/PPC0.06%
Safari Windows25.2%
Google Chrome1.51%

Resolution Statistics
640 x 4800.25%
800 x 60026.14%
1024 x 76836.55%
1152 x 8640.25%
1280 x 80011.68%
1280 x 8540.00%
1280 x 102417.01%
1400 x 10500.00%
1600 x 12001.02%
1920 x 12007.11%
2560 x 10240.00%

OS Statistics
Windows 741.55%
Windows Vista2.4%
Windows 20033.91%
Windows XP20.86%
Windows 20000.36%
Windows NT40.05%
Windows 98/ME0.05%
Windows 950.00%
Mac OSX8.03%
Mac Classic0.00%

New Windows Virus Alerts
also by sophos.

17 Apr 2011 Troj/Mdrop-DKE
17 Apr 2011 Troj/Sasfis-O
17 Apr 2011 Troj/Keygen-FU
17 Apr 2011 Troj/Zbot-AOY
17 Apr 2011 Troj/Zbot-AOW
17 Apr 2011 W32/Womble-E
17 Apr 2011 Troj/VB-FGD
17 Apr 2011 Troj/FakeAV-DFF
17 Apr 2011 Troj/SWFLdr-W
17 Apr 2011 W32/RorpiaMem-A

For details and removal instructions, click the virus in question.