Friday, June 29, 2007

More spam

Be alert for email claiming to be an e-card or online card.

Three managed email servers that I run just got spiked with hundreds of these in the last hour.

Variants of the subject line include:

You've received a postcard from a family member!
You've received a postcard from a friend!
You've received a postcard from your wife [/husband /spouse]!

And as states in his post about the topic:

This is how "zombie" systems are created. With a solid zombie PC network under their control, professional spammers can send out those millions of canadian drugstore/viagra/penis enlargement e-mails you get daily.

There's always a temptation to open a suspected attachment when you've got good virus scanning software installed. DON'T!!!:

Perhaps the most dangerous part is that, when SANS ran it through 30 different anti-virus programs, only a quarter of them picked up ecard.exe as a suspect download.

The goal of the virus programmer is to come with stuff that commercial virus scanners aren't aware of.

Just. Don't. Open. It.

Phishing / spoofed emails purporting to be from Microsoft

According to several sources around the Internet we've seen a dramatic rise this month in phishing emails claiming to be from The gist of the scam is that a critical update for Outlook, Windows or some other Microsoft application is available and should be installed immediately. Reports state that some of these emails contain an attachment - the supposed fix - while others state that the email contains links to downloadable content.

These links or attachments are not real fixes, but instead are (typically) trojans designed to turn your computer into a botnet slave.

Worse, these spoofed emails often address you by name, which makes them harder to distinguish from the real thing. That also means they may originate from an infected computer of someone you know, and that person has your contact information.

You might have heard that Microsoft never sends out email about current or upcoming critical hotfixes. This is not the case, which unfortunately makes the phishing attempts easier to conduct.

Here are the facts:

1) Microsoft does send out email alerts, but only for those people that opt-in to receive such reports via Security, Technet, MSDN or Partners at Each security email that Microsoft sends is signed with a certificate or PGP key (although it's up to the user to verify the key.)

2) Such emails NEVER contain executable attachments of any kind. Nor do they contain links that directly download installable patches.

3) The emails usually contain links to online reports hosted on about the vulnerability or bug in question.

What you should do:

If you know you've never signed up for such email notifications, delete any such unexpected emails you receive -- don't click attachments or links within them. Even better zap them before opening or reading them.

Whether or not you remember signing up for these email updates from Microsoft you should treat any email with caution. It's my recommendation that you not click links in such emails, but instead visit the official site to see what updates are available. From there you may also visit the reports or knowledge base articles about the updates.

Administrators for multiple systems should already know where to go to read about patch details for various operating systems and application groups.

Links embedded in this entry open in a new window or tab.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Ms. T.

Cats have a language all their own. Ms. T. had several ways of telling us what was on her mind.

The following is a short list that she taught us:

Merroowwww: "It's dinner time, and I'm starving, get busy already!" (Even though there was generally still some food in her bowl from lunch.)

Merl?: "Can I come up onto your lap? I know you're busy with the shiny screen, but I want up."

Mew! with head butting: "I need to be pet, brushed and loved. NOW!"

Silent look with slitted eyes: "I like you. A lot. Keep up the petting." (Note: this works in reverse - most cats respond favorably and will come to you when you slit your eyes at them without blinking.)

Matph!: "There's a spider in the kitchen, come take it away. I"M not touching it."

MerROW?: "Where are you?" (Repeated until we went to her -- or until she found us.)

Chi-i-i-i-rrruppur-r-r-r-r: "Absolutely contented with life, ahh yes, right there below my chin."

M-e-e-a-a-p??: "Can I please have another kitty cookie?" Alternately: "More catnip please?" (Sounds like a broken meow with spaces.)

I met Ms. T. a little over 10 years ago. She came as part of a package deal along with my soul mate. As I understand events, Ms. T showed up on a certain doorstep the day my partner moved into a new apartment. She had been abandoned by the previous occupant. My partner took her to a vet, who informed her that she had a very healthy 1+ year old cat. A few shots and a spaying later she was taken back home and began a journey across 16 years of life with my partner - 10 of which were shared with me.

I got used to having her on my lap while at the computer. She was very polite about it, would keep off the keyboard (mostly) and was content to snuggle into me for hours while I worked.

Last Friday she began having problems walking up and down the stairs. Saturday saw some improvement in mobility but she stopped eating. Sunday evening she started to slide downhill fast. Monday morning at 2:30 she woke us up crying under the bed. She was unable to walk, and could not understand why her back legs would not support her weight. Her body was already cooler than normal. All morning we kept her warm, gave her water via bottle and tried to make her comfortable. We had planned to take her to a Vet later that morning, but she didn't make it that long. I am not sure it would have made any difference anyway.

It feels odd blogging without her on my lap. I never thought it would be this hard to lose her. I've lost several pets over the years, but this seems far harder than those previous losses.

She was special. She was dearly loved as a part of our family.

The last thing she said early Monday morning to us was "MerROW?" She died in my arms shortly after . . .

Monday, June 25, 2007

In memory

. . . of Ms. T. April 15, 1990 to June 25, 2007.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The CPU war just escalated

The press release from NVidia reads NVIDIA® Tesla™ GPU Computing Processor Ushers In the Era of Personal Supercomputing. NVidia (so far) very carefully fails to mention any hint that their new Tesla branded GPU could possibly be a future competitor to AMD, Intel, or IBM's PowerPC CPU lines.

After all, it's a Graphics Processor Unit, right?

I don't think so. I think the CPU market just entered a revolutionary battle unlike any we have seen in the past. If the claims are true (and they seem to be verified by several leading research centers, see links from the press release) then this is more than an incremental improvement -- it's a major jump in processing technology available this coming August that surpasses anything Intel or AMD has announced into the next two years.

Here's a hint: MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) processing speeds increased on Tesla from 245 to 415 times previous speeds over CPU or older GPU based computing solutions. There's more, but you can read the details yourself over on the NVidia site. (links pop) Performance increases are so good that in many cases scientific computing that took weeks and a cluster of machines can now be done in days or hours on a single machine.

My feeling is that this is NVidia's shot across the bow of the entrenched CPU market leaders. They may not remove the misleading "GPU" designation for a while yet, but make no mistake: this technology has the potential to completely change what we consider a "Desktop PC." And it's about time!

And they've done it right: the first generation of Tesla can be installed onto almost any existing PC with a modern PCI express bus. They've released a free API. There are several open source simulations that you can immediately download. The entry barriers (other than price, tba) are very low.

We moved from slide rules to programmable calculators and were amazed at the changes to our lives. Then we moved to the personal computer -- that box sitting under or near your desk today contains more power than most supercomputers built 12 years ago.

It's time for a jump in processing power to the next order of magnitude.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Raccoon update

Mom-coon made it back twice last night and retrieved two of her young - both of the females. I sat near our kitchen window in the dark until 4 AM and saw her make the snatch both times. Her new nest must be some distance away, as it took her about 90 minutes round trip. I surmise that she spent the rest of the night foraging since the male baby was still there this morning.

Everything I found via Google indicated that if we could keep him warm, hydrated and fed for the day she may very well retrieve him tonight. According to the sources she won't try during daylight.

So my partner and I made the trip out to a local pet store and found something called Kitten Milk Replacement. Normal cows milk has lactose, which does not agree with young raccoon tummies. He's taken two feedings so far, and seems to like the stuff.

Nyum nyum

Tonight I will set him back by the tree and see if his mother will come get him. If not, we'll take a trip to Boulder on Sunday to deliver him to professionals.

If anyone is interested, here are the links I've been using as sources today:

Edit - 12:30 AM June 3rd: I think we were successful at re-uniting him with his mother tonight. I missed the snatch, but he was gone as of 12:20 AM. Funny how one can become so attached to something for which one gave care - even as short a time as it was.

Fair hunting little brother. Perhaps someday you will cross my yard at night while I stand outside for air and you will -- for a moment -- gaze back and wonder. But I really hope you scoot your butt into the shadows and play it safe.

Abandoned coon babies

Nothing like a nice romantic fire to warm up an unseasonably cool spring evening. Arrange the tinder, get the match lit . . . and frantically put it out when one hears sudden cries of panic and mad scrabbling from the flu. A few minutes of dusty investigation revealed a family of raccoons living in the chimney. Mom grabbed one of the young ones and lit out for parts unknown . . . and never returned.

Called animal control -- in this town they don't deal with coons. Suggested we call a pest control company. Called two and they can't make it out until Monday. Asked them what would happen to the babes and were told they would be euthanized.

Bleah . . .

After some creative engineering, much sneezing and a twisted back I extracted three more young coons. They can't walk, much. So cute you want to pet them - but I know better. Two females and a male.

The male coon babe.

Went to the hardware store for wire mesh and blocked off the chimneys (both of them, just in case mom-coon got any ideas about an easy move.)

Placed the three baby coons into a bucket with a towel and set them at the base of the one and only tree close enough to the house where mom-coon would most likely access our roof and chimneys.

That was four hours ago and the poor things are still there. Hungry and cold.

So now what? Anyone know the best method of reuniting the kids with mom? Any suggestions would be welcome!

Leave me alone, I'm napping!

Three coons in a bucket, now what?