Wednesday, June 30, 2004

GeekStuff: More on Dashboard from The Source

Dave Hyatt, the guy behind Safari and WebKit, clarifies various possible components of a Dashboard widget.

On an unrelated note I was wondering if Dave could also shed more light as to what Safari can do with RSS feeds: Steve's keynote seemed to imply Safari RSS Search would "scour the internet" for feeds relevant to terms you specify, which struck me as odd. I assumed Steve meant would "scour feeds you have subscribed to", which makes more sense and is what's written on the tiger safari page. I might have misunderstood the keynote, but it did really seem Steve was confusing himself there, maybe I was the only one confused. The distinction is important though: from what I understand Safari can only give you matching results for feeds you have already made the conscious decision to subscribe to. It won't show you information from everything that's on the Internet. Those searches are essentially "local": 1) feeds are periodically retrieved to your hard drive, 2) RSS Search scours what's on your hard drive.

It might be interesting to look at services such as, which already indexes bazillions of blogs and RSS feeds. Also, yahoo search exposes an RSS Link for sites that offer an RSS feed. Why's Google not doing that. hmph! Were any of these guys able and willing to offer some sort of XML API, Safari could plug into it to scour the web for any topic covered via RSS feeds, in more-or-less real-time, well at least in PubSub's case.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

GeekStuff: Steve Jobs Keynote

If you have not watched Steve Jobs' Keynote at WWDC, you oughta see it.

To me, it's all about SpotLight. Somewhere in the middle of that feed, he goes over the Spotlight demo, see if u can skip to it. Everything else is very interesting but to your average audience, the Spotlight demo is the thing that'll floor you.

As a web applications developer, Apple has done a few things to make my life easier:
  • a unix operating system that plays very nicely with java

  • Exposé lets me find any window I need. I'm very-much a multi-tasker. It's really cool.

  • And now, Spotlight. Forget folders, find anything about anything on your computer, instantly, dynamically. This is why you should watch the keynote, the demo of this feature is very impressive and will literally revolutionize the way you compute.

Just watch the keynote, you'll understand.

a wee time off - w00t

Yeeess. Tonight i'm starting an extended 4th of july weekend that'll keep me away from work until the morning of Wednesday July 7th. I'm'a catch-up on blogging, chill out by the beach a bit, but I also have a lotta things to do to prepare for family visiting on Friday :o

Friday, June 25, 2004

Lindy Groove: Birthday Fun!

When you've been in a local swing dancing scene for enough time, and provided you're not hated by everybody, chances are there'll be this one time of the year when Girls will mutually agree to pity the pathetic life form that you are and grant you a "Birthday Dance".

June 24th 2004 was my lucky day.

Many thanks to my Girl, Brandy, for being such a sweetie 24/7/365, to her roommate Joe who forwent dancing with all the nice birthday Chicks so he could capture my scrawny behind on video, and ... Lisa, Abby, Mighty Mo', Mishy, Gidget, Lindy Pie, Jackie, Alison, Katy!

Low-Speed Chase, Carson, Southern California

Google News Rules.

For so many reasons, Southern California rules.

We have police chases. Could you have police chases in New York? No way. There's traffic 24/7 there, clearly no place for a villain hungry for a motorized thrill ride. Plus, in New York, everybody's angry and out to kick your @ss. It wouldn't be long before our hapless villain would run into a mob of angry New Yorkers out to seek revenge on the perp who's raining on their daily commute, thereby spoiling Local News Station Fun.

Here, Local News Stations really do have fun. They'll cover a police chase live until the very end. It's quite comical to see the news anchors bouncing back and forth at one-another while coming-up with "filler" commentary during the entirety of the chase. They apparently covered this for one frickin' hour. "So Bob, did you have anything to add from your point of view over there in the chopper?". "Well Lisa, as you said ... [5 minutes rambling saying the exact same thing]". "Oh do I see a flat tire? *excitement* No, those are low-profile wheels *nevermind*".

So this guy drives around the same residential neighborhood, in circles, at whopping speeds of 15mph - 40mph, stops at many times, at some point tells a camera crew: "Mom I'm sorry, but I love You!".

A villain with class, taste, and flair would have taken us onto a joy ride along Highway 1 and driven off into the sunset. What did this guy do? Ran-off to Mommy before surrendering to a swarm of 20 cops politely hand-cuffing him, after having driven on his noble steed's rims for 10 minutes.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Married Men

So last night I subjected myself to the usual aggregation of irrelevant factoids that are local news.

One such factoid caught my attention as Hal Fishman and his co-anchor "reported" about surveys involving Married Men, in which the following was found:

  1. 70% are happier while being married.
  2. 94% are more satisfied with their intimate life than they were when they were single

I'll indulge my cynical side here and wonder (as "She Bangs" by William Hung is playing on iTunes, not sure why I'm mentioning this, but i felt compelled to) how many of the men surveyed answered the first question with their wife standing right beside them, painstakingly drew an "X" in the "Happier" box while discretely pouring a tear over the "Please, OH DEAR GOD PLEASE SHOOT ME" box. As far as the second question goes, I must have misheard it, but I'm pretty-sure they did say single. Well yeah, I guess, those warm and soft female creatures we also know as Women sure beat the rough, rugged, callous, extremities our faithful "Rosie and her Five Little Friends" are made of. There's hope though.

*notices Brandy reaching for her gun*.

*runs* ...

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Random OS X Software Plugs

Here are some random pieces of software I have used, am using, might use, or will be too lazy to evaluate but did catch my eye:

I might add more later.

Cartoon Fun

e1n has drawn this really cool cartoon involving a cat and flies. I'm still trying to get him to throw fleas in the mix :o Drop a line here or on his blog if you think he should have fleas too. In fact, if you do that, I'll give you a GMail invite. Just kidding. I'm shameless. Or not.

Dude. You could start a comic involving the tribulations of a cat :o. Oh wait. *note to self: kill garfield*.

GMail: Invites: I still have'em !

Check out the comment queue at the URL referenced in this blog entry.
I tend to post updates in those comments.
Add your requests to it.
enjoy :]

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Fry's Sucks

I happen to be lucky enough to have a Fry's store near where I live. That's very convenient. Yesterday I set myself on a mission to find two things: an AC Power Adapter for the Powerbook and a hands-free Kit for the Sony Ericsson t610.

One thing I try to remind myself of every time I go there, is that they don't take American Express. It usually only dawns on me when I arrive at check-out. But this time I remembered, was willing to accept this as a price for convenience, if and only if I managed to get the two items I was looking for in one shot.

First, the power adapter. Their computer staff did seem to have a clue and quickly directed me to the correct accessories section and painlessly dug out the first item on my list, YAY. Go Fry's!

As I was walking about the aisles, I was pondering getting a new iPod against my better judgment and maybe an airport express, but quickly reminded myself that they don't take American Express, which helped me stay focused.

I walked over to their cell phone accessories section. As I was quickly looking around I was not seeing a wired headset for the t610, and the bluetooth alternatives were more than I was willing to spend. They're nice gadgets but I don't really need'em at the moment. A lady was busy stocking some shelves. After a few minutes I asked her for guidance. Clearly she did not want to be there, was very short and dry with her answers, it turned out they didn't have the head set. Then another customer comes-by looking for a power adapter for her Motorolla phone. Our lady quickly asks her who her carrier is, to which the customer rightfully points out this shouldn't really matter for a power adapter provided you know the phone's make and model. From where I stood it looked like one of the StarTac flip-phones. Instead of looking for a matching adapter, our lady kept throwing attitude at the hapless customer and making her remove the battery to check out the serial number, only to finally point her to some adapter which clearly would not fit the bill while saying "i can't guarantee it would work ... you can always try it and take it back (blah blah x5)". I was baffled, the StarTac uses a wide, narrow port. There's no way the narrow, stubby extremity of the adapter she was pointing to was ever going to work. The customer was clearly realizing that too, she seemed like a Business Woman who had a clue or two about basic gadgetry. Our retail representative had no clue and an attitude.

I went back to the computer accessories aisle, placed the power adapter exactly where I found it, and walked out of Fry's having not bought a thing. I bought the t610 hands-free from a nearby mall's t-mobile store. T-Mobile retail and service peeps have always been very helpful. One of the guys showed me how to mute the t610: while in a conversation, hold the "c" (clear) key down, which will result in the other party not hearing anything that comes from your phone while you can hear them. Hold "c" again to un-mute. I did somewhat RTFM but couldn't find the feature. To my credit, it did take the guy a few minutes to figure this out.

I'll get the power adapter later.

BMW and iPod, seamless integration!

The previous rumor outlined in this post has come true! I haven't figured out what the price is, but hey if hardware + installation remains under $300 I'll prolly do it. The only snag is that this set-up won't support my current iPod model ... DOH! So now i'd also need to buy a new iPod. Ergh. Between plumbing work, landscaping work, misc. other things i'm doing around the house, the flat tire i've had to replace along with some alignment/wheel-balancing work, my cash is dwindling rapidly. So iPod + BMW will prolly have to wait.

Sunday, June 20, 2004

Movies: Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story

Reminder: When reading one of my movie reviews, the usual caveat applies.

I really enjoyed the writing in this movie. Insanely witty. I know writing is witty when some jokes fly above my head while my Girlfriend laughs uncontrollably. Some very funny cameos. A very good cast, featuring Milton, Lumberg, Mathilde, and Derek. We had a great time!

Random Thought - Cats and Fleas

Brandy and I were talking about ways to fight fleas for her cat. She's been using this "drip" lotion she puts on Simon's neck, it seems to be doing an effective job at keeping flees away. Joe, her roommate tends to disagree, and would argue a collar would work better.

Then I started thinking about ... a "Fly-Paper Suit" for cats. When visuals of hapless fleas flocking to the cat's body creating a most artistic "meta-fur" started hitting me, uncontrollable laughter ensued.

Then Brandy asked:

What happens when the cat starts licking himself?

Saturday, June 19, 2004

GMail: Kevin Cupp Rules!

oh the cruelty! :)

*Tips Hat Off to Kevin*.


Flat tires are like, uncool. Good thing BMW designs their cars around usability with easily-accessible tools embedded in the Trunk hatch. What took the longest was to get rid of all the crap in my trunk to dig out the spare wheel. I've been meaning to clean-up this trunk, it's become its own ecosystem. We left the burlesque club around midnight, noticed the *thunk thunk thunk* of the flat tire almost a few minutes into our way back home, drove until we could find a dark side street off of santa monica blvd before the 405 freeway, were back on the road before 0:30.

I had gloves and 2 flashlights. Batteries ran out on the first one. Second one kept me going. Actually, all beemers come with a rechargeable flashlight embedded in the glove box, I haven't had to use it just yet, it's kinda small, but it works very well. The next things i wanna add and keep at all times, are knee-pads and crappy tennis shoes. It may seem funny, and actually, it truly is, but it really sucks to be crawling around your car in suit pants and nice shoes.

Oh and I'm also glad I've been keeping a leather jacket in the trunk. Brandy could stay warm that way, poor thing has been up since 6 this morning. She is *passed out* right now and i'm about to join in.

Burlesque Fun

Tonight was our friend Daryll Strauss's Birthday celebration at Larry Flynt's Hustler Club in Beverly Hills.

Don't let the Hustler/Flynt stigmas fool you, this club features a top-notch, classy, quaint atmosphere and sophisticated cuisine, with a high-quality Burlesque show featuring 4 beautiful ladies dressed in provocative, yet tasteful and PG-13 attires, performing numbers every 15 minutes from home-brewed and well-known musical skits, including Chicago and Moulin Rouge.

At a most climactic moment of the evening, Daryll got called to the stage along with a Bachelorette and another 82-year-old Birthday Boy, so they could frolic around with the dancers. Guess who else got called to the stage? Yours truly! Yup, i'll be an old man on July 1st, so Linda and Daryll totally surprised me with this one. There we all were gettin' jiggy with it on the stage with the beautiful Ladies of the Burlesque show. Daryll totally impressed me with his moves, and sure showed Bachelorette Chick and some other women in the audience a very good time, Linda was so proud, heh. I was a total Dork, but hey, I totally enjoyed it.

I highly recommend this club to anyone who enjoys high-class fun, beautiful women, drinking and dining.

GMail Invites

i've got a few to hand out. post a comment to meh blog, I'll add ye to my queue :) i still refuse to ebay'em.

whew: update 6/19/2004 @ 6pm:.

so i post this /. entry last night around 2-3am after coming back from the club, i wake up on tis fine saturday morning and i'm like HOLY FSCKING SH*T. Thanks to generous invite donations from some other bloggers and an additional batch of 6 invites i just got this morning, i was able to hook-up almost everyone in the comments. If you were left out, don't despair, i should be getting more invites soon, heh :)

update: K, emailing invites is getting to be tiring. How about you guys help yourselves? :) A few requests:

  • Be a sport, and post a comment to this entry indicating the number of the URL you've used.
  • Send an email to from your newly created gmail account, saying HEY, WASSUP.
  • If you have a blog, and feel like saying "thank you", please link to me somewhere. If you don't have a blog, I highly recommend "blogger"
Enjoy! :)
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Thursday, June 17, 2004

iPod your BMW Secrets Revealed

Apparently Gizmodo got some inside scoop about a BMW package that would allow a tight integration of an iPod inside a post-2002 beemer. I tend to disagree with the reviewer's take on the limited user interface exposed via the steering wheel. While the iPod was designed to have a lot of cool functionality accessible thru a very simple user interface, this functionality was built with one key goal in mind: A portable music player. When holding a device in your hands while walking, standing, dancing, you have a certain agility you probably should do without while driving. Switching tracks on pre-defined playlists, controlling sound, should be sufficient activities. A while ago i bought one of those little FM broadcasters in which I can dock the iPod. It's convenient as I can arbitrarily navigate thru the entire array of menus available to me. I have however often found myself repeatedly squinting at the LCD trying to read track names and not paying enough attention to the road, which became a bit worrisome in one particular instance where I approached a curve. Most car stereo systems strive to limit the amount of interaction required. I think BMW has the right idea. Keep those eyes OFF the iPod and ON the road.

More coverage from

Egh. I hope my iPod model will be supported :| It's the second revision of the non-docked version, with the firewire at the top, and a wheel that doesn't actually turn. meh! Anybody knows which iPod models will be supported?



Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Ladies: Daniel is Cute and Single


(This post was brought to you by the Derek Zoolander center for kids who can't write too good and wanna learn how to do other cool stuff too).

Tuesday, June 15, 2004


I got a chance to put the GS120 to good use over the week-end, as I attended on Sunday the UCSB Commencement ceremony for a good friend of my Sister's who's finishing-up her Ph.d in mechanical engineering. Shoot me an email (profile) if you have a job for Annie.

As we all arrived early, I had managed to find me a spot, off to the left side, almost way up-front. Annie was lost in the crowd, nowhere to be found, as I could feel the sun viciously starting to work at my scalp, through my all-too-thin layer of hair. Indeed, I could have not been a total retard and brought a cap, and used sun lotion, but how much fun would that have been, huh?

After long hours (okay, 'twas just one hour) of just standing/sitting/lurking, the grad students make way for the Ph.d students. Amidst sun glares frying my eyeballs, I manage to spot Annie way off in the distance! Boy do i start shooting .... determined to justify my existence and that of all the high-tech gadgetry clumsily dangling from various parts of my putrid-sweat-riddled, aching body.

As far as I was concerned, the fate of humanity depended on my accurately, thoroughly, broadly covering those precious minutes of ultimate narcissism as Annie was exultingly giving the camera some serious love. As much as I had locked-on to her, boy did she ever lock-on to me, or more accurately, my precious Panasonic PV-GS120. I was in her sights. Within seconds, I saw the amazing transformation from a scared wittle wabbit to this self-confidence-emanating, soap opera hollywood drama queen, smiling, looking right at the camera and striking poses.

And then, came that one true, awe-inspiring, Jerry Bruckheimer Hollywood moment: As Annie is walking away from the podium, I suddenly see her face glow as she reaches her arms forward, and her good friend Eva runs toward her and places her beautiful Baby Girl Claire into her arms, as Annie's professor looks onto the both of them with a big, joyous, approving smile.

Most decent human beings would have simply, innocently enjoyed this moment for what it was, at face value.

Not me, no Sir. As I'm realizing there's no way anybody else could have covered this one magic moment in time as well as I did, my mind was racing in all directions, the most prominent one being:

... i can sell this sh*t ...

I'm going to hell.

Seriously though, her Prof is a really nice Man, kudos to UCSB for having such a nice Faculty Member. He really took time to chat with our group and stand around for pictures.

I'll soon be having more fun with iMovie and iDVD.

Saturday, June 12, 2004

the precious has arrived: Panasonic GS120

As expected, I had lots of fun at Lindy Groove Thursday night.

Today my Mini DV Camcorder arrived! It's a 3-CCD Panasonic GS120.

Our good friend Denise was having a birthday party at the Holiday Inn. Burbank's Karaoke bar. Got to hang out with friends I hadn't seen in a while. I brought the cam and took some good shots, I really put to the test the camera's ability to shoot under very low lighting. I'll be doing some editing on the PowerBook with iMovie tomorrow and use iDVD to make a DVD out of it for Gary and Denise. During the editing process I'll be able to more accurately gage the camera's video image quality.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Off to Lindy Groove!

I'm about to go out and get me some teriyaki chicken and rice before heading over to Lindy Groove, in Pasadena, CA. I'm looking forward to 3 hours of pure, unabated bliss.

On June 15th, this coming Tuesday, Paladino's is re-opening its doors with Kim and David as our faithful hosts. I gotta say one thing: David is the absolute best damn DJ I have ever heard. I am looking forward to every Tuesday from now on.

R.I.P., Ray :(

I just bought this album off iTunes

Finding Nemo


Daryll and Linda join the GMail family!

Thanks to the generosity of fellow bloggers, I've managed to hook-up my friends Daryll and Linda with gmail accounts :) welcome ye guys :)

Those of you out there with spare gmail invites, feel free to send'em my way ... frenchy at gmail :) I've still got plenty of very deserving and google enthusiast coworkers and friends to hook-up :)

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Janet Reno - Piss Poor Tipper

brittney says:

P.S. Janet Reno ate at my restaurant today. She and her party left $15 on a $128 tab. link.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

GMail Privacy Issues: My $0.02

'Cuz i'm lazy and am not feeling like being redundant, check out my reply on Bull and Snake's web log regarding those privacy concerns.

New Gmail Accounts

Props to Allen Hutchinson for allowing me to hook-up a friend with a GMail account :)

Jonas is also giving away gmail accounts and writes:

It's not free, however. If you're interested in one, comment here and let me know what you're willing to do for it. Not to me (though I am more than ready to trade for a few good massages), but to someone else. A random act of kindness, maybe? Work in a soup kitchen? Help out at a needle exchange? Or maybe you're doing that already - you'd be the ideal recipient. link


Tonight around 6pm Pacific Time, my gmail account has offered me a link to invite 3 more people! I've invited 2 coworkers, really cool dudes. I also stumbled upon this blogger. I hooked him up too, I hate to see people go broke.

If anybody has gmail invites to spare, feel free to send'em over to I know a lot of very deserving people :)

Monday, June 07, 2004

Personal: Dancing, Week-End round-up

I had fun dancing with my swing-dancing friends in Santa Monica's 3rd Street Promenade yesterday. Brandy had to finish some work through the evening so she couldn't join me :(. Our good friend Abby is going to have another baby!

I had a quick dinner at Fred 62's bar before going for the 2nd round of wild dancing at The Derby. It's all about Juicy Lucy.

The Derby in Hollywood recently redid their hardwood floors in the back room. Campus-Five was playing yesterday, they were pretty fun. What was less fun was the fact that the back room was closed-off to dancers: What I hear is that from now-on, they don't want dancers messing-up their brand new floor, so no more dancing in the back room. I can understand that ... I guess ... it's just that now we're packed dancing on-top of one-another on the front floor. Which does suck pretty thoroughly. Are we looking at the end of an era? *sigh*.

update: from what i've heard recently, there's far more to this issue than the floors, which makes sense: For about a decade the Derby has graced us with a second-to-none atmosphere for swing music and dancing. The problem is dancers are not the most lucrative customers (to say the least) to a club for which most of the cover money goes to whichever band is playing that night. They must sell drinks to stay in business. With the dwindling of the swing dancing craze over the past 5 years, I can definitely imagine The Derby having faced a sizable challenge.

If you're ever looking for a classy place to take a date on a friday or saturday night, look for a good band on either of those nights, and go there for dinner, courtesy of Louise's Trattoria, and drinks.

Personal: Girl's Eye for the Bachelor Guy

This weekend my Girlfriend Brandy and our good friend Linda took it upon themselves to transform my little house's living room: get rid of ugly blinds and replace them with curtains! I now have blue translucent curtains! Linda brought her drill and wielded with great mastery while Brandy was arranging the curtains. All this was happening while I was nerdulating away at the computer! These girls are amazing :) They've also got an interesting experiment still underway, involving re-coloring two of my couches, *gulp* :) Hey ... it's looking pretty good so-far :)

My sister called me yesterday, she'll be down from Seattle in Santa Barbara this week-end to attend one of her good friend's graduation! Thanks for the advance notice, Alex :/

I've finally received the first items I've ever bought on eBay: DVDs ! I've had this eBay account since '99, yet never used it for any transaction until a couple of weeks ago! eBay sent me an email congratulating me on my first positive feedback! I feel so cool right now, you have no idea >;]

eBay needs to make their pages load faster, their client-side code is reminiscent of 1996, and is full of junk! It's a good thing they've developed a comprehensive API, so other companies can build a better front-end to their system. That's precisely what EarthLink did with their "My eBay" feature, which, I must say, kicks quite a bit of butt: it's the best web-based mini auction tracking tool i've seen so far. EarthLink users can make use of this feature by going to their Start Page, find the "Additional Features" box, scroll-down to "My eBay", click the "Add" button. From that point they can choose to "link" an "eBay Account" with their "EarthLink Account". A user can then track their eBay auctions from their EarthLink Start Page. MSN has a similar feature but it sucks sweaty nuts compared to that.

Geek News: Apple: Airport Express | Security Update | Stock!

Of course there's Airport Express. I'll be getting one soon.

Apple also today released a very important security update which addresses the protocol/application launching issues I had mentioned in my previous post regarding "Layers of Operating System Security". I've tested the update and it does indeed fix the issue.

Finally, today Apple's stock closed at a 4-year high, at 29.81.

Music: iTunes iMix

A few weeks ago, I put together a couple of iMixes. For those who like to burn stuff to CD (which I do), each one of those lists fits an entire CD :)

iMix To-Do: Ode to Boogie.

Saturday, June 05, 2004

EarthLink ScamBlocker

The phisher emails i'm seeing these days are turning into real works of art. People need to arm themselves with vigilance and a few useful tools, a couple of which I'm outlining below.

All windows users out there would be well-advised to download and make good use of EarthLink's "ScamBlocker", part of the free toolbar. While i don't consider it to be a replacement for good judgment and constant vigilance, it certainly helps exposing sites that attempt to gain personal information from unsuspecting internet users by mimicking sites from banking institutions, online market places, and internet service providers.

PC Mag Review

C|NET review and download

or, direct from earthlink

An informative article

OOoo there's now also a Mac version available!

Words of caution:

- from what little I've gathered, ScamBlocker does NOT guarantee you that a given site isn't a scam. It however removes a lot of the guess-work out of the picture and will likely save us all a lot of time. If you do suspect a site to be a scam, and EarthLink hasn't yet picked-it up, the scamblocker button on the toolbar has a menu item called "Report this site as a fraud", make use of it! You could save thousands of other users!

- every time you see an email exhorting you to "click here" to "rectify" or "update" "your account information", just don't click on the link. If you have a doubt, just relax, take a deep breath, go to your web browser, and type the site's address manually, in the browser's address bar:

... paypal dot com ...
... citibank dot com ...
... myaccount dot earthlink dot net ...

If you are an earthlink member who uses Total Access software, you might consider using the "Earthlink Favorites": they're just like your browser's bookmarks, except that you can access and manage them from any computer by simply going to

I'd recommend creating an "Online Accounts" folder where you'll stick all your online banking and services sites. These favorites are automatically available in your Total Access Toolbar.

They also appear in the left column of your start page:

Geek Rant: Operating System Security Layers


In late 2001, when Mac OS X 10.1 came out, I switched from a Dell/Win2K laptop to a 400Mhz Titanium Powerbook. Since then, I've remained a satisfied Mac OS X user and my experience with Microsoft Windows has been fairly limited to what I hear about it. Still, when looking at my broadband connection's firewall access logs over the past few years, I can most definitely affirm that Microsoft Windows has been directly affecting me through those silly worms, most of which could have been easily avoided. They're constantly probing internet addresses and polluting logs. Which is essentially the root of today's rant about various layers of end-user operating system security. While there is no magic bullet when it comes to securing a computer, it remains important to identify what can be done to improve security on a consumer operating system.

Disabling ALL Network Services on a Default Installation

Since 2001 and the rampant spread of CodeRed and Nimda, one would have hoped Microsoft would have had the forethought to learn from their past mistakes and establish the first very basic layer of security for an end-user, regular consumer's desktop operating system: ensure all listening network services are turned-off on a default installation of their operating system. The vast majority of computer users unwrap their computer, plug it into their broadband modem and turn it on. Back in 2001, the whole concept of "always-on, broadband connectivity" was not exactly new. It had been around for a couple of years. Jump forward to 2004, you can still buy a windows XP machine, plug it into an unprotected network and get infected by Sasser within seconds. I am having a hard time understanding why people are not infuriated by this. I can understand the challenges of establishing more complex layers of security surrounding user interaction, but for crying out loud, you wanna talk about an easy fix, a low-hanging fruit, the simplest, yet strongest first line of defense from worms? There is not a single consumer windows user out there who has had any need for services that were enabled by default on their operating system, WHY THE HECK were they ever enabled? How hard is it to just say "oops, we'd better turn that off by default".

Contrast that with Apple's Mac OS X. Through today, ever since its early beta releases in early 2000, no port has ever been turned-on on a default installation of Mac OS X. Flaws will continue to be found in various services, this holds true for all operating systems, but if those services are not running, you won't get infected through them. It's that simple.

Provided you've got this basic layer covered, infecting a networked end-user computer becomes a challenge greater by many orders of magnitude: It will require the help of the user of that computer.

Protecting the Computer from its User

To this day, a consumer is instructed to upgrade their Windows operating system by pointing their Internet Explorer web browser to From this point, the web browser takes a life of its own, scours your hard drive for existing software and offers you a list of updates to install, at which point you are allowed to pick which packages you wish to install. The entire update process happens inside the web browser. No I didn't download a piece of software which I subsequently saved to my desktop, before making the conscious decision to "double-click" an installer. I just a hit a website with the web browser, and it started instantly "doing things to my computer", and somehow, I am taught "to be okay with that".

Through the implementation of their "ActiveX" technology, Microsoft has blurred the line between "web browsing" and "running applications". They've implemented a "certificate system", whereby no website could arbitrarily do things to your computer without your prior, conscious consent. Here's the big problem though: While conscious, this consent remains uneducated. The vast majority of internet consumers are grossly uneducated about the possibly dire consequences of clicking "Yes" to an ActiveX dialog prompt. After all, they remember doing something very similar when updating their operating system, why should they not allow this "very cool screen saver" to install itself?

This results in consumers clobbering-up their systems with spyware, adware and various forms of "malware", calling their Internet Service Provider's technical support complaining about what they perceive as a lousy service, when in fact, they are victims of their own uneducated greed and lust for "free stuff".

Microsoft Windows does not exactly help protect a computer from its user.

On the other hand, Mac OS X's web browser, Safari, does not enable websites to attempt to modify the operating system, or install components or applications. System updates are performed via an automated, enabled-by-default, separate, Software Update Application, which warns the user about available updates, and offers to trigger the installation. This mechanism is part of its own user-interface: While updates are downloaded, it is very clear to the user that what they are doing is not in any way related to web browsing.

Application-Level Security

The line between this layer and the previous one can be fuzzy, while still real: the former is affected by broader overall architectural and design decisions. Application-Level Security, on the other hand, is more closely affected by more specific "software bugs" and granular "design" decisions, and I can't really see a magic bullet for this one. Applications need to be tested, used and abused, hopefully security holes are found early and patched before they can do too much harm.

We've recently seen such issues in Mac OS X regarding various services used by a small percentage of users that were patched quickly (apple file sharing, quicktime code injection), and issues regarding protocol handling and application launching which I find very troubling and very dangerous should a user stumble upon a malicious web site.[update: this issue was fixed shortly after this post]. Apple has been lagging on addressing these issues while not communicating a roadmap to the public. Probabilities of exploiting those recent vulnerabilities are however fairly low because they require a static malicious web site to infect a user. Once found, that site could easily be terminated. Apple should still address those issues: I'm really not comfortable browsing the web knowing some web site could mount a remote disk onto my computer and launch an arbitrary application.

Microsoft has also been plagued for years with such security issues, most notably within their flagship e-mail application, Outlook, which has greatly facilitated the spread of e-mail bound viruses. Similar security issues have also been found in their web browser, Internet Explorer. A lot of Microsoft Application-Level security flaws have stemmed from the tight integration of e-mail and web-browsing with core operating system components, allowing malicious applications to bypass the most basic levels of application and user permissions.

Defining very precise rules under which a given application may be executed and creating a protected environment for this application's execution have been at the core architecture of Unix-based operating systems, which were designed, from the ground-up, as multi-user environments. Those systems have had decades to mature, and Mac OS X inherits its core architecture from them.


No computer system is secure in absolute terms. Simple and complex decisions will promote better security at various layers. As of this writing, I believe that, in relative terms, Mac OS X is a more secure average consumer operating system than Microsoft Windows. In follow-up blog entries, I'm hoping to cover consequences of the devastating effects that infected networked consumer computers have had on various Internet infrastructures and services. Another entry will offer steps to further secure a Mac OS X computer, encouraging contributions from Windows 2000 and XP experts to achieve similar goals.

Movies: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

[edit 6/6/04]: My little diatribe about this movie is thoroughly useless to someone who's actually looking for something informative. I'm seeing actual reviews come out on various blogs. Here's a more informative post about the latest Harry Potter.

I've once more subjected myself to yet another chapter of the tribulations of those silly brit kids. To some people who have read the books, it's challenging to enjoy the movie to its full potential because they know exactly what's going to happen. Thankfully, I've never read those books. Not that it makes a difference: Harry Potter movies still bore the living-dead out of me, but that's because kids that behave like adults weird me out, and profusion of innocence tends to have a most caustic effect on my soul. My Girlfriend likes these movies and I enjoy watching movies with her ... even when mercilessly poked in the ribs as my head nods off.

Anyway ... It was a great movie! (i hear).

PS: I really love MPAA ratings. Here's the rating for this movie:

PG: for frightening moments, creature violence and mild language.

Yeah, well forget "creature violence". I'm not sure I'd want to take my kids to a movie where a 13-year-old boy menaces to go on a killing spree. Oh but that's okay, he's not just a boy, he's a wizard. Defense attorneys ought to keep this in mind for their most desperate cases: "okay you have two options in light of the evidence against you: you can plead guilty and get 90972374292 years, or we'll adopt the wizard defense." "What's the wizard defense?" "Kookoo plea." "Oooh ... HEY EVERYBODY LOOK AT ME I'M A WIZARD".

Thursday, June 03, 2004

movie reviews - $0.02 worth.


I go through phases during which I'll see every single mainstream movie that's out there. I'm not a "movie buff" by any cinephile stretch of the imagination, far from it. If misfortune curses you into stumbling upon my blog, thus scoping this abysmal shallowness will help you cope.

enough self-loathing. my tastes in movies are better than yours. I'm cool. you're not.

A Day Without a Mexican

This movie totally ruled. Imagine: you live in southern california and you wake up one day, and all Mexicans have vanished! This movie depicts an eery tale of ensuing chaos which attempts to educate the viewer with a very healthy dose of comedy and drama. I think one of the main characters played bill paxton's wife in Twister. heh heh. ( "we got cow!". "oh-oh, another cow!". "no she did not *only* marry your p**is". Twister ruled. Paxton sucked balls though. ) Interestingly engouh, it would appear "A Day Without a Mexican" was shot in 16mm and blown to 35mm or something, I think that'd explain the somewhat "grainy" texture of the movie.

Van Helsing

Two words for you: Kate Beckinsale. She's so totally hot. She was also in "Underworld". Hot in there too. Actually, she can't really not be hot. Anyway, lots of action, some suspense, weird creatures, what else could you possibly want in a movie? I had loads of fun!

Raising Helen

Kate Hudson is hot. But man is this a chick-flick, but not really the enjoyable kind, like "Love, Actually". Compelling, touching story, but the movie seemed to drag. blech.

Mean Girls

Was mostly funny, Lindsay Lohan is an eye-candy, otherwise ... bleah.

Soul Plane

Sucked. While I had great expectations from the previews, most of the movie felt overdone, exact same deal as Scary Movie 3. In both those movies, a good chunk of the comedic timing seemed off while clumsily-crafted gags kept digging themselves deeper in their unfunny grave. The previews pretty much showed everything that was actually funny. BLECH.


3 words for you: Helen of Troy. Oh my goodness. All women in this movie are simply beautiful, but Diane Kruger ... "Whoa". While some of the epic battles seemed blown out of proportions, they remained nonetheless impressive, some of the best on-screen sword-fighting i've seen in a while. I had a great time!

Shrek 2

Rules! Sure many will argue that the first Shrek brought a level of originality to the table which Shrek 2 may not have quite matched. I nonetheless found it to be hilarious and highly enjoyable. I recently watched the first Shrek DVD again, and it felt lower-tech compared to the new one, Shrek 2 has some mad animation mojo going-on there, you just don't pay attention to it while watching the first time! I can't wait to get Shrek 2 on DVD, there are many funny details I want to get back to.

The Day After Tomorrow

Awesome! You just can't walk into this type of "end of the world" movie and expect an intricate plot, deep character development, and world-class acting, for crying out loud, that's what "As good as it gets" was for. Half of humanity is about to get shafted in a major apocalyptic way, Mother Nature is pulling a fast one from left field and squashing you back down to the level of the insignificant bug that you are. And it did a great job at conveying just that, and nothing less. I've found visual effects to be simply breathtaking. I had a great time. I just wish they had thrown Bruce Willis and Liv Tyler in there. Not sure why.

Heh :) GMail officially supports Safari!

What were the odds, the day after I post a blog entry wondering why Safari is not officially supported, GMail adds it to its list of supported browsers :) I think I can like ... read their minds ... or something :o

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Random thoughts about GMail

Related Pages

One little advertised feature of GMail are "Related Pages" that show-up below "Sponsored Links". Not-only is gmail able to offer you advertisements that are related to what you are reading, but also offer you links to relevant regular web pages.

This has come extremely handy when reading and exchanging emails from technical mailing lists. I've found myself pasting some of those links into replies, because they were simply that relevant. Confirmation emails from online travel brokers are also fun to read: you're reading about a flight itinerary from Los Angeles to San Francisco and seeing offers for hotels at both places.

DHTML and Browser Support

On Mac OS X, GMail recommends you use FireFox as your browser. I've been testing GMail on Safari and it has been behaving nicely. Safari is quite standards-compliant when it comes to the various aspects of its DOM implementation. I need to further dig thru obscure features to understand why they're currently discouraging people from using Safari.

It is refreshing to see such a prominent company bet their user interface on DHTML. The W3C has come along way in defining standards required to transform DHTML from the ugly mess it was in the late nineties to the practical reality it is today. Browser developers and vendors are enabling us web application developers to harness this renaissance of standards compliance into compelling web-based applications.

Former Microsoftie Forecasts Potential Instruments of Microsoft's Doom

Jeff Reifman is a columnist for Seattle Weekly. He joined Microsoft at the age of 21 and worked there for 8 years between 1991 and 1998, and has developed a significant chunk of his professional career thru Microsoft Solutions. I could pick many choice quotes from this article, I don't however believe it would do it justice. He criticizes Microsoft fairly thoroughly, but he does attempt to put things in perspective of its overwhelming financial success, while outlining what he believes to be the most significant threats to its current business model.

A very interesting read and perspective from somebody who has been on the inside, has been a business consumer, and an end-user consumer of Microsoft and its products.

My Dad just got a G5!

So I get this e-mail from my Dad late last night:


After an absence of six months (at least) I'm back online. I kept following your advice and waited for the next (cool) operating system. I bought a G 5 with Panther 10.3.3. 80 gigs of memory, photoshop, illustrator, and a broadband link to the web. Jesus.....what a system. Anyway, WHAT's NEW ????!!!!

Love, Dad

He used to be on dial-up on an old G3 running an old version of Mac OS ... 8.x. His browser was netscape 4.x. He eventually got frustrated with his online experience and cancelled his dial-up account, *sigh*.

But now he's back with a vengeance on a G5 with a DSL connection! The first thing I did was to create an AIM account for him, and e-mailed him his screen name and password, along with instructions on how to set-up iChat. He lives in Paris, France. I live in Southern California. iChat AV sessions would be a boon. He apparently got it set-up, here's the reply i just got from him, most likely before he went to bed:

Mission're number one on my list of one......Talk to you in the morning.....

... heh ... Dad, a Man of few, impactful words.

So I'm hoping for some late night audio and, if I'm bold, even one-way video conferencing over iChat tonight (I carry the iSight around with the AlBook)

I've had my Mom on AIM for a while now, but she's still on "Jaguar", so she's only got the older version of iChat, so no AV goodness just yet. She could still buy iChat AV standalone, but it ain't worth the hassle quite yet. She's been on broadband for a while though.

Both my parents now use as their ISP. Most french ISPs i've seen offer far more competitive broadband packages than U.S. counterparts, especially when it comes to DSL upstream speeds. I think both my parents have 256K upstream, maybe 512K, for probably $10 less than what we pay here for the usual 1.5Mbps/128K. started out as a free dial-up provider, keeping their costs low by offering compelling revenue-generating services leveraging cheap, commodity hardware and open-source, free software. They've created a faithful user base which they've been up-selling to their broadband offering.

Mac OS X Panther 10.3.4: Update to Address Book: Bluetooth caller ID now useful!

From the article:

Windows for incoming phone calls and SMS messages for a paired Bluetooth phone now appear in the foreground.

Back months ago, I had already noticed I could tell address book to connect to my Sony Ericsson t610 via bluetooth, and a caller-id window with options would show-up whenever I'd receive a call. What was however frustrating was that it would stay in the background if you were working in some other application. Looks like this update fixed this issue.

Among a few nifty things, you can click the "answer" button, and carry a conversation thru your computer's microphone and speakers: your mac relays the audio via the bluetooth connection. [Correction: ] I was mistaken, you can't actually carry a conversation, i thought I was doing it from the laptop, but it was just my t610 picking-up the sound of my voice while i was assuming my speakers were low. Now i'm all disappointed. snifflez.

I tried clicking "add card" when the incoming call's number wasn't in my address book, but it did not pre-populate the phone number anywhere. I'm thinking some usability enhancements would be most welcome here.

The SMS reply feature is pretty cool, I actually tried it and it worked.

If you click "Log Call" and the number exists in your address book, it will add a note in the caller's record indicating at what time they called.

There even was a "send to voicemail" button.

I wish the menu would show the person's picture from Address Book.

I'm thinking the buttons that show-up may depend on which capabilities are present on your bluetooth phone and which subset of those capabilities are properly exposed to the bluetooth interface.

Here's more coverage about this: from

If you are interested in these types of bluetooth phone <-> mac interactions, you might consider checking out Romeo. It's still rough around the edges and in beta, but quite fun to play with!

Tuesday, June 01, 2004 new GMail features coming-up?

I love my gmail account and these features sound exciting: The address book import/export is a biggie to me. I'd like to see support for Mac OS X Address Book, ideally i'd like to be able to sync stuff back and forth, but I'm not sure how much sense this would make for a web-only mail system. Yahoo mail doesn't support syncing, unless you purchase Intellisync.

A nifty feature of EarthLink's Total Access for Mac OS X is that it allows me to sync the OS X Address Book with their online address book, which ties into their mail system. EarthLink's highest-level spam protection setting partly relies on white-listing various email addresses: People who send you an email for the first time are offered a simple procedure to request from you to be added to your white list. Upon your acceptance, they're automatically entered in your earthlink online address book. Whenever you select the "Sync Address Books" feature in Total Access, all contacts stored in your OS X Address Book are now part of your earthlink address book, which means they are all on your "white-list". Conversely, all contacts that were added to your online address book by the earthlink mail system now become part of your OS X Address Book.

Regardless, being able to import contacts into gmail would already be a great feature. GO GMAIL!

EarthLink to Acquire Sky Access Subscriber Base

I must have skimmed the article too fast, but I didn't see a mention of exactly how many subscribers we're looking at.