The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

More stupid Windows tricks

I've largely solved Yesterday's frustration (more of a PEBCAK issue than anything else, wouldn't you know?) so now I have a new one: the touchpad on my laptop isn't working. It's probably a driver issue, but still, it makes navigating—doing anything, really—that much more difficult.

Anyway. On to New York for my first-and-only Yankees game.

Forgot to mention: Philadelphia beat Altanta 12-10 yesterday. As soon as I get my technical problems fixed I'll have photos of the massive thunderstorm that caused a two-hour rain delay. And after a nail-biting day when the Cubs and Milwaukee were tied for first place, the Cubs won and Milwaukee lost, putting us a full game up once again.

Stupid Windows tricks

Windows is designed to be secure (don't laugh). One security measure is to lock users out after a certain number of failed login attempts. Vista, however, tries lots more times to login than you might think. So, even if you mis-type your password once or twice, Vista might think the KGB is trying to break into your laptop and lock you out.

I know this because, 36 hours into a 7-day trip, I appear to be locked out of my laptop.

Now, I can unlock my laptop in seconds by logging in while connected physically my network. Only problem, my network is 1100 km away and I won't reconnect to it for a few days.

So, great, at least my laptop is secure from someone who knows my UID and password. Of course, if someone ripped the hard drive out and connected it to another machine, he could read the unencrypted parts without any problem. Since I would like to keep the laptop intact, and it's the encrypted parts that I kind of need right now, it's inconvenient, to say the least.

When I calm down and I don't want to beat the Windows Vista team lead over the head repeatedly with my laptop, I'll explain why this "security" only matters if you aren't actually a malicious hacker, and why if you are a malicious hacker it's irrelevant. In other words, what I'm going through at this exact moment is much like the people lining up for crosses in Monty Python's Life of Brian: it'll only hurt if you're honest.

Major sabotage to San Francisco city computers

Via Dad, it seems a network administrator for the City of San Francisco has locked out all the other administrators:

A disgruntled city computer engineer has virtually commandeered San Francisco's new multimillion-dollar computer network, altering it to deny access to top administrators even as he sits in jail on $5 million bail, authorities said Monday.

Terry Childs, a 43-year-old computer network administrator who lives in Pittsburg, has been charged with four counts of computer tampering and is scheduled to be arraigned today.

...

Childs created a password that granted him exclusive access to the system, authorities said. He initially gave pass codes to police, but they didn't work. When pressed, Childs refused to divulge the real code even when threatened with arrest, they said.

He was taken into custody Sunday. City officials said late Monday that they had made some headway into cracking his pass codes and regaining access to the system.

He's about to find out that you can sit in jail on a contempt of court charge for, well, ever.

Several creepy items

The first—the most serious one—comes from David Brooks via my friend RB:

Let’s take a look at what [Clinton is] going to put her party through for the sake of [a] 5 percent chance [of winning]: The Democratic Party is probably going to have to endure another three months of daily sniping. ... For three more months (maybe more!) the campaign will proceed along in its Verdun-like pattern. There will be a steady rifle fire of character assassination from the underlings, interrupted by the occasional firestorm of artillery when the contest touches upon race, gender or patriotism. The policy debates between the two have been long exhausted, so the only way to get the public really engaged is by poking some raw national wound.

The other story, via Bruce Schneier, concerns a weird but scary Craigslist hoax:

Two hoax ads on Craigslist cost a Jacksonville man thousands of dollars in property Saturday and could land the pranksters in jail on theft and burglary charges.

The classified ads popped up Saturday afternoon on the Web site saying the owner of a home ... was forced to leave the area suddenly and that his belongings, including a horse, were free for the taking, said Jackson County sheriff's Detective Sgt. Colin Fagan.

The only problem is that Robert Salisbury has no plans of leaving his home any time soon.

Finally, a new dating website that left my friend TLC "flabbergasted but intrigued:"

You fill out a profile which consists of photos, your height, body type, education, occupation and a personal statement, and get rated by other members of the In My League community on a scale of one to ten based on your attractiveness.

Once you've been rated five times, you'll see your rating and all of your matches. Your matches are people who are within one point of your rating either way on the ten point scale. You can send messages and flirts to your matches, and when you appear as someone else's match, they send messages and flirts to you.

So if you're a 7.0, you'll be able to contact members who are rated as high as 8.0. And nobody rated below a 6.0 will be able to get in touch with you.

We live in interesting times.

British nuclear security

Via Bruce Schneier, apparently the physical security of British nuclear weapons until around 1998 consisted of, essentially, a bicycle key:

To arm the weapons you just open a panel held by two captive screws - like a battery cover on a radio - using a thumbnail or a coin.

Inside are the arming switch and a series of dials which you can turn with an Allen key to select high yield or low yield, air burst or groundburst and other parameters.

The Bomb is actually armed by inserting a bicycle lock key into the arming switch and turning it through 90 degrees. There is no code which needs to be entered or dual key system to prevent a rogue individual from arming the Bomb.

Oh. Well. Of course. Why use a hard-to-forge sequence of letters and numbers like the U.S. or U.S.S.R. when a little key will do?

So what prevented an accidental (or deliberate) British detonation until Tony Blair fixed the problem? Why, tradition, of course, what what!

The Royal Navy argued that officers of the Royal Navy as the Senior Service could be trusted: "It would be invidious to suggest... that Senior Service officers may, in difficult circumstances, act in defiance of their clear orders."

(Insert nervous laughter here.)

Distracting news roundup

A larger-than-usual bunch of news stories piqued my interest this morning:

How the terrorists are winning

Terrorism only works if people allow themselves to be terrorized. People like, for example, shoppers in New Haven, Conn.:

Two people who sprinkled flour in a parking lot to mark a trail for their offbeat running club [the Hash House Harriers] inadvertently caused a bioterrorism scare and now face a felony charge.

New Haven ophthalmologist Daniel Salchow, 36, and his sister, Dorothee, 31, who is visiting from Hamburg, Germany, were both charged with first-degree breach of peace, a felony.

The siblings set off the scare while organizing a run for a local chapter of the Hash House Harriers, a worldwide group that bills itself as a "drinking club with a running problem."

...

Mayoral spokeswoman Jessica Mayorga said the city plans to seek restitution from the Salchows, who are due in court Sept. 14. "You see powder connected by arrows and chalk, you never know," she said. "It could be a terrorist, it could be something more serious. We're thankful it wasn't, but there were a lot of resources that went into figuring that out."

Maybe there's something about New England that prevents the police there from exercising common sense (see, e.g., blinking advertisements).

Update, 15:20 CDT: Security expert Bruce Schneier has declared this the "stupidest terrorist overreaction yet."