“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Abraham Lincoln

More Bits

with 8 comments

More of my occasional round up of technical stuff that I have come across in the past few weeks.

Bing is being marketed as the new and wonderful search engine and not just a re-name of something old (as if that would happen, eh ?), what about the copyright?

Gmail has many add-ons, and one that I like and wish I had used before is unsend, it is somewhat hidden away.

MI5 hacked, or not, depends on who you believe. Bet that makes a lot of people feel safe.

Gary McKinnon is being served up by HMG as an offering to the US. Instead of being punished McKinnon should be congratulated for finding weaknesses in US government computers. Still, the lazy managers of those systems won’t admit fault (or they’d lose their jobs) and so Gary McKinnon will be used as the sacrificial lamb to placate North American incompetence. Even some North Americans agree.

Apple’s PR skills are failing as bigshots drop Iphone.

PCLinuxOs seems to be differentiating itself from the pack, they’ve just released PCLinuxOS LXDE 2009.4 the LXde edition. I use to like PCLinuxOS with its cloning facility, but a few of the last releases have been buggy so I’ll wait 1-2 months before testing this one. Could be good, best wait and see.

Glad I don’t have an Ipod.

Like speed ? Petaflops, not MIPS, are the new kids on the block.

Oh, more Firefox bugs.

Want to create a bootable USB with Linux on it? unetbootin is a good method.

In environmental news, British rubbish, globalized.

Stuck for a ripper on Linux? Try ripit on the command line, it is fast and only about 381 K!

Finally, is Wikipedia slowly dying?

Update 1: There is some contention as to the actual damaged done, but as pointed out:

“The unemployed systems analyst from Wood Green, north London, admits he gained access to 97 US Navy, Army, Nasa and Pentagon computers from the bedroom of his girlfriend’s aunt’s house.

But he says he was motivated by curiosity and only got in because of lax security.

The US government says he stole passwords and deleted files. He faces up to 70 years in prison if found guilty.”

Update 2:
McKinnon admits making mistakes ages ago, in 2005, but it seems unlikely that he damaged 73,000 computers along the way, as has been suggested, when a simple restore from the daily backup would cure any problems:

“He strenuously denies the justice department’s charge that he caused the “US military district of Washington” to become “inoperable”. Well, once, he admits, but only once, he inadvertently pressed the wrong button and may have deleted some government files.”

Update 3:
They have now released an early version of Firefox 3.6, I do hope that they’ll make an effort to fix the swath of existing bugs before we see a beta.

Written by modernityblog

08/08/2009 at 13:26

8 Responses

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  1. On Gary McKinnon, Andy newman continues his rapid career to the right over on Socialist(?) unity – disgraceful


    08/08/2009 at 15:03

  2. Yes Darren,

    I was reading the thread at Socialist Unity blog and thinking how reactionary his views were.

    But not only is Newman factually incorrect, politically limited and technically wrong.

    The situation of McKinnon hacking is of the US government’s making. They effectively connected insecure computer systems to the Internet, and then they are surprised when someone exploits obvious weaknesses.

    It is the equivalent of leaving your front door open, putting a sign up and then being surprised when people walk in and look around at your possessions.

    The computer systems which McKinnon accessed were set up insecurely. That was the fault of the people that managed them, not McKinnon. He did no physical damage to the system and it is the ego of those employed to set up these systems that has been shattered. Nothing of consequence. There was no damage. He did not upload any viruses.

    It was unintentional neglect, shoddy practices and arrogance that allow this state of affairs to come about.

    At the worst, McKinnon should be given a slap on the wrist and employed by those US government agencies, on contract, to improve their security.

    At best he should be congratulated for pricking the arrogance of professional computer managers who aren’t very professional in their security.


    08/08/2009 at 15:16

  3. ==MI5==

    Whats the big deal? (yes a list coming on)

    a) it was MI5 (counter terrorist) not MI6/SIS (aka secret service)
    b) MI5 systems werent compromised, just their website, hosted elsewhere, was
    c) Not a threat to public security as it is simply an online guide to members of the public i.e. contains no confidential/top secret information and hardly anyone views the site anyway
    d) good publicity for a hacker group I suppose, however, it would be more damaging for Mi5 if you read the newspapers, they will report alleged activities of MI5 more; than this group adding a few lines of code … not much different than defacing an leaflet by drawing an phallus on it.


    Everyone going on about how he should be employed by the Americans and not sentenced to prison over there. This is not the case. They want to interrogate him (CIA, waterboarding and all that stuff) to find out whether he managed to obtain any information regarding 9/11 attacks. It is not the embarassment of them being hacked but rather a worried Government in maybe he knew too much. It is disgusting that they will allow him to be extradited when he will be tortured.

    Also the treaty (to the best of my knowledge) was signed AFTER the offence. Under European Human Rights .. article 7: “No person may be punished for an act that was not a criminal offence at the time of its commission”. The law involved was the Extradition Act 2003 and the crime was commited prior to that (came in force 2004) and before the 2005 treaty. I am sure there are exceptions regarding national security but he is not a threat at all so wouldnt be an usable excuse.


    Good site but too American focused (I know its american lol) and rarely an article is balanced, normally one sided etc.

    New Deal Scandal

    08/08/2009 at 20:18

  4. MI5, well if they were professional they’d try to ensure that ANY computer connected to the web is basically hacker proof, running 1000s of tests, simulated attacks, look at how people *could* do it and plan against it.

    McKinnon and the CIA, I don’t know what they want to do, but they shouldn’t be extraditing him. As for the 9/11 info, what could have been left on those computers relating to that?

    Wiki’s problem is power, putting it into the hands of a few, it causes stagnation in societies, organizations and as they’ve found out: Wiki

    A few times I thought I’d correct some of the worse errors in their pages on history, but knowing that it would be deleted (this saga goes back years, I have a draft post from 3-4 years ago on it) I thought why bother? That’s their problem, power in the hands of people not used to it, goes to their heads.


    09/08/2009 at 02:16

  5. Why would a counter-terrorist organisation do such attacks on all the web servers and computers worldwide?

    Well it was around shortly after the time of the attacks, intelligence relating to who they suspect etc. are behind the attacks, although they are american so might not have any.

    Yes, wiki is full of failed wannabe journalists and editors – power goes straight to their heads.

    New Deal Scandal

    09/08/2009 at 11:19

  6. “he inadvertently pressed the wrong button and may have deleted some government files.”

    I assume he used a terminal right? So the story does not match. I am shocked that the UK extradicts a citizen to a nation which even practices torture.


    09/08/2009 at 11:47

  7. NDS – my point all along is that if you do computer security for a job, then you have to expect attacks thus, MI5, the CIA etc were very very sloppy in not being prepared for it.

    I have an old O’Reilly book behind me on Practical Unix Security, it dates from 1991, republished 1994. The people running these systems are to blame, they didn’t setup them correctly or monitor them with care. Even 18 years ago people knew this type of things could happen.

    Karsten – I couldn’t find the indictment, but it seems that he use PC Anywhere, probably telnet too, even SSH, not sure.

    I doubt that McKinnon would be tortured, but the Treaty seems to be very one-sided from all accounts.


    09/08/2009 at 15:08

  8. […] I lied before. I tried PC LinuxOS LXDE version and it hasn’t been too bad. Midori as a browser is a nice experiment and the initial install took only about 6 minutes and 1.2 Gb of space which is very low by today’s standards. You do need to add things, but it allows a certain flexibility. Still it is early days and I haven’t tested it in earnest yet. […]

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