Category Archives: malfunctioning computers

i’m really glad…

the computer industry has been a-twitter for the past few days, concerning a zero-day “bug” in micro$lop word, which gives an attacker full execution control of the victim’s machine — a Very Bad Thing®.

this reminds me of a couple of things that i experienced, more-or-less first-hand, while i was working at micro$lop, and is the PRIMARY REASON why i’m really glad i don’t run machines with their software on them.

there’s this, which outlines what the “bug” is, and how it allows an attacker to take control of a victim’s machine (i put the word “bug” in quotation marks because bugs are usually things that appear in the code by mistake, but it is my impression that micro$lop put this in deliberately, without realising the potential damage it could do)… which brings up the fact that they have known, particularly, about security problems with OLE (which went through a stage where they were referring to it as “ActiveX”), at least since my friend, and computer-god fred debuted The Exploder Control in 1995, which did a clean shut-down of any machine unfortunate enough to be running Windows95 — PLEASE NOTE: the Exploder Control is not harmful, and will not run correctly unless you’re running Windows95 and Internet Explorer version 3, which, by this time, presumably, you’re not. fred’s premise was, and still is, that if you have a method of excersising THAT MUCH control over a machine, it better well be FULLY AND COMPLETELY SECURE, otherwise people WILL take advantage of it.

i worked at micro$lop when the first Word Concept Virus was discovered. it was unique (at the time) because it allowed an attacker to infect a victim’s machine over email, without actually having to have physical contact with the target machine. it worked by utilising micro$lop word’s “normal.dot” template, and required the victim to have macros enabled by default. the new, most recent word problem doesn’t require macros to be enabled, and doesn’t work if the application is running in “Protected View”. so, the solution micro$lop has come up with is to recommend that you run word in “Protected View” in order to avoid this particular vulnerability.

it is significant, to me, that the primary reason we have things like active antivirus software on our computers today is because of actions taken by the micro$lop corporation when i worked there. when i was working there, they were the largest manufacturer of computer software in the world.

and it reminds me of the solution micro$lop came up with to avoid another “bug” in another one of their “excellent” programs, internet explorer: version 3 exhibited a flaw in the way that it displays URIs in the address bar, and by opening a specially crafted URI an attacker could open a page that appears to be from a different domain from the current location. the solution? “Do not click any hyperlinks that you do not trust. Type them into the address bar yourself“… despite the fact that one of the features of all web browsers is that you can get from one source of information to the next, easily, without having to type in long, unintelligible strings of code.

Rule of thumb — Every time Microsoft uses the word “smart,” be on the lookout for something dumb.
     — John Walker

A little detective work revealed that, as is usually the case when you encounter something shoddy in the vicinity of a computer, Microsoft incompetence and gratuitous incompatibility were to blame.
     — John Walker

grr…

i was going over some updates with the new web site designer. because of a couple of component updates, some of my templates were deprecated and needed to be updated. i figured i could probably update them, since all that was needed was for me to determine which templates needed to be updated, download the updates, FTP to the site and replace the old ones with the new ones. in the process of finding out which of the templates needed to be updated, i came across a random, and somewhat unexpected error with my SSL certificate. the web designer said the host provider needed to fix it. the host provider said that the web designer needed to fix it.

😡 ‽‽‽‽

it was getting really late last night, when the host provider said that the web designer needed to fix it, and he wasn’t going to be available until tomorrow. i told the geek at the host provider that it sounded to me like it was a problem that the host provider was supposed to fix, and the geek proceded to break it even more. i was blocked out of my own site, temporarily, and when i was able to log in again, instead of being able to log out, i was redirected to a page that told me i was temporarily blocked from access… regardless of which browser, or which platform i used, i was able to login successfully, but was unable to log out.

😡 ‽ 😡 ‽ 😡 ‽ 😡 ‽

today, i contacted the web site designer. i agreed to give him $150, and he agreed to fix my site, and update it with the right templates.

grr… 😕

god damn it!!!

i have an ipad, so i can keep farcebook off of my real computers.

i don’t know whether it’s the ipad itself, or whether it is farcebook, but i’m getting really pissed off at the behaviour i’m seeing:

1) it randomly crashes: the screen freezes, then goes black, and then it gives me the “desktop” screen, and then, when i restart the farcebook application, it automatically goes to my “News Feed” rather than to the “Most Recent” page, where i normally read stuff. this happens a lot more frequently when i am reading a “link” that someone posted, but it also happens when i am simply reading farcebook.

2) it takes FOR-FUCKING-EVER to load a “link” from the farcebook application, and even when it says it’s finished loading, frequently it freezes until the entire page actually loads, which is sometimes as much as two or three minutes later. this is a lot more common on links which contain videos, although YouTube links usually load fairly quickly, which makes me suspect that there’s something else that is gobbling up bandwidth.

3) in the farcebook application itself, it frequently freezes for a couple of minutes, and then goes back to “normal” behaviour.

4) frequently, when i go to a “link” in the farcebook application, it loads completely, and then the screen gets a grey tinge to it, and the entire page is overlayed with an advertisement of some kind, and unless i touch EXACTLY the right place, which changes semi-regularly, instead of getting to read the page that i intended to, i have to wait for farcebook to put another, complete, entirely unrelated page, the advertisement, on the screen, which frequently takes up to five minutes, before i can go “back” to the page i was intending to read.

4½) a related problem is that, frequently, when i touch a place that should be a link of some kind (like a URI) it doesn’t do anything at all, and other times, when i am “scrolling”, it interprets my “touch” as a “click” and loads something in which i wasn’t interested, and then gives me a lot of difficulties (involving one or more of the previously enumerated items) getting back to where i was.

to make matters worse, the specific problems outlined above don’t happen individually: they frequently come in batches of two, or three, and, frequently all four of them at the same time.

as i said, i’m not sure whether it is due to bugs in the farcebook application, or bugs in the hardware, but it’s getting to the point where i feel like throwing the device against a wall, or out the window or something.

i’m fairly sure that this is NOT the way it is supposed to work. 😠

sigh…

so, it has been a couple days since my computer fell back into place, and i can definitely say that the past couple of weeks have been among the most stressful battles of the computer i have ever experienced… and it still isn’t back to 100%. 😠

my external, backup drive mounts when i first turn the machine on in the morning, but if i have to restart it for any reason — security upgrades, for example — i have to completely shut down the machine and start it up from power-off, rather than “restarting” it, because the disk only mounts if it starts up from power-off… if the machine restarts, it doesn’t power-off, and it loses the backup drive when it has restarted.

i am fairly sure that this can be taken care of relatively easily, by adding a line of text to a particular settings file somewhere, but i don’t remember where, and, at this point, i am so relieved to have a computer that actually works at all, that i’m willing to overlook this relatively minor inconvenience for the moment.

wrap up

i got my email working late friday. when i booted the machine yesterday, i still didn’t have my backup disk, and, while i futzed around and rebooted a couple of times, i couldn’t get it to mount. also, in spite of the fact that i had the cable plugged into the right hole, the sound still didn’t work, but i was going to bellingharm, so i figured i would save it until later.

i went to bellingham yesterday. ken and kamala have found a new place to live, but serentipity is going away, after 40 years that i know of. i got home at 11:00 last night, and was too tired to mess around with the computer.

this morning i got up, and booted up the computer, and, for some unknown reason, the backup disk mounted. i shut it down and started it up several times, and i still have a backup disk. it fixed itself. weird… so then i pulled the audio cable and plugged it into the front, where i can see what it’s doing. it worked. i plugged it into the back, and it still worked. so, the sound fixed itself as well. double weird… 8/

also, i screwed around with cron for about 5 minutes total (it actually took about 20 minutes, but it was screw with cron for a few seconds and then wait 5 minutes for the changes to take effect, or not), and got sigrot to work the way it’s supposed to.

so, basically, i got through the whole battle of the computer, and i only lost my fonts and my email filters… and i didn’t lose ALL of the email filters, only the “actions” for the filters… and i didn’t really lose the fonts, but i think they’re actually living on the other computer, which i haven’t booted up since the new computer made its appearance, so i’m still hoping that’ll fix itself as well…

i don’t know why, but i’m not arguing. this is the best outcome i have ever experienced in the battle of the computer, although it took quite a bit longer to come to this resolution than it has in the past.