Weblog for June '01
Sunday, June 17, 2001 -- Father's Day.
On this Father's Day, I am creating this web site and beginning this web log. My plan is to update this page (and others that are similar to it) more frequently than the other pages here at the site so that I can use it as a forum for my thoughts and a medium for reports of my activities.
"Blogging" (the term applied to posting weblogs like this
) is a phenomenon that is well established on the Internet. I am choosing to use Trellix Web
to create mine, but there are others, such as Blogger
. In both these cases, the software is available in a free form, and there are web hosts, such as Tripod
, where the hosting is also free. These tools and resources make it possible for even the novice web builder to post information on the web. As such they provide a valuable service to the Internet community by providing a way for people to learn to use the Web to their own purposes. The more that knowledge is spread the better off we all will be, whether or not I might agree with everything people choose to publish.
Monday, June 18, 2001
A Recommended Newsletter
This morning I finally got around to reading the latest edition of Bruce Schneier's Crypto-Gram newsletter from June 15. Of all the newsletters that I receive, this one is by far the most well-written and consistently informative. Mr. Schneier, author of "Applied Cryptography," is one of the most widely-acknowledged authorities in the field. He heads up a security firm, Counterpane Internet Security, Inc., that provides actively monitored security services to organizations.
His newsletter always arrives exactly on the 15th of the month, and each month he writes several articles that warrant the attention of anyone interested in computer and network security or anyone involved with administering a network. While it is a field and a subject that may seem too esoteric for the average Joe to attend to, it is, in fact, one that affects everyone that is connected to the Internet. And despite the complexity of the subject, the average Joe will learn a lot about security and what is and is not possible in protecting himself from the various threats to which he is exposed just because he is connected to the Internet. The newsletter also contains letters from his readers that sometimes reinforce what he has said and at other times challenge it. Surprisingly, even the letters from the readers are well-written. I can recommend this newsletter without reservation. It is worth your time and worthy of your attention.
If you are interested in subscribing to Crypto-Gram, you can do so at this URL http://www.counterpane.com/crypto-gram.html
. If you'd just like to read an issue or two to determine if you agree with me that it is worth reading, you can read some back issues at that same URL.
Tuesday, June 19, 2001
A Real Irony
Given how much I value and enjoy using my computer, I think it is truly ironic that I am still using the computer I bought at the end of 1994. In this age of Moore's Law
when the precipitous drop in computer prices is rivaled only by the increase in computer capability, I haven't chosen to buy a new computer . . . yet.
Granted this computer hasn't remained unchanged during all that time. It began life as a Gateway 2000
Pentium 90 system, but some time ago (I can't recall exactly how long) the motherboard on the original system died. I replaced it with an ASUS
TXP4 motherboard and a Pentium MMX 233 MHz chip. Since that time, I've also added memory so that it now has a total of 160 Mb of RAM.
The computer came with an internal 14.4 kHz modem, but since that time I've gone through an internal 28.8 kHz (Cardinal) modem and an external 56 kHz (Zoom
) modem before now arriving at a Cable Modem from Comcast Cable
and Excite@Home's cable service. I've also added an additional 4 Gig Hard drive, partitioned as two 2 Gig partitions. So now I have 5 Gigabytes of hard disk space, not exactly a lot in this day and time, but so far adequate. My son, Jeff, has given me a 10 Gig Maxtor hard disk that I haven't yet installed.
The computer still has a number of components that came with it originally. One is the CD-ROM drive, a 4X speed system. It also came with a 250 MB tape back up drive that I never use any more. It would make sense to replace that tape drive with a re-writeable CD, but I rationalize not doing that by telling myself that I am due a new system and I could configure it so that it had all those components installed. I am also still using the same Vivitron 17" monitor I purchased from Gateway 2K in 1994 with the original system.
Perhaps all this ironic staying power with my old system arises because of my experience with buying new computers. I've bought two of them for myself from Gateway 2000. In both cases (my first system was a 25 MHz 386), I spent more than $4,000 for the system. Buying top of the line systems early in their life cycle tends to be the most expensive way to buy a computer. But, of course, as an enthusiast, it is a struggle for me to buy anything except a system that has all the bells and whistles that I want when I get a new system. That penchant, however, has cost me dearly in the past.
My father, who spent his life selling automobiles, used to say (back in the 1950's) that if you want to drive a nice car you should count on always having a car payment and trading cars at least every two years. Of course, that was at a time when a new car cost between $2,000 and $3,000. In today's economy, the computer is the comparable tool. Today however, I am still driving the 1980 Volvo
that I bought new in December 1980. It has over 233,000 miles that I have put on it, and it still rides like a sports car. I love it, and I can't bring myself to even look at purchasing a new car.
While I can avoid looking at new cars, paying as much attention as I do to computers, it is tough not to notice that for less than half of what I originally paid for either of the computers I have bought for myself I could have a system that blows away my current set up. The longer I resist the urge to upgrade however, the more I can get for my money and the greater the capability the system will have when I do get it. What a country!
Wednesday, June 20, 2001
Favorites Link Begun
This morning I started the process of listing some of my favorite web sites to recommend to friends. I'll add to it as time goes on. Just click on the Favorite Links
to check it out.
And if you haven't yet checked out the About Me
link, you might also find some links there that you will find interesting.
Thursday, June 21, 2001
The First Day of Summer
Here's to the arrival of summer, the pinnacle of the year!!! In the words of Kermit the Frog, "Yeah!"
Just like life, the trouble with reaching the pinnacle is that from here on, it's down hill. The days start getting shorter, the blooms eventually fall off the flowers, and the coming winds of fall bring about the decent into the cold bleakness of winter, where when all seems dead and beyond tolerance, the birth of the next cycle begins. What a marvel is this annual phenomenon! Every year that I live through it, I am more struck by the awesomeness of it all. . . . But enough philosophical musing for the moment.
I am beginning a new page at the web site this morning, the Friends and Family
page. Eventually, I'll be able to pay tribute to members of my biological family and to members of that wider, chosen family that are known as friends.
To begin with I wanted some place on this web site to devote to a tribute to one of those friends, Paul Moor, both because I value his friendship and because he has led and continues to live a life that warrants documenting in some form. In a different age, I might be moved to write his biography, but in this one, I can add a page to the web site, so that's what I choose to do. (This will probably be a work in progress that will take a while.)
Saturday, June 23, 2001
After a day off, I am back to working on this web site.
Yesterday was my day off from work. I had some things to take care of that kept me out of the house most of the day so I didn't do much work on this web site. This morning I've been able to make some further additions to the Friends and Family
page, and I've added a page that I'll be developing about my friend Paul Moor
. I have a number of pictures of Paul and the rich and famous friends he has had through the years and I'll be posting those on Paul's page(s) as time permits.
Monday, June 25, 2001
Still exploring and discovering the rewards of web pages
Over the weekend and in the days following my notifying some of you that I've put this web page up, I've discovered that one of the rewards for the effort involved in working on this web site is hearing from old friends who have viewed the page. So far, I've heard from Forrest Umberger, Tom Wright, Jane Hascall and, this past Sunday, Juan Gutierrez, all of whom commented that they've seen the pages and that they plan to monitor them from time to time. That's a great payoff to working on the site! For a long time I've been somewhat reluctant to put up a web page because I didn't think I had anything of significance to say (and if you've read what I've posted already, you may agree with that point of view), but now I am coming to believe that it is acceptable to simply post personal observations, things I've found on the net, and/or general musings about what's going on in the world.
This morning I have explored another capability that Trellix Web
makes possible. I've create a "container page" that opens a window on this web site to display a web page from the some other location on the web. It is easier to see the illustration of this than it is to explain what it is. Check out this link -- Quotes
-- to see what I'm talking about. I decided to include this particular page because it offers a program called Quotes that enables one to use a tagline file to enhance his email. Back in the BBS days of ILink Writers (see My friend, Paul Moor
), these little random, one-line epithets were one popular and interesting part of the conversations. When I moved from that environment to "normal" email, that capability wasn't readily available or it required more effort than it was worth. This program seems to restore the ease of use that made taglines in BBS correspondence so popular. If you decide to download the program and use it, drop me a note
and let me know what you think about it
Also, over the weekend, my friend Tom Wright sent me this link, http://test3.thespark.com/person/
, which links to a fairly interesting personality test. I'm not sure about the validity or usefulness of the information, but if you are interested in such things, you might find it amusing. You can compare the outcome you get with the one I got just by entering my email address when you reach the end.
Wednesday, June 27, 2001
My Buddy Got a Bug
Yesterday my friend, Paul, sent out a plea for help announcing that while he was away from home for a few days he had received an email containing a virus. He thought that he had contracted 3 viruses, but as it turns out one virus, W32/BadTrans@MM, had created 3 new files on his computer, causing him to think he had incurred a multiple infection. The worm Paul received is particularly virulent because it does some obnoxious things to your system. McAfee's Virus Definition Library contains this description
of what the virus is and what it does.
This incident with Paul serves to underscore the importance of having virus protection software installed on your system if you are connecting to the Internet, which you obviously are if you are reading these comments. However, many folks buy a virus protection program, install it and then believe they are protected. THAT IS AN ERRONEOUS ASSUMPTION. You must update the virus definition files regularly because new viruses are created every day. All the makers of virus protection software create and make available new definition files when the new viruses are identified. The user however is responsible for getting the updated definition files and installing them on his system so as to be protected against the current crop of viruses. This requirement that the user take some action to keep his protection current is one of the potential breakdowns in the system. So don't fail to update your virus definition files on a regular schedule (at least once a month or even more often if you can remember to do so). The quality of your protection rests on whether your virus protection program scans for the most recent viruses that have come into existence, and of course, it rests on whether you have your program set to perform a scan regularly (daily for instance).
A second type of protection that is particularly important to those of us who have a fast connection to the Internet, such as a cable modem or ADSL, is what is known as a firewall. For more information about firewalls, the Home PC Firewall Guide
is an excellent resource and a place where you can find links to other sites where you can buy and/or download one (for free in some cases).
Unfortunately, there is a downside to adding a firewall to your system, though not one that should stop you from pursuing that kind of protection. I covered my thoughts on that downside in this part of a message I sent to Paul:
For what it's worth, XXXX XXXXX's recommendation that you obtain ZoneAlarm (a firewall) is not necessarily a bad idea, but it would NOT have protected you from the worm you just received from XXXXX in an email. AND, it will, without a doubt, introduce some confusion regarding your surfing the Internet UNTIL you understand the product and how to make it operate under your command, because it blocks anything from coming into your computer unless you give it specific permission for things from that source to pass. A firewall is a good idea; I'm just pointing out that there is a learning curve that you might experience in the form of blocked capabilities on the net until you learn to manage your firewall properly.
Security while surfing is a topic that warrants everyone's attention and effort. In the worst case, your computer can be disabled by acquiring a virus or worm AND you might pass along your problem to your friends, or at the very least, your day might be disrupted because you must stop what you are doing and clean your system. As always "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."
Thursday, June 28, 2001
Some More Tweaks to the Web Site
This morning I've added a page to my tribute to Paul Moor. It contains his curriculum vitae
and helps me to put into a framework the people and events in his life. I'm still trying to decide how I want to incorporate a series of photographs I have at my disposal of him and in some cases him and other well-known people.
Today is also the birthday of my friend, Forrest Umberger, the talented lead of The Fun Addicts. Here's a photo of Forrest at a recent Barbershop Convention in Knoxville, back in October of 2000.
Each member of our quartet brought something special to our popularity. Forrest's contribution was first of all a beautiful singng voice, but he also possed a wonderful comedic acting skill and intelligence and a quick wit that made him the center of attention when we were performing. His facial expressions and comic reactions kept us, as a group, in stitches, and of course they helped to make him a fan favorite. (Click on the photo at the left for a larger version.)
Saturday, June 30, 2001
A Few Days Off ... In a Row!!
I am off from work today, and what's more I have Sunday AND Monday off too. Then after working on Tuesday, I have Wednesday off for the 4th of July. This is the first time since I began work with my current company that I have had three days off in a row.
The reason for the schedule change is that I have had my responsibilities altered a bit. Now instead of answering incoming tech support calls from customers, as I've been doing since the beginning, I am serving on the "ticket review team." What that means is that I examine our records of customers' calls to see whether the agent who took the call closed it properly and if they didn't, I close it. Then I make an outgoing call to the customer, if the status of their service is not clear, to determine whether they connection is working properly. Of course, if it is not, I am charged with trying to resolve the issue. Fortuantely, in most cases the customer is surfing and the problem has been resolved.
So I welcome the change to my schedule that gives me some sequential time off on a predicatable basis.
This morning I added a new link on this web site. It is to A Few of My Audio Favorites
from various National Public Radio programs. In a way, it is like being able to program my own All Things Considered broadcast by linking the segments I enjoy together. I hope you'll find these segments as amusing or enjoyable as I do.
A couple of days ago, I asked Paul Moor to send me a copy of a piece he wrote in 1992 and posted to ILink Writers. I wanted to put it on this web site to illustrate what originally caused me to notice him, in particular, among all the other exceptional writers in that group. He graciously complied with my request today. You can read it here
Thank you, Paul.