Weblog for July '01
Thursday, July 26, 2001
Continuous vigilance required!
On Tuesday, I received an email with an attachment from an infrequent correspondent. The attachment seemed innocent enough, but it had the extension .DOC.ZI6. Since most Word files don't have that additional extension I was cautious about the file and did NOT open it, but when I quoted his message (though without the attachment) in a reply to him to question whether he had intentionally sent it, my ISP warned me that I might have become infected with a new email-borne threat.
Thus began my experience with the latest Internet worm, W32.Sircam.Worm@mm. If you haven't yet heard of it, McAfee's web sit provides this description of the worm and tells you how it operates and what it does. As it turns out, I needed the fix tool from Norton before McAfee had put up this link, so I know from firsthand experience that Norton's fix works to clean your system of this newest threat. You must download a file, FixSirc.com, and then run it to affect the cure. Norton's site explains in depth what actions the tool takes to cleanse your system.
Tuesday, July 24, 2001
Once again, I'm jumping back into the task of posting something ... just to report my continued existence. In recent days, I've been struggling with editing the chapter I was invited to contribute to a soon-to-be published book (by Jossey-Bass) called "Rewiring Organizations for the Networked Economy" edited by Stan Herman. The task of editing is, without a doubt, the most onerous aspect of writing -- one that is as distasteful to me as imagining myself an animal who feels a genetically-coded predisposition to eat the placenta after having given birth to an offspring. Yet the job is not done until this distasteful task is completed. <sigh>
Friday, July 20, 2001
And where were you back then?
|Thirty two years ago today, Carole and I stayed up very late at night to watch Neil Armstrong take those first steps after "the eagle" landed on the moon. At the time we lived in her childhood home, located at 5462 Memorial Drive in Stone Mountain, GA. Jeff was about 3 and a half years old, and Mike was still awaiting his first birthday celebration. I remember watching those grainy pictures from the moon on the television in the den and marveling at what the country had achieved. Today I marvel even more, given my now-more-informed appreciation of the limits of the technology at the time. Much more than then, I now realize what a daring attempt this event was and how heroic the astronauts were when they risked their lives to undertake this historic adventure.
Wednesday, July 18, 2001
Take note World!
I have not expired; I am merely pressed with other priorities at the moment. I'll get back to daily recording soon.
Monday, July 16, 2001
A quick update and then it's shoulder to the wheel
This morning, thanks to Bruce Schneier's monthly Crypto-Gram report, I discovered a link to an article on the virus that I apparently got on July 9th. In an article titled, "Hackers May Profit from Spam" in the July 2, 2001 edition of Interactive Week, Max Smetannikov reports on the discovery of "the first case of a "spamming trojan" on June 14, in the San Francisco Bay area, on Excite@Home's network." Essentially, the hacker/spammer locates a vulnerable computer on the Internet and installs a program that causes the victim's computer to send out a large volume of email to those in his address book, email that advertises some product or offer -- a classic case of spam. The reason I believe that this is what happened to me is that, as I reported on July 10th, I began to receive returned email that I hadn't knowingly sent, AND I have an account on the Excite@Home network, albeit not in the San Francisco Bay area.
I'll post more on this phenomenon as I discover it and as time permits, but for now I must meet a deadline today, about which I'll elaborate once I've met the deadline.
Sunday, July 15, 2001
More information on firewalls
I've now had a bit more experience with life after ZoneAlarm Pro. Some of it positive, some frustrating. First, the positive. This morning I checked Steve Gibson's Shields Up site to test my system using the tool he provides there. Fortunately, the system now checks out as "very secure." However, I am not lulled by that into a sense of false security. I realize that I still must keep the virus definition files on my virus detection software up to date and that I can't leave the system itself open to everyone and his brother or to foolishly rely on the same password at every site I visit. However, I am pleased to have added another tool to my arsenal so that I can wage a good war with those who would intrude and abuse my system.
The frustrating experience I've had with ZoneAlarm Pro is that I've had trouble getting it to permit RealAudio files to pass. When you first use a program that must send or receive data from the Internet, ZoneAlarm prompts you to ask whether you want to permit that program to do what it is about to do. You can say yes and then check a box that will remember that decision in the future. Therefore, ZoneAlarm tends to be "noisy" in the beginning, but as you use it, it becomes quieter. Although I gave the firewall permission to allow RealAudio messages to pass and also to let RealAudio act as a server, Zone Alarm continues to block various UDP ports from www.npr.org and that causes the RealAudio file not to start playing. I have written the Tech Support people at ZoneLabs for help with this problem, after first examining the FAQs at their web site, but since I wrote on a Saturday and they indicate that a response can be expected in two business days, I'm still awaiting word from them.
On balance, the frustration is minor by comparison with the increased security that ZoneAlarm provides. Soon I'll have the answer about RealAudio and as I continue to use the firewall, the configuration problems such as this will subside. Getting ZoneAlarm has been a good decision.
Saturday, July 14, 2001
When my friends Henry Kemp and Jim Kessler first got their cable modems from RoadRunner a couple of years ago, I counseled them to install a firewall since their connection was "always on." I don't think either of them followed my advice, and to the best of my knowledge neither has suffered any serious consequences from not doing so. And I hope they don't in the future.
However, once I obtained a cable modem myself a couple of months ago, I dealt with the threat I thought my own "always on" connection posed by using my cable modem as if it were a dial up connection. I would turn off the modem when I wasn't actually using it to access the Internet and then turn it back on when I needed it. I figured that those brief periods of actual activity would help to lessen the possibility that someone could hack into my system and use it maliciously. As I noted on Tuesday the 10th though, I was apparently wrong.
So yesterday morning, I finally decided to purchase and install a firewall -- ZoneAlarm Pro. I had previously installed the free version and had experienced the phenomenon of having to grant specific permission for programs on my system to access the Internet. When I first experienced that, I thought of it as a something of a nuisance and consequently I uninstalled it. However, after receiving those messages on the 9th and 10th about being blocked from sending email to certain servers because someone had apparently co-opted my computer and used it to distribute their spam, I decided it was time to lock things up here.
Yesterday I left my cable modem on, with ZoneAlarm Pro active, while I went to work, just to see what kind of attacks occurred throughout the day. When I came home, I found that ZAP had blocked 9 "attacks" (or probes) of my system. Though many of them may have been innocent enough or just Internet "noise," I still feel more secure with ZAP than I did without it. Now, at least, I can recommend a firewall wholeheartedly ... since I have finally followed my own advice.
Thursday, July 12, 2001
Long Distance Technical Support
This morning I spent about 45 minutes on the telephone with my buddy, Paul. He called from Berlin for some help in resolving some issues he was having with Microsoft Word. Having learned to get WordPerfect to do backflips through the years, he has been reluctant to shift over to Word but since he now is operating in Windows (again a reluctant move), he needs the capabilities that Word offers but that his version of WordPerfect doesn't (not the least of which is a copy/paste between Windows applications function). So we talked for a while.
One thing that has caused him to resist moving to Word is the appearance of his screen. In WordPerfect he was accustomed to having a black background, yellow text and a large enough display font that he didn't have to squint to see it. He was also accustomed to looking at WordPerfect covering the entire screen. Of course, he didn't realize that one can change all those things in Word too, so I showed him how to do that.
After our call ended, I recorded some macros to make those changes for him and stored it in the Normal.dot file. I sent him a copy of that file so that he can achieve all the changes with a couple of clicks.
Here is some of what I wrote him about the macros.
Once we get this NORMAL.DOT file in your template directory (replacing your existing NORMAL.DOT), you'll have available a set of macros called "SetView" and "UnSetView." They are, as you might suspect, a matching pair. With this template in place whenever you open Word, the new document will be based on this new template and these macros will be available to you. If you press ALT-F8, the Tools / Macro window will open up and you can choose whichever macro is appropriate. In most cases, you'll simply want to select the "SetView" macro and choose RUN from the menu at the right.
The SetView macro does the following:
1. It changes the background color to black.
2. It changes the font color to yellow.
3. It changes the Zoom size to 135%.
4. It set's Word to "full screen."
The UnSetView macro does just the opposite. It . . .
1. Changes the background color to white.
2. Changes the font color to black.
3. Changes the Zoom size to 100%.
4. Closes the Full-Screen option.
Wednesday, July 11, 2001
Finding information about problems with Microsoft programs and/or error messages.
Sometimes when you are using Windows or another of Microsoft's programs, you'll get an error message that is cryptic or unintelligible. Some of these messages give error numbers or specify memory locations where the error occurred. For instance, I got a message from Paul Moor yesterday in which he reported getting the following error from Outlook 2000:
"Out of memory or system resources. Try closing other programs to free additional memory. (Account: 'Paule', SMTP Server: 'mailto.btx.dtag.de', Error Number: 0x8007000e)."
In order to try to find help on that error message, I chose to do a search at the Microsoft Knowledge Base, a database of reference articles that Microsoft maintains to provide help to developers, to their technical support people, and, more importantly, to just plain folks like you and I. You can find that search page by visiting www.microsoft.com and looking around. However, to make it easier for you, here is the specific link for the search page, so that you can't miss it.
The way I use this search page is to first click on the "Clear All" button in the dialog box. Next, I check only the "Support & Knowledge Base" box. Then I enter some search phrase that identifies the error that I am getting from the Microsoft application. In Paul's situation, I chose to enter the Error Number (0x8007000e) into the "Search for" input box. Then click on the "Search" button. Another productive search would be to enter the term "system resources" into the "Search for" input box.
As it turns out the specific article that I found most helpful about Paul's problem was article Q290634. Just to get an idea of what these reference articles in the Knowledge Base look like, you might take a look at the structure of this example, which deals with his specific problem.
I recommend placing this search page in your browser's list of favorites (or bookmarking it, if you use Netscape), because it is a useful tool to have at hand when you're trying to resolve computer difficulties or to decipher your computer's error messages.
Here's the URL: http://search.microsoft.com/us/SearchMS25.asp.
Tuesday, July 10, 2001
A New Virus Headache
Last night I began receiving returned, undeliverable email that I never sent ... or at least not intentionally. The title of the email that is bounding back to me is "AS SEEN ON NATIONAL TV." I've explored the McAfee site for reports of this virus but none were listed. However, using Google's search engine turned up this link to someone's investigation of the apparent originator of the contamination. (The link itself is safe to visit.) There are four pages of information about the virus/spam.
I've not yet tracked down how I contracted this virus or which email address of mine it is using. But I've begun collecting all the returned "undeliverable" email responses from mail servers to try to find out more about it and how to prevent its using my connection for sending out that mail.
If you received a copy of this mail from me, just delete it and please forgive the inconvenience. As soon as I can cleanse my system I will do so.
Monday, July 9, 2001
The start of another week.
I was pleased to have a chance to talk with Jeff, my older son, over the weekend and to learn of the progress he and Deanna, my daughter-in-law, have made in getting things accomplished at their new home. Jeff took a few days of vacation around the Fourth of July holiday and spent it around the house building a fenced area for their dogs, Smokey and Bandit (Siberian Huskies), and putting up blinds on some of the many windows in their home. Jeff was finally able to reach this web site yesterday, and he reported enjoying exploring it and some of the links and recalling the events described here.
Also over the weekend, my friend, Juan, who is the CEO for a company in Charlotte, NC, dropped me a note indicating how things have gone during the first six months of his work there. In the note he mentioned that he "wish(ed) ...that I had started a journal when I began this job to record my learnings, and my surprises..." His expressed wish prompted this reply from me (and I reprint it here because it is advice I would suggest to any of you, too).
I've quoted the sentence above because I'd like to observe that unless you believe your learning is over, as some college graduates do upon their graduation, then your opportunity to create a journal still exists. An initial entry that tries, as best you can, to capture what you learned in the first six months at the helm would be a good starting point. Then a Monday morning entry of your hopes for the upcoming week's activities followed by a Thursday evening entry of the discoveries the week actually brought to you should provide a nice framework for your journal. It would be a sort of "CEO's Journey," and given the fact that you have a flight to and from your work location of about an hour's duration that coincidentally occurs on the very days that your journal entries should occur would seem to also provide the ideal time for writing it. Granted, you probably already fill those hours with other productive work, but the structure of your schedule could sure give a boost to your effort.
As I think you know, I've long since kept a journal of my observations, hopes and philosophizing about my life and times. The fact that I've lately moved that to the web (in the form of a "weblog") has given me the challenge of putting that stuff out there so others can know whether I am keeping up with the task or not. And I find that putting it on the web DOES increase my sense of obligation for daily entries even on those days when I don't think I have anything of significance to say. If I write, even when I feel uninspired, I am always delighted to return to the log and reread what those entries, created without inspiration, produce. Sometimes they are better than the ones I write on the days when I DO feel inspired.
As I noted in my message to Juan, one of the joys of keeping a journal is going back to reread something I wrote earlier and to recall the events that prompted me to write it. In doing that over the weekend, I ran across a piece I wrote in July of 1997 because of a message I received on my answering machine. I decided to post it here because it has a moral that is worth sharing with you.
Sunday, July 8, 2001
Michigan Jake is the Champ
Saturday night in Nashville, Michigan Jake achieved the pinnacle of success for a Barbershop Quartet. They became the 2001 International Champions by earning 2736 points for their performance of "Look Me Up When You're In Dixie" and "Old Piano Roll Blues." They finished with an overall total of 8144 points on the six songs they sang during the three rounds of the contest, 256 points more than their nearest competitor, Uptown Sound. You can check out the final scoring summary to see where other quartets in which you might be interested finished. One of my personal favorites, Riptide, finished fourth this year -- a very respectable achievement that dangles the tempting possibility that another year's hard work just might get them to the top.
Congratulations to all the competitors! Even The Likely Lads who finished 50th out of 50 competitors were winners because they had already beaten out many other quartets at the District level to earn the right to compete at the International level. It is no small feat to win the right to compete on the International stage.
A tribute to two of my best friends
Today is Rocky and Bruno's birthday. In dog terms they turn 98 today (14 in actual years). These two Schnauzers were born of the same litter and have spent their entire life with each other and with me, doing their doggoned best to make sure that I knew I was the most wonderful person on earth (at least to them), always greeting me with unrestrained enthusiasm and joy, and trusting that I would take care of their needs.
And now at this advanced age, they've reached a stage where I can no longer "make things right" for them. Rocky has Cushing's Disease and Glaucoma but is still reasonably mobile, though somewhat senile. Bruno, on the other hand, is frail. He suffers from Arthritis and in recent days has had difficulty using either of his hind legs. I face, I am sad to say, a decision in the too-near future about putting an end to their life so as to put an end to their suffering from the diseases that beset them now with ever more severe consequences. It is a choice that I, as their best friend, cannot and will not dodge, and one that I hope those who love me the most will be willing and able to make when I reach a similar stage in my life. Not all birthdays are joyous events.
Saturday, July 7, 2001
International Barbershop Chorus Champion Crowned
This afternoon the New Tradition chorus of the Northbrook, Illinois, chapter, with 138 men on stage, took home all the marbles as the 2001 International Championship Chorus. Scores and information about their performance and that of the other 21 choruses that participated can be found here. Tonight the Quartet Champion will be crowned.
Friday, July 6, 2001
An Update on the Contest
|The events in Nashville at the convention of Barbershoppers are now at an interesting stage. The quartet contest which began with 51 quartets has now been whittled down to the top 10 finalists. We've reached this point by having each of the quartets who participated sing two songs. The judges determine the top twenty quartets based on the performance each quartet gave according to the rules contained in this PDF document (requires Acrobat Reader). In the Semifinals, the top twenty quartets sing another two songs each. Again those two songs are judged and from this group of twenty emerges the top ten. On Saturday night, the top ten quartets will again perform two songs and based on the cumulative score they have received over the course of the six songs, the International Barbershop Quartet Champion will be crowned.
Thereafter, that quartet's competitive career ends. They can no longer perform in the competition. Of course, their performing career gets an enormous boost from their achievement. Barbershop chapters around the country put on an annual show and the International Championship Quartet is in high demand to be headliners for those shows.
Amidst the background of this competition for the prize of being crowned the International Championship Quartet, another contest among Barbershop choruses takes place. This document provides some perspective for the novice Barbershopper participating in his first Chorus competition. At that time, one of the fifteen choruses that participate will be crowned the International Champion Barbershop Chorus for 2001. The rules for the chorus competition are the same as those for the quartet competition except that the Champion is decided based on the performance given by the choruses on only two songs.
My first International Barbershop Chorus competition occurred in 1971 at the Steel Pier in Atlantic City, NJ. The Chorus competition takes place on Saturday afternoon of convention week.
Thursday, July 5, 2001
Holiday Over; Back to Work
Time to return to work and the regular grind for about 60 days. The next holiday is Labor Day.
Wednesday, July 4, 2001
Beginning today and climaxing on Saturday, some 10,000 or so song-crazed enthusiasts have assembled in "Music City" to participate in the annual G-rated indulgence in harmony. For the next four days, the citizens of Nashville are not safe anywhere from the possibility that four men standing next to them may spontaneously break out in song, and once they recover from the shock of the experience, few of them will respond with anything but a smile and a round of applause once the last chord in the tag has faded into silence.
Since I can't be there with them this year, right now I am listening to streaming audio sponsored by the society from Live365.com featuring various barbershop quartets. If you have either Windows Media Player 7.0, RealAudio Player 8.0 or an MP3 player, such as Winamp, installed on your system, you can click here to tune in to this music too. If you'd like to tune in to the web cast of the activities in Nashville, you can do so from this link. (These links may only be active during the time period from 7/4/01 through 7/7/01.)
Monday, July 2, 2001
Another Virus Contact over the Weekend
Yesterday I received an email message with the subject "hahaha" and an attachment called dwarf4you.exe. It was a worm that is described at this location at the McAfee web site.
Fortunately for me, as soon as the virus arrived in my mailbox, McAfee's VirusScan program popped up a dialog box informing me that the file had been quarantined and prompting me for what I wanted to do with it. I chose to simply delete it. So even though the dialog box caused a bit of a start when it came up, the process of catching and removing the virus/worm was really simple and without any pain. Still, the event provides yet another reminder that it is important for us all to have virus protection software installed with the current virus definition files in place so as not to suffer the inconveniences that opening such a file can cause.
Sunday, July 1, 2001
Living and Learning
You live and learn ... if you are lucky (to live) and pay attention (so that you learn).
Well, living through the experience of building this web site and learning from it, I've realized that the best way to structure this weblog is to have the most recent entry at the top of the list rather than at the bottom, so from here on that's how I'll handle it. With the new month came the need to create a Weblog for July '01 and to archive the Weblog for June '01. I'm not going to go to the trouble to reverse the order of that first month of this weblog. I'll just make the change from here on.
The more I use Trellix Web, the tool I am using to create this web site, the more I am impressed with the fact that it is very approachable for someone who doesn't know anything about HTML or building web pages. By taking advantage of the offer of free web hosting by Tripod I have been able to experiment with this tool and learn to create a web site with it. By investing absolutely no money and only a little time in the learning curve, I now feel rather capable of doing most anything I want to do on the web site.
If you would like to experiment with building a web site of your own, I'd recommend you give this tool a try. It is very doable.
This morning I read a rather interesting article by James Martin at the Discover Magazine site. It is entitled Computers Will Save Us, The Future According to James Martin. In it, Mr. Martin discusses how he sees the evolution of computers, artificial intelligence and the relationship between our intelligence and that of the computer, what he calls "alien intelligence."
If you are looking for something I published in the Weblog earlier, check out the Weblog for June '01.