Archive for August, 2004

Users suck!

August 31, 2004

Why do some people absolutely refuse to learn anything about their computers? Seriously, how hard is it to train yourself not to install spyware, how to set up your own freaking email, or how not to break the software!?

So far I have seen following species of the (l)user genus:

  1. Innocent Victim – this user claims that the computer is broken, and it is not his fault. He didnt do anything to it, he didn’t install anything, he didnt even go on the internet or turn it on for the past 3 weeks. The funky toolbars just installed themselves, and Beagle and Sasser just materialized out of the thin air. And despite the fact that he supposably did not turn on computer for last 3 weeks this user will also sware that he updated his virus definitions two days ago, and that he scans the system every evening… Sigh… This is the bane of all IT people cause there is virtually no way to troubleshoot anything with this guy. He didn’t do anything, computer is broken and its your fault.
  2. Descriptive Dude – this species of user for the life of him cannot give you one specific fact about his problem. He can complain for hours without giving you a single concrete hint at what might the problem be. The favorite complaints of this usere are claims that the computer is slow (though never when he is on the phone with you – just the other times), that it freezes, “gets errors” (which are virtually any dialog windows – very often info alerts caused by antivirus software or the firewall – but since the user does not read any dialogs all of them become errors) and my favorite “is broken.” The “is broken” argument is usually triggered when they upgrade some software and the new version has a slightly changed GUI setup. Now, Descriptive Dude can sometimes unintentionally blurt out usefull info if you are clever enough with your questions. Unfortunately though, most of these guys tend to be Innocent Victims at the same time…
  3. Illiterate Idiot – as bad as this name sounds, this guy is much more pleasant to work with than the previous two. He simply knows close to nothing about computers (and he is damn proud of it too) but he is willing to help out as much as he can. For illiterate idiot computers are magical entities with minds of their own, and he fact that you can whip these mysterious machines into submission will earn you great respect in his eyes. The down side however is that Illiterate Idiot is convinced that the sole purpose of your existence is to fix his computer, periodically clean it from spyware and remove any viruses – and hence he does not bother himself thinking about these things. He will happily continue installing spyware, browse unprotected and open executable attachments because he knows you will fix the computer no matter what.
  4. Needy Nut – this user is semi-clueful infividual. He does not understand much about computers but he most likely has friends who know more than him and give him “sage advice”, and he probably have read few computer related articles here and there. Based on what he was told by friends, and what he overheard or read somewhere he forms his own diagnosis for the problem and calls you to let you know that he needs to get it fixed. Of course his “educated solution” to the problem usually involves buying more RAM, getting new CPU, upgrading to the newer version of the software and etc… It is quite difficult to troubleshoot with this guy because he is entirely convinced that extra few MB of RAM will solve all his problems and he will not see any reason to look for any other solutions or to further investigate the problem. He simply needs more RAM, period!
  5. Self Proclaimed Expert – this guy will tell you right away that he knows all about computers, and that he does not really need your help. He will absolutely resent you trying to “walk him through” some tasks, and will get agravated when you question him about basiscs such as keeping his windows/antyvir updated, scanning the drive for viruses and etc. He will never aknowledge the fact that he might have made some mistake, or screwed up – he will blame you, the software and the manufacturer – anyone but himself. Even if he have deleted some crucial files, installed some nasty stuff he will never admit it. But as long as you just go with it, and blame the software manufacturer, crappy design, unstable OS and etc, you can sometimes get him to cooperate.
  6. Cluefull User – this is a very rare user variety, and a godsend to all IT people. This user knows enough about his machine to give you a good idea of what is wrong, and has enough common sense not to make the situation worse. He can follow the instructions well, and he actually retains information, and learn to fix small problems on his own before calling you next time. In fact, the more you help him – the less you will hear from him, as he will rarely call you with the same problem more than once. It is a true joy and pleasure to work with a user like that!

Guess which kind of user I usually deal on a daily basis? If you guessed anything but 6 then you are absolutely correct…

My ISP just got less anoying…

August 29, 2004

It is a shame and a disgrace for a geek like me to still use the officialy worst ISP ever – AOHell. I really need to get myself broadband connection… Actually, if it was just up to me I would have it 3 years ago. But unfortunately I do not live alone, but with two other people who require internet connection. With just 2 phone lines, 3 computers, 2 printers a and 1 scanner it would seem that getting cable modem, a little router and setting up a local network would be an ideal solution…

Well, it is not. Even though everyone agrees that this would be the best, no one is willing to actually do anything about it. And I certainly do not want to fund the internet connection for 3 people from my own packet… So, I’m still on AOL… The software is horrible, buggy and eats up resources – but the connections are somewhat decent so I never really bothered to look for other dialup ISP. What is the point – I keep telling myself – we will be getting broadband soon so why even bother swichting dialups.

So I have put up with anoying AOL software for years now… I usually minimize that horrible bloated piece of bugware and send it to the 4th desktop immidiately after logging in so that I do not have to deal with it. And up untill now there was no way around it – you had to do it this way, and waste your resources – the dialer was intergrated into the browser, so closing the window was killing your connection.

And since I do not care about AOL software I actually skipped 2 version upgrades. I figured – these things just get more and more bloated and have nothing I need. I just want the freaking dialer and that’s all. And it seems that AOL actually did separate the dialer from the browser in their latest version! I was totally oblivious to this fact, untill I accidentally stumbled upon a random comment about it on some message board.

I immidiately raced toward the junk mail pile, found an AOL cd which I havent thrown out yet and installed it. And lo and behold- there is a separate dialer. Now this little thing sits in my task bar and I feel like I’m using a real ISP! Wohoo! I never thought I would say this, but they finally did something that makes sense!

First time in my life I have upgraded to actually get rid of features and bloat. Do not ask me what is new in the new version because I do not care – I’m never opening that crappy bloat ever again! lol

Now, if AOL would only get their IMAP service to be fully compliant with the standards (so that I can run email filters on my mail) that would almost make it almost a real ISP.

I got 419’d!!!

August 28, 2004

I just got one of these Nigerian Spam letters! lol I’ve got all kinds of spam in the past, but this is the first one this the first 419 I got in ages! And note – no all caps. Seems that the nigerian dudes finally figured out how to switch off caps lock 🙂

I’m sorry but I’m finding this hilarious! Like in this day and time anyone would send their bank account number to a complete stranger via email! And yet, the fact they keep trying this, must indicate that – yes, there are people THAT stupid out there.

Attn; Director,

Sir,

I am Dr. Cheikh Diop, a member of the Board of Directors Eco Relief foundation {ERF} Agency. We are empowered for the Provision of relief materials to all the refugee in the troubled spot in the west African sub-region, presently now we are in Dakar Senegal were our headquarter is situated. We have make-up our mind to contact you on this business transaction that you will act as our beneficial till the end of the transaction.

My group recently agreed to transfer the sum of nineteen million, seven hundred thousand United States dollars  {us$19.7 million) into a foreign account for our personal and strong business investment in future.The simple mode of operation will be just for us to apply for the release of the above stated money to you, your company will apply for the above amount and serve among the foreign companies that supplied Welfare materials, as we will arrange all the documented evidence of the communities and people in Liberia, Ivory Coast, Sierra-Leone and Guinea Bissau who have benefited from the materials supplied by early last year and this year.

We have all records of purchasing orders and supplied.The materials supplied are clothing of various kinds,blankets, rice, Soya-beans, milk, sugar, salt, drugs and footwear. We will prepare an invoice to cover these materials at the cost of $19.7 million on your company's name to legalize our claim and believe you will stand firm to defend this successful actualisation of this deal which is your paramount responsibility as a foreign contractor which we make you to be. We shall forward the invoice to the accountant general of (ERF) and get the entire approval document, which we shall as well send to you to update your records.

My group is very much ready and capable of effecting the remittance of this into a well secured foreign account (individual or corporate account), owned and operated by someone who talks less and worthy of trust.Please, if you are capable of working on this project with us and you believe you are trust worthy, you should quickly get in touch through  my via email address and also forward the under listed requirements to enable us facilitate and arrange for the immediate transfer of the fund soonest.

I. Your Company names and address.
2. Bank name and address
3.. Account number and account name
4. Your telephone and fax numbers {personal/private}for easy communication, Certainly your partnership will be rewarded with 25%of the 19.7million.

We shall have 70% while 5% will be used to re-imbrue both parties for the expenses incurred in the course of consummating this deal, it is important to state here, that no risk of any sort is involved,now or in future. We need just a week to be able to complete this transfer, after getting all the required information from you.

We await your urgent response.
  Kind regards,
   
     Dr.Cheikh Diop.DCRP.  

Anyways, I’m not posting headers because I don’t want my email to be spidered but the guys email is fair game, no? So here it is:

drcheikdiop@indiatimes.com
drcheikdiop@voila.fr

Dear spammers – please spam these two all the way to hell – this guy deserves it!

40k New Edition

August 21, 2004

Something tells me that this whole new edition of 40k is just an elaborate ploy to make me spend god knows how much money on a brand new rulebook. But at least they didn’t invalidate the codexes so that is always a plus. I have mixed feelings about the rule changes, but I can’t really say much without reading and/or playtesting them myself.

Rhino Rush is officially gone. Good! However, let’s not forget that Space Marines can still rush from a Land Rider. But LR is big, bulky and expensive – so it usually only qualifies as a trasport for the elite hth killer squad. And one killer squad in a huge tank is acceptable…

I’m affraid though, that my Ulthwe army is getting the short end of the stick from this deal. First of all, the transport rules prevent me from rushing Banshees out of the Wave Serpent. These ladies can’t stand much punishment and they usually need to get into combat quickly. Standing in the field is not an option for them! They can’t increase the unit size to get that damage comfort zone (which is now required if they want to slug without transport, as screening rules do not apply anymore either) and they cannot be effectively delivered to the target either. As far as I can see the new rules do not offer them any usefull benefits, except for the “all engaged models fight at full effect” rule. But at a standard aspect size (10) this can often be a dissadvantage rather than an advantage, as a bigger enemy unit can now get more attacks in. This already fragile and difficult unit just became more tricky to use!

So I’m thinking that finally the famous queston “scorpions or banshees” was finally answered in favor of scorpions. With a better armor save they have a better staying power, and with infiltration rule they actually might not need a Wave Serpent.

Thanks to the rapid fire improvement, the Warp Spiders become an interesting option again. The fact that they can march right up to the enemy, then unload 20 S6 shots and then jump back behind cover creates an interesting possibilities. I havent used scorpions that much, but I might need to buy few of them now 🙂

My fire dragons really get nothing out of the deal. There seems to be some rule about AP1 weapons and vehicles, but I’m guessing this is not a major thing since the fusion guns already count as melta-weapons. However, new rules make them less expensive as there is no longer any point in giving them meltabombs. As they can’t shoot one tank and assalut another, the bombs seem kindoff redundant….

Guardians get zilch! Since shiruken catapults are Assalut weapons, the new shooting rules don’t do squat for them. However, if I’m not mistaken, the weapon platforms still count as part of the unit, and hence guardians still screen them from being shot at. So while the new no-shielding rules might be dangerous for D-cannons and such, your average weapons platform should be safe within a unit, as it always was.

While loosing ability to deliver units right into close combat, all 3 eldar tanks probably grately from the new vehicle rules. I’m saying probably cause I’m not sure if the rules have changed only for the standard tanks, or if they got ammended for skimmers too. If skimmers get the incresed mobility too, then all eldar tanks get much much better.

And finally, there was a blurb in WD that the Perils of the Warp effect is now much more dangerous. This does not sound good, but I’m not sure how much this rule changed. I’m guessing that ghosthelm is probably not the ultimate defense against perils anymore. Not good…

So it seems that even though this update killed Rhino Rush for marines, it still benefits them more than it does anyone else. In addition, SM’s seem to loose the least goodies compared to other armies…

The only Eldar army I can see getting somethign good out of this would be Saim-Hann. With the Turbo Boost on all bikes, and increased vehicle mobility they become much more flexible force! Still, not enough for me to want to try them, but better than before nevertheless…

Again, all this is just based on WD rule previews, and general gossip. I havent read the rules yet, so I have no clue what is the full extent of changes for Eldar, and any other armies. So it is possible that allot of things I just said are not valid… I might be worrying for no reson.

Tools for Survival

August 20, 2004

Windoze sucks! But we use win2k on 80% of our company machines, and the remaining 20% has XP… And since our financial alalysts are outlook/excell addicts, and all of the templates and other shait they use is done using the dredfull combo of office + vb macros I’m stuck with it…

Funny thing – these shitty macro templates make word and excell constantly display security warnings so the instructions for “installing” a template usually make users switch off all macro/vb script security alltogether. Great! Combine that with outlooks “feature” of auto opening attachments and we have a trully explosive mix…

Better yet – not so long ago I had the doubius pleasure of installing a set of Work Papers on one of the laptops. I do not know who coded this crap, but this nifty cd requires you to have win2k, full version of adobe (ie. read+write) and insists on putting 30-something keys in the registry god knows why… The installer is briliant too – after I clicket through the setup screen, and pressed the install button I got thrown back to the desktop… Here CPU usage went up to 100% and stayed there for few minutes effectively freezing my machine. No progress reporting, no nothing! I didn’t even get “done” dialog – the CPU ussage just dropped, and after waiting 15 minutes I decided that this must have been it. Geez…

So to make my life easier I was scouring the web in search of usefull tools to add to my arsenal in the war against mallware. I want to make a semi definite list of them so that I have bunch of links at one place… And putting them here seems like a good idea.

Spyware Cleanup and Recovery Tools:

  1. Spybot S&D – unconditionally the best spyware scanner around. I love it and recomment it to everyone I know.
  2. AdAware – also a very decent spyware remover. I have noticed that it nicely complements Spybot as it sometimes picks up things that Spybot has missed, and vice-versa.
  3. Bazooka – I haven’t used this one alot yet but it seems usefull. The scan itself is really quick, so I don’t think this software is very through. However these guys have an impressive online spyware ecyclopedia which I used for manual removal instructions. And this tool apparently bases on that database and simply points out problems, and gives removal tips. It does not remove spyware automatically as Spypot and Adaware.

Spyware Prevention Tools:

  1. SpywareBlaster – a live protection suite which blocks active-x attacks, tracking cookies, and limits what malicious scripts can do to your browser. And it actually supports cookie monitoring for moz/firefox which is awesome.
  2. SpywareGuard – blocks malicious executables from running, prevents instalation of bho’s and other garbage and generally protects you from spyware. Great app!
  3. WMP scripting fix – disables the windows media player scripting. This prevents all these pr0n movies from your favorite p2p from installing shait on your machine. 😉
  4. RegProt – a cool app which monitors all changes to the registry and prompts you before doing anything. Very usefull, but might also be anoyance during big installs. Also, this is probably not a good tool to give to (l)users because it requires a little knowledge of registry. A dumb user will either block everything and screw up the instalation, or aprove everything and will get spywerized anyway…
  5. Use non MS Apps – replace IE+Outlook combo with Moz/Firefox+Thunderbird or Opera. Using IE+Outlook is not safe so don’t!

General Diagnostics & Manual Removal Tools:

  1. Hijackthis – Excellent diagnostics tool! It also has ability to automatically remove files and reg keys. I didn’t put it in the removal section though because it is more of a diagnostic tools. In other words, it does not seek out spyware – it simply displays information about all running procs, live reg keys, bho’s, startup programs and etc. You have to go through all this info and decide which entries are legit, and which are malicious. Telling this software to simply “fix” all listed entries will mess up your system for sure. Still, saves you hours of digging through registry and other places where spyware netsts, by putting all this info in a nicely formated log form. And you can then check problematic entries and delete them all at once, instead of doing the regedit “crl+f, enter, delete, enter, ctrl+f” dance for an hour…
  2. TCPview – an awesome app from Sysinternals showing all active TCP and UDP connections. This tool is great for quickly finding and identifying any downloaders or those anoying processes that like to “call home” all the time.
  3. OpenPorts – a command line tool which shows all the open TCP/UDP ports on this system. Just like TCPview, this is extremely usefull in detecting apps that connect to the internet without your knowledge.
  4. Process Explorer – windows task manager on acid. Really cool app which does preaty much what a win2k/xp task manager does only better (more indepth information about each process including associated files, reg keys and etc).
  5. RegMon – great toy for finding and identyfying suspecious registry keys responsible for respawning the malware processes. It dumps out a list of all live reg keys along with the files they use/refer to and other information. Very helpfull.
  6. Autoruns – a briliant app that searches the system for programs that are set up to autostart on your machine. This is yet another tool which can save you an hour or two of groing through all the “Run” reg keys and “Startup” folders on the machine by putting them in one place. Very helfull in finding and disabling the nasty apps that load at startup.
  7. APT – an interesting tool which claims that it can kill nearly any process regardless of any tricks used to prevent you from doing it. It has 9 different kill techniques, and seems preaty nifty. Fortunately I never really had to resort to using it, so I cant vouch for it’s effectiveness. But, it might come very handy one day!
  8. WinUpdateList – Not really spyware specific, but it is a good way to quickly check the patch status of the machine. If it finds nothing we know we are in deap trouble 🙂

This is by no means a complete list, but an attempt at creating one. These are the tools I like – your milage may vary.

I want to KILL the Spyware makers!

August 19, 2004

I really want to do something unspeakably horrible to the nice guys that made VBouncer/ADdestoryer application. They deserve to die the most horrible deth imaginable (and no – death by snoo snoo is not an option)! How many frickin reg entries can you make? I’m sitting here all day removing this hellish crap and I still find wierd ass registry keys after Spybot and Adaware told me the machine is clean… Sigh…

And how am I supposed to stop my clueless user from installing all that garbage again??? Gah! Two weeks from now I will have this laptop back with the same problem… Though I edited his host file to redirect the most notorious spyware/addware/popup producers…

I hate the fucking bastards! They should burn in hell for making applications like that!!!

Jedi Calendaring

August 18, 2004

For the last few weeks I’ve been preocupied with a small little game called Jedi Knight 2. It’s not the newest game, but still – I enjoyed it immensly. I always had a soft spot for Star Wars themed games 🙂 That of course excludes the prequel stuff – the prequels sucked for the most part and so I never touched prequel themed games. I just could not stand to re-live my dissapointment…

All in all the game was great. Although the first two levels seemed endless, and before I was able to get my coveted lightsaber I had to kill hordes upon hordes of stormtroopers with 3-4 basic weapons. Once I got the lightsaber though, missle weapons became useless (with exception of thermals and missle louncher to take out walkers, and the rodian sniping gun for a long distance headshots on heavy armed enemies) as the majority of enemies could be promptly dispatched using the combo of force parry, force speed and plain old hacking and slashing.

In fact, at rank 3 lightsaber parry it is only possible for enemies to hit you from behind, or with heavy weapons such as laser turrets, missle lounchers and etc. And cutting down enemies (be it stormtroopers, rodians, twileks or dark jedi) is a delight!

There are few downsides to the game though. Every few levels there is an anoying bit where you have to do something very unexpected – for example jump down onto an exhaust pipe and crawl into it, jump onto nearly vertical beam, or find a completely submerged underwatter passage not visible from any angle unless you stand directly in front of it. Some of this is just plain old bad level design (the invisible underwater passage) and some is uneccessary logical puzzle that make the game tedious at times. It all boils down to spending up to 2-3 hours trying to figure out a silly level-design quirk – which is not fun. Spending the same time plotting the right way to tackle boss level enemy or a well defended outpost of troopers is fun – running around empty corridors not knowing what to do and jumping at every wall and hitting every suspecious looking piece of scenery is just anoying.

Also the game seems to have a glitch in the save-game engine. Once you rack up enough saves, the game fails to display the newest entries for some reason. Deleting few saves seems to fix the problem, and the recent saves magically appear again at the top of the list. And since I like to save my game alot, I was forced to clean up my list every few levels… My brother had the same issue on win98 so this is not just me…

And in unrelated news – I just downloaded the latest build of Sunbird! I used the calendar plugin for T-bird before and it was cool, but I was actually looking for a good stand alone app. I really like to keep my tasks separate – browser for browsing, email client for reading email – that’s why I use firefox + thunderbird instead of mozzila suite. Sunbird seems to be a great addition to the Moz familly of standalones 🙂 I really hope they will implement synching feature so that I can use it with my pocketpc, and implement some other publishing options other than webdav.

The build is actually remarkably stable (but stability i’s kindoff the hallmark of Moz apps). The only buggy behavior I noticed was a seemingly endless loop caused by trying to update a calendar with a publish check box checked, but no publishing location specifed. My callendar just kept loading without ever updating the settings, or displaying an error message… Unchecking the box solved the problem…

All in all, it is a cool app!

Lusers…

August 15, 2004

Eh… I just love when clueless users call me with their issues. Seriously, most of our users are actually knowledgable enough to walk through most of the steps necessary to remove the 20+ pieces of spyware and mallware on their computers… And then you have people like the user today… After an hour I still had no clue what is going on with his machine except for the fact that it is “broken” and that he must have a virus because Norton popped up a window he did not read…

Eventually I gave up and told him to send the machine in… I can probably do much better when I sit at it than troubleshooting it over the phone like that lol

Religious Forwards

August 10, 2004

Why the hell do people insist on forwarding cute little religious emails to everyone on their address book? Usually I get that stuff on a weekly basis and it only gets more obtrusive around holidays…

I mean, I understand being religious an all that stuff, but how lame are these emails? Calling them shallow would be attributing to much depth to them altogether. Does every religion has shit like that or is it only us Christians who insist on sending everyone cutsey Jesus rhymes with mandatore lame-ass animated smily face gifs.

Yes! Thank you kind email buddies. You just enlightened me with this amazingly crafted, only slightly misspelled, painfully colorfull, and insultingly animated text about how God loves me. Now my soul is saved, so I do not need any more of these… Please!

Sigh… Out of all the forward chains these are probably the most anoying…

But while we are at it, could we also plese stop with the “Microsoft/AOL/IBM/Shmakelpapenpuff Foundation will give you 1 cent for every person you send this to” emails? I’m getting tired of explaining people how this is scam. Geez… They don’t even seem to teach math to people these days – this is a pure exponential function, and the amount of money one entity would have to spend to pay all of these emails grows so fast that wit would even make MS go bankrupt within a month or so… Which makes this whole concept ridiculus… I keep explaining that, and yet I keep getting these emails some way…