September 12, 2003
Compiling Software With Debian Linux Tutorial

There is a lot of free software out there that is written for Linux/UNIX that's only available in source code format. As explained on the Basics page, this is the most efficient way for the developers to distribute their software. When you obtain the source code file(s) you compile them to generate an executable binary that's specific to your OS and hardware platform. Knowing how to compile source files is an indispensible skill in the Linux/UNIX world so we'll dedicate a good part of this page to it.

September 11, 2003
Remembering Another September 11

I'm talking, of course, about the bombing of Chile's White House (La Moneda) on 9/11/73 which marked the start of a bloody coup led by General Pinochet and backed by Nixon's CIA. Eager to get rid of a popularly elected socialist (Allende) our government assisted in the planning of the coup and looked the other way while a military dictatorship killed many of its own people.

While we bask in the righteous indignation that allows us to invade and conquer other countries based on suspicion that they might have helped terrorists strike at us let's not forget our own place in the history of this date.

Linux is favourite hacker target: Study

The data comes from the London-based mi2g Intelligence Unit, which has been collecting data on overt digital attacks since 1995 and verifying them. Its database has tracked more than 280,000 overt digital attacks and 7,900 hacker groups.

Linux remained the most attacked operating system on-line during the past year, with 51 per cent of all successful overt digital attacks.

Now, what was that excuse everyone was giving last week about why Windows keeps getting hit by virii?

Oh yeah... there are more Windows installs... so, hackers hit Windows more often.

Yeah... that's it.

The computer that cried "Wolf!"

The job of the computer is to do the repetitive, mindless work. Your job is to think. If you have to waste brain cycles on whether a given warning is actually a problem, then you're not using your computer to its fullest.

Project Censored

The Top 25 Censored Media Stories of 2002-2003

September 08, 2003
The indispensable GPL

Our industry has been conditioned to view all relationships as a zero-sum game, in which every transaction has exactly one winner and one loser. This peculiar view reflects the take-no-prisoners attitude of successful companies like Microsoft and Oracle. However, this attitude reflects the personalities of those firms' founders more than any inherent condition of the software market. I think that Steve Ballmer and Bill Gates were sincere when they described the GPL variously as "cancer," "viral," and even "communistic." If the GPL is an alternative to their licensing model, then it must somehow be designed to hurt them. If someone else is winning, then they must be losing, because that (in their minds) is how the business works. The notion that GNU/Linux was created with no regard for them or their market share is simply an impossible idea for these very clever men to comprehend.

But the GPL is not the expression of a zero-sum agenda. It is designed to protect the inherent value of software separately from the economic value. It measures inherent value by the greatest utility rather than the greatest realizable revenue. Realistically, very few software programs are "worth" much money.

Cocoa Literature

The Cocoa community is amazingly friendly and helpful. Articles about programming in Cocoa are many and in many places. To help out, I made this collected index. This page is very easy to maintain, so please email me any other articles out there that I've missed, or are in the wrong place, etc. Of course, make sure you also know about Apple's docs on Cocoa!

September 06, 2003
Why Business Isn't as Fun as it Used to be

Sharp business: it sounds so clean and good. To look sharp is to look neat and and nicely dressed. To be sharp is to be alert and in full command of the situation. But sharp business is something different, it is playing the game of business so close to the boundary of good faith and legality that it is hard to tell where that boundary is or if there even is such a boundary.

Sharp business is cheating and not getting caught.

September 05, 2003
Bush Counterattacks Over Struggling Economy

"It's nobody's fault," Bush told CNBC in an interview when pressed about the record deficit.

Hmmm... must be that "leadership" thing people keep talking about.

Personally, I think he has spent too much time with Ken Lay (Enron).

Data visualization using Perl/Tk

Generating a visual representation is often the best way to understand large data sets, but standard tools such as gnuplot often fall short. This article shows how to use Perl/Tk, the standard GUI toolkit for Perl, to quickly build custom plotting and graphing tools.

Securing MySQL: step-by-step

MySQL is one of the most popular databases on the Internet and it is often used in conjunction with PHP. Besides its undoubted advantages such as easy of use and relatively high performance, MySQL offers simple but very effective security mechanisms. Unfortunately, the default installation of MySQL, and in particular the empty root password and the potential vulnerability to buffer overflow attacks, makes the database an easy target for attacks.

This article describes the basic steps which should be performed in order to secure a MySQL database against both local and remote attacks. This is the third and last of the series of articles devoted to securing Apache, PHP and MySQL.

September 04, 2003
Will Bush Backers Manipulate Votes to Deliver GW Another Election?

Those who cast the votes decide nothing. Those who count the votes decide everything. - Joseph Stalin

September 03, 2003
Not Just Another Pretty Face

Debian - there has never been any other Linux distro quite like it. Long a favorite of the geek elite, there is no doubt that Debian is popular. Sign up for the Debian-user mailing list, and you can expect to receive about 300 messages a day. Perhaps (just perhaps) there are more people using Redhat, Mandrake or SuSE. However, if bigger means better, then Debian is the undisputed champion - Debian's "stable" branch boasts 8710 "packages" (packages = precompiled software bundled up in a nice format for easy installation). In Debian's "unstable" branch there are about 13,000 packages (more than six gigabytes worth). If software was sold by the kilogram, then Debian would fetch top dollar. However, this massive collection of excellent software is free, the work of hundreds (or thousands) of unpaid volunteers. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

News: Lawmaker blasts Microsoft over spam

As a California legislator for the past 10 years, Bowen has drafted and introduced bills intended to tie spammers' hands and better protect consumers' privacy. But more recently, she has criticized Microsoft for lobbying against certain spam bills, including one she championed.

Bowen has gone so far as to say "trusting Microsoft to protect computer users from spam is like putting telemarketers in charge of the do-not-call list."

Stop the bloodshed

The industry farming supplier Farmlands Trading Society serves is, by necessity, not particularly squeamish. However, when faced with the prospect of an operating system upgrade costing hundreds of thousands of dollars in licensing fees, Farmlands decided to put an end to what it perceived as business bloodshed.

“On one hand, we had Microsoft bleeding us for licence fees. On the other, it was SCO for Unix. I can’t stand parting with money for software licensing, and the costs were getting annoying,” says Craig Waterhouse, commercial manager and ‘honorary’ chief information officer for Farmlands.

OpenOffice.org : Using it with Style

Many people who are trying to convert over to OpenOffice.org from an existing word processor are finding small differences to their original application. In most cases this is not causing too many issues and it is simply a matter of spending a few minutes to workout how to do that task in the new software. One area that many people are having a problem with though, is the use of styles for formatting their documents.

Scientists Weigh In on the 5-Second Rule

High-school student Jillian Clarke investigated the scientific validity of the "5-second rule" during her apprenticeship in Hans Blaschek's University of Illinois lab this summer. You know the rule: If food falls to the floor and it's in contact with the floor for fewer than 5 seconds, it's safe to pick it up and eat it.

According to Clarke, a senior at the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences, the 5-second rule dates back to the time of Genghis Khan, who first determined how long it was safe for food to remain on a floor when dropped there.

September 02, 2003
Software Customer Bill of Rights

The software publishing community started aggressively trying to rewrite contract law in about 1988, after the United States Court of Appeal for the Fifth Circuit rejected a shrinkwrapped restriction on reverse engineering. That effort resulted in the Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act and a string of court decisions, starting in 1995, that make it almost impossible to hold a software company liable for defects in its product (unless the defect results in injury or death)-- even defects that it knew about when it shipped the product -- and also very difficult to hold a mass-market seller liable for false claims about its product.

Linux & Beer

Microsoft Windows : the undisputed leader of the operating system world maps quite nicely to Budweiser, which it's makers Anqheuser-Busch claim to be "the best selling beer in the world." As a Linux magazine we shouldn't spend too much time talking about Windows. Some notes about Budweiser : Almost certainly the strongest "brand" in beer, backed by ubiquitous marketing, it's flavour is rarely praised by those in the know. Once some of the alternatives have been sampled it seems people rarely return to it.

Why the Richest Company on Earth Feels it Needs to Cheat

Well, I don't know what was in those e-mails, though I'd be inclined to guess it was something along the lines of "Let's steal this cool stuff from Burst." But I do have a fairly good idea why Microsoft took the risk. It was a calculated risk. Burst.com was a little company about to run out of money at a time when dot coms were folding by the hundreds, their patents sinking from sight. If Microsoft bought a license from Burst, it would be propping-up the company and helping Burst to survive. But it wasn't in Microsoft's interest for Burst to survive because Burst's technology was cross-platform. If Burstware had run only on Windows, Microsoft might have felt inclined to buy a license. But Burstware also ran on Solaris and Linux, and that threatened to weaken Microsoft's plans to have Windows dominate digital entertainment delivery. It made more sense to let Burst die and then duplicate the technology based on what had been gained in those seven meetings and from materials acquired from Burst under a non-disclosure agreement. At least that's the way it looks to me, I could be wrong.