Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Software: Hiren's Boot CD 9.2

Hiren's Boot CD 9.2 is out! It's packed with lovely new utilities and updated with the latest software. I must add that this cd contains some unlicensed commercial software. The use of unlicensed software is illegal without a serial. In that case, you can make beautiful Boot CDs using Ultimate Boot CD or UBCD4Win, which contain software free of charge (that also works).

Now since the legal case is covered, here's the changelog from 9.1 to 9.2:

+Recuva 1.02.095
+JkDefrag 3.16
+S&M Stress Test 1.9.0
+Process Explorer 10.06
+Express Burn 2.02
Active Kill Disk 4.1
Samsung Hutil 2.04
SPecial Fdisk 2000.03t
TestDisk 6.8b
PhotoRec 6.8b
HDAT2 4.5.3
System Analyser 5.3r
Astra 5.33
NTFS4DOS 1.9
MpxPlay 1.55 final
Universal TCP/IP Network 6.01
Gcdrom 2.4
CuteMouse 1.9.1
Unstoppable Copier 3.12
Silent Runners Revision 51
Autoruns 8.71
CurrPort 1.20
CPU-Z 1.40.5
CCleaner 1.41.544
ShellExView 1.16
PCI 32 Sniffer 1.4 (2907)
McAfee Antivirus 4.4.50 (2907)
Spybot - Search & Destroy 1.4 (2907)
SpywareBlaster 3.5.1 (2907)
Ad-Aware SE Personal 1.06 (2907)
F-Prot Antivirus 3.16f (2907)
PCI and AGP info Tool (2907)
Unknown Devices 1.2 (2907)
ISO MD5: fa1095bc413129c943e4ab3e3244e810

I don't favour any download links referring to this product, if any user posts a download link as a comment they are posting at their own risk, the files are not mine nor uploaded by myself, I don't host any files, I just bring the news and I have the right to say what I want. Links will be removed per request by email.

Security: @RISK Newsletter

This time, CA (computer associates) and four of its products parade along with a critical security hole. Quoting @RISK Newsletter:
This week four CA products (eTrust IDS, Unicenter, CleverPath, and
BrightStor) were found to all use a common service that has a critical
buffer overflow error.
The vulnerabilities detected are listed here:
Widely Deployed Software
(1) CRITICAL: Yahoo! Widgets ActiveX Control Buffer Overflow
(2) CRITICAL: Computer Associates Multiple Products Multiple Vulnerabilities
(3) CRITICAL: BakBone NetVault Reporter Scheduler Buffer Overflow
(4) HIGH: Panda Antivirus Products Multiple Vulnerabilities
(5) HIGH: Borland InterBase Create Request Buffer Overflow
(6) HIGH: ESET NOD32 Multiple Vulnerabilities
(7) HIGH: Norman Antivirus Multiple Vulnerabilities


Quite a lot of sensitive programs, especially those of NOD32 and Norman, two mostly respected and widely used antivirus products. I hope they'll get the patches out soon enough to calm down the public and their customers.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Medicine: Multiple sclerosis and risk genes

The Harvard Medical School and Duke University Medical Center have brought into the light the risk genes of multiple sclerosis and the first new multiple sclerosis gene found in 30 years. A very important discovery if you ask me.



What is multiple sclerosis (MS)? It's a disease that affects your brain and spinal cord (together the central nervous system). Most neurons are not covered with myelin sheath, but those that are, they can achieve some mega speeds while transferring important information, such as any coordinated movement, or reading and writing.
Myelin sheath could be paralleled with an isolating material that helps the action potential to be transferred to or from the brain by 'jumping' and 'making stops' in between the Schwann cells (these are the cells that actually provide the myelin sheath, the gaps between Schwann cells are called nodes of Ranvier or nodus Ranvieri). In short, the myelin sheath provides protection from losing while transferring the signal.

Now, the symptoms of such a disease can be really hard on a person:
  • Visual disturbances
  • Muscle weakness (includes speaking, writing, walking etc.)
  • Incoordinated movement and trouble with balance
  • Loss of sensations such as numbness, prickling, or "pins and needles"
  • Thinking problems and memory loss
Why does it happen? It's believed to be an inherited disease, which the studies of Harvard and Duke universities have discovered and proved to be accurate. The other reason is that it could be an
autoimmune disease, where cells from your own immune system attack your own cells. In fact, there could be a link between other autoimmune diseases and MS. So far, only genes within a region of chromosome 6 have to date been implicated in the disease, but quoting Simon Gregory, Ph.D.
We have identified a gene that increases an individual's risk of MS by 30 percent and that this variant has an effect on the function of the gene.
The new gene is found on chromosome 5. This particular gene is involved in providing guidance during the production interleukin-7 receptor alpha (IL-7R), an important receptor for the growth of crucial immune system cells. And there you have it, another theory almost proved to be accurate. The problem is how to cure it though, we're going to have to wait on that...

Sunday, July 29, 2007

History: Toe-tankhamun - World's earliest prosthetic body part?

Egyptians did some fascinating stuff in the past; Built pyramids, were a prosperous and mighty nation, tried to keep the body of their dead in the best shape they could. Well there's another thing they could be accredited: a toe (of Toetankhamun ?) might give them the title of having the world's earliest functional prosthetic body part.

You'll have to admit it was something expected, since a nation that advanced had the wealth and the knowledge to attempt such an action. Genetic malformations are a natural phenomenon, since genes can be wrongly placed, replaced, removed or even drifted during cell division (hail to evolution). We've come a long way from apes to homo sapiens sapiens species. It could also be an amputation because of an infection gone worse, which of course could entitle the "Pharaoh" as defective and unable to run a kingdom without a toe (Hey, I'm just making this up! Sounds impossible, but everyone knows what religion and demagogy power can achieve).

More info here.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Google: Linux repositories for the masses!

In order to further promote their own software, Google has created server repositories for easier download. I really don't know the deal of such actions which actually promote indirectly GNU/Linux, but maybe they'd like their software to be used on other platforms too, other than Microsoft Windows (they get a bigger share of the market?). Currently, Google Linux repositories, by providing step-by-step tutorials, support all the popular distributions such as Debian, Ubuntu, Gentoo, Mandriva, SUSE, Red Hat and Fedora. They even have an automated script for the successful repo installation.

Computers: Donated OLPC laptops used for porn browsing

It might be old news but it's a damn good "event" (I think the pic on the right is Reuters'). It looks like we finally brought the joys of the internet to those less fortunate as said by a user at Slashdot. Children from Abuja were found (no evidence whatsoever) to be using the donated OLPC's laptop (One laptop per child) for browsing adult websites. As soon as the developers heard about this (expected from the public) event, they held back the laptops and are preparing for heavy censorship using filters.
Maybe they haven't succeeded so much in providing the less fortunate ones with the "great stuff" of the Wild West by presenting their OLPC project. I frankly believe it's a waste of time and money to bring laptops to those who in a great percentage will not appreciate it and will use it for such events. I mean hey, they it free of charge and you go breaking its good reputation and the hard work people put on this mega-sized project! Check out a lovely "internet is for porn" at youtube :)

Friday, July 27, 2007

Medicine: Antibiotics prescribed still causing drug resistance

Antibiotics are still being used at a level that causes restistance on some bacteria. An antibiotic preserves its name only historically, thus it is not against all "bio" (forms of life), but only against several bacteria that are sensitive to some of them. Antibiotics DO NOT work against coughs and colds; common cold is a viral infection and should should not be treated with antibiotics. This occurance is a severe event and must be ceased immediately (bmj.com has published this article I'm blogging about today).
In short and quoting:
Resistant bacteria were identified by the presence of a gene which codes for antibiotic resistance.
In children who did not receive an antibiotic, there was no increase in the proportion carrying resistant bacteria in the throat from the initial level at 2 or 12 weeks.
However, in children who received an antibiotic, the number carrying resistant bacteria more than doubled at the two week follow-up, but fell back close to the initial level by 12 weeks.
The bacteria (the ones that are able to at least, and there's a bunch of them!) can adapt to the "harsh" effects of an antibiotic, making themselves resistant, therefore surviving. This farmacological misuse should be stopped by educating the greater public that antibiotics aren't the solution to every disease. A continuous misuse of antibiotics should be handled with great care, since it can lead to killing the natural flora in several parts of our body, mainly the gut flora, such as Escherichia coli.

Bittorrent: Download 24/7 with your PC turned off!

Yep, I couldn't believe it either. Introducing the almighty HTTP, FTP and BitTorrent downloader: WMU-6500FS. OvisLink AirLive have really surprised me when I heard about this one. You can install any 3.5" SATA or IDE Hard Drive and instantly share it on the network. There's a ton of LED indicators which tell you about the status of several actions/status.

The Inquirer have tested it in their "labs", took it apart and presented it to the public. The cost is said to be about $100, which is worth every penny!

Software: K-Lite Mega Codec Pack 3.30

Title:K-Lite Mega Codec Pack 3.30
File size:16.00MB
Requirements:Windows 2000/XP/2003/Vista/XP64/Vista64
License:Freeware
MD5 Checksum:D9F69F391BAF242812E6FF304176ADCA

Mostly updates are packed with this new version.

"K-Lite Codec Pack is a collection of codecs, DirectShow filters and tools. Codecs and DirectShow filters are needed for encoding and decoding (playing) audio and video formats. The K-Lite Codec Pack is designed as a user-friendly solution for playing all your movie files. With the K-Lite Codec Pack you should be able to play all the popular audio and video formats and even some rare formats."


The features:
Player:
- Media Player Classic [version 6.4.9.0+ | Mod by Casimir666 v1.0.9.0]
ffdshow:
- ffdshow [rev. 1371]
- extra plugins
- ffdshow VFW interface
DirectShow video filters:
- XviD [version 1.1.3]
- DivX [version 6.6.1.4]
- CoreAVC [version 1.3.0.0]
- On2 VP6 [version 6.4.2.0]
- On2 VP7 [version 7.0.10.0]
- MPEG-1 / MPEG-2 (Cyberlink) [version 6.0.0.3402]
- MPEG-1 / MPEG-2 (Gabest) [version 1.0.0.3+]
VFW video codecs:
- XviD [version 1.1.2]
- DivX Pro [version 6.6.1.4]
- x264 [revision 606]
- On2 VP6 [version 6.4.2.0]
- On2 VP7 [version 7.0.10.0]
- Intel Indeo [version 4.51.16.2]
- Intel Indeo [version 5.2562.15.54]
- Intel I.263 [version 2.55.1.16]
- Huffyuv [version 2.1.1 CCE Patch 0.2.5]
- I420 (Helix) [version 1.2]
- YV12 (Helix) [version 1.2]
Real Alternative:
- RealMedia codecs [version 6.0.12.1741]
- RealMedia plugin for Internet Explorer
- RealMedia plugin for Firefox/Mozilla/Netscape/Opera
- RealMedia DirectShow splitter [version 1.0.1.2]
DirectShow audio filters:
- MP3 (Fraunhofer) [version 1.9.0.311]
- AC3/DTS/LPCM (AC3Filter) [version 1.45b]
- MP1/MP2 (MainConcept) [version 1.0.0.78]
- Vorbis (CoreVorbis) [version 1.1.0.79]
- AAC (CoreAAC) [version 1.2.0.575]
- MusePack (RadLight) [version 1.0.0.4]
- WavPack (CoreWavPack) [version 1.1.0]
- OptimFROG (RadLight) [version 1.0.0.1]
- DC-Bass Source [version 1.0.0.0]
ACM audio codecs:
- MP3 (Fraunhofer) [version 3.4.0.0]
- MP3 (LAME) [version 3.97]
- AC3Filter.ACM [version 0.4b]
- Vorbis [version 0.0.3.6]
- DivX ;) Audio [version 4.2.0.0]
DirectShow source filters:
- AVI splitter (Gabest) [version 1.0.0.7+]
- AVI splitter (Haali Media Splitter) [version 1.7.189.11]
- MP4 splitter (Haali Media Splitter) [version 1.7.189.11]
- MP4 splitter (Gabest) [version 1.0.0.3+]
- Matroska splitter (Haali Media Splitter) [version 1.7.189.11]
- Matroska splitter (Gabest) [version 1.0.2.9+]
- Ogg splitter (Haali Media Splitter) [version 1.7.189.11]
- Ogg splitter (Gabest) [version 1.0.0.0+]
- FLV splitter (Gabest) [version 1.0.0.2]
- MPEG PS/TS splitter (Gabest) [version 1.0.0.3+]
- MPEG PS/TS splitter (Haali Media Splitter) [version 1.7.189.11]
- CDDA Reader (Gabest) [version 1.0.0.1]
- CDXA Reader (Gabest) [version 1.0.0.1]
- AC3/DTS Source (AC3File) [version 0.5b]
DirectShow subtitle filter:
- DirectVobSub (a.k.a. VSFilter) [version 2.37 + fixes]
Tools:
- GSpot Codec Information Appliance [version 2.70a]
- VobSubStrip [version 0.11]
- GraphEdit [build 041201]
- AVI Fixed [version 2.0b1]
- FourCC Changer
- Bitrate Calculator


The changes:
Changes from K-Lite Mega Codec Pack 2.2.5 to K-Lite Mega Codec Pack 3.3.0:
- Updated Media Player Classic [version 6.4.9.0+ | Mod by Casimir666 v1.0.9.0]
- Updated ffdshow to revision 1371
- Updated Xvid to version 1.1.3
- Added MainConcept MPEG decoder [version 1.0.0.78]. This will be used only for decoding MPEG-1
- Updated Codec Tweak Tool
- Lots of small changes and improvements
- Increased version to match the version of KLCP


You can download it from filehippo or free-codecs or even majorgeeks.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Problems: Firefox crash? Reinstall and try again!

Yesterday I got an error while I was running Mozilla Firefox:
Segmentation fault (core dumped)
OMG OMG! "Stay calm, don't freak out... Hmm what can I do?" I said to myself. While I was listening to Rod Stewart - What A Wonderful World (featuring Stevie Wonder) it occured to me: I could reinstall the program, just to see if something is wrong with the installation, i.e. a file might have been removed by mistake, who knows! Reinstalling of a package is a command featured in all debian-based operating systems (Ubuntu Linux here). All you have to do is open the Terminal (in GNOME Desktop Manager) and type this:
sudo apt-get install --reinstall firefox
Then type your password and sit back in your chair, watch the fancy thing reinstall itself. Then type:
killall -9 firefox-bin
...just to be sure firefox isn't open anymore. Then start Firefox from the applications menu. Good browsing everyone!

Bittorrent: Introducing Halite - small yet effective client program

Made in C++ using libtorrent, Halite Bittorrent Client seems very promising, introducing features found in ╬╝Torrent, but without the MPAA watching over your back ;)
Halite (named after the mineral NaCl, rock salt) holds the following features:
  • Multiple downloads.
  • Displays more detailed information for the selected torrent.
  • Connection limits both global and per-torrent.
  • Transfer rate limits again global and per-torrent.
  • Trackerless torrents (using the Mainline kademlia DHT protocol).
  • IP filtering with eMule ipfilter.dat import.
  • Minimize to tray with transfer rate summary.
  • Association with ".torrent" files.
  • Option to limit the number of instances to one.
  • Estimated time remaining indicator.
  • Full Unicode support through UTF-8 and native Windows wide-char strings.
  • Login support where tracker requires it.
  • Ability to edit trackers specified in the torrent.
The only problem is that, as all open source projects, it needs a lot of volunteers to enrich its code and speed up its releases. They need translators as well. The bad thing is that this open source client is to be used only on Microsoft Windows :(

You can download the latest Halite at sourceforge or softpedia.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Deluge Bittorent client needs translators - Pronto!

Short description: Deluge is a BitTorrent client, created in an "open source" style, using Python and PyGTK. It holds exciting features and plugins, such as selecting which files to download, scheduler and IP banning system and lots more!
1.5.3 is almost out (24 hours to go), and they require as much translators as possible to translate the program to their native languages. If you're an open source mind, you'll know this is one of your duties to help maintain great programs. Head to Launchpad and start translating!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Medicine: Circumcision for HIV/AIDS prevention?!

Quoting Eurekalert:
Three clinical trials in Africa found that adult male circumcision reduced the risk of men acquiring HIV infection from heterosexual sex by 51-60%. While adult male circumcision may also have a role to play in preventing HIV transmission in the US ... the extent of this role on a population basis is unknown.
Oh really? Maybe circumcision could help form keratocytes around the glans of penis but I still don't believe that would help a lot. Some scientists believe that HIV in semen(sperma) is extremely virulent, hence the main way of spreading the virus. Some others, as an assistant told me in my first year, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) uses macrophages located in the area of the genital organs as "trojan horses" during sexual intercourse. Remember how Greeks got into Troy? Somehow similar happens with HIV and our macrophages. They're also the depot (reservoir) of the infectious agent that transport it further to lymphocytes, thus spreading the virus.
Macrophages are infected early during HIV infection and are thought to play the role of a Trojan horse by spreading infection in tissues... Infected macrophages are a reservoir for HIV and modulate apoptosis of T cells present in their vicinity.
There could be some truth here, but the other method which might create an HIV vaccine, is much more efficient, although it would take a looong time to process it.

Security: @RISK Newsletter

Brought to you from the house of the European wieners... (too much Cartoon Network).
As it is stated in @RISK Newsletter, most critical new vulnerabilities were found in Oracle and Trillian. Also, several Computer Associate's security and backup tools also have multiple vulnerabilities as does Firefox.

(1) CRITICAL: Cerulean Studios Trillian URI Handling Vulnerabilities
(2) CRITICAL: Oracle Products Multiple Vulnerabilities (CPU July 2007)
(3) HIGH: Mozilla Products Multiple Vulnerabilities
(4) HIGH: Computer Associates Alert Notification Server Multiple Buffer Overflows
References:
(1) http://www.xs-sniper.com/nmcfeters/Cross-App-Scripting-2.html
(2) http://www.oracle.com/technology/deploy/security/critical-patch-updates/cpujul2007.html
(3) http://www.securityfocus.com/bid/24946
(4) http://www.securityfocus.com/bid/24947

Monday, July 23, 2007

Linux: Ubuntu Long Term Support next release in 2008

Digg.com material - Mark Shuttleworth announced at some point of his keynote at Ubuntu Live 2007 that the next Ubuntu LTS (Long Term Support) release will be Ubuntu 8.04 (that's due April 2008).
Mark also remarked that Canonical will deliver a new LTS release every 2 years.

Internet: Get your own FeedBurner stickers

Well.. the Chicago office FeedBurner personnel is transferred to is great (gotta love the ping pong table). They took with them the remaining stickers/buttons and logically they want to get "rid" of them by sending them out by post. All you have to do is "send a self-addressed stamped envelope (or international reply coupon) to [their] new mailing address":
Google
c/o I Want A FeedBurner Sticker!
20 West Kinzie Street
9th floor
Chicago, IL 60610
USA

News: A language no-one knows freed a child molester

This one comes from Digg.com - A child molester, Mahamu Kanneh, has been freed because they couldn't find an interpreter in an appropriate timely manner - or one that would stay for that matter. So, all you sex-abusing freaks out there start learning Vai, maybe you'll be freed too.
Injustice or mistrial is something we see every day now. But you can't hold a trial against a guy who doesn't understand English (although the detectives spoke to him in English, and Kanneh attended high school in Montgomery).
The judge seems to have missed the big part of the trial: it was a sex-abuse and the girl will have to live with it for the rest of her life.

I don't believe the outcome would be the same if that child was her own.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

IRC: TimeWarner AOL RoadRunner and Verizon redirecting to dummy servers

This isn't anything new. I've used Google to search to track down about how many servers are affected. The results are scary, dating back to 2003.
Big internet providers (here ISPs), such as TimeWarner AOL RoadRunner and Verizon (and probably Cox) have been redirecting and/or blocking entirely irc traffic to a dummy server, checking for irc bots. But the problem is that this method will not work unless they're scanning for spam bots (bots that throw URL links, using private query messages or channel messages). rBots and SpyBots that may reply to that sort of messages, but only in their control channel which is certainly not #badbotbad. Maybe this action is used in order to say that they're doing something as an excuse if a 'delink' occurs.

I'd like to quote Anthony here:
We can protect ourselves better than the ISPs can
So very true. At least IRC server personnel can ban or even clean an entire botnet in just minutes, not thanks to ISPs.

I leave you with some screenshots that the AbleNet administrator has acquired: Picture 1 Picture 2 Picture 3 Picture 4 Picture 5

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Gadgets: Chumby

Weird name, kind of remarkable for a gadget of its powers. I guess the name comes from chubby chum; it is "fat" if you look at the pictures and it will become your friend eventually, a gadget you'll be able to carry anywhere! Anyway, Chumby is (if not one of the most expected) one of the soon expected gadgets on the market. Why should you grab one? A number of reasons... which we don't know yet (bad website).
Chumby is linux-based, hence it uses (or will use) open source software, so all you hackers out there should really take into consideration into grabbing one of these, from what I found out by a friend, it's going to be fun working with and programming Chumby.
You can be informed the moment Chumby hits the market here. Under the "stay tuned" headline there's a box to fill your email and as they state "Don't worry… we won't share your email address with anyone. Your privacy is respected".

Sum-up: I'd be thrilled to have a gadget like this, the problem is the cost; $150-$200 (plus shipping&handling I guess) is a bit high for me.

Personal score: 8/10 (the price blew the 10!)

Chumby's website
Meet their team
Pictures of chumby

Computers: Everything you need to know about DVD discs

I know it's the age of blu-ray and HD-DVD, but here is a list of a *lot* of questions around DVD discs. It gives a lot of thorough information about the discs themselves, where can you buy such discs, players that support them and pay attention to the differences of the 5 types (DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+R, DVD+RW, and DVD-RAM). On the other hand, Webopedia's is the alternative guide I'd recommend.

Have fun reading!
"Learning is experience. Everything else is just information." -- Albert Einstein

Microsoft: Windows XP still being bought

(Pictures belong to Microsoft.com and Microsoft in general, but the ranting that follows belongs to me!)

With all the Windows Vista ranting going around, the public is still buying the Windows XP Operating System. Either it's because 7 years of use made them prone to trying new stuff, or maybe they loved the RPC worm so much that they'd love to have it again. Maybe it's because they don't like to feel stupid by trying to make the user control every single step with a "Cancel or Allow" (Watch the mac advertisement, you'll love it, although I haven't seen such a cancel or allow dialog).

Problems were always part of every major upgrade to the Windows operating system family. So "to ease those [problems], some consumers are seeking out machines equipped with the more compatible Windows XP" (Reuters). Dell and HP started selling Windows XP machines again.

There's a final scenario to this occurance: People may be afraid to try the new thing before a Service Pack arrives, along with a pack of drivers for older hardware.
The "fairy tales" about Windows Vista supporting old hardware are not so true, since just the aero theme requires some mega bucks spent on graphics card, not to mention the cost of the RAM required, the new processor and motherboard (these 3 usually go together).

I have the same PC for 4 years now, and I've been using Ubuntu Linux for the last year. It's somewhat more mind-pleasing to get a free operating system and help to spread the word instead of paying up to Microsoft (and pay specifically for antimalware products to feel secure).

Friday, July 20, 2007

Study: Americans "no capito" other people

Quoting Keysar:
That strong, egocentric communication of Westerners was nonexistent when we looked at Chinese. The Chinese were very much able to put themselves in the shoes of another when they were communicating.
Hard words if you ask me. They grew up in a hard money-making blood-sucking western type of world, hence Americans have learned to survive and make profit out of someone's loss, even though that drives them to desocialize and become lonely. Despite our human nature, one's loss is another man's gain, which proves to be a law of survival in crowded cities. Yeah, maybe China is a much more crowded country, but the Chinese are raised with different traditions; I too would like to know which those traditions are, but since I'm not from that part of our dear planet, I can't be a judge of their customs.
It's a fact: You can't compare cultures.

Google: Cookies will last less.

Stop thinking of food! A cookie internet-wise is a small file storing information about a website. Determined to improve their privacy practices, the Google team (sounds like the "A team" heh) have decided to cut down on the information storing time. The lifetime is set as 2 years long (whaa?) - In other words, users who do not return to Google will have their cookies auto-expire after 2 years.

Belgrade: Hot line - literally!

If you happen to be in Belgrade, make sure you're wearing a T-Shirt! Due to the heat wave for the whole week, Belgrade has acquired a phone line for emergencies. The telephone number is: 011 2078600 or +381112078600 - A licensed doctor will answer your call and help you out with some medical tips on how to best avoid health problems.

Today: Failed Hitler's assassination / Turkish invasion of Cyprus / Apollo 11 Moon landing



1944 - World War II: Adolf Hitler survives an assassination attempt (known as the July 20 Plot) led by German Army Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg.




1974 - Turkish occupation of Cyprus: Forces from Turkey invade Cyprus after a "coup d' etat", organised by the dictator of Greece, against president Makarios. NATO's Council praises the US and the United Kingdom for attempts to settle the dispute. Syria and Egypt put their militaries on alert.




1969 - Apollo Program: Apollo 11 lands on the Moon.


Thursday, July 19, 2007

Medicine: In search for an effective vaccine against HIV

While I'm searching for a place to spend my holidays, scientists have completed the first genome-wide association study of an infectious disease. Although it seems impossible (at least to me), they're trying to find out why some people can "bottle up" virus levels following HIV infection, which could lead to a better therapy (way of fighting the disease, i.e. medicament-wise) or to the developing of an effective vaccine.

They have designed the Center for HIV/AIDS Vaccine Immunology (CHAVI) in order to "foster collaborative research to overcome roadblocks that have impeded HIV vaccine development", as stated by NIAID (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases) Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D.

The idea, in short, is to gather the genome of a lot of individuals who show all the symptoms of an HIV infection and compare it with the genome of persons who were resistant or didn't show any of the "hard" symptoms for quite some time. I'd like to quote Dr. Haynes here:
People vary greatly in their vulnerability to HIV infection. In particular, there are striking and largely unexplained differences between individuals in the degree to which they are able to hold viral levels to a low set point in the period soon after infection.
If scientists can locate the vulnerable genes by this differential study... well, we've got a way of fighting it ;)
Now, as I stated above, I believe it's impossible to make an all-around vaccine for HIV, because the type of this specific virus mutates easily, because of its genetic structure - It's wikipedia link alright, but I'm warning you, that link contains a lot of 'complexicated' medical stuff. Secondly, I'm wondering what the vaccine will do: will it be a gene-mutating vaccine or an production-halting one? Gene mutations on humans are absolutely out of question I guess, so that leaves us to an production-halting one, which disables one or more enzymes or halts the production of one of the key "ingredients" of the virus' reproduction cycle (takes out some substances that enhance their creation or puts in substances that disable enzymes). This method usually has several life-long side-effects, but if they is a vaccine that has far less side-effects than its willing effects, then I think it's good to go. The vaccine should also be low-cost one, since it will be used for the general public and not for posh people.

Belgrade: 10 bus routes cancelled temporarily because of a politician

Today, at 40°C, 10 bus routes in Belgrade were temporarily cancelled, because some V.I.P. wanted a clean drive to their destination (I believe it was the parliament). Well mr. politician, whoever that was, I hope you're glad you made about 1000 people miss their route or get confused by the hour-long waiting. One hour at that temperature I could fry an egg, and all of that just because your important personality said so.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Linux: cURL Tutorial and Virustotal uploader (for Linux)

A brief tutorial about cURL, an application that helps you download the source of a website - the very same tutorial which helped me make a bash script to upload suspicious files to Virustotal.

First of all, to use curl you have to install it, if you're using Ubuntu or a Debian-based distribution, try the following (Applications > Accessories > Terminal):
sudo apt-get install curl
You'll have to know the root password (Ubuntu users: the same password with the one you login). Now that you have it, try:
curl --help
Cool, now read the tutorial, you'll need some HTML knowledge for starters and some basic logic to get around in deciding what to use where. I'm not going to explain that, as that's a big chapter to enter :(

On to the Virustotal file uploader; Most of you won't need to upload suspicious windows executables (programs), since you're already enjoying a taste of free software by using a Linux distribution. I must say that the webmaster has pointed me to the wrong direction, using python and the email way to post the file... Well this was a bit more productive - you'll need packages grep and sed installed:
#!/bin/bash
#Released under CC-by: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/
curl --progress-bar -F archivo="@$*" -F enviar=true -F distribuir=1 http://www.virustotal.com/vt/en/recepcionf | grep -i "href" | sed -e 's/.*href="\([^"]*\)".*/Results at: \1/'
Nice? I'm using Regular Expressions (regex) to alter the output and get a clickable link. Here's the script, all zipped up, chmod'ed and ready to be fired up: Download here

Put/unzip the file in your home directory. Usage? Piece of cake (mmm... cheese cake):
~/uploadatvirustotal file.exe
Check out the screenshot to get a sample output.

Gadgets: iPhone shmyPhone myPhone... Neo!

iPhones are so yesterday, OpenMoko's Neo Series the "in" for now - open source and as they say: "mobile FULLSTOP free FULLSTOP". The telegraphing typing manner is just an excuse for $300 of a wonderful piece of futuristic phone.

The colours are a reminder of Sony Ericsson Walkman series (which is a good thing). The thing is that this phone has much more capabilities than a Walkman, since you can hack it and make your own software, even edit the Operating System (OS).

The name of mobile, Neo 1973, somehow makes sense - for me at least: Neo as in "new" (greek) or Matrix futuristic gadget. Now about 1973... I'm really not sure, I believe it represents this event:
December 31 - In the United Kingdom, due to coal shortages caused by industrial action, the electricity consumption reduction measure - the Three-Day Week comes into force.
You probably know that I'm just kidding. Anyway, if you're interested, get to the buying action. This phone is one of the few I've rated as probably good.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Medicine: Portable heart monitor that yells SOS through SMS

Imagine a relative calling and yelling "Hello? Uh my father is having a pain in his chest, I really don't know what that means... Now he's - Oh my god! He's fallen to the floor, COME QUICKLY" *click* *tut tut tut* (phone line dead) - No address, no explanation. Cause of death? Idiocy and panic. Well I'd say those days are over. The technology has advanced so much that even your heart can let the local hospital know if and when you're having a heart attack by simply sending an ECG using Bluetooth technology.
"Our Wearable Cardiac Telemedicine System can help the mobility of patients, so they can regain their independence and return to an active social life or work schedule," explains Bai, "thereby improving their psychological well-being and quality of life."

The only thing they don't mention (as always) is the very high price of a new gadget (as always).

Biology: Mosquitoes that don't replicate virus

While a decade ago scientists announced they can use foreign genes into a mosquito genome, a year ago, scientists announced a "theory to practice" successful use of an artificial gene that prevented a virus from replicating within mosquitoes. The problem is it's one virus, not all of them (virus)!

So they replaced a gene with a fake one into a mosquito and now it can't reproduce one virus - big deal. The real problem is not one virus, it's the mosquito itself, since it carries and favours the reproduce of several bacteria as well, par exemple Plasmodium.

Modifying genetically the vectors shouldn't be even a step to take to fight a virus. Fight to kill the vector or just fight another step of the reproducting ("life") cycle, called Vogralik's chain - The steps are:
  1. Infection's reservoir (mostly humans & animals)
  2. Way of spread (of the disease)
  3. Lieu of intake
  4. Concetration and virulency of the infection agent
  5. Sensitivy of the host (how immune the host is)
If one of the above is stopped effectively, then the infection will stop reappearing. The point is that it takes a long time in order to find an adequate way of preventing/stop the life cycle of an infection, especially if the vector can carry multiple infection agents.

Websites: Auctionads gets a thumb down

10 days now (if not more) AuctionAds have been facing a downtime several times per day.
They state in their blog:
One of the unfortunate downsides to explosive growth is that you find yourself running into new and unexpected limitations. As a result, AuctionAds has experienced some unplanned downtime as we have grown past our most optimistic projections. We know that downtime is unacceptable, and we’re working hard to prevent any outages in the future.
10 days would be enough even for me to either shut down the server completely or move to an other host. If they don't, well I will change to some other reliable ad server. I'm using a wide skyscraper which results in loss of some good advertising space.

I leave you with two quotes:
"If you cannot accurately predict the future then you must flexibly be prepared to deal with various possible futures." --Edward de Bono
"Those who have knowledge, don't predict. Those who predict, don't have knowledge." --Lao Tzu

Personal rate: 7/10
(The 7 is just for their lovely idea of presenting auctions as ad material)

Security: Critical vulnerabilities in Excel and .NET Framework

One of the most critical weeks for this year, Excel and .NET framework are the top, as @RISK Newsletter mentions:

The most critical vulnerabilities announced this week are in Excel and the .NET Framework. Overall, Windows had three, Office had two, and other MS products had one. Microsoft wasn't alone: Sun, Apple, Symantec, Adobe, McAfee, and Cisco also had high-risk vulnerabilities this week. Add to that the vulnerability in Progress Server, used by RSA Security and many other products, and you have a complex week for finding and mitigating vulnerabilities.

(1) CRITICAL: Microsoft Excel Multiple Vulnerabilities (MS07-036)
(2) CRITICAL: Microsoft .NET Framework Multiple Vulnerabilities (MS07-040)

Linux also faces 6 vulnerabilities, but not so critical:
07.29.32 - policyd W_Read Function Remote Buffer Overflow
07.29.33 - Netwin SurgeFTP Multiple Remote Vulnerabilities
07.29.34 - SquirrelMail G/PGP Encryption Plug-in Multiple Remote Command Execution Vulnerabilities
07.29.35 - IBM AIX Libodm Unspecified Buffer Overflow
07.29.36 - Linux PowerPC Kernel Restore_Sigcontext Local Denial of Service
07.29.37 - Linux Kernel Decode_Choices Function Remote Denial of Service

It's not the time to brag about using free software, since you see that Linux is also vulnerable. But at least with a proper router that has a firewall you can use Ubuntu desktop or any Linux/*BSD distribution that is meant for desktop usage, such as PC-BSD. I won't start stating why linux is better, because there is already
a website for that matter: http://www.whylinuxisbetter.net.

Monday, July 16, 2007

DST and Energy conservation: Why are we setting the clock back and forth

Daylight saving time (DST) is typical for North America and Europe, whereas the rest of the world nations do not use it anymore (or they've never used it). For over two centuries, "nations around the world use a variation of his concept to conserve energy and more fully enjoy the benefits of daylight" (quote).
Benjamin Franklin is credited with advancing the concept of daylight-saving time. He wanted to save candle consuming, therefore in 1784 he wrote a paper expressing the virtues of extending daylight. William Willett was actually the one who invented DST in 1905. As always, the world "wasn't ready"; Germany, and its allies were the first to use DST some 10 years later.
The thing is, one hour won't conserve much energy. People should learn that computers turned on and do nothing costs money to the person paying electricity and just reduces the world's energy reserves. TheRegister.com has several articles about it (and company green scores too!). I quote an article:
After all, research from 1E, the software company that developed the NightWatchman software, has found that computers left on overnight are responsible for the emission of around 700,000 tonnes of CO2 every year.

You can see a list of countries/capital cities and their time here - it also displays detail DST events as well as other time/date/temperature interesting data. Also, checkout some energy conservation tips.