blarg?

Veterans of the field know what “backhoe fade” means, but when your landlord sends somebody in to fix your heater and you come home to find your server as dead as a stump with the CD tray sticking half out, I think that is a call for novel terminology.

Arlene was here when I got home, so I’ve got to put my sincere and reasonable desire to rip somebody’s asshole out through their eyesocket aside so that I can cook her a nice dinner. Which probably means she’s a good influence.

Clutch won’t even power up. And the heater isn’t even fixed. God damn.

If you ever wanted a perfect metaphor for IT security, watch Star Trek. Go ahead: bust your ass for your entire career, be the top of your class on the flagship of the fleet; when things start going bad because of a management decision you had no say in, you’re going to get killed and nobody in the next episode will even remember your name. Remember Galaxy Quest? “Let’s get out of here before one of those things kills guy.”

Because really, nobody cares about security.

Well, some of us do. And some of us that do, regardless of our best efforts, will still get screwed, because there’s not much you can do if your bank doesn’t.

Sweet Jeebus. To sum up, an American scrapyard owner has had to go to court in Maryland to prevent the CIBC from sending him any more of its clients’ confidential transaction information. No kidding. How does the mind boggle? Let me count the ways:

  1. The CIBC handles internal branch-to-branch communications by unencrypted fax. In terms of modern information technology, this is like sending your cave drawings via brontosaurus express. It is two trilobites tied together with a long string. I realize that things get pretty hectic between 10:00 and 4:00, but you guys might want to take a look at the landscape; the world’s changed a little since 1978.

  2. Apparently, nobody bothered to ask what actually happened to all those faxes with people’s names, addresses, phone numbers, bank account, SIN numbers and signatures that were sent to somewhere but never received at the other end.
  3. The guy receiving all this stuff called the CIBC in 2001, as in “2004 minus 3″ to tell them about it, and got the brush-off.
  4. The CIBC claims they responded to Mr. Peer in 2002, and thought the problem was solved, a thinking that apparently didn’t involve “checking”. Nevertheless,
  5. The bank is now spinning for damage control, saying that the guy they were accidentally sending extremely-private faxes to “failed to co-operate with CIBC’s attempts to solve the problem”, a sure sign that they know that this is huge-for-sure.

The enormity of a fuckup like this defies description; even so, the CIBC should wonder how lucky they were that his next phone call wasn’t directly to the Mob, who would have been more than willing to help him out. It wouldn’t surprise me to hear that a full third of the CIBC’s legal department actually soiled themselves reading the Globe & Mail today.


“Boss, I read the Globe & Mail this morning, and I’ve soiled myself. I have to go home and change.”

“Take a cab. Expense it. On your way back, you should let your wife know that you won’t be home for dinner for the next five years.”

At a guess, I’d say that the CIBC is about to get taken to court and ridden like a pony. I don’t know if there’s one word to describe what happens when a major corporation gets gang-raped by an army of extremely excited lawyers set in the twin pursuits of justice and fat sacks of bank money while the national privacy commissioner is nearby cracking a bullwhip, waving a Stetson around his head and yelling “Yeehah!”, but if I did, this is exactly where I would use that word. I bet there’s one really long German word for it that they don’t use much.

I don’t know who’s in charge of information security at CIBC, but I’m betting nobody; a Tickle-Me Elmo doll in a blue blazer could probably have kept this one at bay. But let me get back to my original point about redshirts just in case whoever’s given that vacant-either-way job next is reading this: if you are in charge of security, and you can’t say “no” to management, then you are not in charge of security – you are in charge of being the fall guy.

Just once, I would have liked to see a redshirt say no.

UPDATE: He was still receiving missent faxes yesterday. So the CIBC has banned faxes completely, and they’re going to courier everything. Yeehah!

Update 2 – The Comedy Continues: “Courier service is something we’ve had since the 19th century,” said Robert Waite, a spokesman for the bank. “It works fine. It may take somewhat longer, but it’s actually an efficient system.”

Two thirds of my referrer logs now consist of spam. This is unacceptable.

If somebody could tell me why this .htaccess file isn’t working, I’d appreciate it:

SetEnvIfNoCase Referer "http://\*info/$" cockbites
Order Deny,Allow
Deny from env=cockbites
Allow from all

I’d also like a regex that accomodates every string with the word “phentermine” in it. Apparently, I’m missing something key about Apache’s .htaccess regexes, and any help would be appreciated.

I don’t know what kind of a target market these assholes think they’re going for, especially considering that none of these .info domains actually exist. Is this some kind of bizzare cross-pollenation of spamvertising and a DDOS?

Update: Mr. Bruce has revealed my idiocy to me, and my now-correctly-functioning .htaccess file looks like this:

SetEnvIfNoCase Referer "^http://.*info" cockbites
Order Deny,Allow
Deny from env=cockbites

SetEnvIfNoCase Referer hentermin asshats
Order Deny,Allow
Deny from env=asshats

Here’s the deal: you will read this entry, and you will do what I tell you, and once you do you will be happy. Pay attention now, this is a three-step process. Obey!


Read the rest of this entry

Got a highly heterogeneous network, some statically assigned IP addresses and maybe, just maybe, you’re trying to share a printer off an XP/SP2 machine? Printer sharing completely boned for no obvious reason? Have I ever got what you need.

If you’re running XP, odds are pretty good that your NetBIOS setting says “Do whatever the DHCP server says to do” whether your DHCP server has anything to say on the matter or not. So no NetBIOS for you, and (believe me, this is super-awesome) if you’re trying to share a printer from that machine (in the traditional manner of picking “sharing” and saying “yes”) it will indeed say yes, you’re sharing it, everything’s fine. That printer is a shared printer, it will tell you, and that will be a lie. And you’ll be able to see it locally, but nobody else anywhere will be able to touch it. And every error message you’ll see will be misleading, obfuscatory bullshit, and unless you know the NetBIOS trick (that being “trudge through eight layers of sub-menu to find it and turn it on”) you will have absolutely no chance of getting it working at all ever.

Windows networking is so fucking awesome I could scream.

Today I taught the predictive text input mechanism on my phone about the word “IKEA” and immediately felt like a shard of my soul had been sheared off and the space it had been cauterized.

I am seriously considering setting myself on fire right now.

As usual it is on, and not to be missed. RSVP, if you’re showing up with a party. Otherwise, just show.

Well, that didn’t last long.

I took my coveted Z200 for a walk around the block a few days ago, and decided it wasn’t going to work out. It was very pretty, and the interface was exactly what I wanted, but it wasn’t, well, it wasn’t bluetoothy enough for me. And its infrared only sort of worked but didn’t really, and the USB cable didn’t work at all. And it had no Java, and virtually no memory, and it was slow, so slow. It wasn’t going to work out, so I had to break it off. It’s too bad – it was a really, really pretty form factor, a great UI, but it was just as dumb as a cellphone can get without being a walkie-talkie.

So I moved over to a Siemens CF62, a phone that did almost what I was looking for, and came with a camera, but boy howdy, the Siemens people need some professional help with their user interface design in the worst possible way. I know that the UI for every phone is different, but when the “Send This SMS Message Right Now” button and the “Delete The Previous Character” button are right next to each other, and on the other side of things the “Options For This Call” and the “Hang Up This Call” buttons have that same adjacency for absolutely zero good reasons and all kinds of bad ones, well, that’s three strikes right there. And to me, that looks like the kind of problem that’s symptomatic of a much deeper institutional problem than just a bad front-end. After cutting off two calls and sending three unfinished (in one case, barely started) SMS messages, I felt no regret whatsoever sending it back to the shop.

Oh, well. So much for clamshells.

The next phone that met the criteria of supporting bluetooth and a PC connection that had some hope in hell of working under Linux, having a UI that wasn’t obviously designed by a chimpanzee with Down Syndrome and not looking like badly-assembled glossy plastic ass was the next Sony-Ericsson model up, the t-six-ten. And it’s pretty sweet; there’s a few obvious kinks in the UI, and the buttons you’d most want to be user-configurable just aren’t, but so far I can live with that. I can move stuff on and off it painlessly even with Linux, the reception is good, the headset that came with it was pretty good too. The built-in camera is, I will admit, kind of fun and the SMS works pretty well once you tell it not to show all of its T9 suggestions in an ugly scroll window. It even has an plug hidden in the back for a much, much bigger antenna, if I ever want that; the only thing that I really want that it doesn’t do is come in the same shape as the clamshell Z200, which is a little disappointing. There’s a Z600, you might say, to which I reply that it is twice the size of the Z200, costs three times as much as the t610 and eight times as much as the z200, and it looks like a babboon’s ass might look if the babboon had a piercing. And I’m not in the market for pierced babboon ass of any size, at any price.

The thing that made this entire escapade in phone-swapping cost me nothing but time is the fact that Fido give you fifteen days to do that, hassle-free. Which is nice – most places (Bell, Telus and Rogers, if memory serves) give you fifteen days or fifteen minutes on the phone, whichever comes first. Which, you’ll sensibly observe, blows. Like my man Rob, I heart Fido very much, so it’s a damn shame that Rogers is buying them. Talking to them about my problems doesn’t hurt at all, and then the problems get solved. What’s not to like?

Thank you, no. I don’t. I really don’t. I don’t even want to be looking at the keyboard when you type it in.

I realize that you’re trying to be helpful. I really do. But here’s the thing – I cannot know your password, I can’t even have a hint. I just can’t.

There will never be a time that I need your password. It might be a convenience, to help you set some parts of your account up ahead of time (sure beats registry hacking) and maybe even to look at that file on the server that’s giving you problems, while you’re at lunch or troubleshoot your permissions problem. But that’s not a need – believe you me, when the word “need” rolls into the room, I have far more powerful tools available to me than you do. You have no idea. Seriously.

No, I have a very serious reason for not wanting your password, and it is pretty simple: most people use the same password for a lot of different things, or their password is some pattern that they will reuse, over and over again. People will use the same password on their PCs that they will on their bank accounts, on their voicemail, on the alarm system at their homes; it’s an absolutely terrible idea, and lots of well-meaning people do it without a second thought.

There’s a chance, maybe small, maybe not, that if I see your password and I know a little bit about you, I can take your life apart. Financially, personally – your credit rating, your identity, maybe even your most closely-held secrets – I will be able to peel your life apart like a trailer park in a hurricane, in ways that you may never be able to recover from, because in many cases, the recovery mechanisms you would need don’t exist.

I won’t do this to you; I’m happy in my own identity, and don’t need your SIN, VISA number or anything out of your attic. But here’s the thing: if that does happen to somebody where I work, I can’t have anything to do with it. Not one thing. More importantly, I can’t be percieved to have had anything to do with it. That is a career-ender. If it happens to two people, that’s a disaster that I want to be as far away from as possible.

So no, thanks. I don’t need, or want, to know.

Two or three months ago, I noticed that Dell had issued a recall on some of its power adapters, including a model that I happened to own a few of; one came with the laptop, and two more I got second-hand when I was replacing the first because of a fraying wire near the connector.

So I went to the aforementioned recall site, entered my information and clicked through to the end, where I got a confirmation. But wait, I wondered, I’ve got a new address; did I get that right? So I clicked back, and then forward again. A few weeks later, I hadn’t seen them yet, so a month and a half ago I called Dell at the number they listed, and asked why I hadn’t received my order yet. They took my e-mail address, and said they’d look into it.

Today, I received nine brand-new Dell laptop power adapters in the mail.

Nine.