Thursday, November 27, 2008

Professional blogging in a rush

Hippee, another blog post for my work place. This time, it was written rather quickly (less than two hours), as we had to rush this out before someone else would find it out, and do the same.

This stuff happens all the time, but CBS is a big fish. It's quite sad seeing what the Internet has become.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Two short topics

Topic 1
Have a look at this new browser. Still not sure whether I should call this innovation or blasphemy. Perhaps it'll be good for web site developers running Windows. One thing is for sure: More browser engines, more vulnerabilities.

Topic 2
Remember me getting pissed off at Windows automatic update mechanism? Well, it gets worse. Did you know it might auto-reboot the PC? Even if the PC did something important at that time. After the successful reboot, Windows pops-up a balloon saying the patches were successfully installed and the machine was rebooted. Gee, thanks.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

My [Split-]Personal[-ity] Internet

Up until now I was avoiding from writing more than one post a day. Although I have some topics I want to write about prepared, I prefer to stay focused.

So while still avoiding the periodically annoying pop-ups, I was reading Yevgeny's latest post. The first thing I thought is that I'm glad something I wrote inspired such an excellent post by Yevgeny. But by the end of the post I had some more serious thoughts about that topic. So serious, I couldn't write them in a short comment.

While Google remembers what one is searching, and offering more relevant results in future searches, such a feature is problematic as well, and I'm not talking about privacy.
While I'm at home, my Google searches are typically around topics which interest me in my leisure time, such as gaming, Linux, funny stuff, etc. While at my work, my Google searches are focused around stuff which is relevant for work, such as security flaws, vulnerabilities, exploits, hacking, etc. While having one Google profile for my personal life and one for my work does the trick of not mixing the results (some topics collide with each other), this is very not comfortable, since I want to access my private GMail inbox, without logging out and then back in with a different account. And vice versa.

So my profile actually has a split personality which I rather avoid. I've seen Nokia's solution for this problem with their latest E66 smartphone, where they set up two different "desktops", which can be easily swapped, one for work and one for home. Although different "desktops", the phonebook and the rest of the personal info remains intact, and is always accessible. Having the same ability with my online identity (Google, LinkedIn, Blogger, etc.), would make the Internet much more "mine" than it currently does.

Can't you just stay put?

Every now and than I'm thinking about how could the software I use become more usable. I'm no expert in this field, but I can tell an unusable interface when I see one.

These days, it is very common for a piece of software to offer an automatic update/upgrade when such is available. If you're using a modern Linux distro (ever since 2002?), you're used to the fact a central tool upgrades all of the packages that requires it, across the entire OS and the applications installed on it. Although there isn't a perfect solution for this on Windows, applications for that OS had come a long way. Most notably, games,, Firefox, Notepad++ and so on, all offer an automatic upgrade. Even software I write and support these days offer the same functionality.

Having said that, there are different ways to offer and install such updates. In this area, MS has something to learn from the other guys, especially their open source counter parts. My workstation at my work place is running XP with automatic updates (cannot afford myself a catastrophe, especially since I'm dealing with malware all day long). This means that about every week some updates are installed. After the update process completes, I get an annoying pop-up asking whether I want to restart now or later. Such pop-ups are the worst thing that could happen, since they grab the input from whatever you were doing. Moreover, choosing the option to restart later, doesn't make the damn thing go away, but only makes it pop-up some time later, asking the same question. Why? Didn't I just say I'll restart later?

Not only I think updates shouldn't require a full system reboot (unless the kernel is upgraded, but this is not the case 99% of the time), I also think a small balloon saying "Updates were installed, click here for info/reboot" would suffice. The user's productivity is far more important than a KillBit update for some ActiveX, especially when in both cases the user is informed of the situation, but in the later, the user isn't annoyed ever hour or so.

EDIT: ironically, this happened even now, while writing this post.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Google feature, is it just me?

Today I was looking for some stuff using Google. The results page looked a bit different, as you can see in the picture. I wonder if it's just me being part of an experiment, or some new Google feature.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

first impressions from openSUSE

My journey with Linux begins quite a long time ago, when most people used Slackware. So did I. Until today, Slack remained my personal favorite, although I stopped using it completely about 4 years ago. Ever since my first steps, I've been using (sometimes in parallel) Red Hat, Mandrake 8.2, Debian, Oracle's UBL, Cent OS 3-5 and had some short experience with Arch and Gentoo. But more than anything else, I mainly use [K]Ubuntu (5.10-8.04).

The main reason for the switch was my work and study (and life) consumed the time I used to spend maintaining my distro, and I wanted something modern which works out of the box (and the fact some people laughed at me, because I was old fashioned and didn't have dependency management).
Unlike others, I'm quite pleased with Ubuntu. Even 64bit. It just works.

But all of a sudden, I became bored with my computer, so I decided to replace the brown/blue with green. Well, where can I find a green distro? Oh, right - openSUSE.

Didn't want to mess too much with my computer, especially since it was transformed into a gaming station (thus, runs Windows), I decided the laptop would do just fine. It's a HP nc6220, so the spec is high and it comes feature loaded. Downloaded openSUSE 11 with KDE 4 for 32 bit, put the CD in the drive, and reboot.
The live CD looks really good, and makes you want to install it. The installer is great, although I did have some problem with the partitioner which crashed the first time, and wasn't as simple as other partitioners I used.
After the installation, everything just worked, including WiFi, which is a good start (no network = inability to find problem's solutions on the internet).
Some quirks include the fact the language indicator didn't show hebrew by default (although Israel's timezone was selected, which implies I live in Israel), and the update manager noticed I need to upgrade some packages, but crashed while doing so (currently, "zypper up" is running in the background - good thing I'm not afraid of the command line).

This is definitely not the first time I use KDE 4, but it is the first time I enjoy it. The openSUSE guys made it beautiful (not black) and useable. Once the upgrade is finished, I'll try to run IM (kopete?) and other applications, and see if they're any better than previous versions.

Oh, one more thing - I noticed many applications are from KDE 3, and firefox is missing some plugins (hadn't checked for codecs yet). This is the thing that disappointed my most, as I'm used this things just work, especially in a desktop distribution. Once I finish those installations, I'll write again with my impressions.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Oracle and Security

Since I used to be an Oracle DBA (still hold the title, just not the job), and since I work in the security field now, I find this article quite interesting.

I have to mention I have never met a single DBA which manages over 500 DBs on his own. That number doesn't sound rational at all, but hey, if one of you reading this blog actually do that, please leave a note, as I'd love to hear how it is.

Now I wonder, what future features does Oracle plan for its latest hardware platform. Does built-in filesystem encryption sounds too far-fetched?

Friday, November 7, 2008


At his weekend newspaper column today, Yair Lapid complaint about Pelephone's service, and their incompetence when it comes to closing lines which are no longer wanted. In Lapid's case, Pelephone kept charging his late (since June) father for calls made from abroad, and refused to admit the mistake.

This reminded me the time I wanted to close my Pelephone line few months ago. After closing phone lines at the competitor providers, I thought it'll be just as easy. Mistaken I was, this took me over a month of sending letters, faxes, making phone calls, etc. In the mean while, Pelephone kept charging me for service I did not want, nor use.

The HUTZPA of Israeli telecom providers was revealed to me this week once again. Last Friday I was holding a conversation with Bezeq regarding upgrading my (lame) internet connection (ADSL) speed. The conversation concluded in me adding 5 NIS, and they'll upgrade my connection to a more reasonable speed. After finishing that conversation, I hurried calling my ISP, to upgrade the speed (and price) of my service.

Since I have bad experience with such things, I went through every known procedure in order to check my internet connection speed. All tests concluded - I'm still having the old (and slow) connection speed. After 1 hour call to my ISP, I was assured they fulfilled their part of the deal, and that the problem relies at Bezeq. Calling Bezeq, I heard the sorriest excuse ever: "You're still connected using the old speed, no upgrade was ever made. Come to think about it, it's impossible we've ever offered you such a deal" (!?!). Took quite some time to make them check their phone logs and see for themselves that they did talked to me over the phone, and did offer a deal. Yelling at them that I've already upgraded my ISP service, lead nowhere. They say they cannot, and will not, give me the speed we agreed on for the price we agreed on. Now they offer a different price, over 3 times as much, with limiting conditions (only for first 6 months, etc.).

What am I supposed to do now? Call my ISP and cancel the higher speed service? Will they give me my money back for not being able to use the service I was paying for?

Telling Bezeq I want to disconnect from my service, in order to move to the competitors, they told me my engagement to the service ends at January, and breaking it would cost me 110 NIS. WTF? Keeping the service for this time would cost me less. One more reason to leave them ASAP. January that is. Hope the competition is any better.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Professional blogging

Today I've published my first blog post in my new work place. Hip Hip Hooray. Previous posts in that blog are quite interesting, and are a recommended reading.

While creating that post, I've learned a few lessons about professional blogging, which means blogging which also has a marketing agenda. This post went through 4 other people which perfected it to the result you see. Every word counts, every thing or ability which is exposed is considered carefully and the entire "story" told is kept clear and simple. There's a dedicated person who's job is to turn my English to the one you read in that post (and other company documents).

Needless to say it's quite different from my ordinary blogging, which now is a bit influenced by that, but previously was constructed from idea->write->spellcheck->publish. Also, having a team blog insures there will be a bigger range of topics, and the blog will be updated more regularly.

Finally, for my concerned readers, I'm not going to stop this blog. I love and I'm gonna keep writing about various technological topics, as always. So see you later, and have fun reading.