Tag Archives: computers

Subtle Update Hint

Something that could help with the ever-shrinking window between turning on a new (Windows) computer and getting hacked by some automatic probe is to just make downloading security updates part of the setup process. I installed two Linux distributions this weekend, Mandrake 10.1 and SuSE 9.2, and both did this.

What I liked about the SuSE installer was the way the option was worded. The setup utility asks you if you want to “test your Internet connection.” It tests the connection by downloading the latest release notes and checking for updates! (Unfortunately, it somehow chose an old mirror of the SuSE site—not the one I used during the installation—and the process failed.)

Coming Soon to a Computer Near You!

Next week is going to be interesting.

It starts Monday with the anticipated release of Fedora Core 3, which is expected to form the base of Red Hat’s next Enterprise Linux. I’ve got quite a few systems running Fedora Core 2 between home and work, and while I won’t be upgrading everything at once, it looks like it should be less painful than the upgrade from 1 to 2.

Then there’s two releases on Tuesday. Most anticipated is the final release of Firefox 1.0. I’ve lost count of the systems I’ve installed Firefox on, and I’m very much looking forward to 1.0!

Finally, also Tuesday, is the monthly collection of Microsoft security patches. Off to the land of installations and reboots!

Of course, Mandrake released a new version last week, Apple posted a minor update to Mac OS yesterday, and Yellow Dog Linux just released 4.0, so it’s definitely upgrade season.

Get Firefox!

Warspamming

Via Email Battles: First ‘warspamming’ case reaches court.

Basically the guy (allegedly) drove around LA with a laptop looking for insecure wireless networks, then connected to them and sent spam using people’s home accounts.

The term comes from wardriving — driving around looking for unsecured networks — and warchalking — marking walls or sidewalks to indicate the presence, type and speed of the networks found. Early wardrivers discovered that Pringles cans make good amplifiers.

Further etymology: according to the Jargon File, war-driving is a play on war dialer. War dialers were programs that would call up a series of phone numbers looking for modems, faxes, or other phone-based systems it might be able to crack into. And that term started out as wargames dialer, a reference to the film War Games. (Whew!)

It turns out that warspamming is older than I thought: the term was coined two years ago, though this is the first case to go to trial. The scumbag defendant is being tried under CAN-SPAM, which went into effect this past January.

An interesting statement from the article:

If Tombros is convicted or pleads guilty then warspamming — also known as drive-by spamming — will move from being just a theoretical possibility to a genuine threat.

What, so in the two years since someone came up with the idea, no one has ever seen it done? And we have to wait for a conviction to determine whether it’s happened now? We don’t need to wait for a trial to know that spammers — an annoyingly resourceful lot — are using thousands of virus- and spyware-infested home computers as zombies. Warspamming doesn’t even require programming skills (or ties to virus writers — although I understand access to already-compromised networks has become a brisk business on the black market.) Surely someone has logs to show that it’s been done.

Fast OS Updates

Lately there seems to be a lot of concern with how long Microsoft is taking to develop the next version of Windows. Since people clearly want their operating systems updated faster, allow me to provide a list:

  • Red Hat or SuSE Enterprise Linux. New versions every 12-18 months. (Mandrake Corporate Server seems about the same.)
  • Mac OS. The past few years have seen yearly updates as OS X has settled in, although they plan to slow down now. Last I looked, they hadn’t announced a release date for Tiger (OS 10.4).
  • SuSE Linux or Mandrake Linux. I’m not sure what their timetable is, but they each tend to release at least one new version each year.
  • OpenBSD. New version every 6 months.
  • Fedora Core Linux. New version roughly every 6 months.
  • FreeBSD. New version roughly every 4 months.
  • Gentoo Linux. Quarterly releases.

Of course, those who really need their upgrade fix can go for development branches like Fedora Rawhide, Mandrake Cooker, or Debian Unstable. Not that I’d recommend this for anyone who wasn’t actually working on the product, but hey, you can upgrade your system every day!