The Daily Pulse, 8/18-19/2004

In Memoriam: Elmer Bernstein, one of the great film composers of our time.

Okay, as to why this one’s late, let’s chalk it up to exhaustion, shall we? Woke up Wednesday morning nice and early, gonna knock this puppy out, popped my pills, took a shit, then decided “Just a little more sleep”. I ended up waking up just in time to get to work. Whoops. So, let’s just ignore the fact that this puppy’s late again and just thank our lucky stars that I was able to get it done. Let’s roll…

THE PIMP SECTION

BAXLEY!

GRUT!

Liquidcross knows that I’m an Elder God, and I ain’t afraid of no Great Seal.

No need to apologize for anything, Carmon

Hmmm, not much to pimp per se, but we’re getting there, trust me.

PLEASE DON’T IGNORE THE ANTI-SPYWARE SECTION

Remember, this all started because the slugs at Enigma Software dared to advertise their piece of shit SpyHunter at 411 (one of the reasons why I decided to leave, honestly). So I’m responding every single column with proper anti-spyware information. And guess what? People are actually taking this to heart. They’re asking me for help if they’re infested, or they’re writing me telling me that their browsing experience is less annoying thanks to the stuff I’ve been putting up here three times a week for a couple months now.

Big, big Kudos to the guys at the Spyware Warrior Forum for pointing out to everyone the extent of criminal activity participated in by Enigma Software, makers of the bane of advertising on this site, SpyHunter. Slimeballs extraordinare, aren’t they? And in case you need more info about what flaming bags of shit they are, try here. Suzi’s Blog has a great list of other flaming bags of shit that promote anti-spyware programs that are spyware themselves. Consult it if you have questions.

(On a side note, those SpyHunter ads started over at Reality News Online, and BFM, a contributor there, spotted them. He told the webmaster, gave him those links that I cited above, the webmaster read them, the blood drained out of his face, and he contacted his ad provider. No more ads for Enigma products on RNO, thank you. So guess what? If you provide the info, there are sites who will listen.)

One of the leading vectors for spyware is so-called free programs that contain this shit in order to “pay the bills”. No one deserves that kind of treatment. If you’ve got a question about whether or not a certain program contains spyware, head over here. It’s a nice alphabetized list of programs that do contain spyware and should be avoided at all costs.

Here’s a list of the programs you really need to help you get rid of menaces, and, more importantly, prevent them from occurring in the first place:

Spybot and AdAware. The ONLY two spyware removal tools to trust. Do NOT buy any spyware removal tools, because none of them work better than these two, and all of them except these two are suspect.

SpywareBlaster. Will nuke thousands of different potentially malicious ActiveX controls, and now has the ability to prevent a number of non-ActiveX methods of installing spyware for people who use Mozilla/Firefox.

SpywareGuard. From Javacool, like SpywareBlaster. It’s a real-time scanner for spyware. A decent first line of defense.

IE-SpyAd. Throws numerous ad-related URLs into IE’s Restricted Zone, where they won’t display or affect your system. Bookmark this one, since it’s the only one that doesn’t have an in-program update.

A few people have recommended also installing the Sun Java Virtual Machine, since it’s Windows’ buggy, half-assed implementation of the JVM that allows a lot of spyware to install (less so within the past month and a half than before). I STRONGLY recommend that you visit here and update your version of Java.

So many people have asked about a free anti-virus program that I’m also going to recommend AVG. Totally free, and works really, really well, as well as commercial anti-virus programs. Frequent database updates, good heuristic detection, everything you want in an anti-virus package.

Another program that I’d like to add here is a little tough to work with for noobs if it goes buggy (you need to know a little something about your Networking settings in order to debug if something should go wrong). Protowall is a supplement to your firewall or NAT system. It hooks directly into XP’s networking system to block any and all traffic that comes from URLs on a list maintained by the program (all protocols, not just TCP/UDP). It’s mainly designed for anti-P2P purposes (which will appeal to a great many of my readers), but it contains lists to block spyware and ads. Its blocklist can easily be updated using its supplementary program, Blocklist Manager. I have Protowall running and a Blocklist Manager icon on my desktop, and I use Blocklist Manager to update the blocklist every couple of days. You will have problems getting to some sites unless you shut down Protowall temporarily, like ESPN or Sports Illustrated, but it does have a tray icon you can right-click and shut down in a few seconds. It’s the third layer of anti-ad material for me, with IE-SpyAd and AdSubtract running alongside it. Warning, though: it only works with XP. I’d recommend its predecessor, Peer Guardian, for other MS OSes, but it isn’t being developed anymore, and there were still bugs in it when development stopped. You can get Protowall and the Blocklist Manager (which will also work with Peer Guardian) at Bluetack’s site.

Of course, only download them from the links provided above. And only download those programs; don’t fall for the ads that are shown at various websites.

With AdAware and Spybot, check for updates using their internal update function at least once a week. Run them at least once a week or whenever you think you might have problems. Remember, the new version of Spybot has browser protection capabilities, so have that run at startup and leave it running. Check for updates to SpywareBlaster once a week. It only needs to be run once initially in order to establish protection. Then, after it downloads updates, just click on the line that says “Enable Protection For All Unprotected Items” and kill it. It doesn’t need to be active. For IE-SpyAd, bookmark the site and check for updates twice a week, since it has no kind of internal updater. Run the Blocklist Manager every couple of days to make sure that you keep up on the latest banned URLs. Since all it does is add Registry entries, it doesn’t eat up anything.

If you’re having trouble with spyware or a browser hijacker, or think that you do, head over to the SpywareInfo Forums, where the pros there can help you diagnose and get rid of stuff. I was promoted to Full Helper status there and ended up joining ASAP, the Alliance of Security Analysis Professionals. Look for their symbol, which I’m not going to try to link to anymore because someone at the other end keeps munging it.

The Ravin’ Cajun asks me to recommend a good client-side spam filter for MS mail programs running under Windows. Now, this is something I don’t have experience with because my ISPs have always had good spam filtering, plus, I use Thunderbird, which handles the remainder quite nicely, thank you. Some readers wrote in and recommended SpamBayes, which is totally free and supposedly works very well, so I’ll add it on to the anti-annoyance list that we’re building up here.

THE GRAND UNVEILING

And a news item that actually links into the anti-spyware section. If you have Windows XP Home and Automatic Updates are activated, you’ll be receiving the long-awaited XP SP2 starting today. However, if you have XP Pro or XP Pro Corporate, you’ll be experiencing a bit of a delay (about a week, or so they say). Unless you’re a P2P maniac, this is a MUST download. I can’t emphasize that enough. If you’re not running firewall software, the new firewall is robust and actually provides feedback. Built-in pop-up blocking for IE. Tons of security-related fixes. Dear God, people, I don’t care if you’re on dialup. Download it and install it. It’ll make your lives easier. Not only will your machines be harder to 0wn0rz, but spyware will have a tougher time getting in. That doesn’t mean you should blow off the advice in the anti-spyware section (and get ALL of those programs, not just one or two, for the people who have asked me how to prevent infections), but your box will be safer in the first place.

Now, will I be getting it? If there’s a workaround for the problems that P2P programs have with it, yes, I will. I’m very security-conscious. I won’t be using the firewall, and I’ll still have the Google Toolbar for convenience (if not for superior pop-up blocking capability; BTW, congrats on the successful and long-awaited IPO, Google guys, even after all the disasters you had getting to that point), but those security fixes can’t be ignored. When it becomes available for Pro next week, yes, my machine will be downloading it (despite the problems I had with RC2). Hell, I’ve even changed my serial number on Windows to make sure I can download and install it.

Just get it. I can’t emphasize that enough. Just. Get. It.

GEE, REMEMBER WHEN THEY WERE ALL HEROES?

From the NYT:

The contract dispute between Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and the police and firefighters grew nastier yesterday as union members held a noisy 1 a.m. protest outside his Upper East Side town house and the police union threatened to set up picket lines at the Republican National Convention.

Seeking to turn up the pressure on the mayor, Patrick Lynch, the president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, said for the first time yesterday that his union might picket the convention and ask Republican delegates – along with employees at Madison Square Garden – to honor the picket line.

“We’re keeping all our options open, and that is certainly an option,” he said.

Now, I’m a strong union man and a union member, but interrupting a guy’s sleep is going over the line, okay?

However, there is a definite silver lining behind the rude behavior:

Such a move would put Republican delegates in an uncomfortable position because crossing the line might be seen as showing disrespect for the nation’s police officers – a group that President Bush’s campaign is wooing assiduously. And New York’s police officers, like its firefighters, are held in special regard because of their role in confronting the Sept. 11 attack.

The threat comes despite pledges by the New York City Central Labor Council that the city’s unions would not disrupt the convention. But Mr. Lynch said his union was not bound by that pledge because the P.B.A. does not belong to the labor council.

You go, boys. Anything to disrupt the convention would be aces in my book. However, using the status you’ve gained due to the “heroic actions” and so forth…that’s a little bit in bad taste, really.

In recent days, several City Hall officials have said they do not take seriously the threat of a strike or some vague calls for a sudden bout of blue flu – in which officers call in sick – during the convention, which runs from Aug. 30 to Sept. 2. These officials said that the city’s police officers, who are eager for higher pay, would be reluctant to shun the hefty amount of overtime during the convention, when thousands of police officers will be assigned to 12-hour shifts.

“We have the greatest police department and fire department,” Mr. Bloomberg said yesterday. “The people who work there are not going to strike. They’re very proud of the job that they do.”

So, in other words, Noo Yawk cops can be easily bribed if all it takes is the carrot of a little bit of overtime to dissuade them from their position that the contract being offered is unfair. Bloomberg is orbiting Neptune right now if he thinks he can break the union that way. And the union agrees with that view:

The police and firefighters say they are frustrated because they have been without a contract for two years. Adding to their anger is a sense that the mayor has not accorded them the respect, in the form of a sizable raise, that they believe they deserve. They see themselves as the heroes of the Sept. 11 attacks, yet the city is offering no more than the 5 percent over three years offered to other unions.

So many union members are reported to be so angry that some labor experts say they might get carried away and take rash actions that would anger the public when the unions are eager to maintain public support. With recent terror alerts and threats of large protest rallies planned, these experts said, the public might have little patience for disruptions by the police and firefighters.

“They’re capable of going off the deep end,” said Fred Siegel, an expert on urban affairs at Cooper Union. “They’re really working themselves into a frenzy.”

Hmmm, wh
at’s going to be happening in two weeks is going to be fun. There hasn’t been a great police riot at a convention since 1968, and this time it’ll be the police rioting on the other side. I, for once, will be watching, as will the rest of the world. Oh, please, let the GOP break the picket line for the convention. They’re the ones who made these guys “heroes” in the first place. If there’s no rioting, at least hypocrisy will run rampant, and then we can watch Kerry get a post-convention boost.

THE MOSQUE, THE MOSQUE, THE MOSQUE IS ON FIRE…

From Reuters:

Fierce fighting erupted in the city of Najaf Thursday after a rebel Shi’ite cleric defied an Iraqi government threat to attack his stronghold in a holy shrine and rejected demands that he end his uprising.

Thick black smoke poured into the sky from near the Imam Ali Mosque, soon after Moqtada al-Sadr spurned the ultimatum from interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. U.S. aircraft and tanks pounded the area around the shrine.

It was not immediately clear if the government’s threatened offensive was under way at the mosque, where the radical cleric and his Mehdi Army militia have holed up.

Away from the mosque area, three mortar bombs hit a Najaf police station in quick succession, killing seven police and wounding 21 others, police said.

Sadr reverted to his trademark defiance after two days in which he had appeared to be willing to disarm his militia and leave Iraq’s holiest Shi’ite shrine.

Asked about the latest government demands, Sheikh Ahmed al-Sheibani, a senior Sadr aide and Mehdi Army commander, told reporters inside the mosque, “It is very clear that we reject them.”

The two-week rebellion has badly dented Allawi’s authority, killed hundreds and rattled world oil markets. Oil prices hit a new record of $47.95 for a barrel of U.S. light crude.

Iraqi Minister of State Kasim Daoud told a news conference in Najaf the government had exhausted all peaceful means to persuade Sadr to back down and was determined to impose a military solution unless the cleric surrendered.

He said the scion of a respected Shi’ite clerical dynasty was facing his “final hours” before an attack.

Daoud vowed to liberate the Imam Ali Mosque but declined to say whether the government would storm the site itself.

Any such assault could provoke outrage among Iraq’s majority Shi’ite community, especially if U.S. forces are involved.

Well, the shit hammer’s coming down on this little escapade, and guess what? It’s going to provide more jihad material. They’re bombing one of the holiest sites of Shi’a here, and Shi’ites have long memories when it comes to stuff like this. This action alone guarantees that US troops are going to be spending a long, long time in Iraq pacifying the population. al-Sadr’s a bit of a nutbar, admittedly, but he’s got support, and if he didn’t have support among groups of Shi’ites, he sure as hell does now.

There’s only one way to handle this now: invade the mosque itself, kill al-Sadr, then drag his carcass through the streets of Najaf hanging from the back of a jeep with a large sign saying “This is how we deal with rebels. Do you want to be next?” A little bit of force majeure never hurt. What you’ll get is a little bit of violence at first, but after more bodies start to get dragged through the streets, the flakes will get the message and stop. Of course, this’ll piss off people outside of Iraq as soon as al-Jazeera gets some news footage on the satellite, and it’ll sicken the Western audience watching CNN, but it’ll work, trust me.

FAT PIPES

From the AP wire:

The number of Americans who get on the Internet via high-speed lines has now equaled the number using dial-up connections.

July measurements from Nielsen/NetRatings placed the broadband audience at 51 percent of the U.S. online population at home. That’s up from 38 percent a year ago.

Marc Ryan, senior director of analysis at the Internet research company, said many people are initially lured by deals from broadband providers. After the promotional rate ends, he said, “to go backward (to dial-up) is very difficult.”

Nielsen/NetRatings found broadband penetration highest among those under 35 years old – and particularly the 18-to-20 age group, at 59 percent. Those 65 years and older have the lowest penetration, at 34 percent.

The numbers are based on the company’s panel of 40,000 Internet users who report what sites they visit and what type of connections they have. The panelists were recruited randomly using telephone-based methods.

A May-June phone survey from the Pew Internet and American Life Project had placed the residential broadband population at 42 percent, though its director, Lee Rainie, said the number of broadband users increased since that study was completed.

So if you’re on dialup, you’re officially a minority. Under the Kerry Administration, maybe you can get a government subsidy for being part of the disadvantaged. Just another reason to vote Demo, I guess.

And I’ll break this off so that I can submit this thing. I’ll be back later this week with the Smackdown Short Form and then continue on from where I was. Remember, this f*cked-up schedule will continue until the last week of September/first week of October, so be patient. You’ll get your fix from me eventually. Enjoy.