Oren’s Blog

Major Windows Security Compromise going virtually unnoticed?

We here at the UW, and many other major research universities I know of, have been spending massive amounts of time and energy this week dealing with the latest exploits of security holes in Microsoft’s Windows operating systems. There have been many computers compromised, and many many more that are still vulnerable. We have been forced to block access to some services at the border of the insititution, breaking access to popular services such as Microsoft Exchange email and calendaring from off campus.

Yet this event has gone virtually unnoticed in the popular press, which has in the past made much bigger deals about much smaller events. Ironically, this is one instance where the press could really help, because the best solution to this problem is for individual computer owners to keep current with the updates and patches coming from Microsoft. If everybody did keep up to date, the magnitude of security problems would be much smaller.

My colleague Dave Dittrich has pointed out that there is finally an AP story on this vulnerability that shows up on the CNN web site.

John Snyder Interview

All About Jazz has an interview with the legendary John Snyder, the founder of Artists House Records and one of the most prolific jazz record producers, who’s worked with everyone from Dave Brubeck, to Aretha Franklin, to Sun Ra and Ornette.

It’s great to see him thinking soundly about music and file sharing and pricing – it’s the first time I’ve seen someone else talk about how low the prices should actually be for getting songs over the net: “If they had coop[t]ed Napster in the first place and charged ten cents a song, they would be billions of dollars ahead of the game. But instead, they shut it down. So record companies are not rational and they are not too advanced in technology. ”

The whole interview is well worth reading.

Online Music Sources

I don’t know about anybody else, but I’ve been really pleased with Apple’s ITunes Music Store – the selection is better than the stock any of my local record stores (and I live in Seattle, where the selection is pretty decent), the audio quality is good enough for my discerning listening (a musician and rabid music fan, but not an extreme audiophile by any means), and it’s worked flawlessly with my IMac so far.

It’s not perfect – like today I went looking for Magic Sam tunes and there weren’t any, and the Otis Rush selection awfully limited, but it keeps getting better. And I haven’t found a way to play the AAC format files on my Windows machines yet, which means I can’t take them with me on my laptop when I travel (guess that will be solved when ITunes for Windows makes it appearance). But I did find the ITunes plugin for my Rio S350 mp3 player, which appears to work well – the Rio just shows up as another playlist in ITunes.

And I do think the price is still too high – somewhere between a nickel and a quarter per tune seems more in line with my habits than a buck a tune…but I still find myself looking here first for music, and it tends to be cheaper than ordering even a used CD and paying shipping – plus you get (almost) instant gratification.

On the other hand, I’ve been reading bad reports so far of the first of the competition, Buy.com’s buy music. When I first visited, I clicked to the jazz section and got an error message – didn’t happen when I clicked Alternative, but hey – I mostly listen to jazz – not a good beginning.

Now when I visit using my platform and browser of choice (Safari on MacOS X) I get a few millisecond glimpse of the home page, then an error message saying “In order to take full advantage of BuyMusic.com’s offerings you must be on a Windows Operating System using Internet Explorer version 5.0 or higher.” Guess they don’t really want my business 🙂

I think it goes to show that execution is as important as offering and price – and that is one thing Apple appears to really understand.

Blogs and RSS – Simplicity rules once again

I’ve been spending some time browsing the vast world of weblogs, expecially those that are available via RSS syndication. The sheer amount and variety of stuff out there is overwhelming – of course not all of it is high quality…but it once again demonstrates both the human drive to communicate (or at least express opinons, which may not be the same thing), and the way simple protocols will be rapidly adopted across the net….just like we saw with the rapid spread of the original html spec…which was about as simple as one could get.

I’ve been using NetNewsWire Lite on my Macintosh and Feedreader on my Windows laptop to subscribe and read RSS feeds.

One thing I’d like to see is the ability to subscribe to random RSS feeds in a advertising-free web site, whether run remotely or on my local Apache server. Anyone know of such a thing?

Some blogs I’ve been reading more or less regularly the past couple of weeks (the links are to RSS feeds where available):

I’ve been looking for good sources with thoughtful commentary on jazz and roots music, but haven’t found any yet…

For a couple of articles about RSS, see What Is RSS? and What Do I Do With an RSS Feed?.

The Future of Browsers

Tim Bray (one of the inventors of XML) has an interesting article on the future of browsers, called The Door is Ajar where he makes a persuasive case for using and supporting browsers other than Microsoft’s IE. He notes that on his site IE use is running at 60% and decreasing. Here at the University of Washington IE claims about 88% of the user of our centrally managed web servers.

The perfect summer song

Sometimes there’s just a song that seems just right for a summer…a pop song…catchy with a great rocking beat, but yet intelligent enough that you want to listen to it over and over. For me this summer’s song is Counting Crows’ Hard Candy – a GREAT tune, reminiscent of Van Morrison, the Byrds, and the Buffalo Springfield and other great rootsy bands of summers past, with just the right touch of melancholy embedded in the groove, sweet background vocals, twelve string and all. Highly recommended. The rest of the album is ok, but not anywhere near as compelling as this one tune.