Monday, July 28, 2008

VirtualBox Rules!

I've tried VirtualBox on Raymond's recommendation. Finally I can say this with a with certainty:

Sun Microsystems' VirtualBox platform works!

  • VirtualBox kicks VirtualPC2007's ass.
  • QEMU has been disappointing.

Before anyone takes up arms over this, let me defend myself.

My Host is running Vista.

Face it. Only VirtualBox has an option for Ubuntu in the Guest OS Type selection. The install went smoothly and soon, I was rebooting into my spanking new Ubuntu system. In no time, I am writing this entry using Firefox in my Ubuntu VM running in VirtualBox.

VPC 2007 crashed even before the installer could start (this is a known issue). After using all the workarounds I could find on the web, installation still managed to hang at different points in the process. Networking is unstable. Rsync to another machine on the LAN would break at unknown intervals too.

I tried QEMU 0.9.0 and 0.9.1. One of them cannot run in Vista, the other one cannot run in XP, I'm not sure which one. Anyway, whichever one that ran, also hung during the installation phase.

I may have gotten something wrong previously, but hey, VirtualBox gave me no room for error. It got everything right!

Finally I can try all the Linux systems I want!

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Developments in Linux

Ubuntu has a comprehensive glossary that helped me learn the latest developments in the Linux desktop environment. I've not been using the Linux desktop for the longest time - SSH has been my main environment so far - and this glossary showed me the latest applications/utilities used to perform certain tasks.

Configuring APT

I've been using APT for the past couple of years to update my Fedora system from releases 5 to 9.

There is always this $(VERSION) variable that I did not know how to set. Recently, apt-get update has been failing to get some repomd (repository meta-data) files, and I realized the $(VERSION) was expanding to 9.90.

Of course the repositories did not have a directory called 9.90, there was 7, 8, 9, but no decimals.

Getting off my lazy bum to do some research at long last (I was replacing $(VERSION) with 9 manually), I found which documented two variables in the APT:: namespace - DistroVersion and DistroVerPkg.

In the first place, this information should have been more up-front and visible in the documentation. Googling "apt-get $(VERSION)" didn't turn up any good hits at all.

DistroVerPkg is the default value for deriving $(VERSION), and it has a value of "fedora-release" (/etc/fedora-release). This file looks like this:
Fedora release 9.90.1 (Rawhide)
This causes $(VERSION) to expand by default to 9.90, since DistroVersion is not defined.

Hence, in my /etc/apt.conf, I've added the following line:

APT::DistroVersion "9";

which expands $(VERSION) to the correct value.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Directory Harvest Attacks

To me, the mention of DHA sounds like it came out of a milk powder commercial ... "DHA is good for your baby's mental and physical development ..." until I was enlightened by an IT veteran who had been in the business even before infant formula were marketed with DHA and Omega 3 (remember the KLIM and Dumex days??).

Anyway, I did get my fair servings of DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) as a child. I've been taking quite a lot of Scott's Emulsion (made of cod liver oil, and fish oils are supposedly rich in DHA and Omega 3).
The Scott's brand is a cod liver oil range of emulsions rich in natural sources of vitamin A and D, calcium, phosphorus and omega 3. The emulsion helps build up the body's natural resistance to infections and develop strong bones and teeth.
Cod liver oil is a nutritional supplement derived from liver of cod fish. It has high levels of the omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, and very high levels of vitamin A, and vitamin D. It is widely taken to ease the symptoms of arthritis as well as other health benefits. It was once commonly given to children.
Anyway. back to the topic: DHA stands for Directory Harvest Attack.
The more recent trend for harvesting email addresses is the DHA (Directory Harvest Attack). ... The SMTP protocol has a special command VRFY which was designed to help the senders whether the username exists before attempting to send an email - Stason.Org
The success of a directory harvest attack relies on the recipient e-mail server rejecting e-mail sent to invalid recipient e-mail addresses during the Simple Mail Transport Protocol (SMTP) session. Wikipedia
Enterprise e-mail security vendor Postini reports that DHAs increased by 250 percent in 2003 and now account for as much as one-quarter of the requests that some SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) servers process each day. - PCMag
Q: What is a DIRECTORY HARVEST attack?
A: Spammers probe SMTP mail servers on the Internet in an attempt to discover valid addresses at a domain. They set their computers to try sending email to different addresses using a dictionary of common first name and last name combinations. Since companies sometimes use a standardized name format as the first portion of an email address (before the @domain) these harvesting attempts may succeed.- CMS FAQ
I'll get straight to the point. An alert reader would have by now guess that I am driving home a point about the relationship between DHA and SMTP.

I was told by our vet., that IMAP was disabled due to security concerns because IMAP is susceptible to DHA. Yes, there is no typo, there is no mistake, and I am completely sober and awake (even though it may be 3am in the morning right now). Try as I might, I cannot find any literature linking IMAP to DHA.

Please, somebody ... prove me wrong!

Who are the people running your company's IT operations? Or rather, what kind of people are they? *SHUDDER*

Talk about believing the traditional establishment sanctioned media. BAH! Pigs can fly.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Side-by-Side Configuration Error

Windows Live Messenger refuses to start:

Even the installer refuses to run:


Fingerprint reader fails.

Happened suddenly. Maybe some Vista update screwed something.

Some other users also posted on the forums very recently, means that it has to be some recent change, but there was no good answer.
What happened man???!!!

Sony Vaio SZ483
Windows Vista Business

Update July 4, 2008

After doing some research on the Internet, and on MSDN, I did one two System Restores to get my system back into a working state using the earliest Restore Point remaining on the system.

Immediately, I reviewed the Application Event Logs, and sure enough, there were loads of messages from the SideBySide component to the tune of

Activation context generation failed for "C:\Program Files\Sony\VAIO Media 6.0\Vc.exe".Error in manifest or policy file "C:\Program Files\Sony\VAIO Media 6.0\Microsoft.VC80.CRT.MANIFEST" on line 11. Component identity found in manifest does not match the identity of the component requested. Reference is Microsoft.VC80.CRT,processorArchitecture="x86",publicKeyToken="1fc8b3b9a1e18e3b",type="win32",version="8.0.50727.762". Definition is Microsoft.VC80.CRT,processorArchitecture="x86",publicKeyToken="1fc8b3b9a1e18e3b",type="win32",version="8.0.50608.0". Please use sxstrace.exe for detailed diagnosis.

Activation context generation failed for "C:\Program Files\Windows Live\Mail\wlmail.exe". Dependent Assembly Microsoft.VC80.CRT,processorArchitecture="x86",publicKeyToken="1fc8b3b9a1e18e3b",type="win32",version="8.0.50608.0" could not be found. Please use sxstrace.exe for detailed diagnosis.

Probably the C-Runtime redistributables have been updated/replaced by some application I installed. Maybe it is one of the new fangled XML editors. Darn!

Moral of the story - if something goes wrong, fix it early. If I had waited a few more days, no restore point would work for me, except the fresh system restore (*gasp* I've to backup and restore all my documents and photos).

The more I look into this, the more it seems like a share-library version issue.

Is it related to the Visual C++ redistributables package? The .NET Framework? Can anyone tell me?