Zotob Suspects Arrested

Law enforcement officials in Morocco and Turkey have arrested two men on suspicion of releasing the Zotob and Mytob Internet worms. One of the two men is a Russian born Moroccan national and the other, a Turkish resident. The FBI initially carried out the investigation with assistance from Microsoft’s Internet crime team and later with full cooperation from Moroccan and Turkish law enforcement officials.

With the growth of the Internet, we are seeing a corresponding increase in the number of viruses, worms, spy ware and other hacker types of threats. Some of those suspected to be behind these threats include individuals, crime syndicates and even potentially terrorists. The reasons for perpetrating such threats probably range from simple vandalism to financial gain or worse. At the same time, more and more individuals, companies and organizations rely on the Internet for the purpose of facilitating communications, to conduct business and financial transactions etc. So when these computers and the computer networks are disrupted, the clean up and repair costs, or even just the cost of computer downtime runs in the multimillions. These are real financial losses that companies face.

At the same time, the fear of infection from worm or virus or the theft personal/sensitive information by spyware on one’s computer is becoming a deterrent for the individual who would otherwise participate in electronic commerce. And now an even bigger, growing threat is that of key loggers which is software that secretly captures all your key strokes, screen captures etc and emails them to some unknown server. These sorts of deterrents become opportunity costs for various companies engaged in e-commerce if the individual who would otherwise have bought online decides they would rather not take such risks.

This in my opinion is a very significant development with an outcome that was only made possible with the coordination between the various private and governmental law agencies. We are now living in a globalized economy and there is simply too much at stake for private firms and for the economies of various countries to allow or ignore such disruptive threats. So I predict we are only going to see more of such joint operations between US law enforcement agencies like the FBI/Interpol and private American firms like Microsoft, Cisco, etc and law enforcement agencies in other countries around the world. I for one welcome such developments.

Sine Tempus

Goldie
Image Source: http://www.contagiousmusiq.com

Sine Tempus is the killa album set for release by Goldie shortly. This is one album that I have been eagerly anticipating for the last few years, not because I knew that he was going to release an album called Sine Tempus, but simply because I am a huge fan of Goldie and his music and so I am eager to hear anything he puts out.

A couple of weeks ago, Bailey, on his weekly drum ‘n’ bass show (broadcast every Sunday from 10:00 PM to Midnight on BBC’s 1Xtra) talked about the album being in the same class as “Timeless”, the two album release set also by Goldie. Now I consider Timeless to be one of the greatest albums of all time and after listening to some of the new tracks playing in the background as Goldie was talking, I totally agree with Bailey’s conclusion. I think “Sine Tempus” is going to be a classic that heads will be listening to for many years to come.

As I was listening to samples of the tracks from Sine Tempus, played during a mini-segment called “Bailey Meets Goldie” which was a 32-minute interview with Goldie and was conducted by DJ Bailey (also a Metalheadz artist) at Goldie’s countryside residence, I was struck by the fact that Goldie has not lost his touch at all. If anything he seems to have grown. I was also struck by his honestly and his openness. In the interview, Goldie talked candidly about his influences, his music, his ups and downs including past drug use and how he spent years getting off the drugs.

Now, as you all know, of my all time favorite music producers, Goldie has been in my top three ever since I was introduced to album “Metalheadz Presents Platinum Breakz” way back in 96. I have just about all of his past releases on FFRR and Metalheadz and Sine Tempus will be added to my collection as soon as it’s out. One good thing about him though is that rather than trying to produce new stuff for release every week or so, he had taken the time to do other projects including movies so I think he spent quite a while composing and producing. From the samples I have heard so far, I think the time he put in was well worth it.

It is also interesting to note that during the interview, Goldie talks about being jaded by the [drum n bass] industry. I couldn’t agree more with him. I too have become completely jaded by the music industry since it has become more commercial/market driven rather than artist driven. This is what I like about Goldie’s music, is that the music is more about his life, the demons he fights, the people around him etc rather than just making a quick buck.

In general, I think most of the music being produced nowadays all sounds the same and for the most part is total rubbish. There are very few artists it seems who are creative or original and make music that stands out. I think hip-hop/rap has become very notorious for churning out crap after crap. It is for this reason, that I stopped buying CDs and I become very picky about what new music I was/am willing to spend not just my money buying, but also my time listening to.

Most of the music that I now listen to and still enjoy is drum and bass. Although the music is starting to emerge from the underground, there are still a few artists that produce for the love of the music and not necessarily just to sell tons of records and make money. The irony of this is that these same artists will not release their work on CD but on dub plates so a lot of really good stuff may take a year or more to move from dub plate to CD.

I will be talking more about how the commercialization of the music is killing the music and other related issues shortly…

Vietnamese Doctor Makes Homemade Endoscope

I think this story of this Vietnamese doctor who developed a homemade, do-it-yourself endoscope is really remarkable.

Dr Nguyen Phuoc Huy created the endoscope using an old computer, an adapter and a scope. This endeavor was undertaken under necessity since the hospital where he worked simply could not afford to buy one. It took him two years to develop this tool. Now what I find even more remarkable about this endeavor is that about the time he stated working on this project, he knew relatively little about computers and had to teach himself the basics.

This story has great implications, not only for cash strapped hospitals in the developing countries, but also for smart, ingenious and hardworking citizens of these same countries simply because it shows that there may be affordable, low cost alternatives to the various medical technologies and machines which tend to be very expensive to buy, maintain and also to train the personnel to operate.

The other opportunity for this particular doctor is that of producing and supplying his ‘invention’ to interested parties both domestic and internationally.

Awesome work Doc!

One of My Greatest Fears

This picture and caption brings to mind one of my greatest childhood fears… that of the death of my mother and father…

When I was in primary (elementary) school my mom would pick my brothers and I every weekday shortly after school was out for the day. Once in a while she would inform us that she was going to be late in picking us up so that was alright. But I also remember a two or three times when she was unexpectedly late and of course we were unaware that she had been delayed at work. On those two or three occasions, all the other kids would have either been picked up by their parents/guardians or had taken the bus home and me and my brothers were the only one of a handful of kids still waiting on the school campus.

So there I would be, imagining all sorts of terrible things may have happened to her and she was not coming to pick us up at all. It was always a huge (and overwhelming) sigh of relief for me when she eventually showed up to pick us up. The other part of the relief was also that maybe we would be home in time to catch the 6 o’clock cartoon show.

Sad to say though, she eventually passed away a few years ago. She was in her late 50s. After almost a decade of fighting kidney and liver disease that initially began as a infection in the colon she eventually died prematurely. Although her death was unexpected, I think we had each in our own way prepared for that time. In addition, I also found out that my mom rededicated her life to Christ as her lord and savior and that I think ultimately gave me a peace about her death.

Now the picture of this 10 year old boy mourning over the death of his parents and his siblings deeply saddens me. I really don’t know what the motive behind the senseless act of violence that resulted in the murder of his parents, two of his brothers and a sister by masked gunmen who broke into his house. However I must say that I am always saddened whenever I hear of thugs/criminals breaking into the homes of poor families and terrorizing the occupants especially those that are innocent.

As a follower of Christ Jesus, all I can do is to pray for the boy and the surviving members that the Lord may take care of him in this hour of need.

More on My Ubuntu

Ubuntu Screenshot

The above image is a screenshot of my Ubuntu Linux desktop. The windows seen include my Firefox web browser, GIMP and a volume level monitor application.

The last two nights I have been spending a couple of hours messing about with my Ubuntu installation, getting used to customizing the desktop and other settings including the [Firefox] browser look and feel. Part of the desktop customization included going to the Metalheadz website to download a couple of suitable desktop background images. I quickly discovered that some of the plug-ins, including Macromedia flash had not been installed on the browser so I could not view the Metalheadz site.

Since I wanted to start getting my foot wet in terms of learning how to install applications Linux, I thought now was as good time as any to try. To cut a long story short, I was able to download the flash binaries and save them on the desktop folder. I then used the package manager to unpack the tar file into a folder. After this, using the command line, I then had to navigate to the folder and input a command line argument to install the plug-in. Although the whole exercise took me a little less than an hour (where in windows it would have taken me five minutes tops), once I figured out what I was supposed to do, everything went beautifully.

But there were also a couple of other glitches. I cannot run any QuickTime media from my browser because Apple does not make a QuickTime version for Linux so I have to find an alternative on the web. The other issue that I was having is HAL initialization errors. I am not sure exactly how to solve this issue, but I did two things. One I explicitly added the HAL user group to my user group. I also disabled the auto configuration for my second hard drive, setting it to manual configuration. I will have to educate myself more on how the users/groups work

Right now everything seems to be working so that’s cool. I now have to install a QuickTime alternative and also do the same for a couple of applications just to familiarize myself with the process of installing applications on Linux. After this, the next big thing will be to set-up a web server and also a database server.

I’ll keep ya’ll posted

The Moon is Made of Cheese!

Le Voyage dans la lune Moon Shot

Finally! We now have visual proof. The moon is made of cheese! Not the green moldy kind that everyone seems to think off, but tasty yellow Swiss cheese. Don’t believe me? Then go to Google Moon, which is similar to Google Maps except that instead of satellite pictures of the earth, the application uses actual NASA imagery to display the moon surface. Zoom in as close as you can and see what happens… While you are there, checkout the landing sites of the various Apollo missions too.

Oh and the best part of all this is Google’s Copernicus initiative a.k.a The Google Copernicus Hosting Environment and Experiment in Search Engineering which is their luna based facility for research, development set to be fully functional by 2069.

As John Cleese would so aptly exclaim… Absolutely Fascinating!

My Ubuntu Upgrade Update

As some of you may recall from an earlier posting, I had an old Pentium III, 600 MHz box with MS Windows 98 SE installed. The box had been out of commission for over a year due to some hardware conflicts and the lack of time (and money) to actually sit down and figure out what was going on. Anyway, a couple of weeks ago, a friend was over to visit and so while we were chatting, I was able to take to box apart, figure out what was going on. Just incase you are mildly interested, the problem was not the motherboard as I had thought that I would have to replace, but simply conflicts with a wrongly configured ATA hard drive that resulted in the BIOS finding two slave drives but no master. So that was solved

I already have a couple of other Windows boxes so I thought rather than reinstalling Windows 98 SE and Ubuntu Linux as a dual boot machine it would make more sense to simply install Linux only on that machine which is what I did. The install was relatively seamless and I was able to check email, surf the web and play a game or two. However, I am not familiar enough with Ubuntu or Linux for that matter to download and install applications and so my worry now is that there are great open source programs I can locate on the web but how do I install them? This is one area that Microsoft’s Windows OS has a great advantage over Linux/Unix OS.

Now, I use Firefox for my web surfing needs. Besides the security issues and the Mozilla/Netscape look and feel (I have always used Mozilla based browsers from day one), I really like the extensions feature that allows me to install various useful add-ons. So naturally I tried to add new extensions to the browser however, the website I was taken to first required me to update my browser to the next version.. It is interesting to note that webpage was actually tailored to Firefox users on Ubuntu and the install instructions motioned using the Ubuntu update manager utility, which I had seen earlier but was unsure how it would work. Besides that, the UUM list of updates totaled more than 24 applications/OS updates and I was not sure how long it would take to do all the updates so I had been reluctant to run the updates till now. But now I decided to go for it since I would not be able to install any extensions till I did the updates. By the way, the UUM allows one to uncheck updates so you don’t have to install all the updates, but I decided what the heck… why not.

To my surprise everything went real smooth. It took about 20 or so minutes to download and install the updates. Everything was handled automatically by the UUM. Once the updates were complete, there was no rebooting of the machine and I like that too. Then to make sure that everything… well at least the Firefox update was ok, I launched Firefox once more and went back to the extensions download site. This time it worked. I was taken straight to the extensions page and presented with a list of available extensions for download.. Not only was I able download and install an extension, but I was also able to install and use a new theme (or skin).

All in all, I have really impressed and happy with the Ubuntu experience so far. I would certainly recommend Ubuntu to anyone looking to get their feet wet with Linux. However I still have a ways to go. I need to learn how to manually install new applications and upgrade older versions and maybe the UUM may the best way to do this I don’t know I also need to figure out how to add new hardware. I have a second hard drive, which I don’t think the OS knows exists. Also very important is to understand the file structure and how to navigate back and forth and where to store my files etc…

I’ll keep ya’ll posted!

These are a Few of My Favorite DJs

Goldie
Fabio

The following four DJs, in no particular order of reference, are my favorite DJs

  1. Bailey (1Xtra /Metalheadz /Swerve /Intasound)
  2. Flight (1Xtra/Bassbin)
  3. Fabio (Radio 1/Swerve /Creative Source )
  4. Goldie (Metalheadz)

Why do I like these four? Well a number of reasons. Not only do they mix really well, but they also know how to select great tunes. In general they are polite, they seem really genuinely interested in giving their audience a great show and during guest interviews they are pretty down to earth and engaging. I normally listen to Bailey, Flight on a weekly basis and Fabio on a Bi-Monthly basis. Their show are archived each week on BBC’s 1Xtra Drum and Bass mini-website and on the Radio 1 mini-website, also a BBC’s site.

Now Goldie is a little harder to catch since he does not have a radio show that I know of so I normally have wait till he either shows up on tour here in the US or releases another CD through his Metalheadz label. And why do I like Goldie? I think he’s pretty talented, he is not afraid to try out new and different stuff and he always gives the crowd an extremely great show. Now if only we can get him to stop smoking; ) Goldie and the Metalheadz label were instrumental in the releases of some of my all time favorite CDs including Metalheadz Presents… Platinum Breakz, Platinum Breakz II & Platinum Breakz III, Timeless, INCredible Sound of Drum’n’Bass. I am eagerly awaiting his forth-coming album, which should be released in the next couple of months if not sooner. The word on the streets is that it’s going to be hot!

Globalization, Business Risk and Outsourcing

This article aptly illustrates what is in my opinion what the largest single business risk facing any company that is considering outsourcing their customer facing business functions such as customer service. This risk is that of identity theft. The second largest potential risk associated with outsourcing is the theft of intellectual property or other competitive information, data or other company secretes and the third (but by no means final) major outsourcing factor is loss of control. Now some would argue that customer data is part of intellectual property/company data, however for this purpose of this article and also in general I don’t this is applicable. The reason being that various companies tend to have the same customer information. For example, my phone service provider has the same customer data that my internet provider has that my local utility company has an so on and so forth. And since they have the same data, this is not necessarily intellectual property. Granted, there is the business of selling customer data/lists such as email lists to legitimate business but that is an argument for another day.

Back to the issue at hand… Now why do I consider customer data theft a bigger risk than company intellectual property? When customers give any company their business, they implicitly trust the company to safeguard and protect their private information. If this company then [in most cases] unwittingly looses and this same information is then used to open new credit card accounts, purchase all sorts of products and siphon money out of bank accounts. In many cases these actions lead the victim’s credit being ruined and in most cases, years and years spend repairing (and reversing) the damage done. This I think has a bigger impact than if the company’s IP was stolen and the company was to suffer a loss as a result. I think in most cases, it is much easier for the company to recover from such an event.

The fact that many corporations in the west attempt to cut their operating costs by taking advantage of the low wage in the countries they outsource their processes too is precisely the same factor that also makes these same companies vulnerable to this exact issue. Firstly, the employees now doing the work are likely to be on a much lower pay scale than their western counterparts. If these workers are offered substantial payoffs in dollars that may be worth a year’s or more salary, simply for access to certain files or information, they may be tempted to do just that. In this day and age, with globalization and ease of travel, its not hard to imagine that those willing to buy the information may not even be in the country where to worker is located.

It would seem that companies have to find ways to better control or at least minimize these risks if they are to remain competitive

Solutions may include some or all of the following

  1. Rather than outsourcing, you can still move part of your facilities to the foreign country. By doing so, you still retain control over the company’s operations, you are able then to hire workers as company employees which will instill greater sense of loyalty, and finally then pay these workers a good wage and benefits. Although the wages will be lower than the US/European wage rates, they should still be substantially hire than the local wages. Such a worker is likely to remain loyal to the company
  2. If the first option is simply out of the question, then the next best solution is to work with an outsourcing company that pays its workers (or at least the ones assigned to your company’s work) a decent wage and benefits. And in the same way that some manufacturing companies will carry out inspections on the foreign facilities, companies should carry out inspections to ensure that the workers are treated well and enjoy their work.

These are only some of the many issues that companies, that expect to remain competitive, have to be prepared to deal with as the outsourcing trend continues to grow.

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