Website “hacked”

In Wired News: Rooting Around Site With Intent?, Michelle Delio discusses a case in Sweden where a reporter downloaded Intentia‘s Q3 2002 financial statements before they were officially released. Intentia has filed a complaint against Reuters and the reporter in question, claiming they violated various intellectual property and computer protection laws.

Both Intentia and Reuters agree the Reuters reporter obtained Intentia’s financial statement directly from Intentia’s website.

But since Intentia did not provide an explicit link to the report, Intentia’s lawyers consider Reuters’ retrieval and early publication of the information a violation of intellectual property and computer system protection laws.

The reporter did not use software that would penetrate or search Intentia’s private systems. The reporter did not enter a password in order to obtain the data. The reporter simply went to the area of Intentia’s site where such information is normally posted and found the report.

This just proves once again that most people don’t understand security or the Internet. Placing confidential data on a public website is just asking for trouble. If you need to pre-publish data (e.g. to make sure it can be accessed from the outside before announcing it), put a password or other ACL on it!

These people need SelectAccess :-).

posted at 10:50 am on Thursday, October 31, 2002 in General | Comments Off on Website “hacked”

impending doom

Hey! I’m exactly 6 years older than mark! Sagittarians unite…

posted at 11:04 pm on Tuesday, October 29, 2002 in General | Comments Off on impending doom

Weight Watchers

Well, Weight Watchers appears to be working for me. 6 weeks, 12.6 pounds weight loss; see the link or the graph in the sidebar.

I like the system. It’s simple enough to carry around in my head. It’s not a “fad” diet, so there are no food restrictions; anything goes as long as it fits into my daily points allottment. This cannot be under-emphasized: the combination of knowing which foods are “expensive”, combined with the ability to plan in advance for those expensive foods, is what is working for me.

I’m a geek; systems like this appeal to my orderly mind. With data, useful decisions can be made; guessing and waving-of-hands wasn’t working for me. And data is everywhere; Weight Watchers publishes books; lots of websites publish recipes; and the USDA Nutritional Database is online! In fact, I have a copy of the database, combined with a search engine that calculates points. (No link, sorry; it’s password protected so that they don’t send their lawyers after me :-).

I joined the At Work program at Lombard, where my friend Gerry works. That’s important; it’s a 5 minute walk from my office, and I go at lunch time instead of in the evening when I’m usually busy. I’m pretty sure that if I had to switch to evening meetings near my home, I’d stop going because of the inconvenience factor (even though the closest meeting is about a 15 minute walk from my house :-).

I can get by without the motivational stuff that is discussed in meetings; I internalised most of that stuff years ago, as part of other changes in my life. On the other hand, the Weight Watchers scale is accurate. That lets me measure steady weight loss, which is part of my incentive to stay on program. With the best personal scale I’ve found so far, I could vary my weight by 5 pounds just by leaning forwards or backwards. Most of them probably work ok, but it’s impossible to measure a 0.4 pound loss on those things.

(Anyone who has a good scale recommendation, send me e-mail. :-)

I also find the meetings useful for some of the tips exchanged between the group, but as a ‘netizen I can get those online, too.

Anyway, overall I’m quite happy with the program. It’s is worthwhile investment, in my humble opinion.

posted at 7:22 pm on Tuesday, October 29, 2002 in General | Comments (2)
  1. Shirelle says:

    Do you have any idea where I can obtain the scale that is used at Weight Watchers

  2. Harald says:

    The “Weight Watchers scale” I mentioned is a special “legal for trade” commercial scale, and is probably hideously expensive. That’s one of the things you pay Weight Watchers fees for :-)

    Scales that are reasonably accurate, but not legal for trade, can be had for ~$100 (Canadian); a good brand name is Salter; more information at

The Human Virus Scanner

I took the test at the Human Virus Scanner. I recognize way too many of the icons. I suffer from, among many others, the following:

  • Linux
  • Religion
  • UNIX
  • Discordia
  • Sci-fi
  • Windows
  • vi
  • Free BSD
  • Brand Names
  • Computer Games
  • Conspiracy Theory
  • Macintosh

I especially liked the cure for Gaming:

Life is not a game. Roll 3D6. On a 4 or more go out and do something with your life.

posted at 9:46 pm on Monday, October 28, 2002 in General | Comments Off on The Human Virus Scanner

Another Interesting Project

The Open Source Applications Foundation has, as its first project, a Personal Information Manager (PIM). This group has some heavy hitters involved, including Mitch Kapor, the designer of Lotus Agenda, arguably the first PIM; and Andy Hertzfeld, a “principal member of the original Macintosh team”.

posted at 9:41 pm on Friday, October 25, 2002 in General | Comments Off on Another Interesting Project

The Standard of Truth

True or False?

Read an interesting article about the Standard of truth.

I thought I Knew how airplanes worked…

posted at 9:06 pm on Friday, October 25, 2002 in General | Comments Off on The Standard of Truth

PR firms admit they lie?

From Spin of the Day:

Nike Files Supreme Court Brief
Nike has asked the US Supreme Court to review a California Supreme Court ruling that Nike’s public statements on the work conditions of its overseas factories be considered commercial speech and be subject to truth-in-advertising laws. Nike argues that the ruling is “profoundly destructive of free speech.” The ruling applies to statements made by Nike in op-eds, letters to the editor, and comments made to reporters. PR trade publication The Holmes Report wrote that as a result of the ruling, Nike would not be releasing its annual corporate responsibility report. A number of PR trade organizations have joined together to file a friend-of-the-court brief. “At stake is our ability to do the kind of work we do in regard to public debate,” Council of PR Firms president Kathy Cripps said. “If the US Supreme Court does not hear this case, a lot of what we do will be considered commercial speech. This is possibly the most vital issue the industry is dealing with, and we need to come together to defend our position.” Source: The Holmes Report, October 21, 2002; PR Week, October 21, 2002

Is it just me, or is this Nike and the PR firms arguing in court to protect their right to lie to the public? <shudder>

posted at 9:37 am on Thursday, October 24, 2002 in General | Comments (1)
  1. RJ says:

    Are they fighting for the right to continue to lie to the public? Yes. Would they ever call it that? No. Will the majority of the public ever catch on to either of these points? Nope.


Mahogany Mail is an interesting-looking new email client. Two advantages for me: it properly supports IMAP4, and it is cross platform (so I can run it under either Win32 or Linux).

I’m currently using exmh on top of NMH, because that is a highly flexible and configurable environment for me as a programmer. I think I’ll try Mahogany out on one of my other e-mail addresses for a little while, and see whether it fits my ideals for usability and speed…

Update:While it’s only version 0.64, it’s not yet up to snuff. It’s just plain clunky in a lot of ways. It has the looks of many techno-geek projects; lots of technology without the required thought spent on UI issues. I had trouble with modal dialogs that should be simple windows. I could not figure out how to get it to recognize IMAP subfolders, even though it showed them to me once. I found the preferences screens confusing. And, they got SSL with SMTP wrong; nobody uses the smtps port, since STARTTLS inside SMTP works so well.

It has promise, but I couldn’t find anything to signifcantly distinguish it from the rest of the pack. If I had free time, I might volunteer to help. (free time? bwa ha ha!)

posted at 4:45 pm on Tuesday, October 22, 2002 in General | Comments Off on Mahogany

The Furnace

So this year, my father in law (the gas furnace expert) tells me that he refuses to do the annual inspection/cleaning on our furnace, because he thinks it is dead. If it is dead, he is required (by law) to turn off the gas, so that we don’t foolishly kill ourselves.

So fine, we decided it’s time to replace the furnace. We do the research, find a contractor, and pick a furnace. We decided on a mid-efficiency furnace, because dad-in-law said that (because of drafts in our house and the ductwork) we wouldn’t gain a significant advantage from a high-efficiency furnace. A high-efficiency furnace needs to be vented and exhausted through ABS piping instead of a conventional chimney, increasing the cost.

The installers showed up today…

In 1994, our house was renovated to add a new second floor on top of the front of the house, above what was previously a flat roof. As part of the addition, they had to extend the chimney to clear the new (peaked) roof on the front of the house. (Man, roofs are a pain :-).

Building code at the time required a metal chimney liner, to improve draft, reduce the amount of cruft in the exhaust path, and prevent exhaust fumes from leaking from the chimney into the house. Now this house already had a chimney liner, probably from an older furnace upgrade.

Did they remove the old chimney liner? Of course not. Instead, they removed its cap and built an unlined extension on top of the old chimney. This means the existing liner cannot be removed (removing it requires removing the extension). However, our new furnace cannot be installed without bringing the chimney up to code, which requires a continuous liner in the chimney; installing one means first removing the remains of the old one.

Because the new chimney extension wasn’t properly capped (until the raccoon guy added a mesh screen in spring 2001). So the old liner was half blocked with two dead birds and a whole bunch of sand from the new chimney extension. At least we’ve got that stuff cleared out, so the existing furnace should work a bit better while we ponder our options.

The two options are: 1) high-efficiency (condensing) furnace. 2) repair the chimney. Both options, I guess, require at least another $1000, which (naturally) I don’t have.

Home ownership is fun. Ask me about the whole raccoon story sometime…

posted at 6:28 pm on Monday, October 21, 2002 in General | Comments (1)
  1. jok says:

    ABS pipe is cheap. It takes maybe 15 minutes to drill a hole for the thing. I don’t see how it increases the cost very much…

Home Ownership

Owning a home is so much fun…

When we moved in to our current house two years ago, we were warned by our home inspector that our flat roof would probably leak, and our furnace was on its last legs.

Our flat roof had been “repaired” in 1998, so we weren’t too worried about getting to it right away; it was October (almost winter), and so not a good time to be doing roof repairs.

Four months later (in February), we had a brutal snowstorm that turned to rain. the snow blocked all of the downspouts, trapping the rain on the flat roof. There was a dormer sticking out of the flat roof, protecting the stairs to the newly added second floor. The water level rose until it could get under the over the roof lip around the dormer, and then poured into the house, filling the ceiling underneath. WE discovered this when the door-frame nearby started dripping water; by this point the ceiling was full and water was pouring down the insides of the walls. Shortly thereafter the ceiling one floor down started dripping.

We went up on the roof (still in the rain), and shoveled all the snow and ice off to stop the overflow. Then we poked a hole in the ceiling, and pulled out about 60 litres of water. (A wet ceiling sags, creating a significant volume of trapped water :). Alas, shoveling the roof turned out to be the last straw for the roof; it started seeping into the room next door.

This was about when we decided that flat roofs are evil, and needed to be exorcised. Now winter is a bad time to be doing roof work, so we waited until spring. By the time Spring 2001 had rolled around, the stock market had collapsed and my wife had been laid off; suddenly there was no money for major renovations.

So for the next many months, we had two uninhabitable rooms in our house, because every time it rained, the ceilings would drip. We finally scraped together a plan, enough money, a building permit, and a contractor in December 2001. They were wonderful; in 5 days they stripped the old flat roof and built a wonderful peaked roof in its place. As an added benefit, I now have a nice attic storage space where the flat roof used to be.

When stripping the flat roof, we discovered that the previous roof contractor had simply laid insulation and a new (1-ply) rubber membrane on top of the existing gravel, on top of the old flat roof. This meant that the new rubber membrane had no support, which is why it disintegrated in only three years. It also explained some of the strange behaviour we saw; the ceiling would leak a day or two after rain, because it took that long for water to percolate through both roofs and the gravel layer.

Up next? the furnace…

posted at 6:16 pm on Monday, October 21, 2002 in General | Comments Off on Home Ownership


So I setup my second XHTML + CSS website yesterday (the first one is this weblog). I had a simple set of pages that had been laid out in PowerPoint. When you say “Save as HTML…” from PowerPoint, it produces *something* that only incidentally resembles HTML, and only works properly in IE 5/6. What a mess!

So I mocked up an equivalent of the PowerPoint master slide using XHTML and CSS instead, and then used server-side includes to paste the slide content into the template. And it works.

It probably only displays properly in IE 5 or Netscape 6 and up, and I still have to add some accessibility features. Also, I had to use some ugly hacks; things like <div style=”height=48px”> to force two separate blocks to *actually* run together, instead of leaving a gap of background showing through.

Still, it’s a start, and I learned a little bit more about style sheets, the new box model, and browser bugs…

Has anyone written a good XHTML + CSS authoring tool yet?

posted at 10:45 am on Sunday, October 20, 2002 in General | Comments Off on XHTML and CSS

The Evil Internet, a Rant

Last week, an 11 year old girl was lured to a hotel in Toronto by someone she met in a chat-room. Now normally, sexual assaults barely make the news (sadly). But pay attention; include “Internet” and “chat-room” and suddenly it’s all over the place, and everyone has an opinion.

On CBC’s Metro Morning today, they had a pair of individuals arguing two sides of the controversy. This is a regular feature, and usually has me yelling at the radio, to the amusement of my family. I guess it’s often hard to find rational individuals to argue for or against a particular subject, and today was no exception.

On one side, we have a (rational) parent who is not particularly concerned about his teenagers using the Internet. On the other side, we have an individual raving about the evils of the Internet, and how any parent not monitoring their children constantly is irresponsible. Most of the things he said were untenable but not completely unreasonable, but then he closed his argument by equating Internet chat rooms with “spending 24 hours alone with a convicted pedophile”. He lost what little credibility remained with that one, in my opinion.

You’ve probably guessed by now that I’m with the first guy. The Internet is a complete red-herring in this discussion, as far as I’m concerned. Predators are out there, and they’re going to find victims wherever they can; the ‘net is only one vehicle for predatory activity. Kids get lured into bad situations all the time in the real world. I suspect, for example, that there are more in-school sexual assaults than there are Internet-linked sexual assaults.

It doesn’t help the fear-mongers case when a man comes off the street, pretends to be a lactation consultant, and assaults two new mothers in hospital. No Internet there, just a hospital employee abusing innocents…

On the other hand, Canada recently added new Internet-related charges to the criminal code, including “luring a child over the Internet”, and this is the first case (in Toronto) to use that law. Test cases like this always bring out the radicals.

I’m not going to completely shelter my children in order to protect them from the evils of the world; that’s just plain impossible. I’m going to try as hard as I can to give them their own survival skills, so that they can protect themselves. Spying on my children, or restricting their access, is just going to make them resent me, and push their lives far enough underground that I won’t be able to help them if they do get into any trouble.

I don’t believe it’s irresponsible to allow my children to access the Internet (or use libraries, or ride the buses, or…). I believe it’s irresponsible to raise children dumb (or naive) enough to get lured into a trap by a chat-room predator.

I’m not claiming this is going to be easy; molding self-sufficient people is going to be hard, because our lives have changed so much. For example, when I was seven, I was walking to school by myself. My children aren’t allowed to until they’re in grade 8; it’s school policy). On the other hand, when I was seven and walking to school by myself, all of the neighbourhood children knew who the dangerous people were, and which places to stay away from. Kids that young can be taught street-smart skills; we even used to teach them to each other.

I believe we’re up to the challenge. My kids are pretty smart, and they get to listen to me yelling at the radio. :-)

posted at 11:09 am on Thursday, October 17, 2002 in General | Comments Off on The Evil Internet, a Rant

Escher Lego

Even after reading the “how we did it” section, I’m still impressed by Escher’s “Ascending and Descending” in LEGO

posted at 10:34 am on Tuesday, October 15, 2002 in General | Comments Off on Escher Lego



I used to run, as a kid; I loved it. Some of my friends are (now) runners. I’d been thinking about taking it up again, when along comes this post…

Becoming a runner is actually not that difficult. Not surprisingly, it involves running. There’s other stuff, too, eventually, but running is the important part. If you can run a mile, run a mile. If you can only run around the block, run around the block. Tomorrow you’ll run around the block, and the next day you’ll find you can run around two blocks. And next week you’ll find you can run a mile. Then one day you’ll run a mile, then stop to catch your breath, then get invigorated and run another mile.

And then you’re a runner. That’s it, really.

There’s other stuff too, but it doesn’t really matter until you’re already a runner. […] Don’t worry about any of that now. Just run. Running is key. Otherwise you’re just another fat schmuck lying on the couch reading Runner’s World.

posted at 10:20 am on Friday, October 11, 2002 in General | Comments (2)
  1. Debbie says:

    Running is great! Just make sure you start slow and don’t push yourself.

  2. Reid says:

    Ya, and don’t stop (like me). It’s hard to get started again, especially when it’s cold and rainy outside. :-P

    It’s amazing though, you get to a point where you realize that if need be you *could* run indefinitely without stopping/walking. It’s a very cool feeling to have.

Put it in Writing

Put It in Writing

describes part of a contract between GE and General Magic Inc., in which there is a “Code Integrity Warranty” that strongly prohibits any “disabling procedures”, including bugs, errors, and defects.

Wow. This is certainly a long distance from the UCITA legislation

(Unfortunately, General Magic seems to have gone out of business…)

posted at 4:14 pm on Thursday, October 10, 2002 in General | Comments Off on Put it in Writing

Barney Not Found

Microsoft Knowledge Base Article Q72668: Barney Not Found:

Microsoft ActiMates Interactive Barney may conflict with a wide range of radio-operated electronic devices, including burglar alarms, resulting in the dreaded “Barney Not Found” error. To resolve this problem, Microsoft recommends turning off your burglar alarm.

Q131109: Earth Rotates in Wrong Direction

When you run Explorapedia and use the Exploratron to look at the Earth spinning, the Earth rotates in the wrong direction.

Those wacky Microsoft guys…

(Thanks to dive into mark/October 08, 2002 for the links).

posted at 4:41 pm on Wednesday, October 09, 2002 in General | Comments Off on Barney Not Found

Algorithmic Law Enforcement

An article humourously titled Stop, in the Name of ‘Bots starts with:

Nowadays, it seems as if more and more law enforcement is being done by machines. Unfortunately, they don’t seem to be up to the job. And the humans don’t want to take responsibility, either.

We now have traffic cameras and automatic face recognition in real life, and bots searching for copyrighted music and pornography on the ‘net.

Unfortunately, as anyone who has ever done spam filtering can tell you, getting the searches and filters right without introducing “false positives” is extremely difficult. Put another way, the data from these ‘bots is useless unless a human vettes it.

Of course, that’s boring, time consuming, expensive work, so why bother?

The lists have not even been culled to eliminate items that should never have been included in the first place. While most of the works identified in Exhibit 1 appear to be songs featuring George Harrison, the notice also demands removal of a file labeled, in part, “John Lennon, Yoko Ono And George Harrison Interview.mp3.” The notice further objects to a file entitled “Portrait of mrs. harrison Williams 1943.jpg.”

The brief also identifies a file entitled “harry potter book report.rtf” whose name and tiny size (1K) make obvious that it is not an illegal copy of the Harry Potter movie. Obvious to anyone who looks, anyway.

The problem gets even worse with ISPs who are afraid to object, and so will terminate an account based on one of these nebulous “copyright infringement” claims. There’s no incentive for RIAA and the FBI to filter their lists; who’s going to sue them?

(Thanks to Gerry Smit for the pointer!)

posted at 3:57 pm on Tuesday, October 08, 2002 in General | Comments Off on Algorithmic Law Enforcement

Open Source Rules!

According to an article in Forbes, Why Spy? by John Perry Barlow, co-founder of The Electronic Frontier Foundation:

For more than a year now, there has been a deluge of stories and op-ed pieces about the failure of the American intelligence community to detect or prevent the September 11, 2001, massacre.


the American intelligence system is broken beyond repair, self-protective beyond reform, and permanently fixated on a world that no longer exists.

The article is a good read, if long; lots of juicy tidbits about the politics surrounding American intelligence and security; it’s only as disfunctional as the rest of the American government :-).

But there’s an alternative! Invoke the techniques of the Open Source Software movement, and you get something that (for example) looks like the
Open Source Intelligence Initiative:

assembled from what is publicly available, in media, public documents, the Net, wherever. It’s a given that such materials — and the technological tools for analyzing them — are growing exponentially these days.

I’ve always wanted to be an intelligence operative; here’s my chance!

Thanks, as always, to Spin of the Day for the reference.

posted at 9:51 am on Monday, October 07, 2002 in General | Comments Off on Open Source Rules!

Amorous Ostriches

From my friend Greg Wilson; source unknown:

British poultry farmers trying to raise ostriches in the 1990s called in
scientists to find out why their birds were failing to breed. Careful
observations confirmed the birds were courting the farm workers rather
than each other, Norma Bubier of Pro-Natura UK and colleagues reported
in a seminal paper in British Poultry Science (vol 39, p 477), entitled
“Courtship behavior of ostriches toward humans under farming conditions
in Britain”.

The research was no laughing matter for the scientists or the farmers.
Ostriches are big. “You wouldn’t want to be in a pen with an amorous
ostrich, because if it tried to climb on top of you, you’d be in serious
trouble,” says Charles Paxton of the University of St. Andrews. Most of
the birds had been hand-raised by humans, and Paxton suspects they
identified with people when they went looking for mates. However, the
British ostrich industry collapsed before he could investigate further.

posted at 1:02 pm on Friday, October 04, 2002 in General | Comments Off on Amorous Ostriches

As ye sow…

Ok, I just have to laugh. It’s either that, or scream.

First the Americans created the Afghani terrorists and later put the Taliban in power, and now Records Show U.S. Sent Germs to Iraq.

When are we/they going to figure out that actions have consequences?

posted at 4:40 pm on Tuesday, October 01, 2002 in General | Comments Off on As ye sow…
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