There Are Times…

There are times when you just want to shake your head and walk away with a sad face. Then there are other times when you feel that the best bet would be to napalm people. For example, when Ronan Keating thought it would be a good idea to cover Fairytale of New York.

This is one of the latter times. I know, I know, keep an open mind and everything, but there’s no way this can be anything but embarrassing, really…

currently playing: A Camp – Song for the Leftovers

Oh, Sony, So Much To Answer For

Before I left for America, I made a post about copy-protected CDs. While I was away, there was some rather big news on that front, in that for the past year, Sony has been shipping CDs that install a rootkit on Windows machines. And not just any rootkit, but one that cloaks itself and provides a mechanism for Sony to inject hidden code onto your computer. And, by an amazing coincidence, so can anybody else who discovers Sony’s method. There are now several viruses and trojans floating around the Internet that abuse this feature to infect computers afflicted with the Sony software. This means that your computer may, even now, be part of what’s called a ‘botnet’ and participating in computer attacks worldwide.

After an initial response from Sony of “most users don’t know what a rootkit is, so why should they worry about it?”, they eventually offered a fix, possibly because of the large amount of negative press being generated worldwide. As far as I know, though, they still haven’t provided a list of all the CDs that have this ‘protection’ included.

Amazingly, though, the fix doesn’t remove the rootkit, it only updates a few files, and removes the additional cloaking feature (or changes it, as Sony hasn’t released details of what their fix actually does). Oh, and as a bonus side-effect, it actually makes your computer even more susceptible to attack from outside. Hurrah for Sony!

Today, though, things got even stranger. Because Sebastian Porst and Matti Nikki disassembled Sony’s code, discovering something rather curious: the rootkit contains code from the open source MP3 encoder LAME, in a possible violation of the program’s LGPL violation, and VideoLAN’s FairPlay’s circumvention code, in a clear violation of that program’s licence (GPL) (even more amusingly, that code’s sole purpose is to get around Apple’s iTunes protection, possibly opening the door for Apple to sue Sony under the DMCA in the USA).

But how widespread is the infection? Well, happily, Sony provided a way of answering that potentially difficult question. Because, just to pile on misery, the rootkit also talks to Sony’s servers to display advertising banners while you enjoy the privilege of listening to music that you’ve bought. Dan Kaminsky, who has in the past managed to bend the DNS specification to do all sorts of amazing things, looked at a list of DNS nameservers to make a rough guess of how many computers were asking for the banners. This is Planet Sony.

And finally, the company that supplied the software for Sony’s CDs is called First4Internet. It’s based somewhat close to home, in fact just up the road in Banbury. Perhaps now would be a time to recount some of the Computer Misuse Act of 1990:

3.—(1) A person is guilty of an offence if —
(a) he does any act which causes an unauthorised modification of the contents of any computer; and
(b) at the time when he does the act he has the requisite intent and the requisite knowledge

(2) For the purposes of subsection (1)(b) above the requisite intent is an intent to cause a modification of the contents of any computer and by so doing—
(a) to impair the operation of any computer;
(b) to prevent or hinder access to any program or data held in any computer; or
© to impair the operation of any such program or the reliability of any such data.

(3) The intent need not be directed at—
(a) any particular computer;
(b) any particular program or data or a program or data of any particular kind; or
© any particular modification or a modification of any particular kind.

So, do you think we should call the police?

currently playing: New Order – The Perfect Kiss

Wheels & Deals

Looking around Amazon today, I found a copy of Ask for £9! A veritable bargain, I tell you. I also discovered that the Zenith book that I bought at Chapel Hill Comics is selling for £50 on Amazon Marketplace, and earlier this afternoon, somebody was selling a copy of Kill Your Boyfriend for £130 (I got it for $10 last week, and while it is a great comic, I felt a bit annoyed about having to pay that much for 60 pages of story).

Other thought of the day: The Pipettes, The Revelations, Kicker, et al — is it wrong to find them quite charming?

Midweek-o-vision: that’ll teach you to hold the chorus off until the third minute, won’t it, Girls?

currently playing: Girls Aloud — Biology

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

A big hurrah to Cat and Pete for making my last night in Carrboro memorable (people might say that it’s not a good thing to be known by barstaff in a bar four thousand miles away from home, but fie on those people). Helped of course by the game of Taboo played with Collin, Naomi, and Laura, with the assistance of yet more alcohol (in fairness, Laura did say that they had to keep my reputation for drinking up, so I can not be held entirely responsible!).

This time seemed quicker than all the other times I’ve been here, which is probably because it was only two-and-a-bit weeks rather than my usual stay, although that didn’t mean that I packed less, oh no. Laura showed us the interview that she did with her friend Liz today (well, yesterday now), about her hitchhiking and trainhopping adventures. At times, I think that’d be such a wonderful thing to try, at least once, but then I remember that I would end up being the only hobo in history with a trolley case and an iBook. Oh well.

Anyway, I must say that I can’t recommend flying American on a Monday night, at least not from RDU to Gatwick. Instead of the usual 777, it’s a 767, which has considerably less legroom, and is slower to boot. It also didn’t help that we sat in the airport for an hour waiting for more fuel to be added. Grr. Still, I have a whole row to myself, so I guess I can’t complain too much.

So that was Carrboro and Chapel Hill for 2005. As usual, filled with lovely and strange people.

Let’s also hear it for tempeh!

currently playing: R.E.M. — Crush With Eyeliner

Gregory Peck

I swear, my answer made perfect sense.

I missed some of you tonight. If I said “Film. Nakatomi Plaza,” there’s at least four of you here that would need no additional prompting at all ;)

currently playing: THE SOUNDS OF SILENCE oOOOOooo!

Meet The Family!

Presenting! Laura! Her bear, Ralph! And introducing Stefan, the Giant Pink Flamingo!

If They Were Me And I Was You

Laura’s birthday was a quiet affair, if of course, you discount wandering around Carrboro with a giant helium-filled pink flamingo (being Carrboro of course, this only generated a few weird looks; for the most part, people seemed to think it was just part of the general oddness that surrounds this town). But we had a very pleasant dinner at Panzaella, meeting up with a few old UNITAS friends as well, which is always fun.

But then! My first scavenger hunt! Laura split us into three teams, and we had to go all over Chapel Hill and Carrboro to find various items (which were different for each team). Our team (consisting Christa, Meredith, and myself) managed to brave mauling by dogs, avoid the threat of a towed car, and wondered just how drunk that guy on Columbia Street was, finally coming joint first due to our creativity. However, as we came joint first, it meant that the prizes went to the losing team, while the two winning groups got lumps of coal. Oh well, I guess you can’t win them all.

While Laura and Naomi then went off to a party for a short time, Esther and Ryan came over again, and we subjected Christa to another night of New Order videos. Fun for us, although I think if Christa sees or hears anything by New Order in the next few weeks, she’ll run screaming into the forest…

currently playing: Wilco – i am trying to break your heart

Juxtaposed With Whom?

I think it’s amusing, that after all these years, the Super Furry Animals still close their sets with The Man Don’t….

So hurrah! Yes, I saw SFA at the Cradle last night. And, what’s more! I went to a concert with other people! SHOCK (Admittedly, of the three concerts I’ve been to this year, only one was by myself, but it’s still a novelty to me)! It’s a little odd, having to accommodate other people; if it was just myself, I would have turned up when the doors opened and spent an hour or so just hanging around before things began. This time, Collin, Christa, and I didn’t turn up until Manitoba/Caribou were doing their penultimate song of the night. Thankfully though, it was Crayon, so a very good point to arrive.

SFA are one of those bands that while I’ve always liked, I’ve never really got into them in any depth. Of all their albums, I only own Fuzzy Logic and have only bought three or four singles. I don’t know, they just passed me by a little. They do put on a fun live show, though, with Power Ranger masks, chemical suits, a motorcycle on stage, and a video display that shows footage from the town they’re currently in, which was nice touch. I think I may have been one of the only people in the audience to get the ‘Bishop Brennan’ joke, sadly. Still, good times were had.

But! Things didn’t quite end there, as we met up with Esther, who wanted to watch the New Order DVD that I had bought earlier in the holiday. So it was back to Laura’s for a New Order Dance Party. Yes. Stop laughing. That lasted until about 3am, at which point Collin retired to his room so he could grab some sleep before going to work later in the morning (in the end, he was a little late, but the sentiment was there), while Christa and I were left to fight out which couches we were going to sleep on. A fun night, which I guess shows you that I might be bipolar.

And it’s Laura’s birthday today!

currently playing: Gene – Olympian


Imagine! Being detained WITHOUT CHARGE for thirteen days!

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said “a good deal of work behind the scenes” had helped secure their release. “It has been distressing for the Wises and for their family,” he said.

You know, somehow, I don’t think that the Iranian Foreign Office will have much luck when the first Iranian is detained over here. Funny that, us being all civilised and all…

(although, hey, I am currently in a country whose leaders are more concerned with who leaked information about secret CIA prisons than with the quite-possibly-illegal prisons themselves)

currently playing: The Pogues – Birmingham Six

Thursday I Don't Care About You

Well, if nothing else tonight, I learnt I’m going to die alone.

In fact, I learnt it twice, but I’m only going to talk about the major event.

The Indie Disco was perhaps not the greatest idea. I should have heeded the warning that nobody else could come (Laura had worked a double shift, was tired and facing another such shift early tomorrow, while Collin and Christa both had to get up very early in the morning for work), but heck, I’d been looking forward to going, and I’d promised Canon that I’d show up, seeing as how we’ve had a few conversations over the past few months.

Now, one thing needs to be clear: there was absolutely nothing wrong with the venue itself. In fact, watching a bunch of Americans dancing to Common People is incredibly amusing. But then there was me, strapped to the back of the room, terrified, unable to forget my self-conscious nature. So yes, I can wander around campus with a Pac-Man costume on, but I can’t step out onto the dance floor by myself.

I stayed for about an hour and a half, saying hello to Canon up on the stage, smiling at the choice of Panic by The Smiths, and looking enviously at the girl in the black top and grey skirt, who, looking a lot like Manda Rin from Bis, was happily dancing away by herself. But I was mostly English, and just couldn’t.

I suppose, looking at the bright side, I’m now a Local 506 member, three years late admittedly, but now a member…

currently playing: Joy Division — Love Will Tear Us Apart