Tomorrow we all go to Disney World

Right before a trip

All packed up and ready to go.  We are all looking forward to this and we’ll be a week in Walt Disney World. The kids have been talking about this for weeks.

We wont be gone that long but two grown ups and two kids means lots of luggage.

I plan to take lots of pictures and post them on Flickr, so I’m going to carry on all the camera equipment.  The kids insist that I bring their cameras as well and if they take any really good shots I’ll post those as well.

The exploration of Mars

NASA Phoenix Arm

Since I’m convinced that there is little intelligent life in the world (or at least in the U.S. government) let’s head to Mars for a moment.  From Gizmodo I followed this link to The Big Picture’s Martian Skies.

The NASA Phoenix Mars lander has confirmed water on Mars.  That does not mean there is life on Mars but it’s a huge discovery and can lead to a better understanding of how Mars formed.  Was it always like this? And if not how did it become like this?

The web page is an amazing collection of pictures from various missions.  Just look at the picture of Phobos. Head over to that page, I feel better knowing that we’re still capable of such exploration.

Same old political pandering

Telcom immunity: I’ll wait to see if the Democrats sold out the constitution again, but I’m willing to bet they did.  No politician has any principles during an election year.

Update: Crooks and Liars has more, but it looks like it’s a done deal.  These Democrats are not Blue Dogs, they are Blue Cowards.  All it takes is the President to say something is legal and game over, you have no rights.

Anything from detaining American citizens, torturing people, to spying on our own population is allowed.  All it takes is for a brown shirt government employee to say “War on Terror” and for the President to say “this is legal”.  No one is held accountable, no one has to deal with the consequences of their actions.

When the Democrats opposed blanket immunity I was thinking that maybe these dark days are closing.  It was all a scam; the Democrats are up for election too.

I’m upset and I can’t wait for January 20th, 2009.  Even if it’s McCain at least we’ll get a new king.

Gears of War for Windows

Gears of War for Windows

The other day I was in Best Buy getting some Nintendo DS Lite games for the kids.  The Windows version of Gears of War was on sale for $30 so I got it.  I always get last year’s games.

After the nightmare known as Halo 2 for Windows I was worried that the game would crash.  So far it’s stable but there is one problem.  The game stutters a lot.  The whole screen pauses then jumps and it’s really annoying.

To minimize the problem, I’ve shut down all the added background programs such as the iTunes helper, Java updater, and other odds and end junk.  The stuttering is acceptable now but the game definitely runs better on the Xbox 360.

It plays well, and I already know how the story will end.  I was afraid that without an XBox controller that the experience would be not so good but the keyboard/mouse combination works well.  And I aim much better with the mouse than I ever did on the Xbox 360.

Now if I can only work out dodging the berzerker using the keyboard then I’d be all set.

WordPress file monitoring

Over a week ago I complained about WordPress users crying security wolf and not being able to recover their blog when the “Bad Thing(tm)” happens.

Since then a real brawl developed on the support forum that could be summed up like so:

  1. One or more users is insisting that there is an XMLRPC exploit in 2.5.1.
  2. The same one or more users refuses to back this claim up with data, or apparently send the WordPress security e-mail alias any info (maybe, how would other people know what was sent via e-mail?)
  3. Many people tried to reasonably explain that such an exploit may exist but without data there is nothing to solve.

This discussion was just plain nuts and went around in circles.  Complaining about a problem without providing any proof and then getting all pissy about it is totally useless.  It is entirely possible that such an exploit exists and many people replied so.  But without any providing data other than saying “I can assure you that the hack occurs via XMLRPC”, then everyone’s time gets wasted.

Fortunately, Donncha provided a page that covers the issue succinctly and today he added another post on setting up aide.  His two posts are good and anyone considering monitoring their WordPress files for modification should give this a try.

Aide will let you see if your installation files and directories have been tampered with.  It won’t protect you against HTTP POSTS or database attacks but it’s very good if someone succeeds in modifying your files.

There are ways to log what’s being sent via an HTTP POST and examine that information; if (or even when) I get hacked, I’ll try to start looking at that data.  MYSQL database monitoring, that could be interesting but for now I’m not aware of a good tool to do that.

On my OpenSuSE installation, installing aide is simple.  As root run

zypper install aide
aide --init
mv /var/lib/aide/aide.db.new /var/lib/aide/aide.db
aide --check
cp /usr/share/doc/packages/aide/examples/etc/cron.daily/aide.sh /etc/cron.daily/

All of which I just did.  I ran the check option to make sure I did not create any issues with the aide.conf file.  I’ll play with the aide.conf file and see what kind of output I get when the daily cron job gets run.  If I add and modify files and I set it up correctly then I should see that in daily cron job’s output.

Update: this worked but in /etc/aide.conf change the line verbose=1 to verbose=5.  That will get you a useful output of which files and directories changed.

Battlestar Galactica mid-season ender

Battlestar Galactica from SciFi.com

Friday was the mid-season ender of Battlestar Galactica and I just saw it on my DVR.  No spoilers but if you want, you can read about it on Salon’s website.

The show is still good and the series wrapping up at the end of this season is a good thing.  But I have a tough time watching the show.  No matter what happens, people die, their situation gets worse, and each episode ends with “do we shoot ourselves now or wait till next week?”

It’s like reading a good Harlan Ellison story because each episode is gritty and tough but still satisfying.  It’s very anti Gene Roddenberry; Battlestar Galactica is the space opera equivalent of HBO’s Oz.  At the end of each chapter the characters are still in a really bad place.

I can’t wait to see how the series ends.