computing linux Ubuntu windows

A tale of two operating systems

My main machine is primarily used for websurfing, ssh and games, and because the first two are OS agnostic and the third isn’t, it runs Windows 7. Clare’s PC, however, runs Windows XP for games, and she would like it also to run Ubuntu, because it’s the OS she’s most familiar with.

(Yeah, I know).

So while she’s away at a LARP event for the weekend, I decided it was a good time to put the newest version of Ubuntu on her machine. When I built the Windows install, I left a partition at the end to put it on, so I booted from my handy 9.09 CD and installed it there. Ran though the install, answered all the questions, booted into shiny Linux install. Boom, multiboot.

No, wait. Hmm. The install process usually recognises Windows installs and adds them to the menu. Where is it?

Aha, they’re using the new version of grub. Maybe the detection’s not quite perfect. I’ll add it manually.

Menu item doesn’t work. Odd.

What do you mean “isn’t a valid NTFS drive”?

There is nothing quite like the sinking feeling when you realise that the drive that isn’t working anymore is the one that has your SO’s data on it. I mean, there are backups in place and everything, but still. There might be stuff not backed up.


This is when I discovered that Partition Magic-, my go-to software for “My Windows partition is hosed” – no longer exists, and that my old copy no longer works. So, I have a weekend of alternately trying not to think about it and tracking down things that might work that have no possibility of hosing the rest of the drive (I’m still pretty sure it’s just the partition table at this stage).

Fixed it in the end, though. I’d tried the Windows XP Recovery Console, because I’d assumed it was just the MBR broken and “fixmbr” repairs that. I had, however, not gone far enough.

Microsoft Windows XP(TM) Recovery Console.
The Recovery Console provides system repair and recovery functionality
Type EXIT to quit the Recovery Console and restart the computer.
Which Windows installation would you like to log onto
(To cancel, press ENTER)? 1
The target partition is C:.
Rre you sure you want to write a new hootsector to the partition C: ?
The file system on the startup partition is NTFS.
FIXBOOT is writing a new boot sector.
The new bootsector was successfully written.

And relax.

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Leaving Windows Open

Leaving windows open always gets me into trouble, one way or the other.

I overheat easily, and so I tend to leave the windows of my flat open wherever possible. This is good, but it does mean I occasionally suffer from bugs coming in overnight and biting me in the arse. Somehow – and for the first time in my life – I’m having problems with mosquito bites, after leaving a window open let them in while I wasn’t paying attention.

Can you see the metaphor coming, kids? I’m sure you can. Nevertheless, the above actually happened.

Tuesday I made a mistake. Or, rather, a series of mistakes. The first was disabling the active scan of AVG (my virus scanner of choice) because it was fucking up the IO of something I was trying to do. The second was clicking on an EXE from a site I hadn’t used before without the above running. Nothing happened.

Then I got a popup saying spyware had been detected, and did I want to install AntiSpyware 2009?

Then my desktop wallpaper changed to “SPYWARE FOUND! DOWNLOAD ANTISPYWARE NOW!” and I lost the ability to change it.

At this point I ripped the network cable from my machine. I had left Windows open, and now I was being bitten on the arse.

My backup system works, which is fortunate. I have a combination of cygwin, rsync and a framework of scripts to sync my user files to an external location and a backup drive. Within my user files directory are windows shortcuts that the windows version of rsync can treat as symlinks, and these go to things I need to back up outside the general framework of My Documents (Actually, I have a C:Global (Which is also ~aquarion/Global and /Users/nicholas/Global depending on OS) which contains subdirs of Documents, Pictures, Music, Projects and Savegames and syncs up over the machines).

This notably doesn’t include stuff on my Desktop (which is just as likely to be downloads as in-progress stuff) or the contents of my Ubuntu VMWare image which I tend to develop in. I lost everything I hadn’t checked into svn recently, which is probably a good thing to make me do so more in the future.

Windows install was nuked from orbit (It needed doing anyway, it was over a year old) and now I have a couple of days of installing patches (from behind my firewall, natch) and reinstalling things and typing in CD keys.

All while attempting to splatter that fucking mosquito.

computing Imported From Epistula windows


“And this, this is just cheating.”

“It’s a valid critical form, and it seemed to go down well.”

“Pah. It got needlessly self-indulgent towards the end. The punctuation stuff? Far too self-referential. Avoid it in future.”

“I should avoid talking about the form within the form?”

“Indeed you should.”

“Bit late, then.”

“Somewhat. Today, incidentally, I am not your guilt complex.”

“Oh, good. He was annoying. Who are you?”

“Nonspecific, though I am the part of you which is constantly typing @-signs instead of quote marks, because you’ve been using Mac keyboards too long”

“Can’t I just fix the keyboard layout?”

“And avoid wearing out your backspace key? Silly, twisted boy.”

“That’s two Goon Show references in as many entries. Someone will complain.”

“I’m sure they’ll never notice.”

“So, what are we here to discuss?”



Today I installed Windows. I do this quite often, because I run a Teflon windows install. All important stuff is on the server, MyDocs in Windows is aliased over there, so effectively I can wipe clean XP when it reaches the end of its half-life, which is between one and six months. This one was brought about because the central hard-drive in my desktop was beginning to error out (To the point where Ubuntu wouldn’t even read from it, though windows still booted) and I decided to upgrade to SATA. As I type hundreds of gigabytes of games installs are copying across, but that’s not the annoying bit.

For the first time in quite a while, I’m running an entirely honest and legitamite copy of Windows XP. My first ever copy came from an MSDN disc, but I lost the code to a while ago, and since then have been using a key I can no longer remember the origin of. Having now lost that key too (It was on a floppy disc) and since I actually have a job and do use Windows (My desktop is mostly for Internet, games, coding and Paint Shop Pro. Games and PSP require Windows (WineX has some problems with some of the games I play) and the other two I use open source software, albeit on Windows. I don’t currently have a Linux install on the desktop (though Debian’s on my server), because – as I said – it won’t read my disk). So I bought a copy of Windows XP Pro.

Breezed though the install. Entered my Product Key to prove I am not a pirate, for I am no longer a pirate. Waited a bit. Was told I had to Activate Windows within 30 days, and that my clock’s date was wrong. Tried to activate Windows, Couldn’t contact server. Fixed clock. Installed stuff. Reboot. Now it was 30 days later (fixed date, remember), I couldn’t log in unless I activated Windows. This time it connected, and Windows was Activated (until I change my hardware) to prove I am not a pirate, for I am not a pirate (Pirates don’t have to activate Windows). Right, next, patches. Automatic update, update automatic update, reboot. Automatic update, install updates. Windows Genuine Advantage. Woo. I install Windows Genuine Advantage, which examines my system and concludes that I am not a pirate, for I am not a pirate. Takes me though a wizard of how wonderful it is not to be a pirate. Apparently, as a proven not-pirate, I am entitled to download the Karaoke Plugin for Windows Media Player! I am such a lucky boy.

Friends do not let friends do Karaoke.

This was all so much easier when I was a pirate.

The same goes for movies, games, music. While it is technologically easier to download a DVD from Bittorrent via The Pirate Bay, that’s what people will do. That’s why the iTunes music store is so sucessful, because it _is_ easier than buying a CD, you’re already in your music player, you don’t even have to shift contexts. And I have more to say on this subject, but Windows won’t shut the hell up about having to reboot my computer now.

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What if Microsoft redesigned the iPod packaging?

And if you can tell me the name of the track that accompanies most of this, I’ll be your friend forever.

BrowserAngel Imported From Epistula windows


[11:36] {gilmae} how are we all today?
[11:37] {Aq-Work} Not too bad
[11:38] {Aq-Work} Currently I’m clearing the data off a W2k box so I can reinstall it
[11:38] {gilmae} employed again, i see
[11:38] {Aq-Work} Yeah
[11:38] {Aq-Work} This job would be easier if the main drive wasn’t compressed
[11:38] {Aq-Work} Actually, it’d be easier if the machine had been built after 1998 too
[11:38] {gilmae} why, i ask?
[11:38] {gilmae} wh…ah, that’s why
[11:39] {Senji} Dh000m
[11:39] {Aq-Work} Plus, if it had more than 256mb space left on said drive
[11:39] {Aq-Work} Which is where the (compressed, note) swap would be.
[11:39] {Senji} Have I said Dh0000m yet?
[11:39] {Senji} compressed swap?!
[11:39] {Aq-Work} Oh, and it’s infested with spyware
[11:40] {Aq-Work} Plus, it’s been though two OS upgrades and three companies since it was last installed.
[11:40] * Senji hands Aq a Fuckoff Large Magnet.
[11:41] {Aq-Work} Oh, and every Prettyness enhancer is turned on, from drop shadows to Active Desktop
[11:41] {Aq-Work} s/is/was/, obviously.
[11:41] * gilmae hands Aq a new drive and a bucket of acid
[11:41] {Aq-Work} In fact, with all this, it was apparently completely usable up until last week
[11:41] {Aq-Work} when she installed a security update.

[11:43] {ccooke} so reinstall to the 10g?
[11:43] {Aq-Work} I have to make it usable first so we can drag the accounts data off to the server
[11:44] {Aq-Work} Plus, I only have an XP pro disc, and the chances of this box being able to handle XP are slim to the non-existant.
[11:44] {ccooke} 🙂

Imported From Epistula linux windows

Loopholes in Operating Systems

(Reposted here partially in response to Aquarius on the subject)

“Martin Underwood” wrote:

“Johnny” wrote:

“Conor” wrote:

It means your PC won’t become a trojan infested pile of stinking crap

That sounds like Windows to me, ever increasing in size too.

I’ve always wondered: do Linux and MacOS have any security loopholes? Is
part of the problem simply that most virus writers direct their attentions

to Windows because it is the most popular OS? I believe that XP is
inherently more secure than Win 95/98, but is more prone to viruses because
virus writers are concentrating on XP rather than Win9x. The same may be
true of Linux and MacOS compared with XP.

For MacOS this is partially true, being less of a mainstream OS it doesn’t get so many viruses. Linux is slightly more preemptive and reactive, the theory is that since so much of it has source code open to public viewing, somebody somewhere will see any potential security vulnerability. In fact, Linux/Unix based systems do suffer from such exploits for similar reasons as Windows – and about as frequently – but the community as a whole tends to react far quicker and with much more honesty about the problem. (For example, see this, an archive of this year’s security announcements for Debian GNU/Linux).

On top of this, Linux has a couple of other advantages. Firstly, that usually the only “given” on any Linux system is the kernel itself, other functionality is supplied by a myriad of other packages. The mail server could be Exim, Sendmail, QMail or any one of a hundred others, for example, but for a Windows system you’re pretty much guaranteed to be running Exchange. Windows’ ‘cohesiveness’ – the property that makes it a much easier to use desktop system than any current *nix based one – is the very property that makes it an easier target, since you can pretty much predict what’s running on any given Windows box and target that.

Finally there are the Users. Most of the Linux user base are still relatively geeky people who are aware of the importance of keeping up to date with the security holes, whereas a frightening number of Windows users have the same sort of problem as Oscar above, that they don’t understand what they actually need to do or – in a more office based scenario – why they should care.

Of course, the fact that Windows users outnumber Linux users 100 to 1 (at least) doesn’t help either, plus a number of crackers will deliberately aim at the “Evil Empire” on purely ‘moralistic’ grounds.

Fear the fuckwits who think themselves on the side of “Good”.

Faithfully Yours,


From his Windows PC, though his Linux news server 🙂

Apple Imported From Epistula linux windows


pick an operating system

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Magic Blue Smoke and Mirrors

Okay, so I melted a floppy drive. Could happen to anyone. Who hasn’t done it? I mean, there they are, solid plastic, sitting in your computer case. Obviously at some point it’s going to melt. It’s just going to.

So this is what happened, This is why I hate technology and am going to forthwidth go live in a bunker. No. A monestary. Get me to a monestary, because if this is what it means to be free, I don’t need it.

(Today’s obscure reference brought to you by Winamp)

(Tails of technological woe start in three paragraphs time, feel free to skip to them)

I had a computer called reef. It was a good computer, the heart of it was the Celeron 333 my parents bought me for my 18th birthday. It’s a grandfather’s axe thing, I’ve replaced the Mobo, memory, hard-drive, graphics card, case, keyboard, mouse, floppy-drive and network port, but it’s still the Celeron my parents bought me.

The Mobo is a little dead, in fact, as at some point 2002 the PS/2 ports on it died, and since it lacks decent USB support (Or anything else) it means I can only access it remotely, which isn’t any problem as it’s a server. It’s main functions were replaced mid last year by Atoll, a 2ghz Athlon doing exactly the same things at 5x the speed, so here I have a spare box doing nothing that I can’t use as a desktop.

I also have a new broadband connection arriving on Tuesday, and the router I used to use with it is an ADSL router, and this is cable. New solution time. I decided to turn reef into an IPCop box (I’ve used IPCop before, I’m used to how it works, and I understand it in a way that I don’t for – for example – Cisco routers) which would stand between our network and the rest of the world. So far, so hoopy. Pol has also lent me a Wireless Router, and I can therefore switch to Wireless and get rid of the unsightly cables that have littered every other house I’ve lived in.

Because I can’t plug a keyboard into reef (prospective firewall, welcome back, woe fans) I decide to put the componants into Maelstrom (my desktop box) install IPCop onto the HDD like that, and then transfer it all to reef and then go. I get as far as turning reef into a reef/maelstrom hybrid and halfway though formatting the old HDD before I realise that maelstrom has a 6 gig + 20 gig HDD, and reef has a 20 gig HDD which it doesn’t need. I therefore put Maelstrom back together, rescue important things from the six gig HDD (onto the secondary HDD) and install IPCop onto that. It’s about this time that I realise I’m going to need another NIC, so I put Maelstrom back together to get online and buy that.

‘cept I’ve just reformatted my Windows drive, so I’m going to have to reinstall Windows (No broadband + No install CDs + Winmodem == No Linux). It’s about this time that I plug the power for the floppy drive one pin to the right of where it should be. I wonder where the smell of TCP is coming from. I start the install process, with my Unattended Install Floppy in the drive (This floppy, as you may remember, makes Windows install itself without any input from me). Setup doesn’t read it. The smell is getting stronger. I note that the BIOS doesn’t see the Floppy drive on reboot. It’s really starting to smell quite bad now. I turn off the computer and check the connections, realising that the floppy-drive power cable is really quite hot now. A short tug and I have a twisted mass of plastic, two pins of the power connector, and a really fucked floppy drive.

Did I mention the floppy drive has my WinXP Serial number on it? It does.

Did I mention that this number’s only other place of existance is in the home directory of the server that I now cannot access because my computer is buggered?

It is.

So, girlfriend’s laptop, serial number, reinstall Windows.

“Drive F: (Secondary hard-drive) isn’t formatted. Would you like to format the drive you put all the important files on three paragraphs ago?”


“It looks like you’re having a bad day. Would you like some help?”

Fuck off.

I ordered some new parts from Dabs. They arrived next day. Yay Dabs.

I fiddled with the cables. I could see my old Hard-Drive. Yay cables.

I installed IPCop with the new NIC. It worked. yay IPCop.

It didn’t boot. Boo IPCop.

I tried to reinstall IPCop, but it wouldn’t boot. Boo IPCop.

I tried to reboot windows, but it wouldn’t boot. Boo Windows.

I tried to boot with a handy Gentoo Live CD, but it wouldn’t boot. Oh bother.

Apparently the secondary hard-drive was still not working. I discovered this by a process of elimination about an hour later.

I installed IPCop. It worked. It booted. I put reef back together. It booted. I put maelstrom back together with the new floppy drive I bought from Dabs. It booted, but performance was crap. I reinstalled Windows. It booted. It worked. I watched Bubblegum Crisis 2040 for several hours. Yay Anime.

Right, part two. Wireless networking.

On one side of my bedroom, I set up the wireless router and plugged it into my hub.

On the other side of my bedroom, I set up maelstrom with the new PCI Wireless NIC I’d bought from Dabs. After a little mucking around and leaning on the reset switch of the router until it forgot it’s old password, I configured the router to work.

(Not work the way I want it to. All I want it to do is act as a hub and forward packets to the router. I don’t want it to filter them – that’s why I want IPCop – or be a DHCP server – that’s why I have another server. All I want it to do is allow access to anyone with the password, which is – in case you’re in Letchworth – Swordf1sh)

It was now accepting packets (Though not doing anything with them. No point until the ipcop box is online) but could the Wireless Card see it?

Could it hell.

Was it that the Router wasn’t configured right?

Was it that the card wasn’t working/configured properly?

How the hell could I tell the difference?

Upon all these questions I gave up and went to bed. It was late, and I was tired.

Next morning they were both able to see each other.

No idea why.

Two hours later I couldn’t see WLAN (The router’s Wireless Network) at all, but was apparently connected to ‘default’. Yay open wireless networks. In this case, someone running XP with default config (I was even able to access the net with it for about 10 minutes. Then it broke. No idea why).

Then Maelstrom stopped being able to see the secondary hard-drive again.

Now it can’t see the wireless card.

I hate computers.

So I went to watch anime instead.

Then I ran out of episodes.

I hate everything. I’m going to bed.

Imported From Epistula windows

XP hotfixes since SP1

Since it’s taken me all morning to find it, and other people may find it useful:

A list of all XP Security Patches since Service Pack 1

This avoids the Catch-22 of having to put an unpatched Windows box onto the internet in order to get all the security patches to make it safe to put on the Internet. Be aware, however, that XP Service Pack 2 is on it’s way and that’ll include most of these with it.

A note on research, here. I spent about an hour trolling the Windows XP microsite looking for a list, wandering though the Expert Zone (“Focus on New Users” was the lead headline. Define Expert) and generally seeing if it was actually where it should be on the site, and then gave up and typed “hotfixes since XP Service-Pack 1” into google, which got me a PC World article sending me to a download page, which sent me to a Microsoft Redirection page sending me to the aforementioned MSKB article.

This is, in fact, bollocks. Columbus had better navigation than that when he sailed to India. Microsoft may not want to admit it, but there are major holes in XP as released, and even in SP1, and it’s really important to be able to get your machine secured as quickly as possible, and not even mentioning the above article within the security section of the offical XP microsite is just stupid. The Trustworthy Computing thing is a good idea, and deserves kudos, but won’t work unless we – as Sysadmins, users and developers – can trust Microsoft to admit when something is wrong, and hiding a list of security updates (It is, however, an extremely impressive list of updates) doesn’t inspire that kind of faith.

Imported From Epistula windows


I just avoided getting infected by Beagle by my virus checker.

I got this e-mail:

Dear user of,

Our main mailing server will be temporary unavaible for next two days, to continue receiving mail in these days you have to configure our free auto-forwarding service.

For details see the attached file.

In order to read the attach you have to use the following password: 04185.

Have a good day,

The team

to my address (The address I occasionally use on usenet). Now, apparently it’s purely coincidence that it happened to pick the right body ( _is_ a free forwarding service, and has had a couple of problems recently) and looks roughly right, but it fooled me (In my defence, it’s first thing in the morning, I haven’t had my tea yet, and I’m dosed up to the eyeballs with cold remedies) and if it can get me – who knows about these things – it scares me how many others it would have got.

The only reason I have Norton installed at all is that yesterday we had a virus scare in the office when a co-worker opened an attachment ‘from’ the CEO and he got an e-mail to himself from a mangled form of his address. After scanning the headers, we unplugged her PC from the network, grabbed Norton and the latest signatures (More difficult than it should be, since Norton’s site focuses on you using the Auto Update service, but since we couldn’t put the computer online until it was disinfected these were recommendations we couldn’t follow) (Incidentally, Norton at 25mb & another couple for the signature file made me once again glad of the pen drive for transferring them).

It took just under two hours to do a full sweep of her machine – during which she couldn’t do very much – and about the same length of my time over the course of the day to sort out the thing, which is about four hours of company time yesterday wasted on a virus (Or, to put it another way, given how big a company we are, one third of the company out of action for quarter of the working day).

Incidentally, recommendations to switch to another OS will be laughed at, since of the office me and this co-worker are the only people not using OS X, and it’s kind of useful to have at least two people using the platform we’re currently developing for.

Not that I would refuse an iBook if offered, of course.

This arrived this morning:

Dear  user  of  e-mail server "",

Some of our clients complained about the spam (negative e-mail content) outgoing from your e-mail account. Probably, you have been infected by a proxy-relay trojan server. In order to keep your computer safe, follow the instructions.

Advanced details can be found in attached file.

For security reasons attached file is password protected. The password is "80362".

Have a good day,

The team

Pity I didn’t recieve this one first, really.