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January 31, 2006

Autorun on Windows

Recently most of the IT blogs I read have devoted vast amounts of information to the problems of Digital Rights Management (DRM) software. The story first broke on the blog of Mark Russinovich, a Windows kernel expert. He explained how Sony had been using Spyware-like software techniques to force users to install DRM software, and then prevent them from removing it.

The story went all round the world, and resulted in many lawsuits filed against Sony. The most interesting thing, perhaps, is that the only way the software can ever get on your system is by being run from the CD. And the most common way for this is through Windows' Autorun.

So today's lesson is how to turn off the Autorun feature, thus protecting your system from most portable-media borne attacks.

There are lots of ways to do this. The first is to edit the registry (scroll down to where you see the pictures). The second involves downloading TweakUI, which is a great tool from Microsoft to customise your system.

Please note that both of these methods are fraught with a reasonable level of danger. Make sure to back up everything before editing the registry. If you don't want to mess around with the registry, remember you can always just press the shift key when inserting the disk.

January 30, 2006

Blog of the week


Even Chewbacca is blogging now.

Javascript links

Mentioning Bloglines in my last post has reminded me of a current problem I'm having with lots of websites. A lot of the links are embedded Javascript, e.g. a link which refers to "javascript:doLoadFolder(16400962,24)". This is irritating in the extreme, for one reason: I can't load the page in a new window.

In Bloglines, I have feeds categorised into folders. The web interface has two panes, the left-hand pane listing the folders and the right-hand pane their contents. Annoyingly, every folder I click on uses Javascript to update the right-hand pane.

Consider the scenario where I'm using a dial-up connection to browse. What I like to do is load each folder in a new window and then go offline and read the lot. The only way to do this in bloglines is to open seven windows at the start and then navigate to each folder. It would be so much easier to open one window and then right click -> Open in New Window.

Hiatus and RSS

Apologies for the long dearth of posts. Some of you might have been thinking that I'd taken to one of the sleep strategies previously advocated and ended up spending my days in perpetual slumber.

Actually, now I think about it, that doesn't sound too bad...

Given that time is finite, I've had trouble cramming in the time constraints imposed by blogging. For not only must I write something, but I must find something to write about. Analysis of many high-traffic blogs indicates that they source loads of stuff off other blogs, adding comment and discussion along the way. Reading 20 blogs gets a little tedious at times. I really wonder how some people read thousands!

I read all my blogs in a feed reader (http://www.bloglines.com/), taking advantage of the RSS feeds they produce. So now we get onto the problem...

Some blogs I read (including, annoyingly, some really good ones) don't publish their blog posts to the feed. Some post only a summary (first 300 characters or something), and this requires me to open the website of the blog and then go to the post.

This has two main problems:
  1. I hate opening extra webpages. Most blogs open directly in the feed reader, all in one window. Not only that, but I can sort them into whatever order I choose. If I have to load the blog website, not only do I have to faff around in IE loading the thing, but then I usually have to put up with the posts being in the wrong order!
  2. Blog posts aren't written like newspaper articles. Journalists know that people will often read only the first paragraph in order to determine whether the article interests them. Therefore they make the first paragraph a "hook," to try and draw in the reader. Blog posts aren't like that (a good thing too), and thus the summary I get to read is often just the beginning of the story. These summary paragraphs rarely grab my attention enough. For example, look at the start of this post. It's completely unrelated to the rest! Does this mean I'm a bad journalist? Probably. Does it make the post more rounded and easy to read? I think so.

Bloggers themselves have objections to the idea of sending the whole post as a feed.

  1. They'd like me to come to their website. To which I say: "Well, what else is there on your website." Excluding the list of links, there's very little else of value. Why should I have to load your website just to see your colour scheme?
  2. I can only comment on a post if I go to the website. This may be true (it may not, I haven't checked) but surely I'm only going to comment if I like the article. If you let me read the whole article, I'll make that decision.

My viewpoint is supported by famous bloggers such as Robert Scoble who have complained about this.

So when will it all get sorted out? I don't know. But I'll keep emailing the blogs I read until I do.


Don't worry, this link is safe for work, despite the ominous title to the post!

I'm really not sure where I stand morally on the issues raised. I think on balance I don't really like the idea, but I don't think I care enough to get upset about it. People are entitled to do what they like, and there's nothing I can do about it.

I am intrigued by the story however. Compare and contrast these two lines:

Despite howls of complaint from fundamentalists who have likened Martin to the Antichrist - and described his nudist plans as "graphic evidence of America's moral collapse"

Martin's critics depict him as a religious fanatic whose criticisms of rival resorts are damaging the naturist industry.

So fundamentalists hate him for being too liberal, and liberals hate him for being too fundamentalist.

Disliked by both ends of the spectrum, I see myself liking this chap.