Gentoo Linux

September 30th, 2003 § 5 comments § permalink

I’m impressed. I’m writing this entry on a Gentoo Linux distro running directly from a LiveCD, without a single change to my system. I have been thinking about switching from Red Hat to Gentoo lately, and decided to try it out. I’m really impressed with its easy and power. Now I need to get its more recent version, 1.4, which was released recently. The only problem is to get the installation: no Linux reseller here seems to have Gentoo CDs, and I’m not going to download 900MB on a dial-up connection.

Blog Anniversary

September 29th, 2003 § 3 comments § permalink

I had completely forgotten until now, but yesterday marked one year of blogging for me. It was an interesting year: I’ve made some news friends, learned a lot, improved my English (I hope), and mostly had lots of fun.

Thanks to all of you who keep reading.

Implementing SCORM: Building the API

September 23rd, 2003 § 5 comments § permalink

Continuing my ongoing series about SCORM, this entry discusses some specific aspects of the implementation of the SCORM API itself, considering both its client and server sides, and also dealing with the resolution of some of the technical difficulties found.

As I mentioned in the previous entries, the standard is still immature in some aspects. The API itself, although it presents as well defined interface today, has some inherent flaws that can make a rigorous implementation of all of its functionality a complicated work.

With regards to those flaws, the biggest problems they presented to me were: the JavaScript security model, the creation of a synchronous cross-platform JavaScript HTTP client, and the management of the API sessions. » Read the rest of this entry «

The Solitaire Mystery

September 19th, 2003 § Comments Off on The Solitaire Mystery § permalink

The Solitaire Mystery, by Jostein Gaarder, is an interesting and modern fairy tale written in a style that will please young and adults readers alike. For young readers, it also serves as a light introduction to philosophy. Gaarder, the author of the best-selling Sophie’s World, writes in an enjoyable humorous way that makes for a good and funny reading time.

The book tells the story of Hans-Thomas, a twelve-year-old Norwegian boy that, in his father’s company, travels from his home to the land of the philosophers — Greece — in a quest to get back his mother, who had abandoned him eight years before to “find herself.” Hans-Thomas’ father, who is an amateur philosopher himself and a collector of Joker cards, seizes the opportunity to initiate his son in the rudiments of philosophy. During the trip, a midget in gas station gives the boy a small magnifying glass. Hans-Thomas doesn’t understand the purpose of the gift until, in the next day, in a small village, he is given another gift: a tiny book that can be read only with the help of the magnifying glass. The story of the book will reveal itself to be fundamental to Hans-Thomas understanding of the trip and of his own life. From those elements, Gaarder builds a good tale that explores the issues of destiny and existence.

Although I don’t often like stories told in first person, I liked that one. Gaarder manages to turn this point of view interesting enough by making the reader identify itself with Hans-Thomas as he tells about the trip, reads the tiny book, and muses about his life. I enjoyed that introspective quality of the narrative; it didn’t sound fake as many other first person books.

Overall, I recommend this book. The plot is fun and interesting. Although some of the events in the story are predictable, Gaarder often surprises the reader with some new developments that make up for the eventual predictability of the story. For a good afternoon reading session, the book is a good choice.

NTFS support in Red Hat

September 13th, 2003 § 2 comments § permalink

Soon after I installed Red Hat 9 in my home computer, I found out — to my surprise and chagrin — that it didn’t support NTFS out of the box. As I’m using a dual-boot system and recently decided to definitely switch to Linux as my main system, I needed to access the files in my Windows drives to build my usual working environment.

As I was used to Mandrake, which supports NTFS by default, I thought I would need to recompile the kernel to add the necessary support. Fortunately, a simple good search revealed that the Linux NTFS Project has a small RPM with a NTFS driver that adds NTFS support to Red Hat. I installed and configured it, and the NTFS drives were visible in a matter of minutes, completely accessible in the Linux installation.

The future is really open.

More news about the plugin patent case

September 12th, 2003 § 4 comments § permalink

More news about the Eolas’ patent case regarding the use of plugins in hypertext documents: a federal judge rejected Microsoft’s first post-trial claim, in which the company alleged that Eolas had misrepresented the facts in the case. The company is already planning an appeal.

That is a very bad news since it implies that Microsoft may soon be forced to change IE to comply with the judicial decision, removing the support to embedded plugins in the browser. If that happens, it means applications that rely on such technology will have to be converted. Also, it means that companies like Macromedia, which has a whole business around the technology, may suffer severe economic drawbacks. Finally, it means that other companies and organizations that develop browsers will be forced to change their products as well. Needless to say, all those actions will cost an enormous amount of money.

On the other hand, the patent is very specific, and, as the article shows, solutions can and are being devised to work around those specificities. Obviously, there will be problems and costs with any chosen approach, but they are better than simply dropping all support to the technology. Some of the suggestions suggested by the members of the W3C, which congregates most of the companies affected by the decision, are: the use of dialog boxes prior the execution of a plugin, as it works around the patent requirement of an automated launching of the plugin; and the embedding of the plugin data in the page itself, as it works around the parent requirement of a connection to an external source. Each solution has its drawbacks, which will have to be addressed if they are really implemented.

In my opinion, however, the case may end up resulting in some benefits to the industry. Many things that required plugins today could be replaced by DHTML solutions if its support were to be improved in browsers. Many of the things only possible today using either Flash or ActiveX would be doable in DHTML with a more powerful implementation of both the DOM and scripting technologies.

The case raises some questions about how the W3C and the companies creating Web technologies must react to patents. Ironically, the W3C published its own patent policy not long ago, although, of course, it only applies to its members. The case also brings to the table once again the subject of improper patents conceded without regards to prior art.

Anyway, there’s still a long way to go in this case, and some waiting will be necessary before anything is really decided. But one thing is sure: the Internet has a long history of routing around damage, and I don’t think the history will be different this time.

Switching

September 10th, 2003 § 4 comments § permalink

After searching a long time for a modem that really worked under Linux, I finally found one. I installed it, and I’m posting this entry from Mandrake Linux 9.2, on Mozilla.

Although it took me sometime to configure it, everything went well. Nothing that a few Google searches couldn’t solve. The connection speed the modem is reporting now seems to be slower than that of the former modem, but in the tests I made I didn’t notice any real difference. Maybe the old modem didn’t report the real speed, but in fact the maximum possible speed. Anyway, I’m connected now.

Now I just need to properly install a good distro (probably Red Hat 9) and copy all my data to it. This change had been in my plans for a long time, but the lack of a good modem prevented it. Since it’s impossible to get broadband where I live, I was pretty much limited in my use of Linux. Well, the problems have been solved now.

From now on, the future is open.

SurferBar, or, the right time to change my e-mail client

September 3rd, 2003 § 2 comments § permalink

Although I’ve been using a Mozilla browser as my primary Web client for some time now, I’m still using Outlook Express as my default e-mail client. Everybody knows it’s very vulnerable to virus and Trojan horses, but I was careful and never had any problem — until now.

Today I got a strange spam. It didn’t contain any links or images, and its message didn’t advertise any product. I was curious, and I read it not knowing I was opening my system to a spyware application. So I was very surprised when I opened the Windows Start menu and found scores of links to pornographic sites sitting on it. As I soon found, the links were scattered across the whole system in every conceivable place a link could be inserted on. Also, Internet Explorer’s default page had been changed and a new bar had been added to it, overriding the default navigation bar.

It was easy to discover that the culprit was a spyware called SurferBar, which has existed for a long time, but has know find a new way to get itself installed on systems lacking the proper updates. It exploits a new vulnerability in the Internet Explorer HTML renderer — used by Outlook Express — by constructing a special object tag that bypasses Internet Explorer’s security sandbox. The vulnerability is recent, but Microsoft has already issued a patch. Removal was simple, albeit bothersome.

After that, it’s definitely time to change my e-mail client. Shame on me, I know, for using such an insecure client as Outlook Explorer. I had been planning to switch to another client for a long time, but had postponed doing it because of the trouble involved. I hope I don’t make the same error again.

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