This Just In….

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 2:45 pm

A few days ago our friend Gavin asked for our mailing address, which I of course provided.

Today, what should arrive in the mail but this:


Of course not, thank you, I will treasure it always….you fucking psycho. 😉

In case it’s not evident from the picture, that’s a teeny, tiny can of Spam that he included with the letter. Probably a piece of doll furniture, given what I know of his wife’s hobbies. It’s now up on the shelf with my other collectible Spam cans. (Yes, I have collectible Spam cans. Instead of children.)


Pondering The Polychromatic Piscean

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 12:07 pm

Shawn and his daughter spent yesterday afternoon baking and decorating some cookies. She’s been on something of an oceanic kick lately (pirates, octopuses, that sort of thing) so all the cookies had a sea-creature theme going. One specimen in particular caught my eye:


I asked her what kind of fish it was, but she wasn’t sure. I thought about it for a second, and then it hit me.

“Why, of course,” I said, “It’s a Jackson Pollock!”

My, I amuse myself.

Useful Gmail Hack

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 9:17 am

For those Gmail users among my readership (you two know who you are), a cool little tip to make your Gmail webmail transactions secure, thanks to Linux Activist.

Instead of typing “http://mail.google.com” into your Web browser, type “https://mail.google.com” (add an “s” after “http”). This gives you access to Gmail’s Secure Sockets Layer, which means that your transactions will be encrypted against casual and more-than-casual snooping.

If you do a lot of your Gmail at public hotspots or over a neighbor’s unsecured access point, or if you’re simply healthily paranoid, you might want to take advantage of this unpublished feature.


Eh, Pissed O’ Mah Logy!

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 12:50 pm

Sometimes you’ll just be going about your business when an insight about yourself will roll over you, like a poorly secured dumpster in a steeply-banked parking lot. This was one of those times.

I had a dentist appointment this morning (I have to come back to have four cavities drilled—oy gevalt). Afterward I stopped at a little place near the clinic to get some takeout sushi for lunch. As I got nearer to home I decided I wanted some coffee to go with it, so I pulled my Suabru into the parking lot of my local Starbucks. Stowing my iPod in my laptop bag, I zipped up my North Face jacket against the downpour outside, opened my car door and headed into the shop. I emerged minutes later with a triple venti mocha. I got back in my car and headed home to resume my telecommuting job, working as a graphic/Web designer for a gourmet and medicinal mushroom company.

Dear God; I’m so Puget Sound I could puke.



Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 5:06 pm

The Washington State Department of Health reports that calls to its Tobacco Quit Line are up nearly 50 percent over the same time last year. Most people credit the increase to the enactment of Initiative 901, which prohibits smoking in any workplace or public place, or within 25 feet of doors, windows or air intakes of any workplace or public place.

As one aggravated smoker said during an on-the-street interview last year, in order to have a smoke in Seattle’s cramped downtown Pioneer Square district, she’d have to smoke in traffic.

Which, apparently, is just what lots of folks are hoping she’ll do.

I hate tobacco. It’s unhealthy. It stinks, and it makes me stink when I have to be anywhere near people who are smoking it. Furthermore, there seems to be a quantifiable correlation between smoking and other antisocial behavior, such as littering. See someone toss something out the window of their car on the freeway, you can almost guarantee it’s a cigarette butt. It’s as if smoking is just another thing that people with an inherent social deficit pursue in order to piss off everyone else.

Yet for all this, I’m completely against this ban.

This is a legal product, being utilized by adults as part of their right to exercise freedom of choice. Freedom of choice to be an idiot who dies prematurely, to be sure, but that’s beside the point.

Wanna curb teen smoking? Fine, wonderful. Wanna make it illegal to smoke in airplanes and buses, where there’s no chance to get away from it? Great, no problem. Wanna make it a capital crime to hold down a pregnant woman and blow cigar smoke in her face? Heck, I’ll help you stick in the needle.

But if you’re going to try to render illegal the public use by recognized adults of a legally-procured recreational substance, please at least have the balls to call your efforts by their proper name: prohibition. Just get past your last vestiges of guilt over your fascistic tendencies and embrace them totally. It’s your sacred right as an American, so hold your head high!


You’ve Probably Seen It….

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 5:50 pm

….but in case you haven’t:

Cheney’s Got A Gun

Yeah, Yeah, Yeah….

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 3:54 pm

I know, I know, my site was down for a while. Many thanks to Susan for tipping me off.

See, in order to see my site at all, I have to mess around with the Hosts file on any computers here in the house. Otherwise, my computer says to the Internet, “I’d like to visit www.uncle-andrew.net, please!” and my ISP’s name server sez, “Sure, no problem! It’s real address is!” and then my computer promptly loads….which is the WAN address of my router. So all I get is a prompt for a user name and password to manage my router.

So, what I do, see, is I modify the Hosts file of every computer behind the router so that they all think that “www.uncle-andrew.net” is x.x.x.x—the internal IP address of my Web server. That way, when anyone on this side of the router types “uncle-andrew.net” into their browser, they are sent to the computer on the network that hosts the site.

Ain’t that clever? Aren’t I wonderful?

Unfortunately, it also means that, if my actual domain goes down, I don’t know, about it, because my computers are hard-wired to point directly at the computer serving my Web site. I need to be told by someone out there in the world. And for all my (self-)perceived tech savvy, I am apparently not sufficiently 1337 to put a reminder in my calendar software to pay my domain host in time to keep my account from expiring. 🙄

We’ve Joined The Big Leagues!

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 8:52 am

The first wild-caught Mac OS X trojan was identified this week.

It’s a lame, seemingly useless trojan that must be actively installed by the user by entering their password into an install window, whose only purpose in life is to self-propagate via iChat, and only harms your computer because it’s so poorly written that it accidentally corrupts the applications it hooks to, but hey, it’s our first. Give it a little time to mature, whydontcha.

And this certainly isn’t the only security breach for OS X. Hell it isn’t the only one this week. In addition to the attack against the University of Arizona Journalism Department Mac network, there’s the recent incident at ShmooCon. Macs are getting hacked all the time, through a combination of persistence, ingenuity and bad practices on the part of uninformed users. And yes, security vulnerabilities in the OS itself.

Look, there’s only one kind of person out there who really, truly believes that OS X is invulnerable to attack: complete, soaking-wet n00bs that have fallen for the idea foisted upon them by the industry that a computer is just another household appliance, like a toaster. The kind of person who has no idea what drives the processes that make their computer work, and has no interest in learning. In short, the kind of person who, up to a few scant years ago, would have been summarily labeled a Mac user.

But ever since the rollout of Windows 95, PC users have been able to join their Mac brethren in an ever-expanding cone of ignorance regarding the inner workings of their machines. Making the personal computer easier to use has, by default, made it easier to fail to understand. Which makes individual computers and the computer technosphere as a whole more vulnerable to attack by those who do understand.

I’m no computer security expert. I am, at the very best, an inspired computer security amateur. I run firewall, NIDS, antivirus and anti-spyware software on my home network; I can fire up the Activity Monitor (Mac) or Task Manager (Windows) and look at what applications and processes are running; I can take suspicious-looking processes and look up their names on the Web; I can kill processes that seem to be causing me problems from a terminal window if need be; and I regularly scour the more popular tech Web sites for news of viruses, trojans and sploits that may affect myself and my employer. I consider this to be the minimum that someone in my position—home Web and game servers, sensitive work-related documents, two housemates who, in the words of one of them, are “like an old Amish man trying to work a cotton candy machine” when it comes to computer skills—should be expected to handle. If you can’t safely operate the equipment, find something else to do with your time.

But I know more than a few people who could sail through my firewall like Gouda through a goose, steal my files, poison my wells, rape my horses and leave me nothing but a quivering husk of my former virtual self.

That having been said, I don’t think I’m going out on a limb here when I say that the only person more susceptible to exploitation by technological black hats than an uniformed computer user is an uninformed Windows user. A clueless Mac user is protected by a mixture of elevated security (permissions-based Unix operating system) and obscurity (ten percent market share, give or take). By comparison, a clueless Windows user is like a plump sparrow chirping away in the middle of a suburban lawn, with only a long-expired OEM copy of Norton Antivirus to shield him/her from neighborhood cats. As for a clueless Linux user—well, first of all, such a beast is much thinner on the ground than either of the previous two, due to the relatively complex nature of installation, configuration and upkeep of Linux distros. (Yes, yes, I know, many wonderful distros out there, commercially-available CD installers, tech support and everything, yes indeed, good for you, mazel tov. Until I see HP Pavillions with Ubuntu preloaded available at my local Best Buy, I maintain that Linux will remain chiefly the domain of wireheads.) Secondly, the same overall Unix-based structural security that helps to protect OS X works to the benefit of Linux users as well.

The point I’m trying to make is that, while no operating system is immune to security threats, *nix operating systems are largely exempted from the kind of widely-distributed, largely automated attacks that flood the ether(net) around us. A Mac is susceptible to memory attacks, to ARP and DNS poisoning, to shell attacks, to application-specific buffer overflow security holes. A Mac network can be firewalked as easily as a PC network, and polymorphic shell code can be executed as easily on a network device hosting a bunch of Macs as well any other computer. PPTP tunnels can be intercepted and their contents decrypted, WEP and WPA wireless networks can be hacked and their traffic analyzed.

But an appreciable percentage of the attacks that can be conveniently leveraged against *nix systems have to do with infiltrating networks and intercepting useful information. Even the overhyped ShmooCon incident seems to have been more about cracking some passwords and taking over the computer via legitimate channels, rather than an exploitable security vulnerability in the OS itself. Not like visiting the wrong Web site via Internet Explorer on a Windows machine and having persistent windows advertising cut-rate Segways—or infinitely worse, a keystroke logger—installed on your computer via ActiveX. Or hooking your trusty Windows 2000 box to your new cable modem and having it pwn3d inside four minutes. Or watching wave upon wave of IIS-specific buffer-overflow attacks crash against the shores of my httpd access log.

Like sex since the 80’s, there’s no such thing as a safe computer, only safer. Bearing this in mind, I’m glad my primary platform of choice is safer than the mainstream alternative.

UPDATE: I spoke too soon: Apple’s Web browser just came up vulnerable to a serious-ass exploit. Oops. 😳 Criminy, Apple!


Gotta Check This Out

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 2:10 pm

Our friend Holly was recently commissioned to build a haunted mansion doll house for a girl in Canada. She’s been putting these things together for family for the last year or so and now she’s getting requests from the general public.

Check out these pictures. Whatever they paid her, it ain’t enough. 😉


Just Goes To Show You….

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 4:13 pm

Doctor Norman Shumway, the first surgeon to perform a human heart transplant in the Untied States, died today at age 83….of lung cancer.

Man, it’s always something, isn’t it? 🙁


Downtime Project

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 5:13 pm

I had a few minutes after lunch this afternoon so I decided to put together something I’ve wanted for quite a while: a custom 404 page.

For those not in the know, a 404 page is a special Web page that a Web server displays only when someone requests a page or file that does not exist, or at least does not exist at that location. Usually these are pretty boring, like this:

Example of a 404 page

Naturally, something that humdrum simply won’t do for a high-class operation like this one (*cough* *hack* *wheeze*), so I created a 404 page with a tad more zazz.

Now, when someone requests a page that is not available on Uncle Andrew Dot Net, this is what they will see.

Pity the most common 404’s I get are coming from human offal trying to hack my site using an outdated xmlrpc sploit. Not only would they likely not appreciate it, given the nature of these hacks they probably won’t even see it.

Just A Heads-Up

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 10:00 am

For those of you on T-Mobile cell service, this may be the time to reconsider your carrier. According to this Seattle Times article, T-Mobile is increasing the cost of text messages to ten cents per message, while simultaneously refusing to disable text-messaging on their phones or to credit subscribers for erroneous or spam messages. How’s that for customer service?

If you’re looking for a recommendation, I’m quite happy with our Verizon service. They do allow me to disable text-messaging on our phones. Also, they have flatly refused to join the industry-wide push to release a wireless 411 directory, making your cell phone number available to anyone who wants to try to sell you aluminum siding while you’re trying to have dinner in a nice restaurant.

Whether you choose to change providers or not, you might want to let T-Mobile know how you feel about this.


Football Haiku

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 8:44 am

Super Bowl Forty,
“Oh, no! We lost! How awful!”
I cry Seahawk tears.


Neologism From The Days Of Yore

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 9:57 pm

Came up with this one while discussing cell phones with our housemate.

TrogLuddite: a Luddite of such drastically Ludditian depth and scope that (s)he posesses technological predilections and/or skills approaching that of a caveman.

Food Fright, Part 10

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 6:09 pm
Food Fright, Part 10

I was out with a couple of friends this afternoon when I spotted this particular gem in the window of some ice cream store—Rocky Mountain Creamery? Creamy Mountain Rockery? Creamy Rocky Mountainry? Whatever—and had to snap a shot of it for Food Fright.

I don’t feel that a ton of explanation is necessary, but I have to day that I just love the oh-so-subtle correlation between Valentine’s Day (and, by proxy, sex), chocolate and boobies. “Whoa, check out the tarts on that one!”

The medium is the message, and the message is mammaries.


Gotta Watch It

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 8:49 am

Got this off Fark this morning. If you haven’t seen it, you simply must.

In the spirit of the recent re-cut trailer for “The Shining”, may I present:

Brokeback To The Future.


Not Sure I Want To Know

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 12:10 pm

Checking through my referrer logs today, I came across a real head-scratcher. Among the many and various entries from people looking for information pertaining to milk and molasses enemas, I found a hit on an old Food Fright article about Holiday Pepsi. Someone at the University of Texas came to the article via a link from the Google search engine.

The search phrase they used?

“Renee tastes like”

Quotations included.


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