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February 28th, 2009

How to uninstall Microsoft’s .Net Framework Assisstant Spyware

Filed under: Cutting the crap,Security,Technology — jm @ 15:40

"Microsoft's .Net Framework Assistant" is installed in your Firefox Browser without your consent as part of Microsoft's .Net framework. It's installed via Windows Update, so its installation can't be easily blocked. It can't be uninstalled (they made it intentionally very hard) and looking at Microsoft's track record, there's absolutely no reason to trust that it's secure. Also, it transfers information about software on your computer to third party servers, again without your consent.

That I think, fits the definition of spyware.

Fortunately, there's a way to uninstall it from your machine as long as you have administrative privileges. I found a good recipe here. Basically you have to edit the registry key

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Mozilla\Firefox\extensions

and delete the key named {20a82645-c095-46ed-80e3-08825760534b}. At which point, after a browser restart, the extension will be gone.

Unfortunately, Microsoft also takes the liberty to modify your preferences to add the .NET framwork's version to your browser's referrer. To fix this, type about:config into your browser's URL bar, then type "microsoft" into the search box, right-click on the key "general.useragent.extra.microsoftdotnet" and click "reset". That's it, you're done.

October 17th, 2008

Airport security is, for the most part, total stupidity

Filed under: Cutting the crap,Politics,Security — jm @ 23:25

When I went to Egypt a few weeks ago for two weeks of diving, beaches and general fun in the Lahami Bay Resort, me and my friend had to leave two bottles of rather expensive, but very tasty, Whiskey behind at the Munich airport. Idiots that we were, we believed that, as we were on our way to one of these "Arab terrorist countries", we could keep two obviously unopened bottles of liquid. Germany's secretary of the interior would certainly have been very proud of us if we had blown up something over there using a "magic port-barrel-aged alcohol vapor bomb".

We were wrong. I guess that duty-free shops in Germany are just as fine with the new stupid regulations as their American counter-parts are and thus these regulations are enforced regardless of the country you go to. As a western tourist you can have alcohol with you in Egypt, it's just very hard to buy some there, so we bought another two bottles of whiskey in the local duty-free store. The only difference between the new bottles and the old bottles was that the new bottles were placed in a plastic bag with huge red lettering that said "DO NOT OPEN". A MacGyver-esque terrorist that can build a bomb out of whiskey would have been clearly defeated by that security.

So this article on airport security by "The Atlantic" resonated a lot with me: "The Things He Carried". Especially, since it features Bruce Schneier, who helped the journalist print his own fake boarding passes.

March 04th, 2008

In other news: Diebold accidentally leaks the results of the 2008 elections

Filed under: Cutting the crap,Politics — jm @ 12:08

Awwwww... I was so going to enjoy the show and now they've ruined it for me :-(

October 24th, 2007

The story of Abdallah Higazy

Filed under: Cutting the crap,Politics — jm @ 23:05

Rafe Coburn writes about how to get an innocent man to admit to being a terrorist: the story of Abdallah Higazy.

Abdallah Higazy was staying in a hotel in New York City on September 11 and the hotel emptied out when the planes hit the tower. In his room, a radio was found that can be used to talk to airline pilots. FBI agents threatened Mr. Higazy, that his family in Egypt would be tortured if he didn't confess that he was connected to the events of 9/11, so he confessed even though he's innocent. It turned out that an actual pilot had forgot the radio in the room that Mr. Higazy was staying in.

This is what you get if you allow "coercion". This is what you get if you give law-enforcement officials too much power. It's a prime example of racial profiling and an important reminder that threatening people cannot be part of fighting terrorism. Ever.

March 26th, 2007

“Schöne Grüße an Herrn Beckstein”

Filed under: Cutting the crap,Deutschland,Politics — jm @ 15:26

“Greetings to Mr. Beckstein”

Mr. Beckstein is the secretary of the interior for Bavaria. In my opinion one of the most dysfunctional politicians ever elected, he’s constantly trying to erode every constitutional right in Germany to further his own agenda and his far-right conservative viewpoint. He’s not really a topic for this post, just someone I really disagree with and who constantly spouts ill-informed ideas on how Germany has to protect itself from terrorists to computer-gamers.

Now, Bruce Schneier mentions an article by The Guardian that the British “Home office” released a statement saying that 10,000 passports have been issued in fake names in the last year.

10,000!

…and that’s what they admit to. The real number is probably higher. Just to make this clear: these aren’t fake passports, these passports are real passports, with RFID-chip, biometric security, holograms and every other gimmick these expensive booklets have, they are just issued in a fake name. So much for increasing our security against terrorism with technology.

I’ve said it before: “biometric security” in passports is nothing but a idiotic, boneheaded and incredibly expensive subsidy for the “Bundesdruckerei”. Simply because counterfeit passports are at most a small threat to our security. The british government itself gives out enough fake passports each year for an army of terrorists. How many have been issued in Germany?

This kind of crap happens when you confuse identity with intention, like every one of these self-anointed “terrorism-fighter-politicians” does (here’s where Mr. Beckstein comes into the picture). They should have invested all this money in the fire departments and other emergency services. That would have helped not only against terrorism, but against all kinds of threats, it’s just not something these people care about anymore.

The christian far-right’s latest perversion in the US

Filed under: Cutting the crap — jm @ 13:31

Purity balls!

Little girls as young as nine promise their fathers that they’ll stay virgins and get jewelry for it! Awwww… what a cute idea. That said, I fear that these poor fathers are in for one heck of a disappointing experience. I really hope they still tell their girls about responsible protection and I also find there’s something to be said about the psychological trauma that makes these people think of this crap.

Back in the middle-ages and still in some parts of the world, a girl’s father owns her virginity and can sell it as he sees fit, what can you say… history repeats itself.

via Jeremy Zawodny’s linkblog

March 05th, 2007

Paranoia

Filed under: Cutting the crap,Politics — jm @ 05:05

Paranoia

Unfortunately, the author’s gallery web application seems to be down. Found via Bruce Schneier.

February 18th, 2007

DRM on crack

Filed under: Cutting the crap — jm @ 14:00

Black is white, up is down. This Macrovision executive is high as a kite. Translation From PR-Speak to English of Selected Portions of Macrovision CEO Fred Amoroso’s Response to Steve Jobs’s ‘Thoughts on Music’. Funny!

January 05th, 2007

Music industry executives will have to live on the streets!

Filed under: Attitude,Cutting the crap,Music — jm @ 17:17

These poor people. If someone would finally create a food-shelter for them that I could donate to…

From this article titled “US album sales drop 4.9% in 2006” at the BBC:

Album sales in the United States – on CD and through legal downloads – fell by 4.9% in 2006, according to research company Nielsen Soundscan.

The most interesting part comes right after that, though:

But the growth of digital music, especially the purchasing of individual songs, meant music sales rose by 19.4% overall, compared to the previous year.

Digital single-track sales were up by two-thirds, while twice as many digital albums were sold as in 2005.

What editor was out of his mind enough that he tried to depict this news message in a negative light? Idiot!

I understand him, though, because the article’s original ending (which has since been deleted by the BBC) was:

However, one anonymous music industry executive, while being interviewed at the local soup kitchen, told us: “if the piracy trend continues, and you don’t pay my $200,000 bonus, terrorists are going to come flying from space and then music will vanish forever

December 20th, 2006

Rant: How to disable Flash’s auto update? and what §$@}! were managers at Macromedia?

Filed under: Attitude,Cutting the crap,Technology,Web — jm @ 19:41

Today I suddenly got an “update available for your Flash-player” dialog, which means that Adobe had that crappy piece of spyware checking in with their servers every 30 days. I immediately wanted to turn it off. If you’re not interested in how Adobe fucked up Flash’s configuration, but only want to turn off Flash’s auto-update functionality, click here

But how do I turn it off?

I remembered that Flash has no control panel (where its settings would actually belong). It also has no entry in the program menu. Adobe deliberately makes it incredibly hard to configure Flash’s privacy settings, cache settings or auto-update settings. Instead, as I remembered because I searched for it once before, there’s a special page on Adobe’s servers that allows you (after you requested the page and thus provided them with all kinds of data) to access Flash’s settings dialog. If I hadn’t known that this thing existed, my search would have taken hours longer. Here’s what I had to do to find it:

  1. Go to Adobe.com

  2. Click on support.

  3. Click on Flash-player support, of course there’s no mention of the configuration site there, in fact there’s also no hint about it in the “support center” or the “FAQ”. 95% of all users are either lost or bored by now.

  4. Click on Search and search for “Flash configuration”. This provides no meaningful search result, but a category link to “Flash configuration”

  5. At this point the site becomes unbearably slow, which is not an issue with my DSL connection, as I can access every other part of Adobe.com just fine.

  6. Found a Technote titled: “IT Administration: Configuring Flash Player auto-update notification”.

  7. It says to go into the “Settings manager” located on the Macromedia website.

  8. However, the link doesn’t go to the settings manager, it goes to a page about the settings manager.

  9. From there, you can actually access the settings dialog, which has a helpful message below it that says

    “Note: The Settings Manager that you see above is not an image; it is the actual Settings Manager.”

    Obviously, even if a user stumbled upon the settings manager, they still don’t get it!

The solution

The breadcrumbs at the settings manager’s page show its path as: “Home / Support / Documentation / Flash Player Documentation”. It’s important that you note that it’s “Flash Player documentation”. So here’s how you access Flash’s settings (I’m not making this shit up):

  1. Go to Adobe.com

  2. Go to “Support > Documentation”

  3. Choose “Flash Player” (not “Flash”!) from the dropdown (yes, the size of the dropdown requires you to scroll down to get there)

  4. Click “Go”

  5. Behold the list of only one option

  6. Click the link titled “Flash Player 9 Help” with a link-text that reads “HTML”

  7. Click one of the links on the left to open the settings manager which then provides redundant navigation!

Or click this link to access Adobe Flash Player’s settings dialog!

This whole experience is sheer brilliance. I hope that everyone who ever worked on this feature was fired. There’s a beautiful passage in the book “The Hitchhiker’s guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams that describes this perfectly. A piece of dialog between the main character Arthur Dent and someone from the local council’s planning department, after Arthur found out that his house was going to get knocked down:

“You hadn’t exactly gone out of your way to call attention to the building plans had you? I mean like actually telling anyone or anything.”
“But the plans were on display.”
“On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them.”
“That’s the display department.”
“With a torch.”
“Ah, well the lights had probably gone.”
“So had the stairs.”
“But look you found the notice didn’t you?”
“Yes,” said Arthur, “yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of The Leopard'”

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