New Guitar Excitement
Before I start on the post, I'm pretty excited about my new guitar so I feel compelled to share, first. You can skip this portion if you don't care.
I went to 4 shops around Seattle: Rosewood Guitar, Dusty Strings, Northwest Guitar, and A Sharp Music Co. They're all cool shops for different things, and Rosewood Guitar had the best selection of classical guitars, but I ended up getting an Orpheus Valley Fiesta F65CW guitar from Northwest Guitar, which was my favorite stop so I'm glad they had what I liked best. The Spanish luthiers are always the most famous, but I was definitely impressed by what the Bulgarians at Orpheus Valley can produce. It's got an awesome solid Red Cedar top, Indian Rosewood back, sides, and fretboard, and a Honduras Cedar neck. I took a close-up of the tuning pegs because I really love how they look.
I was pretty impressed when I started strumming on it by the dynamic and loud sounds I was able to produce, and I really fell in love with it when I plugged it into an amp at the store and it sounded perfect. I was worried that you would be able to hear my nails scratching on the strings, but the sound was ridiculously clean, so I'm really excited about the pickup and hopefully playing at the young adult mass at church soon. I wanted to get an electric to play with effects, but I'm still not a fan of nails on steel strings and I've been tinkering with a multi effects processor to see how it does with my brand new electric acoustic. It's really incredible how the right tool can totally change your perspective on things. Like getting new boxing gloves made me more excited to participate in an activity that was previously consistently hurting my hands (which went away with the new gloves), and getting a really good guitar makes me so much more excited about playing and being proud of the sound I can produce from it. Just something to think about if you have a hobby you want to delve deeper in - do you have the tools you really need to become passionate about it?
Oh, and if you find yourself shopping for an electric acoustic I know that I found this article helpful. Though if you don't know anything about acoustics, I'd start here.
Conficker, Botnets, and Hacker Want Ads
A number of outlets over-covered the Conficker story with nonsense and are now pulling back, but the issue is still an issue despite the fact that the world didn't end. Outbreaks happen all the time, they just aren't all publicized so much because the scope isn't as big. That doesn't mean that they're not dangerous, they just don't have as terrible a potential as something that Conficker does being the most widespread infection in over 6 years. It's really important to not confuse dormancy with being benign. Drawing a pretty far-fetched analogy (hey, it's late): if a country in a volatile political climate has weapons of mass destruction that they haven't used yet, that doesn't mean they don't intend to.
Anyway, some are estimating a bill of over $9 billion in terms of wasted time of governments, security companies, and other miscellaneous resources in getting patched and trying to contain the worm. It has already starting making money for its owners though by way of what I had initially guessed: a botnet for spam. Thousands of machines have already started sending out spam and downloading spyware unbeknown to their owners. It's actually a pretty smart strategy: silent but terrible. The aggressive worms unite the world against them, but, now that the initial concern has died down, Conficker is in a prime position to make its creators a lot of money over an extended period of time.
Conficker is just one part of a bigger threat though: the rise of botnets. Why are they so hard to fight? After all, weeks after we first caught wind of Conficker it's still considered a huge problem by security experts. The main problems are that they operate under the radar and often in programs and often outside of the control of most IT departments, they're getting stronger protection (like communicating only via encrypted messages), and social networking has becoming the next e-mail in terms of attack vector. It used to be that people were only warned to not open attachments in strange e-mails, but now people have to monitor even the links they're sent from known friends on social networks. You can imagine how much harder something like that is to contain. In some ways, it reflects why organized crime still exists: it's an arms race. The good guys will never win because the bad guys are getting smarter and smarter, but better user education can cut into their profits enough to make these things less appealing to them. That really is our only solid defense.
Cyber security has become such a big problem that the Department of Homeland Security is now even looking specifically for IT people who can "think like the bad guy" to help protect the country from cyber attacks. Personally, I think that a class on network security should become part of the core curriculum in Computer Science programs across the country to help facilitate the coding practices that help minimize the likelihood of vulnerabilities for attack in the software that keeps our country and our lives running every day. As far as immediate action though, the government definitely could be doing a lot more to protect itself, so it's good to see this.
Oracle Buys Sun
The CEO of Sun sent out what I thought was an honest and heartfelt e-mail to his employees last Monday telling them that he had sold the company to Oracle. To be honest though, this isn't a bad move at all for either side. Oracle lives and breathes Java, databases, and enterprise servers. I'd imagine that they're not going to try to cut a whole lot of staff from Sun because I'm pretty sure they're going to treasure some of Sun's big products (like Java and Solaris). I know I'm hoping to see more frequent updates to Java since the release date of 1.7 is still indeterminate.
Amazon Video on Demand Goes HD
I was pretty stoked when I read that Amazon VOD now offers TV shows and movies in high definition. The one problem I had with the service on my TiVo box was that the video quality was just barely on par with DVD (though definitely better than standard definition TV), but seeing a format more on par with over-the-air HD content at typically just $1 more is pretty awesome. The way I see it (and this is a popular sentiment, mind you) is that the future of movie rentals and watching television is digital distribution. There's a reason why cable companies are losing customers for cable television and Blockbuster has been a sinking ship: the writing is on the wall. The selection is pretty decent to start out with, although the movies are not available in HD on the computer - only on TiVo, Roku boxes, Sony Bravias, and Panasonic VIERA Cast TVs. I don't know why that is (honestly, I don't), but my guess would be licensing issues.
Meanwhile, Netflix customers have to pay 20% more for Blu-ray discs. Granted, this is a difference of only $1-$9 depending on how insane your plan is, but it is sad because it's definitely going to discourage people from upgrading to Blu-ray. I love the way things look in Blu-ray and I want to see the format flourish so that prices go down, but Netflix can't offer lower prices until that point. A part of me really wants to blame the studios because they have the power to lower prices on Blu-rays and make them much more successful, but ridiculous licensing fees and high prices in a down economy are hurting the format bad.
Amazon, Microsoft, and Yahoo Financials
Amazon had a strong first quarter (considering the economic climate, that is) and I'm pretty proud that we're still able to hold strong past the holiday season. I think it's a testament to awesome customers and our commitment to a better customer experience.
Unfortunately, on the other side of Lake Washington, Microsoft saw sales dip 6% - the first ever year-over-year decline. They expect the situation to stay weak at least through the next quarter, so I'm sure that the pressure is really on to get Windows 7 out the door by the end of year.
Yahoo saw revenues fall 13% prompting them to lay off nearly 700 employees (about 5% of its workforce). It looks like CEO Carol Bartz is focusing in on cutting middle management, which probably isn't the worst thing since I imagine Yahoo teams are largely self-managing.
Time Warner is Anti-competitive
I know, you're all in shock. It's not like millions of people have thought about that before, but now we have some more concrete things to back that with. Time Warner is lobbying the North Carolina state government to outlaw community-owned broadband services because they claim that they can't make a profit competing with a community-run organization selling basically at cost. I didn't make that up, that's seriously their argument. They can't handle capitalism, so they want government backing for their local monopoly. Make no mistake, Comcast and Time Warner are not one of these corporations being bullied by the masses due to biased media or anything like that, they're definitely doing the bullying.
Ok, I'm fading fast but I want to play with my guitar so I'm going to really breeze through these.
Apple pulled an iPhone application that let users shake a crying baby to death to stop its incessant crying. It did end with the message to not shake babies, but it's still disgusting and it just shows that Apple is in no position to effectively police the app store if trash like this is getting through. I don't know why they insist on doing it.
YouTube has been toying around with adding social networking features to its UI, and TechCrunch got to take a look. This is, in fact, what a lot of experts thought online television should be like, but I think I have to see first hand to believe that it'll work.
Oh, and if you're a power YouTuber then you'll really like these URL tricks.
Laptop logic has 64 things every geek should know and it's awesome. It's worth scrolling through all 64 things - believe me.
I forgot to talk about this last week, but if you appreciate Daft Punk at all then you'll really love this online Daft Punk keyboard as a really cool toy.
Have a great week, everyone!
Security Now 609: The Double Pulsar
2 hours ago