Pitfalls of New IP Space

With the almost complete allocation of previously available IP4 addresses, ICANN released IP address block from previously reserved ranges to private ISPs. Unfortunately for these ISPs and their customers (one in particular), in the past these IP blocks were heavily used by malicious individuals who spoofed their IP addresses. This resulted in many servers that simply refuse connections to the entire block. What block is this? It’s the 173.x.x.x block.

For a year now, Mediacom has assigned IPs under the 173.18.x.x block. Thanks to that, one’s IP address is in this range. There are sites one literally can not visit due to having a legitimate IP address in the 173.x.x.x range, instead one gets a nice “network timeout error”. In the past it was the Weblogs.us forums (now down for everyone as phpBB committed suicide), now it’s other sites. Sure one can use a webproxy, and have, but that is more trouble than it’s worth. It would be nice if these servers would at least keep current with their IP block blacklists. Even better, new blacklists not containing known to be good IP blocks because of their prior illegitimate use would be a welcomed change.

-John Havlik

[end of transmission, stay tuned]

Windows 7 and PunkBuster

When you resort to tactics within the realm malice, are your actions still benevolent? Even Balance should consider this question while working on PunkBuster. While hackers/cheaters are an annoying, when the tools that keep them out operate maliciously the tool maker has gone too far. PunkBuster’s behavior is absolutely uncalled for.

There is absolutely no reason for a legitimate piece of software to download itself from a remote site and reinstall/restart every 15 seconds to 5 minutes. This is how PunkBuster works right now with its PnkBstrA.exe and PnkBstrB.exe services. PnkBstrA.exe will redownload, reinstall, and restart PnkBsterB.exe periodically while in a game “protected” by PunkBuster. If anything goes wrong PnkBstrA.exe will kick the user from a server and give a error in the 13xxxxxx range. PnkBstrB.exe is what actually looks for hackers/cheaters and kicks them. PunkBuster also looks for unknown APIs and will kick you if it finds any, this is the issue it has with Windows 7.

“Why are you playing games on a beta OS?” What’s the point of a beta OS? To test things, that’s the point of beta releases. By playing, or rather try to play, a game I’m testing Windows 7. Since I built a new (for me) computer that is running Windows 7 (64bit), there really is no going back to XP (I do not have Win XP 64bit edition). My gaming is limited to offline games, any Valve title, or Test Drive Unlimited. Basically, anything that doesn’t depend on the horribly broken PunkBuster.

The real shame is that Even Balance has not made any visible effort towards supporting Windows 7. The beta is very solid, a release candidate should be out soon, and at that time the Windows 7 “API” will be “locked” and Punk Buster should be able to be updated to work with Windows 7. If, upon public release of Windows 7, PunkBuster still does not work properly, I’d like to see a someone bring a class action lawsuit against Even Balance for negligence (yes, PunkBuster has angered me to that point).

-John Havlik

[end of transmission, stay tuned]

Quick Weekend

Spending abnormally long amounts of time on simple projects sucks. So there is this biology paper, and presentation we have to do for lab. Patenting of genetic information is the topic I picked, IP is fun isn’t it? After writing a much longer paper for freshmen writing on software patents I thought this should have been easy. It would be, if either I didn’t care about it or if it wasn’t 2 pages, single spaced. I guess they wanted to save a portion of a tree. The other thing making it difficult is that we must submit a digital copy so that if the TA suspects plagiarism he/she can submit it to turnitin.com. I don’t copy the works of others, and try my best to cite my sources properly.

However, I do have several problems with turnitin.com, their data retention practices, and their outright smug attitude. They claim to not keep full copies of the submitted content, but rather some fingerprint of it. That fingerprint would be something like a tiger tree hash used by peer-2-peer networks. These are a one way hashing technique, that should be unique (no two non-identical documents should have the same hash, identical parts should have the same hash). In p2p networks these hashes are used to perform multi-source downloading, turnitin uses it for matching potential plagiarism.

The problem is if a matching hash is found, if they keep true to their word that they do not keep original copies, or contact information, there is no way to compare the actual texts. Since no hashing scheme is perfect there is a chance for different writings having matching hashes. If there is a single bit error when performing or storing the hash, false positives have a much higher chance of occurring. If they do keep textual copies, they are in violation of the copyright of the writer. Since they are using this data for profit, they may also need to get permission to keep the derivative works (e.g., hashes of they generate).

As a side note, I found a microprocessor that is more backwards than the PIC in some ways. It is the Texas Instruments MSP430. Setting up serial communication for the PIC isn’t super straight forward, but the MSP430 is much worse.

Finally, I need to congratulate JD and his fiancée Samantha on their engagement.

-John Havlik

[end of transmission, stay tuned]

Old Media Using AOL’s Antics

AOL’s infamous customer retention program has caught the attention of other failing businesses. In particular the Minneapolis StarTribune, an Old Media newspaper, has adopted such a program. It first starts with ignoring requests to cancel service. Only after refusing to pay the bill for the canceled and unwanted newspaper will the delivery stop. That’s when the phone calls start. They begin about receiving payment for the delinquent billings for the undesired and unauthorized service to resume the unwanted service. After thoroughly explaining that the paper delivery was canceled to several moronic phone representatives the message finally seeped through their ignorance.

Next, the phone calls changed. Instead of getting the ‘disputed’ bill payed by the customer, tribune solicitors attempted sell one a subscription. At first they spewed the resubscribe message. Later the message changed to bashing the Internet as not capable of getting the reader the full story. Two different sales associated tried to sell me on this ‘fact’, when I responded to the question “where do you get your news from?” with “the Internet”.

The second sales associate was rude to say the least, and obviously in customer retention mode. Responding that the Internet is not a credible source for news. Annoyed now, I began to vent on this representative about how the paper he was trying to sell my was biased and incapable of ever getting the whole story, and by no means did it hold any credibility. “What’s your favorite section?” asked the persistent associate. “I don’t have one.” “What are you interested in? Sports? Our sports section…” “I’m into technology and your paper is run by a bunch of Luddites,” I interrupted. I continued on with telling the associate that we did not want the paper, we canceled our subscription and do not want to renew. “I’ll need an name and address to verify that.” I responded with a fake address and allowed him to misspell my name. “Let me verify this…” I hung up the phone, I had things to do.

Today I received a bill for the newspaper in the mail. That representative signed me up for a subscription with out my authorization. I try calling the provided number, and it gives one of those talk to the machine menus with no live representatives at the time I called. They provide a Internet address and it doesn’t allow cancellation of accounts. Right now I’m thinking about going to the BBB and talking to some people who know the law better than I to see what provisions Minnesota law has that can be used against the StarTribune.

This resides in the new StarTribune category which will contain all my posts for this problem. If you still subscribe to the StarTribune cancel your subscription.

-John Havlik

[end of transmission, stay tuned]

35W Bridge Has Fallen Down…

You get the gist. I do not go over this bridge often, maybe once a year. Some who traveled the bridge more often claimed that it was wobbly and the deck was deteriorating, which has no effect on the underlying steel structure, but may be a representation of the quality of upkeep of the rest of the bridge. Interestingly enough the current construction project on the bridge was fixing up the decking.

Contrary of many other regions of the United States, in Minnesota it is supposed to snow, and MNDOT loves to salt the roads heavily. This past year they employed a liquid pre-snow deicing agent which happens to be quite corrosive. Whether or not this had an effect on this particular bridge who knows. Sadly, since MNDOT is responsible for the maintenance of this bridge, and thus the collapse is their fault, the entire thing will be covered up. Why? We are talking about the metropolitan area that has the second worst traffic problem in the nation just behind LA. MNDOT is filled with a bunch of incompetent fools that would never be able to create a successful transportation system in Sim City 4.

Worst of all, MNDOT is crying about funding now. This is what happens when the state diverts money away transportation and places it into social programs and education. In the past election cycle a referendum on alleviating the current misappropriation of tax dollars from transportation was passed. Sadly, the bill was flawed in forcing a minimum amount to go to mass transit, but no minimum for roads and bridges. Unlike the many idiots in the ‘great’ state of Minnesota, I did not vote for the flawed referendum. In the great way of all politicians, politicians are calling for tax increases to ‘pay’ for roads and bridges. As has happened in the past, these funds, if received will be diverted to further social programs.

-John Havlik

[end of transmission, stay tuned]