interesting


19
Nov 08

ZX-Spectrum Child

zx speccy logoMy first computer book was “Basic for Children with Arturo”. It was 1989, the book was in Russian, and I was 10…

Back then, in USSR, to own a 8086 compatible PC was somewhat mystical, and therefore people, who knew a thing or two about microelectronics, were putting together Speccy(s) (ZX Spectrums), which were based on Zilog Z80 8-bit microprocessor and ran at 3.5 MHz.

Official ZX-Spectrum that was sold by “Sinclair Research Ltd” at that time was a bit pricey for middle class families, and therefore many cities across Europe and USSR started to come up with their own “clones“. There were over 50(!) semi-official clones that came out by the end of 1980s, begining of 1990s. But to cut cost even further, people who knew “how to solder” created hybrids of the clones at home, which came out to be very cheap.

The process to build ZX-Spectrum’s clone’s hybrid was “a bit” involved, and included many days/weeks of hacking poor, incomplete electrical circuit documentation and sleepless nights of manual calibration of the hardware. The one had to “get” a ZX-Spectrum full circuit schema:

zx spectrum electrical circuit

Study it, change it to fit the budget. Go to several flee markets to first find CPU, which was a quite rare find:

zilog z80 cpu

empty electrical border and all other chips / transistors / capacitors / resistors / etc…

After some time the great merge of new ideas, documentation, hardware and labour, the one ended up with something like this:

zx-spectrum circut board

ZX-Spectrum keyboard had an interesting feature – pretty much every key, depending on the combination of special keys used, could represent 3-4, sometimes even 5 different things (commands/letters/symbols/special characters/etc). This made it much smaller (“compacter”) than for example PC keyboards:

zx-spectrum keyboard

And due to its small size, it most of the time served as a ZX-Spectrum case, and fit it the Speccy’s “motherboard”:

zx-spectrum under the keyboard

There were also some alternatives, and some people used “an extended” keyboards, but “a single key multi-purpose” pattern was still there. Here is a snippet of the Russian ZX-Spectrum keyboard, for example:

zx-spectrum russian keyboard

which is “a bit extended” – has a separate cursor, and some other keys. But take a look at the individual keys – due to the additional Cyrillic letters, “an average key” is now used to represent even more (+1) values.

At this point, when most of the work with oscillograph was behind, the only true way to see if the creation works was to see it with your own eyes. The word “monitor” in a sense of a “computer monitor” was not a widely used due to its price mostly, therefore most of ZX-Spectrum people used old black and white (at first) TVs. Speccy (well it’s clone’s hybrid at least) was designed in a way that it could be pugged into a regular TV Antena’s jack:

zx-spectrum hookup to TV

And due to the fact that family is usually more than one person, the main TV often was not used, and people used old TVs as a Speccy “monitor” instead:

zx-spectrum TV monitor

The whole process above was about 50% of the job – yea, just 50%. The other half was split on two. First quarter was spent in calibrating hundreds of little circuits, in order to get a sacred “© 1982 Sinclair Research Ltd” message at the bottom of TV (monitor):

1982 Sinclair Research Ltd

This message brought lots and lots of joy into families once it appeared on the screen. It meant a lot – CPU was working (so that guy on the flee market who sold it to you was ok.. sigh…). ROM was working (so that guy on the flee mark…). CPU and ROM were calibrated to work together, along with RAM and some other parts.

Usually the one plugged in Speccy to TV with no RAM/ROM/CPU at first, and calibrated all the circuits to reach a documented pattern on TV (for example small squares). After that was achieved, RAM/ROM and CPU were inserted one after the other by the same technique – each had to produce a certain visual pattern. So if all the parts were inserted and the message “© 1982 Sinclair Research Ltd” appeared, job was 75% done.

The last quarter was usually spent to tune all the parts to work as designed. Most of the time Speccy would restart in 3-4 minutes of use, just because something was “out of it”. To find that “something” was an art on its own. There was no Internet, no books or literature on this – it was pure work of art!

Fortunately my father is such an artist, and by the time I was 10, I got one of those Speccy beasts that my dad and I put together. The only problem though was that although it was designed to have 64Kb of RAM, it only had 16Kb. Well, 7 months later we solder more capacitors around 4Kb RAM memory chips, and that fixed it, but for 7 months I could not really play any games, because most of them required 64Kb to be there. Hence, the “Basic for Children with Arturo” book did not get a chance to get too dusty…

Where ZX-Spectrum shined the most is of course boot time – there was none :) Well, everything was in a ROM chip, including Sinclair Basic.

So having spent about 4-5 months to build Speccy, I was out of luck, and could not use it. Well, that is how I saw it for the first one or two weeks. But then…. I pressed a “p” key, which by default was a Basic “print” command, and then…. I typed what was on my mind: “I want to play!”, and to my astonishment Speccy “says“: “I want to play!”.

It is probably hard to surprise anybody right now by the fact that computer prints something on the screen, when you ask him/her to, but for me, being 10, and haven’t seen anything cooler than that, it was the biggest technical discovery of all times. I picked up my Basic book, and started to type, and type, and type, and then…. type a little more. That is how I started. That, in programming sense, makes me a “Speccy Child”.

The program on Basic in Speccy looked something like this:

zx-spectrum Sinclair Basic

where every line had to have a number, and the usual increment was 10. Quickly my favourite commands became “peek”, “poke” and “randomize” which worked directly with the memory (absolute addresses). And although I felt like a memory King, something was missing. I figured out what it was after I bought a system program that exposed me to something much more powerful than Basic – it was 8-bit Assembly language, the language that Zilog Z80 talked natively. Therefore me together with Z80, could control pretty much everything in the Speccy kindom. That was awesome!

Here is an example on how you’d print a line of text to the screen in Speccy’s native language:

zx-spectrum z80 assembly

Cool – huh!? Another thing that was very useful at the beginning of my Assembly journey, was a documented character table ( like an “ASCII” ):

zx-spectrum ascii table

The only problem was that in order to work in Assembly, or in any other language, or with any other system program – it needed to be loaded since it was not in RAM/ROM – and that took time. No, really took time. It needed to be loaded from a tape – a regular cassette that is used in a tape recorder. In fact these very tape recorders were used to load all these neat programs in:

zx-spectrum tape

But not only it did take time to load, it was a constant pain to tune the head of the tape recorder for each tape bought on the flee market, since nobody followed the recording standards. A lot of times, you would have to sit and hold a screw driver against the recorder’s head for 3-5, even 10 minutes, depending on how big the program was.

Here is what the screen looked like when the program was loading from tape into RAM. You can see the zebra looking lines, they were the moving loading indicator:

zx-spectrum loading screen

But time went, flee markets grew along with demand, and we upgraded to the real “RGB deal”. It was done by soldering an external controller (kind of like modern video cards, but not really) that had an RGB jack:

zx-spectrum rgb jack

Although it had 9 pins, only 5 were used: Red / Green / Blue / Sync / Ground. But we did not stop on this. Soldered another external controller, but this time for a disk drive! Oh yea – that was a huuuge deal. Looking at programs to load for seconds (well in rear occasions minutes) from these beautiful 5 inch disks!

Since we had a disk drive, Speccy needed to catch up with us, and the disk controller brought another cool thing, which was TR-DOS, where, of course, DOS stands for Disk Operating System. That is how pretty it looked:

zx-spectrum tr-dos os

Did you notice some colour? Good catch :) So now it was possible to actually browse the disk, and start programs with a button click. There were tons of system utilities with different browsers that you could start at the start up time (sort of like in MBS, but not).

Right after TR-DOS, I felt like I need more. I need more.. I need more.. RAM! And we soldered another level of RAM on top of 64Kb chips. So now my Speccy was equipped with 128Kb of RAM, which could free up some ROM real estate, which enabled ROM to fit a little menu on start up:

zx-spectrum 128 menu

At this point not only I could swim in the Assembly language ocean, but also play games, and use various utilities!

First let’s look at Photoshop:

zx-spectrum artstudio

well, maybe not the Photoshop you’re used to see right now, but Art Studio rocked! I was drawing away for hours!

Now, how about CuBase/ProTools:

zx-spectrum wham the music box

well, maybe not exactly the latest CuBase, but I wrote lots of tunes in Wham. Some tunes I actually recorded along with playing a real guitar – it was cool!

As to games, my favourite control was my keyboard, but for many friends that came to play, I bought a joystick:

zx-spectrum joystick

Now we could play multiplayer games like:

zx-spectrum match point game

Match Point (Tennis) or:

zx-spectrum fist game

Fist (Karate) game. Or even:

zx-spectrum tetris2 game

Tetris2 – which was a bit different from the regular Tetris in a way it gave different patterns and challenges on different levels, and was also a multiplayer game, which was of course cool.

There were tons of other games, but two I still remember are Robocop:

zx-spectrum robocop game

and Bomb Jack:

zx-spectrum bomb jack game

I could play long long time in Bomb Jack, not longer than I spent writing my own little games in Assembly language of course, but still – it was good amount of Bomb Jack time.


All the above was of course some time ago… 15, or even soon 20 years. Everything is a bit different now. Speccy lives somewhere in museum behind the glass:

zx-spectrum in museum behind the glass

But I remember him/her – those were times of big discoveries for me!

Like probably right now for some other 10 year old kid who just accidentally pressed a “p” button, and discovered….. time traveling…

Good luck to you kid!


10
Nov 08

Configure Simp Server to Encrypt IM clients in Linux

Recently many companies started to inject their security policies with securing IM communication. It makes sense, since everything you type in that chat window to your buddy flies over the network in a clear text. That does not sound to bad, you think, but what it really means, is if anybody wanted to see what you are talking to your colleague, or even to your wife, about, s/he can see it easily by reading your network packets – which is a very easy thing to do now days.

Another example could be the client whose policy is to monitor all the incoming/outgoing network request, and you want to talk over IM to your colleague about something that you do not want your client to see.

Below I’ll show you how to secure you IM communication with SimpServer: http://www.secway.fr/us/products/simpserver/ on Unix client/server boxes. I am going to use Ubuntu here as an example, but it should work for most if not for all Unix flavours.

1. Get the SimpServer.

According to the liink above “SimpServer is currently beta software and is free for any use”, hence let’s get it for free from here:

wget http://download.secway.com/public/products/simpserver/simpserver-2.1.5c-linux-x86.tgz

2. Install the SimpServer.

Before untarring it, let’s make sure the standard C++ libraries that SimpServer uses are installed:

sudo apt-get install libstdc++5

Now let’s untar it and move to “/usr/local” – that is where it will search for its binary files, so make sure you do that:

tar -xvzf simpserver-2.1.5c-linux-x86.tgz
 
sudo mv simp/ /usr/local/

Go to “/usr/local/simp/bin/”, and run the SimpServer:

cd /usr/local/simp/bin/
 
./simpserver
 
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
SimpServer Linux 2.2.1.5c - (c) Copyright Secway 2000-2005
All rights reserved
 
Visit http://www.secway.com/products/simpserver/ for updates.
Visit http://www.secway.com/support/ for support.
 
MSN Service on 0.0.0.0:11863, mode 1
MSN Service on 0.0.0.0:1863, mode 0
AIM Service on 0.0.0.0:15191, mode 1
ICQ Service on 0.0.0.0:15190, mode 1
YAHOO Service on 0.0.0.0:15050, mode 1
Admin Service on 127.0.0.1:10023, mode 0
 
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

If there are any problems, grab the simpserver version that is offered here: http://www.secway.fr/us/products/simpserver/download.php

3. Configure the SimpServer.

While SimpServer is running, telnet to it (port 10023). Default “username/password” are “admin/admin”:

$ telnet localhost 10023
Trying 127.0.0.1...
Connected to localhost.
Escape character is '^]'.
SimpServer Linux 2.2.1.5c - (c) Copyright Secway 2000-2005
All rights reserved
 
Visit http://www.secway.com/products/simpserver/ for updates.
Visit http://www.secway.com/support/ for support.
 
Login: admin
Password: admin

Let’s see what it is capable of by asking for “help”:

> help
SimpServer Linux 2.2.1.5c - (c) Copyright Secway 2000-2005
All rights reserved
 
Visit http://www.secway.com/products/simpserver/ for updates.
Visit http://www.secway.com/support/ for support.
 
 ?,        help                  print this help
 list,     list_keys             [all, public, private]
 generate, generate_private_key  [-e<account>] [-s<service>] [-c<cipher>] [-b<size>] [-n<name>] [-p
<password>]
 load,     load_private_key      -i<keyid> [-e<account>] [-s<service>] [-c<cipher>] [-p
<password>]
 unload,   unload_private_key    -i<keyid> [-e<account>] [-s<service>] [-c<cipher>]
 change,   change_password       -i<keyid> [-e<account>] [-s<service>] [-c<cipher>] [-o
<old_password>] [-p<new_password>]
 delete,   delete_key            -i<keyid> [-e<account>] [-s<service>] [-c<cipher>] [-force] [-pendinf]
 accept,   accept_pending_key    -i<keyid> [-e<account>] [-s<service>] [-c<cipher>]
 quit,     exit                  exit

4. Create private/public certificates.

Notice that the “list” command, from the above help, shows all/public/private keys, including your public/private key, and all your IM buddies that you are talking to.

Let’s try to see what keys we have right away (without doing anything yet):

> list
Prv  Loaded KeyId             SHA-1 fingerprint                                   Date        Type         Srv  Name
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

As you can see, we have no keys – because for now we have neither “secure/encrypted” IM buddies, nor our public/private key pair.

Hence start by by running a “generate” command that would create your the key pair (link to certificates article) that will be used:

> generate
generating the new key pair, please wait... done!
new key: 278dc025d92cdbc4  b14e 7b16 6415 e88f 2a67 2fe6 2e31 579b 580e 1a89   2008-10-16  RSA-2048  [admin] KeyPair

Now let’s “list” the keys again:

> list
Prv  Loaded KeyId             SHA-1 fingerprint                                   Date        Type         Srv  Name
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Yes  Yes    278dc025d92cdbc4  b14e 7b16 6415 e88f 2a67 2fe6 2e31 579b 580e 1a89   2008-10-16     RSA-2048    *  [admin] KeyPair

Perfect – you have your own “KeyPair”, that will be used to authenticate and encrypt communication from your IM buddies.

5. Connect IM clients to the SimpServer.

Next, let’s connect to our SimpPro / SimpLight / etc.. IM buddies. Here is an example on how to configure “Pidgin” to use a SimpServer:

For example you’d like your work AIM account to “follow the company standards” and use encryption via simp server. Here is what you should do

Go to "Accounts" -> (Choose your AIM account) "Edit Account" -> "Advanced"
 
Choose "SOCKS4" in "Proxy Options"
 
type "127.0.0.1" in Host
type "15191" in Port

Pidgin SOCKS4 settings

Why “127.0.0.1″? Because you have started the SimpServer on your local box. By the way, you can start the server on one box, and use it from many other PCs by entering IP address of that box to the “host” field for the proxy settings of the account in your IM client.

Why “15191″? Let’s look at the server output once again:

MSN Service on 0.0.0.0:11863, mode 1
MSN Service on 0.0.0.0:1863, mode 0
AIM Service on 0.0.0.0:15191, mode 1
ICQ Service on 0.0.0.0:15190, mode 1
YAHOO Service on 0.0.0.0:15050, mode 1
Admin Service on 127.0.0.1:10023, mode 0

We see that “AIM Service” listens on the port “15191″.

6. Start using the SimpServer with your IM client(s).

Now when you send an IM to anybody who runs SimpPro / SimpLight / or just a Simp Server, they would get a pop up asking them to accept your message. After they do accept it, your public key ( one of the keys that was generated by the “generate” command ) will be added to their Simp database. Same thing will happen when they ping you or respond to your IM encrypted message – their public key will be added to the simpserver:

Here is an example of what happens initially, when there is a new “Simp-Oriented” buddy pings you:

(2008-10-16 15:16:09) BuddyName: *** (*) SimpServer Linux 2.2.1.5c - Encrypted and Authenticated (*) ***
(2008-10-16 15:16:09) BuddyName: Hey, that is cool - so now our messages are encrypted...!

And now you can go back to your “telnet” session and “list” the keys again:

> list
Prv  Loaded KeyId             SHA-1 fingerprint                                   Date        Type         Srv  Name
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Yes  Yes    278dc025d92cdbc4  b14e 7b16 6415 e88f 2a67 2fe6 2e31 579b 580e 1a89   2008-10-16     RSA-2048    *  [admin] KeyPair
 No  N/A    0f2292a9d40c2f90  ab1d 6f78 6bff a03e 892a 34df 2b3a 26e7 16ff cbb9   2008-10-16     RSA-2048  AIM   <buddy1Name>
 No  N/A    62f02d7e858e0139  c315 616f 8518 d9c8 9827 e4c4 d8b4 2448 06f7 4278   2008-10-16     RSA-2048  AIM   <buddy2Name>

Notice that now you have your own “KeyPair”, a public key for “Buddy1Name”, and a public key for “Buddy2Name”.

Happy Secure IMing, and don’t abuse your secrecy :)


2
Oct 08

Configure Multiple SSIDs with One Router

One Router Multiple SSIDsA standard “home setup” for the wireless router now days consists of just hosting one Service Set IDentifier – or SSID. And if only a year ago that could seem as a router (firmware) limitation, right now using multiple SSIDs with a single wireless router is just a matter of re-configuration.

Below is a simple guide on how to configure a single affordable (from $25 and up) router, that is available to anybody, to host multiple (up to 16 – at the moment of writing) SSIDs using DD-WRT firmware. In order to install the firmware on the router, follow the official DD-WRT Installation Guide.

Below step-by-step howto is good for any routers that could be found on DD-WRT supported hardware list. Which includes pretty much any “home” router that is out there. Given that DD-WRT is installed, let’s move on to configuring it to host multiple SSIDs.

First let’s look at what we would like to archive as our “end goal”:

Multiple SSIDs by several wireless VLANs served by one router

So what we would like to have is:

  • One router with DD-WRT firmware installed, that hosts 2 (in this example) SSIDs: “Home” and “Guest”

  • Two VLANs where one network (VLAN1) can “see” another (VLAN2), but not other way around.
    What that means is that all “Home” clients (computers that are connected to “Home” SSID) can see (ping/connect to/etc.) “Guest” computers, however none of “Guest” clients can see “Home” computers. (this is a matter of configuration, and can be configured differently, depending on what you need)

Step 1. Setup DHCP server for the “Home” (main) network.

As you can see from the “end goal” diagram above, the “Home” SSID (or VLAN1) has a 10.2.1.0 subnet, and its DHCP client addresses start from 10.2.1.100. Hence that is what needs to be configured on DD-WRT’s “Setup -> Basic Setup” screen (the “Router Local IP” should be set to 10.2.1.1 which would dictate the subnet to be 10.2.1.0):

DD-WRT - DHCP settings

Note that “10.2.1.0″ is just an example – you would want to use something that is appropriate for your network – e.g. “192.168.1.0″

Step 2. Setup wireless networks (SSIDs).

Now we need to create two wireless networks – one main network (e.g. “Home”), and one virtual network (e.g. “Guest”). For that go to DD-WRT “Wireless -> Basic Settings” screen:

configure wireless networks with dd-wrt

Enter a desired name for “Physical Interface’s -> Wireless Network Name(SSID)” (this is going to be the main network). You can also stick to the “end goal” diagram above, and enter “Home”.

After that is done, click “Add” to add a “Virtual Interface” and enter its SSID name as well (e.g. you can enter “Guest”). Make sure that the “Network Configuration” is set to “Bridged” as shown on the screen in this step.

Step 3. Configure wireless network security.

In the previous step we configured two wireless networks, now let’s secure them. We will use 128 bit WEP algorithm for both of them due to the reason described in “Step 5″. To accomplish this go to DD-WRT “Wireless -> Wireless Security” screen:

configure wireless security with dd-wrt

Choose “WEP” for “Security Mode”, 128 bits for “Encryption”, enter “Passphrase” and click “Generate” button.

Do it for both networks (Physical and Virtual Interfaces)

Step 4. Setup a virtual interface, and its DHCP settings.

Now we will set the bridge for the virtual network – “Guest” (or VLAN2) from the “end goal” diagram above. For that go to DD-WRT “Services -> Services” screen:

Configuring DNSMasq and DHCP for virtual network

Find “DNSMasq” section, enable “DNSMasq”, and in “Additional DNSMasq Options” enter:

interface=br1
dhcp-range=br1,192.168.2.100,192.168.2.149,255.255.255.0,1440m

This would create a DHCP server for the virtual (“Guest”, VLAN2) network.
“192.168.2.100″ is again – just an example, you can use any subnet that suits your needs.

Step 5. Setup firewall rules and a startup script.

This is the most complex step, that makes many network administrators confused, and regular people to give up on DD-WRT multiple SSID configuration. But don’t worry :) – below is a “copy/paste”, working deal.

Go to the DD-WRT “Administration -> Commands” screen:

Setting up firewall rules and a startup script for multiple SSIDs - DD-WRT

Enter the following firewall rules to the “Firewall” section:

##BRI1
iptables -I INPUT -i br1 -m state --state NEW -j logaccept
iptables -I FORWARD -i br1 -o vlan1 -m state --state NEW -j ACCEPT
 
#below keeps the two networks from talking
iptables -I FORWARD -i br0 -o br1 -j logdrop

Enter the following commands to the “Startup” (it is a startup script that executes when the router starts up):

##MOVES VIRTUAL WIRELESS TO OWN BRIDGE
brctl addbr br1
brctl delif br0 wl0.1
brctl addif br1 wl0.1
ifconfig br1 192.168.2.1 netmask 255.255.255.0
ifconfig vlan2 up
brctl addif br1 vlan2
ifconfig br1 up
 
##FIX NAS. Here NAS is disabled, cause it is NOT used for WEP, and these wifi networks will use WEP (for now)
killall nas
nas -P /tmp/nas.wl0lan.pid -H 34954 -l br0 -i eth1
nas -P /tmp/nas.wl0.1lan.pid -H 34954 -l br1 -i wl0.1

Here is where it gets interesting… Remember in “Step 3″, when configuring wireless security, we chose WEP? That was done because the current DD-WRT firmware “v24-sp1 (07/27/08) micro”, that is used at the moment of writing, has a bug in starting NAS, which is a proprietary binary tool that sets up dynamic encryption (WEP/WPA) on wireless devices.

UPDATE (12/22/2008):
           Tried "v24-sp2" (09/26/08 std - build 10431M VINT Eko) for WRTG54GL v1.1 router -
           WPA worked with multiple (tried 2) SSIDs.

In a startup script above, we start NAS in “vanilla” mode for “eth1″ (the main network) and for “wl0.1″ (guest, virtual nework), and therefore we are using WEP for both networks.

The only line from above startup script that you might want to change is:

ifconfig br1 192.168.2.1 netmask 255.255.255.0

Here “192.168.2.1″ is, again, an example, so if you chose a different subnet for the virtual network (br1), you should enter it instead.

DONE!
Now you can save all the changes and restart the router. You should be good to go!
If you have any questions or comments, you are welcome to address them below in the “comments” section.


30
Sep 08

CNN: Bankruptcy, Not Bailout, is The Right Answer

Bankruptcy, not bailout, is the right answerI usually keep my blog technical and life oriented, however today, after the “$700 billion bailout deal” did not pass, and White House is cooking up a new deal, I think it is ultra important to convey the message of top US Economists from many US Universities that “This bailout is NOT the answer to the crisis!”.

Here is the official letter that was sent to Congress on Wed Sept 24 2008 regarding the Treasury plan as outlined on that date:

To the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President pro tempore of the Senate:

“As economists, we want to express to Congress our great concern for the plan proposed by Treasury Secretary Paulson to deal with the financial crisis. We are well aware of the difficulty of the current financial situation and we agree with the need for bold action to ensure that the financial system continues to function. We see three fatal pitfalls in the currently proposed plan:

1) Its fairness. The plan is a subsidy to investors at taxpayers’ expense. Investors who took risks to earn profits must also bear the losses. Not every business failure carries systemic risk. The government can ensure a well-functioning financial industry, able to make new loans to creditworthy borrowers, without bailing out particular investors and institutions whose choices proved unwise.

2) Its ambiguity. Neither the mission of the new agency nor its oversight are clear. If taxpayers are to buy illiquid and opaque assets from troubled sellers, the terms, occasions, and methods of such purchases must be crystal clear ahead of time and carefully monitored afterwards.

3) Its long-term effects. If the plan is enacted, its effects will be with us for a generation. For all their recent troubles, America’s dynamic and innovative private capital markets have brought the nation unparalleled prosperity. Fundamentally weakening those markets in order to calm short-run disruptions is desperately short-sighted.

For these reasons we ask Congress not to rush, to hold appropriate hearings, and to carefully consider the right course of action, and to wisely determine the future of the financial industry and the U.S. economy for years to come. ”

Signed (updated at 9/27/2008 6:00PM CT) by 231(!) Top US Economists – go here to see all the signatures.


Although my personal opinion is that US Government instead of just give could possibly lend money to “unfortunate” corporation with a very high interest rate, CNN published a great article by Jeffrey A. Miron, a senior lecturer in economics at Harvard University, that suggests that US should not use US taxpayers money to bailout these “unfortunate” corporations at all.

some of the quotes from the article:

“Bankruptcy does not mean the company disappears; it is just owned by someone new (as has occurred with several airlines). Bankruptcy punishes those who took excessive risks while preserving those aspects of a businesses that remain profitable.

In contrast, a bailout transfers enormous wealth from taxpayers to those who knowingly engaged in risky subprime lending. Thus, the bailout encourages companies to take large, imprudent risks and count on getting bailed out by government. This “moral hazard” generates enormous distortions in an economy’s allocation of its financial resources.”

“Further, the current credit freeze is likely due to Wall Street’s hope of a bailout; bankers will not sell their lousy assets for 20 cents on the dollar if the government might pay 30, 50, or 80 cents.”

“The costs of the bailout, moreover, are almost certainly being understated. The administration’s claim is that many mortgage assets are merely illiquid, not truly worthless, implying taxpayers will recoup much of their $700 billion.”

“The right view of the financial mess is that an enormous fraction of subprime lending should never have occurred in the first place. Someone has to pay for that. That someone should not be, and does not need to be, the U.S. taxpayer.”


24
Sep 08

How to Digg at Work

work, digg, life...

How many people do digg at work? Do you do it? The answer to this is mostly “YES”; sometimes, the answer is “NOT OFTEN”, in order to avoid “YES”; and the most rare answer is “NO”. And only sometimes, now days in 21st century, the answer could be “WHAT THE HECK IS DIGG!?”

However 99% of people will have no difficulties with answering the question “Do you work?”. That is due to the fact that “WORK” has been defined for a way longer period of time than “DIGG”. And most of the time, unless employed by Digg, its competitors, or “ Times Magazine”, DIGG and WORK do not go together. Therefore employees do not like to be caught by their managers and supervisors while reading fresh news from the Digg’s first page.

But there is nothing wrong with spending some time reading DIGG at work. In fact it can, and most of the time will boost the productivity, if not abused, and done right – really! According to our friend Albert Einstein, there is nothing as innovative and productive as taking 10-15 minutes breaks. And Albert generally knew what he was talking about. :)

A wise man once told me: “The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources” (I believe it was also Einstein) – so here is a simple way of using Digg at work without causing any suspicion.

Lynx – is the answer to creating “work and digg” balance, and can be used to read pretty much any website, not only Digg. It is available on windows, Mac, comes pre-installed with most distributions of Linux, and according to its documentation is available for other platforms as well.

Here is what reading Digg at work using Lynx web browser would look like:

Reading Digg.com with Lynx Web Browser

Colors of the terminal could be changed to blend in better with the Desktop, and applications mostly used, which will depend on the nature of the job. Lynx is very easy to navigate – mostly just by using “up down left right” arrows, and is considered “work safe” – it is a simple text after all.

Boost your work productivity, and… happy Digging!



what else is interesting about digg: How does Digg Make Money?


26
Aug 08

USSR is Winning Olympics 2008

USSR National EmblemI was born and pretty much raised in USSR (Ukraine), and therefore when it comes to sports – not war/politics and definitely not nationalism/silly Soviet patriotism, it makes me feel happy when any of the 15 USSR (former) republics athletes achieve gold/silver/bronze or just a good notable performance.

As a kid, I went to Children’s Olympic Reserve School doing sport gymnastics for several years, where I could see how high our standards were and just how important the role of sport was on the grand scale of things in the country.

So I was looking at “Overall Medal Standings” at the end of 2008 Olympics and came to an interesting conclusion:

NOC Name Total Gold Total Medals
Russia 23 72
Ukraine 7 27
Belarus 4 19
Georgia 3 6
Kazakhstan 2 13
Azerbaijan 1 7
Uzbekistan 1 6
Latvia 1 3
Estonia 1 2
Lithuania 0 5
Kyrgyzstan 0 2
Tajikistan 0 2
Armenia 0 6
Moldova 0 1
Total: 43 171

As the table above shows the (formerly :) ) strong USSR could have taken 43 gold medals, which is 7 medals ahead of US, but still leaves USSR at the second “gold” place after China, however it would take 171 total medals which would make it a 2008 Olympics winner by the total medal count!

One “the very true” argument could be “foo get abour it, USSR is no more” – true. But I was mentally flipping pages through the history, combining the medals of Roman Empire, Osman Empire, and even Delian League, but their medal count did not come even close the third place. (“Persian Empire” came pretty close actually :) )

Just wanted to bounce it against people of www ;)


22
Aug 08

Top 10 Places to Have Sex Outside the Bedroom

sex on the bridgeBedroom is an awesome place to have sex – comfy, private, obvious what to do after sex (well for many men it is :) ), etc.. But as anything else it can become more of a routine if there is no change. Of course many different positions, role playing, etc.. help, but something stays the same, and the same, and the same and… it is the bed and the room – bedroom.

You ever heard “you need to get out more”, – well you do!

Keep these 10 places in mind – next time you are in a car, airplane, pool or moon (why not? :) ) just unleash your self and take life in its full colors! Ready for unleashing? Here we go:

1. In the Car
The bigger the vehicle the more scope there is for sexual adventure, but if you don’t drive a Bentley have no fear. You’d be surprised at how well you can get down in the most cramped spaces. Set the satellite navigation for the local lovers lane or secluded parking lot and start steaming up those windows.

2. In the Pool
The water rushes around your genitals making both of you feel different and more exciting. The buoyancy allows great thrusting with minimum effort, and orgasm is reached with ease as the water relaxes and soothes. You can take it slow or reenact one of the steamy scenes in Showgirls. Beware as water may kill the natural lube and make entry a little difficult, but ultimately worth the effort. Aim for a hotel pool after dark rather than the local rec center unless you want a criminal record for your efforts.

3. The Cinema
It’s what art films were made for, so go really late to a sexy film and choose a secluded spot. Knowing that no one can see you back there invites naughtiness. Thing is, can you cope with the shame of being caught in the beam of a torch wielded by an awkward, acne-ridden teenager suffering from a bad case of girlfriend envy?

4. Back of a Cab
Why wait until you get home? You managed to haul your drunken asses into a cab. Slip the driver a crisp note and tell him to take the scenic route as you make full use of the spacious back seat. So long as you can handle the cabbie getting his kicks as you get yours, fun for all parties ensues.

5. On a Train
Watch Risky Business for some foreplay inspiration then book two tickets on the A train to O. Find a secluded train, wait for the carriage to empty then get frisky to the swaying motion. Booking a night in a sleeper car is the less risky option for fulfilling this particular fantasy, but in essence you’re still doing it aboard.

6. In the Woods
Show your appreciation for the beautiful countryside around you and get your kicks al fresco. Bend your girlfriend over a stump for earthy pleasures and let your mating call resonate through the trees. Just watch out for stinging nettles, Army reservists and rambling church groups, all instant passion killers.

7. In a Nightclub
For those times when you’ve met a horny new lover and all that bumping and grinding has left you both a hot mess, the average nightclub has a number of options for near-public sex. The washrooms, provided you can both sneak into one of the booths, are prime spots for a tempting splash of oral sex before going home to really explore each other’s bodies. If you find a booth in a dark corner, a long skirt and an open fly can disguise all kinds of mischief.

8. On a Boat
Provided you’ve got your sea legs, the motion in the ocean is a chilled-out aphrodisiac. A small vessel is preferable to the cross-channel ferry (the bunks are too narrow). Slowly rocking into the sunset and diving off the side to cool off afterwards: pure bliss.

9. A Mile High
Defying the laws of physics to get two people in an airline lavatory truly marks you out as a sexual pro. Positioning is limited but rear entry is possible and promises a high chance of success. Virgin Atlantic has the most spacious toilets and even used to offer a bed for transatlantic sky-high action, but other airlines are not so sympathetic to passion. Make sure to give that proud smile as you walk back to your seat.

10. On the Beach
The crashing of waves, stars twinkling above and hot blood coursing through your veins — what a potion for romance. So drop down and get it on as you sink into the sand. Take a blanket for maximum comfort, and be prepared to be scratching sand out of every crevice for the next few nights.

thx to playboy and  blogspot


15
Jul 08

Forward VNC through SSH

linuxmce screenshotFrequently I need to access my LinuxMCE machine over VNC, due to different reasons (when I am not home, when my Wii Remote batteries died, etc..). Usually SSH solves most of my needs, but sometimes it is very nice to control my linuxMCE box over VNC.

Here I will show you several very easy steps on how to configure your server/client to be able to tunnel VNC traffic through SSH, and be able to control your server in the GUI way :) This approach will work on most systems (not LinuxMCE specific) although here I chose Ubuntu as an “example OS”.

Before we begin, I would assume that:

  • The server already has ssh server installed, if not:
    sudo apt-get install openssh-server
  • If connecting from the outside (like from work to home box), your router’s firewall forwards port 22 to your server’s IP

Here is how it is done:

Server Side Configuration

1. Installing VNC server, here I chose to install x11vnc, but it could be pretty much any VNC server of your choice (TightVNC, etc..):

sudo apt-get install x11vnc

2. Now let’s finish :) our server configuration by running the VNC server:

x11vnc

by default it is going to run without a password, and on port 5900

Client Side Configuration

1. In order to connect to the VNC server, we need to have a VNC viewer installed:

sudo apt-get install xvncviewer

* again, it can be pretty much any VNC viewer of your choice

2. Now the most interesting part of this whole process – enter this command:

ssh -L 5900:127.0.0.1:5900 yourusername@yourserver.com

this tells your system to tunnel all the traffic from the port 5900 on “yourserver.com” to the local (client’s) port 5900 via SSH. Simple, and yet very powerful – a “magic one-liner” :)

3. Fire up another shell on the client side and enter:

xvncviewer 127.0.0.1

do you see a cute colorful square screen? Do you recognize your server’s Desktop?

Done :)


P.S. For LinuxMCE specifically, you should also add a couple firewall rules:

- Go to the LinuxMCE web admin
- From the upper menu, go to “Advanced -> Network -> Firewall rules”

add this three rules:

tcp  	5900 to 5900  	5900  	192.168.80.1             port_forward
tcp 	5900 to 5900 	0 	0                        core_input
tcp  	22 to 22  	0  	0                        core_input

- The first rule allows external network (Internet) to access the VNC server on the Core (LinuxMCE server)
- The second rule allows anybody inside the home network ( since it is not wise to open 5900 port on your router to the whole world ) to have their 5900 port to be forwarded to the Core.
- The third rule (I think you already have it) allows anybody to access LinuxMCE server via port 22 (SSH)

Be careful about the rules above, as I assume that your LinuxMCE server is behind another firewall, cause you really do not want to open 5900 port to the public


16
Jun 08

SplashTop Linux On HP and Dell Notebooks

linux inside dell and hpSometime ago ASUS rebranded some of their motherboards as “Express Gate”.

What is unique about these “new wave” motherboards is that they come with SplashTop Linux installed in 512MB flash memory that is embedded on these motherboards.

What does it mean? It means that essential applications (e.g. web browser, instant message client, e-mail client, etc.) that come with SplashTop Linux can be started within 5 seconds after PC/Notebook is powered on – cool huh? Well Hewlett-Packard and Dell also thought it is “cool huh?” and decided to act upon it.

This week Hewlett-Packard announced the HP Envy 133 as its competition to Apple’s ultra-thin MacBook Air notebook. Like the MacBook Air, the Envy 133 runs off an Intel CPU. With the HP Envy 133 they are also shipping an “instant-on Linux” they’ve called Voodoo IOS (Instant-on Operating System).

In addition to the instant-on Linux excitement this week for the HP Envy 133, Dell is apparently working on a similar Linux solution. Engadget has shared details surrounding the Dell E and E Slim. These notebooks are direct competition to the very popular ASUS Eee PCs. These Dell E and E Slim notebooks will use Intel’s Diamondville processors and come with a similar set of features to the Eee PC and potentially at a better price. The E and E Slim also ship with what Dell is calling “BlackTop” for providing an instant-on Linux solution.

For a few months now DeviceVM (SplashTop creators) has had a version of SplashTop that comes equipped with the Pidgin (formerly GAIM) instant messenger and other cool apps.

from wikipedia:

Distinct from most Linux distributions, Splashtop is intended to be integrated on a read-only device and shipped with the hardware, rather than installed by the user. The user can install another operating system but always has this one ready to boot, in case the other one is broken, or in case web browsing and chatting is enough. It boots in about 5 seconds.[5] It is thus marketed as “instant-on.”

An “instant-on” operating system offers many advantages over a traditional operating system:

  • It boots much faster.
  • It is less vulnerable to malware as the system is mostly read-only.
  • It allows for diskless computers.
  • It is lighter but sufficient for running a web desktop and web applications.

sources: phoronix


21
Apr 08

Free Music Search

free music search

Here is the tool that helped us to find lots of music to download that was not that easy to find before.

We have already posted about musgle.com when it came out about a couple months ago, but this time we’d like share the user experience and confirm that it is indeed a powerful music search tool – well it has Google underneath, so there is no surprise after all :), and it does really have a very simple user interface.

One gotcha with search for free downloadable items is broken/false links that either do not work (any longer) or some websites make it seem like files can be freely downloaded (pretend to be FTP sites) where they are really not. But musgle (via Google) gives such a variety of links most of the time, then if it is not the first link that works (although it is almost always the first), then the second, third as max, will be it.

And yes, there are several other similar services out there in www, but musgle seems to have a much simpler interface, and more relevant search results, that it gets through Google, which we find more effective and appealing.