Cheapskate Technical Woes

So I’m helping The Wife tonight. She’s trying to get some customer’s computer systems out the door. One of the systems is being extra problematic; an archaic old system that is older than The Son (he’s 8) running Windows 98 (not even SE) IE 4.0; and, no lie, a flat panel monitor.

[It’s like buying a new wagon for the dead mule to pull. But what do I know?]

Microsoft is no help, you can’t even get on their site with IE 4.0 these days.

Firefox says it will run, but after bashing our heads against the error “oleaut32.dll:77” I ran a Google search and came up with this:

http://www.faqts.com/knowledge_base/view.phtml/aid/15670

The problem indicates you do not have the complete OLEAUT32.dll file –
either you’re running Windows 95 or an older version of Windows98. Go
to Microsoft’s website and download the DCOM upgrade package depending
on the version of Windows you have got (alternatively just search for
DCOM on Google or something) – the current link that I have is
http://www.microsoft.com/com/resources/downloads.asp

Once you have run this update, this will update your OLEAUT32 dll for
you, and php should run without the error.

Having nothing else to loose, we installed the Dcom update and were finally sucessfull running Firefox 2.0; which allowed us to access the Windows update site and install the remainder of the Win98 patches, including IE 6. Problem solved, out the door it goes.

Never mind the system is worth less than the time we spent fixing it. Ah, the sweet taste of victory.

An Explanation For the Link at Right

ZD Net Security: Second third-party fix out for Windows bug

Microsoft, with their legions of programmers, have to rely on uncompensated third parties to write patches for their worthless software. From the story:

The group, calling itself the Zeroday Emergency Response Team, or ZERT, created the patch so Windows users can protect their PCs while Microsoft works on an official update. People have a choice of third-party fixes. Security company Determina on Friday released a patch it authored for the same flaw.

Personally, I find this completely unacceptable. I also find it to be the norm when dealing with large corporations and their worthless products.

Microsoft plans to issue a fix for the problem on Oct. 10, its regularly scheduled patch day; pretty much meets the description of “a day late and a dollar short”.

Download Firefox with the button at the right top of the page…

Open Source: Without Profit?

One of the arguments I’ve had with critics of Open Source software, is that they (the open source programmers) want people to use a product for which there is no profit, i.e. they are given away for free.

That’s funny. I’ve profited many times over from a lack of lost down time due to using Firefox to access the Internet and avoiding all that IE targeted malware. I’ve also profited from using Thunderbird and avoiding all those scriptkiddie re-mailers that seem to plague Outlook Express.

[BTW, Microsoft gives IE and Express away ‘free’ too]

I’ve also profited from the use of www.openoffice.org instead of MicroSoft office. I’ve saved all those profits I would have handed over to brother Bill, and given them to myself. Same for the OS’s that I test. The average Linux distro will run you 80 bucks if you want printed materials to go with the software. I’ve paid it more than once, as well as downloading them for free from the internet.

‘If’ I had a CAD package that suited my needs in Linux, I wouldn’t even look back.

Most people too narrowly define the word ‘profit’.

Professions

Started ranting with the wife about technical jobs…

[it’s like an argument concert. Life around here can be quite different, really; especially when you realize that she’s the truly ‘technical’ one. I’m just her one and only flunky]

…and what they pay these days. Most of the places that advertise computer assistance/repair services pay no better than the places where the sum total of knowledge required to do the job is “do you want fries with that?” We’ve gotten most of our business from people who have first called a number they heard advertised; and then after *insert business name here* made the problem worse, they did some searching and found us. We’d love to be the first ones that get called; but we just don’t work that cheaply, and shouldn’t be expected to.

What’s out of sync is that we don’t charge any more than *insert business name here* (less in fact) it’s just that as sole proprietors we pocket the full hourly charge for ourselves, like any real professional would.

And then I started off on a tangent. Specialized knowledge. That’s what makes a profession what it is. Imagine what it was like back when houses first started getting electricity. You already had plumbing, most likely; but this electrical stuff was all new. Someone who understood electricity and its rules would be highly valued. What followed would be decades of hard learning for all involved, with more and more poeple getting experience in the field. At some point, common knowledge of the basic rules of electricity made it seam like any old idiot could go out and wire a house and fiddle with electrical current. But that isn’t the case. Electricians still exist, and some of us still rely on them. Idiots get fried every year because they think they know about electricity.

While you might not kill yourself trying to do some of the more technical jobs for yourself, when you realize that you’ve just created a very expensive paper weight, you might wish you were dead.

…and the answer is ‘no’, by the way. No, I don’t think we need the gov’t to step in now and start setting standards for a computer ‘profession’. I haven’t noticed that it’s done anything for any of the other professions out there (including my own, architecture) I just think it’s a shame that you’d pay a plumber an hourly wage that an attorney might charge, to handle the mystical plumbing problem you’re having; but computer problems are a different matter? You want fries with that?

Sony: What do they do for the pirates?

Have you heard the wonderful things that Sony is doing for people who legitimately purchase music on disk these days? Seems they install software on your system that hijacks your hardware and attempts to prevent you from copying their disks. Unfortunately it opens the system up for other malicious uses, not to mention voiding ‘fair use’ for all intents and purposes.

Seems to me you wouldn’t want to punish the people who pay you money for your product, something I’ve meticulously done when music that I like is available on disk. You know, plan A: follow the law, reward the creative types with the money they deserve for creating the music we enjoy; doing the “right thing”. After Sony’s little fiasco, I think I’ll go with plan “B” from now on.

As someone who does computer maintenance as a sideline, I’ve seen what it takes to clean up a hijacked system like they are describing. It’s called “Fdisk, format, reinstall”. If that’s what you get for following the rules and purchasing music from the RIAA supporting music vendors, then I think I’m a rule breaker from here on out.

This is what you get for letting the corporations dictate policy for you, as the link under the RIAA above points out. Snooping bastards poking around in all the nooks and crannies on your system just to make sure you don’t have a secret copy of Bob Dylan’s version of “Watchtower” (or heaven forbid anything by Metallica) out there that you didn’t actually pay for.

Do any of us need that?

I’m thinking of digging out all my old vinyl and re-mastering the content to MP3 just for the hell of it now. All those old Barry Manilow and Earth, Wind and Fire albums in fresh new MP3 format. That’ll show ’em, right?


The Sony BMG rootkit scandal is finally winding down.

The settlement that Sony has agreed to includes a payment of 150 dollars to anyone who can show damage due to the rootkit, as well as replacement of any CD’s which contain the rootkit. I hope the rest of the media companies are paying attention to this.

Yahoo story, ARS story