Even being the richest man in the world doesn't stop you from getting a pie in the face.

"But godliness with contentment is great gain."
1 Timothy 6:6 (NIV).

Piegate Archive Index

Now with fourteen separate archives with listings in the order of posting. New items on this page are added at the top.

PC Mag shoots itself in foot while shooting off its mouth

Posted 21 December 2004.

As reported on MacNN:

PC Magazine calls Apple's eMac computer the "Worst Product of the Year" in a highly critical year-end review of the "worst products" in ten categories. The magazine states: "for Apple, the entry-level eMac really does represent Think Different. That's because for a company that prides itself on quality, this computer is different. As in bad." The article complains about many aspects of the eMac: "On the plus side, it's stylish. On the downside, it's slow, underpowered, and pathetic. The 40GB hard drive will fill up quickly, the lack of a DVD burner makes offloading files impossible, and the Radeon 9200 graphics card won't even run this fall's hot Mac games. And at around $800, this eMac ain't cheap. If you're considering a home Apple, think different. Buy a Dell. Or be prepared to spend a lot more for an acceptable Apple computer."

Acceptable to whom? I can't think of anyone who would buy an eMac to play the latest games - the e stands for education, after all. But let's give the idiot the benefit of the doubt and go configure a Dell for ourselves, and then tweak it to deal with his complaints.

  • Complaint - eMac too slow. This rules out an entry-level CPU, so ignore anything with a Celeron => 2.8GHz Pentium 4
  • Complaint - underpowered and pathetic => XP Pro
  • Complaint - 40GB hard disk too small => 80GB hard disk
  • Complaint - no DVD burner => DVD+RW (3000) or DVD±RW (4700) and software
  • Complaint - Radeon 9200 video card won't run latest games => integrated graphics (3000), Radeon X300 SE (4700)
  • Other notes -
    • RAM upgrade from 256MB to 512MB was free.
    • Cheapest printer selected - save $90.
    • No complaint regarding lack of Firewire, so won't add the $30 Firewire card.
    • $10 optical mouse option was chosen - does anyone still use any other sort by choice?
    • $69 option for McAfee or Norton antivirus/firewall/spyware software of course.
    • 17" CRT.

Option 1: Dell Dimension 3000 = $1,004 (integrated graphics).
Option 2: Dell Dimension 4700 = $1,462.

Hmmm, at $1462 for a computer that will do what the magazine seems to think is the minimum any computer should do, it ain't cheap. It compares with a Superdrive eMac $999 with 80GB hard disk and 256MB RAM. The amount of memory is possibly irrelevant since MacOS isn't as memory hungry as Windows - that Dell probably needs the RAM upgrade to "even run" (to quote a certain magazine). As for the graphics, I admit I have no idea how the various video capabilities compare, although I doubt that the integrated video capabilities of the 3000 would really "do it" for the latest games.

Conclusion: If you want to play the latest games, why would you consider an education computer? However, if the very latest games aren't your scene, the eMac sounds like a great buy. For your money you get a computer that's much more stylish, is much easier to use, has built in Firewire for all those "last-year's-games-are-fine" video enthusiasts who want to actually be able to connect their camera to it, and the Superdrive model comes with some of the best inexpensive (free!) DVD software around. So the eMac (either standard or Superdrive model) seems to fit its niche very well, and suits the education market extremely well. Well done, Apple.

NB. All prices in US dollars.

Warnings Echo Around The World

Posted 24 December 2001.

This from


Marc Maiffret, the talented, blue-haired 'Chief Hacking Officer' of Eeye Digital Security, demonstrated the UPnP exploit to a shocked group of reporters yesterday. As a result, media and security experts are calling this "The Mother of All Exploits" for Windows XP, scrambling to inform the public about the importance of downloading and installing the fix for this problem -- a security problem not caused by a hacker or cracker, but developed and implemented exclusively by Microsoft for your computing convenience and to enhance your user experience as a 'feature' of the product.

According to an AP story, Microsoft Security Manager Scott Culp called this latest vulnerability the "the first network-based, remote compromise that I'm aware of for Windows desktop systems" and a "very serious vulnerability."

I guess it's all in how you define "compromise." How very Clintonian.

Although repeatedly interviewed by the media reporting on Microsoft-based security events over the years, Culp apparently doesn't consider any of the following Microsoft-centric security exploits as "network-based, remote compromises" for "Windows desktop systems" either -- the series of Back Orifice programs from the always-amusing Cult of the Dead Cow (cDc) to e-mail worms, Trojans, and viruses (think BadTrans) that can transmit sensitive information from systems they infect.

Did Culp miss a few days of class here and there and forget to read up on SECHOLE.EXE (July 1998), the assorted Internet Explorer cross-frame scripting exploits (September 1998) or the mid-2000 ability to remotely exploit a Windows desktop through a buffer overflow found in the Clip Art feature of Microsoft Office? And what about Windows File and Print Sharing vulnerabilities from back in 1995?

How about the seemingly-endless number of buffer overflow exploits (think CodeRed, Lion, and Nimda) that plague Microsoft Internet Information Server (IIS) -- granted, IIS isn't made for "Windows desktops" but it deserves mention given the nearly-identical software code in Microsoft's desktop and server products.

So how exactly does Microsoft classify these other types of network-centric exploits? As nuisances but the price of doing business in the wired world?

When will it end? And what to do about this latest security problem originating in Redmond?


Emphasis added. My answer is as it has always been - don't use M$ products. But there's more:

US Defense Department and FBI officials contacted Microsoft on Friday to express their concern over the recently-disclosed security bugs affecting all versions of Windows, the Associated Press reports.

The Feds were particularly concerned that the bug gives up root on Win-XP, ironically touted as the most secure Windows OS ever developed, the wire service says.

Another Security Scare

Posted 21 December 2001.

Hard on the heals of the "critical" security update a few days ago is yet another trio of M$ problems that need patching. From

MS warns of severe universal plug & play security hole
By Thomas C Greene in Washington
Posted: 20/12/2001 at 20:51 GMT

A trio of flaws in the Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) service, which allows for automatic hardware detection in a network environment, can offer up total ownership of your machine to a malicious third party, Microsoft warns.

First up, and by far the most serious, an unchecked buffer in a component handling NOTIFY directives affecting Win 98, ME and XP. By sending a malicious NOTIFY directive, an attacker can run code in the UPnP service, which runs with System privileges on XP and at the OS level on 98 and ME. This would enable the attacker to own the system.

Next up, a denial of service vulnerability enabling an attacker to send a NOTIFY directive to a UPnP-capable machine, directing it to download what it needs from a particular port on a particular server. If the server were to echo the download requests, the target machine would enter an endless loop which could tie up its resources and from which the only escape is a re-boot.

Third, an attacker could use the DoS vulnerability to send a NOTIFY directive to a large number of machines and direct them to a third-party server, which would then be flooded with bogus requests, and possibly overwhelmed.

... The flaws were discovered by eEye Digital Security.

Ha. That's all I can say, really.

Finnish Blow

Posted 21 December 2001.

News from Finland, possibly dealing the first blow in a series that might eventually show that Micro$oft has just shot itself in its little toe.

Finnish city closer to switch from Windows to Linux
By John Lettice
Posted: 20/12/2001 at 09:32 GMT

The Finnish city of Turku has moved closer to switching to Linux, following a preliminary study of the platform's suitability. Turku kicked off the investigation earlier this year in response to Microsoft's new licensing terms and conditions, which Turku estimated would cost it €1-€2 million.

Turku has now completed the first part of its investigation, and will now be looking into functionality and effects of a switch over a longer timescale. It will also be taking into consideration likely success of OpenOffice and Linux deployments elsewhere in Europe.

The switch itself isn't likely to disrupt Redmond's coffers overly, but the Turku investigation has attracted widespread interest from other authorities and agencies in Finland, and elsewhere in Europe. The Finnish Finance Ministry is conducting its own investigation.

If Turku goes ahead, it will be introducing OpenOffice, and will be switching over from Windows to Linux gradually, over several years. Turku expects the deployment to cover 3,500-5,000 machines.

Show-offs can read what we are assured is the press release in Finnish here, while super show-offs can even read the entire report in Finnish here. Thanks to the show-offs who did just that and put us straight when we got the story slightly wrong earlier. ®