Alan Hargreaves' Blog

The ramblings of an Australian SaND TSC* Principal Field Technologist

Archive for the ‘General’ Category

amusing spam made my day

Just cleaning up my email and I came across the following spam (some details deleted) sent to my @Sun.COM email address. It made my day for me.

Dear Alan,

My name is XXXXXXXX with YYYYYY. I thought that Sun Microsystems, Inc could benefit from a Microsoft Endorsed, affordable practical solution that will enhance your Microsoft DPM capabilities.

Written by Alan

October 18, 2010 at 7:57 pm

Posted in General, Work

Newspapers, Hoax Stories from Email, Risk Management

Over the last few days I’ve seen a lot in the news about newspapers (eg this one)looking for someone to blame for the fact that on receipt of an email of a story from what looked like one of their correspondents about what would have been a major scoop (Citigroup buying a controlling interest in the Australian Telco Telstra), only to find after they published that the From address was forged and the story a hoax.

For goodness sake people, email address forging has been around since email began. It’s really not rocket science. It’s certainly not sophisticated hacking as reported in some stories.

A line from the Dire Straits song “Solid Rock” comes to mind.

When you point your finger ’cause your plan fell through,
You’ve got three more fingers pointing back at you

One of the first lessons of email is to never trust the fields in the headers, they are simply text that any program (or even for that matter, someone at a keyboard in a telnet session to an open SMTP gateway) could initiate.

The real issue here is, why on earth are the papers and their correspondents communicating via email and not using some kind of encryption/authentication? It’s not like the technology is new, nor difficult. What we are looking at here is either ignorance of the technology (unlikely), or a risk management decision (conscious or unconscious) to not use it. As with all risk management decisions, each decision you make has a consequence and associated risk and probability. In this case the consequence of not using authenticated email has the risk of what we have seen just happen.

I find it laughable that having taken a decision to not use authenticated email that we now see the papers attempting to find a scapegoat other than the people who made that risk management decision.

The blame for the papers running with these stories lies fairly and squarely with the papers themselves. Any attempt to place it elsewhere is the result of people attempting to protect their own backsides. Then again, unfortunately our society has moved to the point where people (and companies, etc) are unwilling to accept the consequences of their own actions and decisions. It must be someone else’s fault.

A message to the newspapers, …. Grow up and accept responsibility for your own risk management decisions. The correct action here is not to find a scapegoat, but to learn from the event and act positively on it.

Written by Alan

June 30, 2010 at 11:37 am

Posted in General

Customer Support and Statistical Insignificance

Many folks may have come across Dave Carroll because of his experience with United Airlines prompting the three “United Breaks Guitars” songs.

He’s also started a site titled The right side of right, which I would commend to you.

One of the entries in the blog from last November is titled “Statistical Insignificance“. There is a lot in here for anyone who is in customer service.

Getting it right most of the time may seem to be great from a statistical perspective, but when you start looking at what those small percentages multiply out to in terms of customer dissatisfaction, then to use his words:

“… seeing those kinds of numbers involving your company should leave you hunched in a corner in a cold sweat, rocking back and forth in the fetal position”.

Definitely worth a read!

Also worth a read for before you blow your stack at a customer service rep.

Written by Alan

March 13, 2010 at 1:19 pm

Posted in General, Work

A day of mixed feelings

While I am relieved to find out that I will be offered a job in the new combined entity, it is with some sadness that I find myself today farewelling a number of folks that I have known for some time (some who have been with Sun locally for more than my almost eleven years).

To those departing I wish you all the very best in whatever you decide to do.

To those of us remaining, I look forward to sharing this exciting ride!

Written by Alan

February 9, 2010 at 6:46 pm

Posted in General, Work


So you run and you run to catch up with the Sun but it’s sinking
Racing around to come up behind you again
The Sun is the same in a relative way but you’re older
Shorter of breath and one day closer to death

Every year is getting shorter never seem to find the time
Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines
Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way
The time is gone, the song is over,
Thought I’d something more to say.

— Pink Floyd

Written by Alan

January 28, 2010 at 2:46 pm

Posted in General

Microsoft forced to stop selling Word over an XML Patent?

I just saw on Cnet an article titled Judge orders Microsoft to stop selling Word. OK it’s Microsoft you may say. I’m more concerned over the guts of this one. The lead paragraph is:

Judge Leonard Davis of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas issued a permanent injunction that “prohibits Microsoft from selling or importing to the United States any Microsoft Word products that have the capability of opening .XML, .DOCX or DOCM files (XML files) containing custom XML,” according to a statement released by attorneys for the plantiff, i4i.

So if patent 5,787,449 has been used to stop Microsoft from selling such products, what (if anything) does it bode for things like

Written by Alan

August 12, 2009 at 12:35 am

Posted in General

Who said “Processes are cheap” ?

This is really going back. I’ve been spending some time searching for where I first heard this comment made with regard to UNIX.

Memory is telling me that it was in the Edition VII days, back around 1979-84ish, and that it was perhaps one of (“Dennis Ritchie”, “Ken Thomson”, “Brian Kernighan”, “P.J. Plauger”), or maybe even Rob Pike or Steve Bourne. I have had no luck with google or any documentation I’ve got. The statement was in the context of the “UNIX Philosophy”.

If anyone can point me at a reference I’d certainly appreciate it.

Written by Alan

August 10, 2009 at 11:18 pm

Posted in General