The Haphazard Blog

Archive for September, 2009

Pork and Bacon and Chicken Broth, Oh My!

by on Sep.19, 2009, under Dining, Entertainment

I don’t really have a favorite restaurant. Just that go to place where I can go eat at anytime. So instead I try out new places every month or so. Yesterday we went to Marco’s Cantina in Wichita. We went there for lunch and it was pretty empty. In hindsight, I need to remember to call ahead and check if their beans and rice are vegetarian. It’s hit or miss around here. Some places will put either pork or bacon in their beans and will use chicken broth in the rice. Unfortunately, this was one of those restaurants. That basically ends up wiping out almost the whole menu. Since we were already there, we ordered cheese and cheese and spinach quesadillas. They aren’t all that difficult to make so there isn’t much to say. I think the spinach was frozen because it was a bit too salty. Overall. the staff was nice and helpful. Just not a good choice if you’re a vegetarian.

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All Clear on the Malware Front

by on Sep.18, 2009, under Software, Technology

The Malware is all gone. It hooked in pretty deeply. It was actually pretty clever. It manages to load a library during boot-up before you even get to the Windows log in screen, and well before your anti-virus software is running. It does not stop there. It then attaches to any/multiple running processes as a thread so nothing looks out of sorts. So you look at the task manager and all the running processes appear legit. I assume that’s why the anti-virus software was clueless. In addition, it discretely disabled the Windows Security Center warnings when your anti-virus software is disabled and hid Windows Updates. (This is how I figured out the problem. I highly recommend Malwarebytes to everyone, it pointed me to the registry entries that were being changed.)

I first used RegMon to watch the registry entries to see what was changing the entries. It was odd that my mail program and explorer were doing it. So I used Process Explorer to see what those programs were up to. After that, Google led me to a program that took care of it once and for all, ComboFix. It’s straight forward to use if you follow the directions. I like that it installs the recovery console as a boot option.

Updated 9/29/2009: I just discovered that ComboFix resets the hosts file. For most, this won’t matter. I added some hosts for testing multiple web applications on different “domains”. It took me a little bit of time to realize why they would not work.

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That Didn’t Take Long

by on Sep.17, 2009, under Software, Technology

Two Days. That’s all it took for my machine to be compromised by something. I have no idea what it is, or how it got past my anti-virus software. I got it from a legitimate website. I suspect it was an advertisement type of attack. That’s what I get for using Internet Explorer and forgetting to disable the Adobe Acrobat plug-in. My anti-virus software was going nuts warning me and Acrobat launched. I closed it and I thought everything was fine.

A couple hours later popup ads started to spawn like crazy. I managed to close all the windows and kill the process. I did some Googling and found this product called Prevx. I downloaded it and ran it. It detected the problem and said it could fix it. This is where I’m annoyed. All it does is detect the malware. When you want to remove it, it’s time to pay for a subscription. I fully understand the business model, but it’s pretty cold to taunt the user. We found a problem, now pay up to fix it! I imagine this is pretty successful. I can’t believe PC Magazine awarded this software an Editor’s Choice award and doesn’t mention how crippled the “free” version is. To add to the annoyance, you can’t even exit the program easily. I had to kill the process.

I managed to do enough that I haven’t seen any popups, but it’s not gone. If I try to eliminate the DLLs, it becomes active. I’m pretty tired at this point. I’m going to shut down the PC and try to get rid of this in the morning. It is definitely something very hard to remove. I really don’t want to reformat and install Windows again.

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Rebuilding a PC and J2EE Standalone

by on Sep.16, 2009, under Computer Hardware, Software Development, Technology

It looks like the hard drive controller also went bad on my PC. I can’t get it to boot in any way. I tried to create a bootable USB flash drive loaded with Windows XP.  It worked on my laptop, but no matter what I tried on the other PC it would crash on the same driver. I tried new cables and different drives. So I think it’s just a giant paper weight. Replacement Dell main boards are quite expensive, so that was an unlikely way to go. My company offered to try and put together a temporary machine and send it out to me, but I just decided to use an old machine I have. It will only be temporary though. Looks like I’ll be getting a new PC.

So I’ve installed Windows XP and have been installing all the applications I need to get by. This takes a lot of time. Reboots, updates, configuring. I definitely need to push for a RAID 1 setup on my new machine. Storage is so cheap, an extra $100 is well worth avoiding data loss from a drive failure and having to rebuild a machine.

This brings me to J2EE. My Java IDE (IntelliJ IDEA) uses libraries to help with syntax checking, auto-complete, etc. I don’t understand why Sun does not make J2EE available as a standalone download. I have to download and install a J2EE application server to get theJ2EE JAR file. Given that, Jet Brains should bundle it with the IDE. I use Apache Tomcat as the application server and it does not require or come with J2EE.

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Patriots vs. Bills Recap

by on Sep.15, 2009, under Football, Patriots, Sports

That was a great come back. It reminded me of the Super Bowl winning Patriots — making the plays they needed to win. They were lucky to win that game.

Tom Brady didn’t look comfortable until he was in the hurry-up offense. Was it his knee? Was the hurry up going so fast that he didn’t have time to think about his knee? He was uncharacteristically inaccurate. Some passes high, some passes low. There were also some drops in there. I think back to last year. Before Brady went down, both Randy Moss and Wes Welker fumbled the ball. But, Brady was accurate. I joked to my brother who was 84? Ben Watson came up big. He has been known more for dropping passes and not living up to the hype. Is this the (contract) year?

The defense was getting destroyed on screen passes and short passes. They did a good job against the run. The red zone defense was not good. I assumed this would be an area they’d really improve in this season. They were really bad at it last year and Bill Belichick usually fixes major deficiencies year-to-year. Jerod Mayo went down and I’m not sure how bad it is. He did run a bit after getting hurt. I’d think that means it isn’t season ending. My feeling going into the season was he was going to be our Ray Lewis — a real play maker. Didn’t have much of those. I can only think of the pair of sacks at the end of the game. Looks like they’ll be able to get to the passer on obvious passing situations. They really need some play makers on defense.

The big play was obviously the forced fumble on the kick off. I don’t think the defense forces a 3 and out if Buffalo doesn’t fumble.Heads up play by Brandon Meriweather to make the hit and hold Leodis McKelvin up for Pierre Woods to knock the ball lose. Stephen Gostkowski was also Johnny on the spot to get the ball.

Next week it’s the Jets. They’ve been doing a lot of talking (and I’m sure there will be more). I’d say no one does that and gets away with it, but Joey Porter was able to do it last year. I think if Brady has better accuracy the Pats will be fine.

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I Think My PC Died

by on Sep.13, 2009, under Computer Hardware, Technology

It appears my PC has decided to blow up. I was doing some work yesterday evening and went to eat dinner. I came back to find the dreaded BSoD. These are a very uncommon occurrence for me. I think the last one I had was 4 years ago.

I rebooted and the PC just wasn’t going into Windows. I tried a lot of things with no luck. Of course, I didn’t have a Windows XP CD to run the recovery console (I didn’t get one with the machine, Dell Dimension 8300) so I had to use other methods. I used the built in Dell diagnostics and all signs pointed to a bad hard drive. Just to be sure, I tried the hard drive in another older PC I had. No luck, so it looked like my primary hard drive was dead and I likely lost about a week of data. (I try and backup my data every Sunday morning.) So I put a working drive into the machine and was still having problems.

Now I really have no idea what the problem is. It’s my work PC and the warranty ran out over 2 years ago. I’m going to have to talk to our company’s IT people and see where to go from here. I’m starting to think that heat finally destroyed the thing. When I first got it, it was so quiet, even under full load. Over the years, the CPU fan would get going under load, and eventually it got to the point in the Summer where if the temperature in the room was 80, it was ready for lift-off regardless of the actual load on the CPU. If it really is finished, I’d like to see if the thermal compound or pad was destroyed. I saw some users on the Dell forums complain about the noise levels going up over time. Some people recommended replacing the fan. Oh well. If it’s dead, it has worked well for me for over 5 years. I only had to upgrade the RAM (added 2 GB) in all that time. Not too bad all things considered. In hindsight, I probably should have replaced the PC before the 5 year mark.

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NFL Overtime: Fix It!

by on Sep.11, 2009, under Football, Sports

Pittsburgh won last night in overtime. My feelings towards the Steelers (I hate them) not withstanding, the NFL seriously needs to fix OT. Below is my plan and some stats to support my thinking.

My primary issue with the NFL’s overtime rules is that it fundamentally changes the way a game is played. The teams use one strategy for 60 minutes and use another in OT. In OT, when a team approaches FG range, each play turns into the last play of the game (as if there isn’t time for another play.) So you have actions like:

  • Kicking a FG on 1st, 2nd or 3rd down.
  • Kicking a FG following a turnover.
  • Running and kneeling to place the ball for a FG.

Everything they do is just to get the FG as the last play of the game.  A lot of normal game strategies are thrown out the window. If the goal of the NFL OT isn’t to simply prevent ties (if it is, then this system is perfect except they would need to have an unlimited amount of time to prevent all ties) I propose an alternative system that addresses the lop-sided coin flip and player’s concern over extra playing time.

First, some statistics I compiled.

Over the last 5 seasons, the percentage of teams winning the coin flip, taking the ball and winning was 31%, 33%, 42%, 38% and 53%. That averages out to 39% over 5 years. Over the last 5 seasons, the percentage of teams winning the coin flip and eventually winning the game (the team winning the coin flip is generally favored to have more possessions since OT is sudden death and the team losing the coin flip can only have as many possessions as their opponent unless they successfully attempt an onsides kick) was 69%, 53%, 58%, 56% and 73%. That averages out to 62% over 5 years and never below 50%. I think the fact that the winner of the coin flip always chose to receive speaks for itself. Everyone believes winning the coin flip is an advantage. Also, when has anyone wondered what would’ve happened if the other team won the coin toss at the beginning of the game? No one really sees the coin flip at the beginning of the game as being all that important (even TV coverage agrees since they often don’t show it, but you never miss the OT coin toss).

Over the last 5 years, OT games have averaged 2.35 possessions, had a length of 6 minutes and 33 seconds and 14.4 OT games per season. Going to a full 15 minute period would add on average, 7 minutes and 33 seconds to each team’s total game time.  However, I don’t like a plan to just play for 15 minutes. As I said, I don’t like that the game strategy changes. My suggestion instead is (I’m not the first person to suggest this):

  • Two-3 minute and 15 second halves
  • Use the same timing rules used in the last 5 minutes of a half during the game, no 2-minute warning
  • 3 timeouts for each team
  • Booth review for all replays
  • In the regular season the game can end in a tie at the end of the 2 halves.
  • In the postseason, halves are repeated until there is a winner at the end of both halves.

This eliminates the question of what would’ve happened if the other team won the coin flip. It adds back most football strategy like clock management and reduces playing for the FG. It doesn’t increase the average playing time and it keeps the OT sufficiently short enough for TV considerations. The rules are similar to the rest of the game except the time on the game clock is significantly less to start each half.

As many people say, it will probably take a Super Bowl to end in a tie at regulation and have the winner of the coin flip take the ball down the field and kick a FG on 1stdown after a great offensive battle before they change these rules. Either way, I’ve posted this and now I can refer to it instead of repeating it. :)

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