Miscellany – not security – Page 14 – Tales from the Crypto

Miscellany – not security

Way to "not remain silent", George!

We won’t remain silent as Microsoft imposes unnecessary security risks,” wrote George Samenuk, just days before resigning from McAfee, apparently because of a back-dated stock-options scandal that started in 1996, lasting through Samenuk's reign as CEO and into the recent appointment (last March) of Kevin Weiss as company President.

Speaking of Kevin Weiss, he has been fired from the company, apparently.

I'll confess I don't understand much about the SEC and the point of this investigation, but it seems like Weiss (who came up through Sales, not Finance) is taking the fall and allowing Samenuk to bow out somewhat more gracefully.  I know if I was in that kind of lofty position, I'd be happier to resign than to be publicly terminated – unless, of course, I could point to the termination as a bone-headed or political move that was obviously unrelated to my ability at performing the job, and more related to the timing of an investigation, and the need to put a head on a pike.

Maybe Microsoft should release Vista quickly, while their detractors in the security field are playing "Who's the Boss?"

Giorgio Armani has limited skills

In a recent article on the trend of banning underweight models from appearing in fashion shows, Giorgio Armani is quoted as saying that he prefers models “on the slender side” because “the clothes I design and the sort of fabrics I use need to hang correctly on the body”.

Would it be grossly unfair of me to characterise this as Giorgio saying that he’s a designer of limited skill, only able to work within his particular niche, and only capable of, or interested in, designing clothes for a very slim section of humanity?

I think that if he were a truly world-class designer, he’d find a way to make fabrics “hang correctly” on real people.

Insufficient System Resources to Complete API – part 2

Okay, so apparently, I was a tad optimistic in saying that I had solved my hibernation issues on my laptop by simply disabling and then re-enabling the hibernation feature (which did have the desired effect of building a larger hiberfil.sys file).

As it turns out, Microsoft have this one covered – in a manner of speaking. There’s a knowledge base that addresses exactly this problem – apparently, after you install more than 1GB of memory into a machine running Windows XP, it may occasionally (every damn time) refuse to hibernate, citing “Application Popup: Windows – System Error : Insufficient System Resources exist to complete the API” in the System Event log.

Meaningless as that message is, it apparently comes from a requirement to have an area of contiguous free memory, a somewhat ludicrous proposition on a heavily-loaded operating system, such as you might get when running a memory pig such as Outlook or Outlook Express.

The KB (Knowledge Base) item referred to above is of great help, however, because it describes a hotfix that is available.

All hotfixes are available free from Microsoft, no matter what your contract is with them.  Here’s a description of how my call for a hotfix went:

  • Searched the knowledge base for the exact error message, read through three results, to see which one fit my description best.
  • Click the “Contact us” link.
  • Call the number listed.
  • Listen to all the prompts. Press ‘0’ to speak to a customer rep if you don’t hear something that sounds right.
  • Give the customer rep your name and phone number.
  • Before they ask for a credit card number, tell them you’re calling for a hotfix.
  • You picked the wrong number to call, so they’ll tell you that they’re transferring you to another number.
  • Tell the new person your name and phone number, and that you’re calling for a hotfix.
  • When they ask you for the hotfix article ID, give them the 6-digit KB article number – in this case, 909095.
  • Give them your email address. Spell it, phonetically if necessary.
  • Listen to the speech about “this hotfix is not regression-tested, don’t install it on a production machine without testing it for yourself, etc, etc” – and pay attention, it’s a real warning.
  • Fish the hotfix email out of the Junk Mail folder.
  • Download the hotfix.

Wow – that was really hard – NOT. Twelve minutes on the phone, two of which were me telling the occupants of the room I was in to “shut up, I’m on the phone”. To resolve an issue that causes me such irritation, ten minutes of time is well worth it.

Part three of this series will be me installing the hotfix and seeing if it works for me.

Windows Live Writer

 I’m trying out a new Blog posting tool, Windows Live Writer, currently available in beta test version.

I spend a lot of time disconnected from the Internet, and I frequently get irritated that I haven’t found a tool that I can use to update my web site over lunch, on the bus, in the coffee bar (yeah, like I’m paying their ridiculous rates!)

It doesn’t take much, just the ability to preview what you’re typing, edit the HTML to get rid of whatever craziness the editor puts in that I don’t want, and some ability to add graphics, links, etc.

[Okay, so the graphics didn’t work with my blog’s configuration.  But I’m sure we can change that.]

It also helps that I can download and edit existing posts that were posted with any other tool, and the Web Page Preview is great – even when you’re offline, you can see how your post will look once you’ve posted it.

Give Windows Live Writer a try – it gives me the impression of being about as simple as it needs to be – which is extremely high praise!

I’m a developer – I don’t do operations.

Okay, so there’s a point that Larry has here, in referring to Dare’s posts 1 and 2 – that operations and development are two separate skills. [Joe refers to it, too]

I’ve suggested for a long time that developers should spend some time on technical support to find out how their customers use the product – not just to get the numbers of “this is our most called-about issue”, but to get an idea of what their target audience really is.

But then, to go with Larry’s argument, tech support and development are two separate skills, and it would seem like a bad idea to do this, because good developers might not be good on tech support, and vice versa.

You can only take this so far, I think – at some point, everyone you employ has to be able to work outside of his or her comfort zone. Take into account that this is not their best side, perhaps, but recognise that the individual will learn far more, and be more useful back in their main role, if they learn something of the world with which their code will interface.

I’ve met too many developers who were developing for a target market that didn’t exist except for a few “powerhouse” customers who could afford to send bullying representatives to persuade the program management team that their desired features were the only ones worth implementing. That’s a great way to satisfy your “powerhouse” customers, but not a great way to build a wide business base.

I think it’s important for developers to understand something of the level “above” and “below” the software they work on. Most developers agree that they need to understand the level “below” their software – understanding the compiler and assembly language, and even a little of how the processor works on code, will generally help you write more efficient code.

But you have to understand something of the users you’re developing for, for the same reason – it will help you write more efficient code for them.

Taken to another direction, you have to understand something of the developers before and after you, in order to continue a chain of maintenance on the code (be prepared to read code with no good comments, but make sure you comment your code – ideally inside the code itself – for the developer to come after you).

Too many developers that I’ve worked with in the past tended to act as if they needed to know nothing about their potential users – “if you build it, they will come”, kind of attitude. That’s fine if you have a captive customer base, but if you want to be competitive, you have to know who you’re aiming for, and target them at all levels – including the developers.

So, yeah, developers shouldn’t be your ops department, or your tech support department, but they should be familiar enough with those departments that they do not generate strife for them, and so that they understand the departments enough to offer solutions that the others do not see.

Ten reasons Dr J wants to go to Amazon.

Ten reasons Dr J wants to go to Amazon.

10. Tired of working at a desk, wants to work at a door on breeze blocks instead.

9. Commute to Downtown Seattle is better than commute to London, New Zealand, Japan, Barcelona, Amazon Basin, Tsurinam, Atlantis, etc.

8. Tired of dealing with all those damn MVPs and their incessant fawning.

7. Feels the need to do security, rather than just travel the world talking about it.

6. Techies don’t appreciate being labeled “marketing”.

5. The Dr J fan-club is still smaller than Steve Riley’s.

4. After giving the same talk for the last three years, surely the industry has gotten the point by now, or is beyond help.

3. Wants to hack Amazon’s system to improve the sales of his books.

2. Microsoft is no place for a family man [but is Amazon really all that much better?]

1. Office closer to the water; water means scuba.

[Other friends of mine say “good luck” in their own ways:

Sandi “Spyware Sucks” Hardmeier

Susan “E-Bitz” Bradley

Joe “Joeware” Ware]

So, why do you think he left?

How hard do you want to make this?

So, I’m beta testing Outlook 2007, and it’s got some really pretty “ribbons” that indicate that they’ve gone to great lengths to improve the user interface.

Today, I’m creating a distribution list from a number of people that have emailed me.

This should be easy.

Here we go…

Create a new distribution list, give it a name, and then drag the messages into it – it’s smart enough to know what I’m trying to do, right?

Wrong. No drop operation gets performed.

Okay, so maybe if I open the message up, I can drag the individual sender’s address into the distribution list, yes?


What about clicking “Add Member”, and then dragging the sender’s address into the Add Member dialog? That should work, right?


Worse still, the “Add Member” dialog is application modal – I cannot even change focus to the message to read the email address that I’m typing.

Right now, I’m resorting to dragging the address from the message into wordpad, then copying and pasting portions of the address into the appropriate fields in the “Add Member” dialog.

And I have to do this for a couple of dozen messages.

The ribbons are all very pretty, but really, Microsoft, “pretty” should always take second place to “usable”. [Yes, my own interfaces aren’t exactly pretty, but I like to think that they are usable – your constructive criticism is very welcome!]

Outlook has always given me the impression that the team that writes it – or at least, the team that designs it – has not spent a good deal of time actually using it.

I may have commented before that it’s common practice within Microsoft to apologise for missing meetings by saying that “Outlook ate the meeting invite”.

[Yes, commenting on beta software is probably technically in breach of some NDA, but the useless behaviour I’m talking about here was useless before, and it looks like being useless for some time to come.]

Error: Insufficient system resources exist to complete the API.

This message (“Insufficient resources exist to complete the API”, along with an event log event ID 26 from “Application Popup”) has been popping up on my laptop from time to time, along with the rather troublesome issue that the machine refuses to hibernate. I had it set up so that I could close the lid, and the laptop would stand by for a few minutes, then hibernate.

Suddenly, it seems, the laptop is unable to hibernate, and only this confusing message appears on the screen.

Realisation dawned this morning that I had recently installed an extra 512MB of memory into my laptop.

Of course there are no system resources for hibernating, because my hiberfil.sys space is 512MB smaller, having been created with the previous size of memory.

The solution is simple – open the power properties (right-click the battery / power icon in the notification area, and select “Adjust Power Properties”), click the Hibernate tab, and then uncheck the “Enable Hibernation” box.

Click “Apply”, to delete hiberfil.sys, then re-check the “Enable Hibernation” box, and click “Apply” or “OK” to recreate it.

So, if your computer cannot hibernate, and you get this message, try disabling and re-enabling the Hibernation feature, and don’t think it’s as random-sounding a process as other articles make it out to be. If you’ve changed your memory size, you need to change your hibernation file’s size.

Just in case this doesn’t fix you right up, there is another issue that it might be – a hotfix is available for Windows XP SP2, XP Tablet Edition 2005, or XP Media Center Edition 2005; there’s also an earlier hotfix for Windows XP, for a different issue on multi-proc machines.