January 8th, 2004

South Park Grig - Blank

Idle Gossip with Idol Worship

I really hate gossip. I can't say I don't take part in it, but I use gossip more for information than spreading rumors, and while I know it's unreliable, sometimes it's all you have to go on. If you can get gossip from more than once source, sometimes you can triangulate some of the core elements, although even that can be misleading. But I hate useless gossip, like those that consist of personal attacks or other vehicles for attention, with a passion. All it does is encourage bitterness, jealousy, and paranoia.

There's this local radio personality named Jack Diamond, and while in some way's he's not a bad "morning zoo" type of leader, in others, I can feel his personal problems creeping up through his words and messages. Now, I am no Shining Pylon of Morality, but even I know that if you say too many bad things about people, you look bad. As the saying goes, "You can't do mudslinging without getting dirty yourself." Jack constantly has two themes in his show, "Celebrities suck" and "The morality of today's citizens is shameful." This from a guy with two ex-wives, the last he left for a much younger woman that was a member of his band.

Look, I see most Hollywood celebrities as everyday people who have everything magnified and distorted by thousands of voices. Sure, some of them might be scumbags with a history of poor choices, but cut them some slack, man. Jack has this thing with Brittany Spears, Jennifer Lopez, and Mariah Carey that reminds me of someone desperately trying to convince himself that he doesn't like underage girls, no matter how his penis acts at his daughter's soccer game. He's constantly tearing these people down, and then taking a "tut tut" attitude with their actions, like someone appointed him a grand moral judge. Look, I have to admit that Mariah is a bit nuts, J-Lo seems a bit cutthroat, and Brittany... well, she's a kid. But I don't go on and on about them. No one appointed me judge, jury, or executioner, and if I feel like spreading morality around, I'll do it by my own actions, and let others make their own personal choice, thank you. I don't live like a celebrity, I am not in their shoes, and while I sometimes think, "If I was a multimillion dollar celebrity, I'd do this and that, save my money, blah blah blah," until that actually happens to me, it's all speculation and fantasy on my part. I just think Jack wants to sleep with them, but won't admit it, so he denies it loudly, hoping to conceal his true feelings ... but now I can just hear them loudly.

"But people like celebrity gossip," says Christine, my main contact with the outside world.

She's got to be right (again), because it's everywhere. People, The Star, Glamour, Rolling Stone, and countless others all cater to this desire to know about stars. Now, I don't have a problem with knowing about stuff like, "Johnny Depp has been signed on to do Tim Burton's version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory;" that's trade news. But I don't care what Johnny Depp might have done in some nightclub in London with some waitress. That's none of my business. I'd only care about what he does with his personal life if it affects people I have a personal stake in, and since I really don't know any celebrities personally, that's not likely to happen anytime soon. And besides, the press often lies, anyway, so how the heck would I know if what I heard was even remotely true?

Besides, hating someone I don't even personally know is a total waste of time.

In my personal life, gossip has served little purpose other than rumors. I do listen, but hate to spread, because I always fear I'll get called on it, and I am a poor liar. Gossip at work about layoffs is something I keep one ear to, but often that's so unreliable, I really don't know why I bother. Gossip in fandom is interesting, because sometimes you can actually trace the spin. At EveCon, I did gossip a whole lot, but I felt spurred on by a hot topic that affected a lot of people back in 1993. One woman really screwed up a lot of people's lives so much, we still gossip about her, even though no one has really heard from her in ages. But I keep hearing new stuff! Eleven years later! One woman told me that she interfered with her marriage, and was stunned I said, "Oh, get in line." But her spin was new, apparently Miss Evil 1993 had tried to convince her (now) husband that marrying "one of her kind" (that is, racially), was not a good idea. That's a new one. I knew this toad tried to break up people's relationships, but I never heard the racial angle before. But it was useless, or "idle" gossip, because knowing a new bad trait of this person I haven't even seen since 1998 served no purpose. But thought I let her rant because I knew she just had to get it off her chest, some sad part of me still giggles with glee that we're still sticking her effigy with pitchforks (I am not proud here, but being honest). I was lounging in the hotel bar, and we brought up some more gossip about how another con was so impersonal, it treats volunteers like employees that must be herded and disciplined. I engaged in that, and actually found out some really useful information that, sadly, I can't mention in public, because that would be totally irresponsible ... and gossipy.

But the irony would have been succulent if I did, wouldn't it?

This entry was originally posted at http://www.punkwalrus.com/blog/archives/00000340.html
South Park Grig - Blank

Quote - Windows XP and Viruses

This is a quote from my coworker Roy:

I just hope I can complete the install of XP before it gets a virus on it.

I wish he was kidding. This is how we ended up fixing it:

  1. Install XP without LAN cable
  2. When it asks for registration, connect to LAN, get it, disconnect LAN by yanking cable
  3. Set up Windows firewall (TCP/IP filtering) to only accept port 80
  4. Connect LAN again, get Windows updates
  5. Install all updates
  6. Disable firewall, or set up Zone Alarm or something
  7. Uninstall Windows, get Linux
South Park Grig - Blank

Tech - How Buffer Overflows work

So, there is this really useful construct called a stack that works like, well, a stack of things, with the first item on being the last take off, etc. It happens to be really handy for implementing the mechanism for function calls and storing local variables for functions and whatnot. You could say it is a central part of the modern computing model.

Anyways, the stack overflow exploits work like this. If a program has a buffer for a string of text like the body of an email or the header of a ping packet or whatever it can store it in one of a few places. The more modern way (with some fixed overhead) is to dynamically allocate a chunk of memory. The old school way that is very fast is to have a fixed size array (chunk of memory) that is on the stack, just another local variable. So if the coder is sloppy and doesn't check the size of incoming data and blindly writes into a fixed size array, then the array will "overflow," as the program continues to blindly write past the end of the array.

So, for x86 computers the stack "grows down" (lower addresses are higher on the stack) and arrays are typically written in an increasing direction. Thus, when the stack is overwritten, it's the previous stack values that get blasted. These values include a return pointer to tell a function where to return to.

So now, Mr. Malicious 15yr old sends a malformed packet to some buggy server (definately not IIS 4 or Windows RPC Service). The server's processThingy() function blindly overwrites the stack, including the return address, causing it to return to the array it just wrote, which contains malicious code. Now Mr M is in business and can execute whatever code he sent with the same permissions that the server had. Note that to do this, he had to exploit the absolute jump instruction used to return from processThingy(). He was able to do this because he could predict where on the stack, and thus where in memory his code was located.