Monthly Archives: February 2008

Pakistan's YouTube Censorship Triggers Worldwide Outage

February 26, 2008

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority’s deputy director for enforcement sent a memo announcing the ban to major ISPs on Feb. 22. The PTA asked Pakistani ISPs to block access to three IP addresses that are associated with YouTube’s site. The ISPs could have used one of several methods to block access to the IP addresses, said Danny McPherson, chief research officer at security provider Arbor Networks.For a couple of hours on Sunday, access to YouTube worldwide was cut, the result of the Pakistani government’s banning YouTube in their country.Access to YouTube elsewhere was restored after two hours or so, but the question on everyone’s minds is, can this happen again?

Why the Ban?
Reports say the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) imposed the ban for two reasons: Controversial Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad were posted on YouTube, and the site carried a trailer for a forthcoming film by Dutch politician Geert Wilders portraying Islam as a fascist religion prone to inciting violence against women and homosexuals.
The cartoons caused a furor among Muslims worldwide when they were printed in a Danish newspaper in 2005 — riots led to at least 50 deaths and attacks on three Danish embassies. Earlier this month, they were reprinted by several Danish newspapers in response to a recently uncovered plot to murder the cartoonist.The PTA urged Pakistani Internet users to write YouTube requesting the offending materials be removed. It has told Pakistan ‘s 70-odd Internet service providers that YouTube will be banned until further notice. The PTA’s deputy director for enforcement sent memo announcing the ban to major ISPs on Feb. 22.

The Technical Details
The PTA asked Pakistani ISPs to block access to three IP addresses that are associated with YouTube’s site.
The ISPs could have used one of several methods to block access to the IP addresses, Danny McPherson, chief research officer at network infrastructure security provider Arbor Networks, as quoted by TechNewsWorld.They could have deployed access-control lists on all their router interfaces leading to those addresses; route the three IP addresses to a null, the ISP equivalent of a black hole on the network; or basically have all packets that were being sent to or from those three IP addresses automatically discarded by the network.The second option requires the ISPs to add static routes to every router in their networks. However, the effect of that is to tell the world that traffic to those three IP addresses should be sent to the ISPs instead of to YouTube.This, in essence, is what happened. The fact that today anyone connected to the Internet could potentially go out and announce reachability for anyone else in the Internet space is a huge problem.

A Complicated Problem
YouTube is working to prevent similar problems recurring. “We are investigating and working with others in the Internet community to prevent this from happening again,” states YouTube spokesperson Kathleen Fitzgerald.

Will that work? Probably not.
There’s no authoritative source on the Internet for who owns what address space where you could do real-time address changes.
What about the Internet Routing Registry, with which ISPs register Internet addresses? “The problem is that, when your customers get new address spaces, you may not update that,” McPherson said. “You don’t have automated updates, no one does any filtering, and it’s this huge vulnerability.”Part of the problem is that the Border Gateway Protocol, which Internet service providers use BGP to inform each other which IP address goes where, is not robust. BGP works by maintaining a table of IP networks or “prefixes,” which designate network reachability among autonomous systems. It makes routing decisions based on path, network policies and rule sets.BGP was developed in an attempt to prevent anyone from, essentially, hijacking someone else’s IP addresses, as happened to YouTube, but it has a lot of holes. Remember, basically the Internet’s simply a bunch of loosely connected networks run by different administrators.

What Were They Thinking????

February, 19th 2008

Lately, we’ve been getting a number of calls (from clients and users here in our office) stating they can’t open a file that they are “absolutely positive” is a Microsoft Word document. These users aren’t crazy… Yes – it is a Word document they can’t open and it’s because the document was created in Microsoft Word 2007. You’ve got to wonder what goes through Microsoft’s programmer’s heads when they release a product that is not inherently backwards compatible. Are they trying to tick off the millions of MS Word 2003 users that don’t see a need to upgrade to 2007? Perhaps it’s just another way to scare consumers into a forced upgrade. What ever the thought process (or lack of) behind this decision, here’s a little explanation and a work around to help folks avoid an expensive upgrade. Microsoft Office 2007 provides a lot of new features and functionality. Here are some tips for dealing with compatibility issues when you upgrade to the latest version of Word.

Understanding and using the new file formats

All the Office 2007 programs use new default file formats based on the Extensible Markup Language (XML). The new formats are indicated by an “x” in the file extension. For example:

  • Word documents: .docx
  • Excel workbooks: .xlsx
  • PowerPoint presentations: .pptx

XML is an open standard, and the change makes it easier to move files between different applications. It also makes file sizes smaller than those saved in the old binary formats. However, some users with previous versions of Office may not be able to open files in the new formats. You can still save files in Office 2007 programs in Office 2003 file formats. Just select Word 97-2003 Document (*.doc) from the Save As Type drop-down list in the Save As dialog box, as shown in Figure A .

Figure A: You can easily save individual files in the old Office 2003 formats .

Changing the default format

If you want to always save files in the old format by default, click the Office button, then the <program name> Options button, and select Save in the left pane. Choose Word 97-2003 Document (*.doc) from the Save Files In This Format drop-down list, as shown in Figure B .

Figure B: You can set the default to always save files in the old Office 2003 format.

When you save a file in the old format that was originally created in the new format, you may get a message advising that some of the formatting and features that are only supported by Office 2007 programs will be lost but at least the majority of Word users will be able to open the document.

Using Office 2007 compatibility mode

Office 2007 programs introduce a new feature called compatibility mode. If you frequently share files with others who haven’t upgraded or you need to work on your files on another computer (for example, a laptop) that doesn’t have Office 2007 installed, you can ensure that the files you create in Office 2007 don’t contain any features that aren’t supported by the previous version of the Office program. If you place your Office 2007 applications in compatibility mode, incompatible features, such as the SmartArt diagramming tool, won’t be available to you. Instead, you’ll use the diagramming tool from Office 2003 so that the diagrams you create can be edited in the older version of the program. Compatibility mode is automatically on when you open a file that was saved in the old file formats, when you convert a file from the XML-based format to the older format, or when you configure the program to save to the old format by default. In Word, compatibility mode also kicks in if you create a new document from an old-format template (.dot). When the Office 2007 program is in compatibility mode, it will be indicated in the document title bar, as shown in Figure C .

Figure C:
Office Compatibility Mode is indicated in the title bar of the document.
Some features can be returned to the document if you reopen it in an Office 2007 program; others can’t. For a full list of the features that are lost when you work in compatibility mode and which ones can be refreshed, see the article “ Compatibility Mode in the 2007 Office System “ on the Microsoft TechNet site.

Installing the Office 2007 Compatibility Pack

If someone with whom you exchange files is still running an older version of Office and you want to be able to send them files in the new XML formats (for instance, so they can see the formatting features that are unique to Office 2007), they can install the Office 2007 Compatibility Pack. The Compatibility Pack allows users of Office XP or Office 2003 to open, edit, save and even create files in the new XML-based formats. The pack is available as a free 27.1 MB download from the Microsoft Web site . It can be installed on machines running Windows 2000 SP4, Windows XP SP1, and Windows Server 2003.

It's Almost Time!

Windows Vista SP1 is right around the corner…

Microsoft has finally ended the “beta” test on their MS Vista Service Pack 1 and we should expect to see the release candidate available for download over the next few weeks.

Microsoft released the latest pre-release build of SP1 – ‘Windows Vista SP1 RC Refresh’ to approximately 15,000 beta testers. This group includes corporate customers, consumer enthusiasts, software and hardware vendors, and others. The code is not available for public download yet. You may recall that Microsoft released a publicly available test build of Windows Vista SP1 back in December 2007.

A Microsoft spokesperson said “We are still on schedule to deliver SP1 RTM in Q1 2008. The final release date is based on quality, so we will continue to track customer and partner feedback from the beta program before setting a final date.”

Word on the Microsoft street is the Vista team is aiming to deliver the final SP1 code at the same time as Windows Server 2008 becomes available, which is expected in February (and some time before the big Windows Server 2008/SQL Server 2008/Visual Studio 2008 launch on February 27, 2008).

Microsoft also pushed out this week several new Windows Vista reliability and performance updates via Windows Update, as well as an update to the BitLocker encryption component of Windows Vista Enterprise and Windows Vista Ultimate that will be a prerequisite for successful installation of SP1.

What will this mean for users?
Hopefully a more stable and robust version of the Vista operating system – here’s some of the info Microsoft has decided to share.

First, Windows Vista SP1 will include all previously released updates for Windows Vista. It also will include security, reliability, and performance improvements. These improvements target some of the issues Microsoft has identified as the most common causes of operating system crashes and hangs, giving customers a more reliable experience. These updates also improve performance in key scenarios-for example, when copying files or shutting down the computer.

The following sections describe many of the security, reliability, and performance improvements that will be in Windows Vista SP1.

Security improvements that will be in Windows Vista SP1 include:

Provides security software vendors a more secure way to communicate with Windows Security Center .

Includes application programming interfaces (APIs) by which third-party security and malicious software detection applications can work with kernel patch protection on x64 versions of Windows Vista. These APIs help ISVs develop software that extends the functionality of the Windows kernel on x64 computers without disabling or weakening the protection offered by kernel patch protection.
Improves the security of running RemoteApp programs and desktops by allowing Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) files to be signed. Customers can differentiate user experiences based on publisher identity.

Adds an Elliptical Curve Cryptography (ECC) pseudo-random number generator (PRNG) to the list of available PRNGs in Windows Vista.
Enhances BitLocker Drive Encryption (BDE) to offer an additional multifactor authentication method that combines a key protected by the Trusted Platform Module (TPM) with a Startup key stored on a USB storage device and a user-generated personal identification number (PIN).

Windows Vista SP1 will include improvements that target some of the most common causes of crashes and hangs, giving users a more consistent experience. Many of these improvements will specifically address issues identified from the Windows Error Reporting tool. The following list describes some of the reliability improvements that Windows Vista SP1 will include:

Improved reliability and compatibility of Windows Vista when used with newer graphics cards in several specific scenarios and configurations.

-Improved reliability when working with external displays on a laptop.
-Improved Windows Vista reliability in networking configuration scenarios.
-Improved reliability of systems that were upgraded from Windows XP to Windows Vista.
-Increased compatibility with many printer drivers.
-Increased reliability and performance of Windows Vista when entering sleep and resuming from sleep.

The following list describes some of the performance improvements that Windows Vista SP1 will include:

Improves the speed of copying and extracting files.
Improves the time to become active from Hibernate and Resume modes.
Improves the performance of domain-joined PCs when operating off the domain; in the current release version of Windows Vista, users would experience long delays when opening the File dialog box.

Improves performance of Windows® Internet Explorer® 7 in Windows Vista, reducing CPU utilization and speeding JavaScript parsing.
Improves battery life by reducing CPU utilization by not redrawing the screen as frequently, on certain computers.

Improves the logon experience by removing the occasional 10-second delay between pressing CTRL-ALT-DEL and the password prompt displaying.
Addresses an issue in the current version of Windows Vista that makes browsing network file shares consume significant bandwidth and not perform as fast as expected.
For the complete list, or perhaps just as much as Microsoft wants us to know today, check out this whitepaper.

This is going to be a BIG download and only time will tell if the wait will have been worth it.

Remember you can still opt to try and SAVE WINDOWS XP by adding your name to the list on the InfoWorld website.

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