Monthly Archives: April 2007

ZX Spectrum is 25 Today

The Sinclair ZX Spectrum was released 25 years ago today.

We got one in the mid-80′s and it was a great machine. I was overawed at what this simple machine could do, though it did have it’s faults – the rubber keyboard was dreadful, the games took ages to load, made a horrible screeching noise while doing so, and would frequently fail with undecipherable error messages. (They were undecipherable to me anyway.) The games were simple, but they were amazingly fun to play. I could spend hours playing Jet Pack.

I remember when my Dad brought it home, and set it up inside a wooden box to protect it. He hard-wired the Spectrum to connecters inside the box, which in turn were hard-wired to the power and TV cables outside the box. In this way, it was just a matter of plugging in the power cable connecting the TV and opening the box.

This was well before the Internet was available to the general public, so getting new games wasn’t all that easy. We did know one person who could get games and he would copy the games on to cassettes for us. So even before p2p networks took off, piracy was a problem!

While the ZX was our first computer, it wasn’t until we got an IBM XT and AT that my interest really took off. But it was the Sinclair Spectrum that started it all. So to Clive Sinclair, I say “Thanksand Happy Birthday”. Where would we be today without the ZX?

Program Names Matter on Windows Vista

One of the selling points of Windows Vista is it’s increased security. User Account Control, (UAC), is designed to ensure that unknown programs aren’t launched without the users express permission. The idea is sound, but the actual implementation may be off.

The Register reports that the name of the program has a major bearing on whether or not UAC asks the user to authenticate the installation. If the program is named “install.exe” for example, then Vista will require that the program have admin rights and UAC will prompt the user to cancel or allow installation. However, if the program name does not contain any references to “install”, “update” or “uninstall” then Vista will happily let it run without user intervention, even though it is the exact same program.

Microsoft responded that Vista was designed to automatically detect install, update and uninstall programs. As these types of programs generally need to write to protected areas of the registry and system files, then Vista would prompt for admin rights to be assigned to the program.

While Vista may have been designed to detect these type of programs, it seems that all it is doing is checking the program name, otherwise renaming the program would not allow the program to run without UAC prompting the user. While this type of behaviour may offer a modicum of protection, it can be sidestepped by using an innocuous file name. The big question now is how long will it take for malware authors to use this to bypass UAC and get their programs on to a Vista machine?

Problems with Realtek HD Audio Control Panel

I recently wrote about a vulnerability in the way that Windows handles animated cursors, and that Microsoft were releasing a patch for the problem. I downloaded and installed the patch yesterday, and discovered that it didn’t like my sound card all that much.

My HP desktop has a Realtek sound card, and the patch that MS released prevents the control panel for the sound card from loading, with the following error message:

The system DLL user32.dll was relocated in memory. The application will not run properly. The relocation occurred because the DLL C:WindowsSystem32Hhctrl.ocx occupied an address range reserved for Windows system DLLs. The vendor supplying the DLL should be contacted for a new DLL.

Fortunately, there is a fix available form Microsoft, available under KB 935448

Munster Refuse to Give Up Heineken Cup

There are reports this morning that Munster Rugby have lodged an appeal with the ERC regarding Fridays Heineken Cup match against Llanelli Scarlets. Apparently Munster have raised issues with the Citing Commissioner regarding the eligibility of some of the Llanelli players.

Following the 24-15 loss, the Munster coach, Declan Kidney, is said to be furious with the Scarlets: “Llanelli went out there tonight and played a good game, and deservedly won. But they did so illegally. Yes, they had the better team, and the better tactics, on the night, but they did so in contravention of the Laws of the game of Rugby Union. We have accordingly contacted the Citing Commissioner and have reported them for not complying with Section (5) Rule (1) of the Munster Rugby Laws.”

As disposed European Cup champions, the Munster Rugby Branch are required to hand back the cup immediately to the ERC. As a result of this dispute Munster have announced that they will not do so.

In a statement released on behalf of the Munster Branch, President Ralph Murray said, “Munster Rugby have brought a proud tradition to this Cup, and we have worked hard to earn our right as European Champions. Therefore, as we do not recognise that the loss against Llanelli Scarlets is a valid game, we have decided to withhold the Cup from the ERC until such a time as an amicable solution can be found.”

Ralph Murray went on to elaborate on the Munster Branch’s preferred solution to the impasse, “Our position is that as we have lost a considerable amount of respect in world rugby circles, we should be given a bye straight into the Heineken Cup Final to be held in Twickenham on May 20th. Our preference for the opposition on that day is Leinster. We have beaten them before, and we feel that an easy match such as this would do much to reconcile the Branch with the ERC.”

In response, Jean-Pierre Lux, Chairman of the ERC, responded that the ERC are willing to consider Munsters claims, but that as the issue stands, the Munster Branch must first return the Heineken Cup. According Mr Murray, the Munster Branch are more then willing to return the Cup provided that it is presented to them on the 20th May. It is thought that the ERC are unwilling to make such a guarantee.

Following a brief exchange of words, relations between the ERC and the Munster Branch were suspended when Mr Murray called Mr Lux a “Cheese-eating surrender monkey”, and went on to say that “A true, red-blooded Munster man would rather die than to give in on a matter of pride.” He ended his tirade shouting that if the ERC wanted the Cup back, then “They could come and get it.”

The location of the cup is currently unknown, but there are rumours circulating the city that members of the McCarthy-Dundan gang have been seen in their local drinking from a rather ornate chalice. These have yet to be corroborated.

Note: Section (5), Rule (1) is a little utilised rule that basically states that when confronted by much better opposition, a Munsters win must be in inverse proportion to the difference in quality between the two teams. For example, if Munster play a team that is close to, or beneath, them is terms of ability, then they will merely scratch out a win. However, if the team is a class above them, then they will win by a cricket score, and play the type of rugby that makes Limerick dock workers cry and compare the game to a beautiful sunrise over Lough Derg. This rule also applies when Munster take part in a game that requires them to win by a specific number of tries or points. Usually referred to as the “Miracle Match Rule”. See Munster vs Gloucester for an example.