Bender, Smender. I want Robbie!


Forbidden Planet has always been one of my favorite movies. As a kid, I always wanted my very own “Robbie the Robot”. If I start playing the lottery, I can now order one from the Hammacher Schlemmer catalog for the mere sum of $49,999.95.

Robbie was a cool robot. None of this wimpy C-3PO nonsense. Robbie embodied the cutting edge of 1950’s computer technology. Vacuum tubes glowing, relays clacking, and don’t forget little metal spinning things on the side of his head. That’s a man’s robot.

I know a few people who were deeply affected by that movie. There used to be an audio store just outside of Albany, NY, named “Altair Audio”. It was named after the planet Altair IV. It was actually a decent place, they carried the high end stuff and knew how to sell it. And of course, they carried the Krell line of amplifiers.

And the movie had Leslie Neilsen back when he was known as a dramatic actor. It’s hard to watch him in serious roles after seeing Airplane and the Naked Gun shows/movies. I actually Leslie Neilsen once. About 15 years agao, I went to Irvine CA to visit my brother. On the way back, I flew out of John Wayne (aka Santa Ana) airport. While I was waiting for my fliight, I saw a production crew fiming a commercial. The commercial featured Leslie Neilsen. He had a break in the filming and I walked up to him and introduced my self. He was very gracious and we chatted for a minute or two. I was probably stammering like an idiot. I was too nervous to get a picture of the two of us. I do have a blurry picture of the back of his head.

Then a couple of older women came up. They were huge fans of his dramatic roles and they just kept talking and talking. They would ask him a question and then talk about something else before he could answer. And that’s when the fun began. Mr. Neilsen had a llittle device in his suit jacket pocket that made fart sounds. He would stand there and smile at the women or make small talk, and at the same time, he was pressing the button on the fart sound device. The women didn’t know how to react. They were trying to get their cues from Leslie, but he played it straight. I wanted to laugh so hard, I was dying. If he was goiing to play it straight, I was going to do so. I wanted to see how far he could take this. After a few minutes, I had to leave to catch my flight. I never knew how far he was able to play the gag, but I still laugh to myself just picturing it in my head.

More news on Sony’s rootkit

The story of Sony’s rootkit continues to live on. After Mark Russinovich first documented his analysis of the rootkit installed by content protected Sony audio CD’s, just about everyone and their grandmother linked to Mark’s site. Oddly enough, CNN didn’t. That’s another story. Mark has provided updates to the rootkit story and it continues here.

The latest addition to the story is still worth reading. The company that wrote the rootkit, First 4 Internet, responded to Mark in a comment on his blog. They address his concerns item by item, and of course, obsfuscate the issues. Mark’s latest blog entry goes over First 4 Internet’s comments, blowing huge gaping holes on each of their points. When this finally blows over, the Sony/First 4 Internet saga will be a text example of how NOT to address a growing PR disaster.

The arrival of Delphi Man and Doctor Deadline

After coming back to Cubeland from lunch, I saw a small package on my chair. It had airmail stamps and came from Middlesex, England. I had no idea what it was, so I ripped it open to find Boland’s inflatable action figures. The images are courtesy of the crapmatic instant picture device. The top one is Delphi Man, lord of the cubicle. The lower picture is of Doctor Deadline, trusty companion of Delphi Man.

There are limited edition items, Borland only made 1000 of each one. So far they haven’t turned up on eBay. Oddly enough, the website that advertised the super duo, www.delphisuperhero.com has been replaced with the Delphi 2006 web site. In addtion to registering to win the inflatable characters, there were PDF files that you could download and print your own.

China’s Little Green Book

Thomas Friedman had an interesting column today. It’s titled “China’a Little Green Book” and he talks about how the growing conservation movement in China. China is poluted to a scale beyond anything we ever saw here. When we were over there in the summer of 2003, I was astounded by amount of smog in the air. It’s good to see that they are going to doing something about it.

Sony now installs a flawed rootkit

This is lovely. Sony is now putting a rootkit installer on their Music CD’s. Mark Russinovich discovered a root kit on his machine while testing a rootkit detection tool (RootKitRevealer   ) that is was working on. He documented the process on his blog and it’s required reading. He cleary documents what he found, how badly written it was, and what he had to go through to remove. The rootkit installed by Sony is a Digital Right Management service, but is so badly written it will have all sorts of nasty side affects. This thing will really mess up your computer. If you don’t remove it correctly, you will lose access to the CD/DVD drive in your PC.

Debugging services

Simon Carter has a tip on debugging services. It boils down to calling the Windows Sleep API in your service constructor code. This gives your debugger enough time to attach the your process in time to step through the service start up code. Usually when you attach to a running process, it has already gone through it’s normal initialization code (“We now join this program already in progress”). If you are trying to diagnose a problem in the startup code, it’s already too late by the time you can attach to it. That is the joy that we call Windows Service programming.

I prefer to take a different tack for debugging a service. I separate the code of what the service is supposed to do from the actual service code. I’ll build a Windows App (or Winforms app) that calls the same code that the service would call. It’s much easier to debug the code from an application instead of a service. 99.9% of the time, the problem is not part of the service controller code, it’s the in the code that service uses. The other 0.01% of the time where the problem is in the service creation code, I just add a lines to send data to the Windows event log. This technique works well for Win32 Delphi and .NET programming.