First Ever Computer Virus

I have regularly worked with Windows computers since 1990 when my family was given an IBM PC Model 5150. I had never gotten a virus, ever, until last night.

I got this email with a ZIP file. I knew it was a virus, but I opened the ZIP file anyway. (Simply opening the ZIP file typically will not give you a virus; you have to open a file in the ZIP to get it.) Inside the ZIP was one file that appeared to be named something.txt. Before I double-clicked on it I should have immediately noticed all the space after the .txt in the filename. It turns out that the file was named something.txt___________________________.pif (where _ is a space). There were so many spaces that you can’t see the .pif on the end unless you went to Details view.

By doing that I got the W32/Netsky.p@MM and W32/Netsky.ad@MM virus.

I didn’t realize I had a virus until my wife checked her email. She got a message from a friend with a virus payload. Knowing how those viruses work, I immediately checked the headers and did a nslookup on the originating IP (as reported by our ISP’s SMTP server). It was a SWBell.net DSL IP address! I logged in my router and found that it’s my DSL address!

My Windows XP box is fully patched with all latest Windows Updates and Office Updates. The one thing I was lacking was the virus software. I had to redo my computer due to a hardware failure about two weeks ago, and I neglected to reinstall my virus scanner. It’s on now, and it caught the virus very quickly.

I hate the way virus scanners slow down your system, but now I definitely see why they are a necessary evil.

Hidden Messages in Programming Textbooks

Introductory programming courses usually start with an example program called “$g(Hello World).” Hello World uses variables named “foo” and “bar.”

Innocent syllables? Not.

Foo and bar come from $d(FUBAR), an old military term meaning F—– Up Beyond All Repair.

So nearly every intro computer science textbook hurls an expletive at new students.

And now you know the rest of the story.

Geeking at the Gym

I have a Compaq iPAQ 3970 PDA. It was given to me about a year and a half ago by SMU because SMU was going to write a PDA-based ticket writing software for the SMU police department. I wasn’t going to write the software, but as a web geek I was supposed to provide support and knowledge.

The project never got off the ground.

Now I use the PDA to be my Outlook calendar, contacts, and task list when I am not at the office. It’s incredibly useful for this.

My favorite use is a gym workout tracker. The PDA comes with a scaled down version of the Microsoft Excel spreadsheet program called Pocket Excel. After I use each exercise machine at the gym I jot down the weights I used and how many repetitions I managed into my spreadsheet. (Click on the spreadsheet to see how wimpy I really am.) Over time I will graph my workout results to see if I am improving.