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Archive for November 29th, 2005

FireFox 1.5 released

Tuesday, November 29th, 2005 -- By ET

I like FireFox, not just because it is easy to use, but also because it represents something innovative growing under the shadow of something very overwhelming. IE has been a good browser after version 4.0. Before then, Netscape was the best. I gave up using Netscape because the support of Chinese was not as good as IE.

From looking at the great websites of today, I keep finding something amazing. We always talk about mind-blowing innovativeness in ideas to win the market (and thus profit). But think about the big winners: Amazon, eBay, Google, Skpye. None of them is based on a super innovative idea. The lesson we can learn is that you don’t have to be smarter than everyone else to win. Rather, you have to do something really good to win. Amazon focused on selling books, after it has been well established, it started to sell other goods. Many other websites who rushed to build online retail channels failed. eBay focused on C2C auctions, and it lived out Yahoo’s fierce competition. When Google came out with the "pagerank" idea, Yahoo was the dominant player, it would seem funny if you tell people, in 2000, that Google will be sharing the market with Yahoo. (back then, there are so many other potential competitors: HotBot, Excite, Infoseek, lycos, etc. etc. – how many of these can you remember now?) When Skype came, Yahoo messenger and MSN both offer free VoIP services, anyone dipping the toe into this mud should have thought it twice, yet Skype succeeded. All these examples tell us one simple thing: do what you are best at and be excellent in it.

Scientists, be on guard … ET might be a malicious hacker

Tuesday, November 29th, 2005 -- By ET

Long time no posts.  Here is something fun and new: 

Scientists, be on guard … ET might be a malicious hacker

In the next issue of the journal Acta Astronautica,  Richard Carrigan, a particle physicist at the US Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Illinois suggests that SETI@Home’s data may contain virus and cause problems for people running the SETI@Home client. 

This is interesting, but I guess Mr. Carrigan does not know too much about the architecture of modern computers.  To cause a serious problem for people (or steal information from these computers, as implied in the article), the aliens really need to be very good at programming for Microsoft Windows, and know a lot about the underlying hardware running the OS.  Back in the early 1990′s, I got my first computer, and I spent a lot of time cracking DOS programs.  The tools I used are PCTOOLS (I guess it was produced by a competitor of NortonTools), and SoftICE.  I use these tools to reverse engineer programs and I literally collected samples of virus programs, and learns a lot about hacking and propogating programs among computers. :-)

I learned assembly language to write small programs and these techniques all paid off later when I wanted to

  • decrypt some encoded files
  • localize English version softwares to Chinese versions
  • find a quick cheat to finish some very hard computer games
  • recovering lost data from a hard drive failure

Oops, off topic again.  Back to the article, if the aliens have a way to sneak code into these signals and contaminate the SETI clients, and then sends information back to the space in some way, they do not really need to take the trouble in the first place.  Why not just intercept the information transmitted on earth directly?


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