Gambling on a different scale

I happened to be looking up an old Sloan instructor, Todd Dagres, who had been an assistant professor in my entrepreneurship curriculum, working alongside Howard Anderson. Dagres had led Battery Ventures’ investments in Akamai and Qtera back in 1999, but in 2001 was calling the tech IPO market a “nuclear winter.” Now that there are signs of life, however small, in the market, I wondered if Dagres had revised his assessment.

According to this Boston Globe article from last October, he’s revised it, all right. He’s left the business entirely—and started a film investment firm, BeGyle.

I guess film is another industry where big capital investments yield big returns—or big zeroes.

New Apple enterprise products

Apple released a bunch of new enterprise-class products today, including single 2.0 GHz and dual 2.3GHz XServes, and Xsan, a new 64-bit storage area network file system which gives up to 64 clients simultaneous read-write access to a Fibre Channel storage network (with volumes up to 16 TB in size) operating at speeds up to 400 Mbps. (All at a low low cost of $999 per node.) Apple also slashed prices on Cinema Displays; the 20-inch display, which used to weigh in at $1299, is now $999. (A bargain!)

Thanks to MacOSXRumors, whose staff must refresh the Apple Store page every Monday morning to catch these early warning signs, for the heads up.

Mac OS X Encrypted Mail: howto, pitfalls

A year or more ago, I quietly started digitally signing most of my outgoing email messages. This trick, made possible by the S/MIME support in Mac OS X’s email client, is about providing authentication—proof that the message came from me and not from someone spoofing my return address, like an email virus or spammer. For the most part the digital signature is handled painlessly by receiving email clients; some will display a “digitally signed” graphic, but that’s about it.

If you want to get your own digital signature enabled in Mac OS X, this tutorial at O’Reilly’s MacDevCenter is the best I’ve found for going through the process, including signing up for your own free digital certificate at Thawte.

I should mention a few issues, however:

  1. Recent versions of Outlook enforce some stringent rules about attachments and digital signatures; specifically, if IE doesn’t know about the agency that issued my certificate, Outlook won’t allow you to open attachments in signed mails from me. Which to me seems silly, as it will allow you to open attachments in unsigned mails from me. But oh well.
  2. Other users with unspecified email clients have had problems with their clients treating the digital signature (which is attached to the email like a file) as a graphic file of some sort.
  3. Thawte certificates are only good for one year, and Mac OS X doesn’t warn about expiring certificates. I stopped sending signed emails and didn’t notice for about a week, then had to figure out how to get an updated certificate. It was a pain. Long story short—remember the password for your login on Thawte’s site.

Authentication blues

Why do mailing lists authenticate posters based on email address? In this day of “permanent” forwarding addresses (of which I have about four), I would think that the return address would be an imprecise attribute to use to validate the sender’s identity.

(Background: I’m unable to post to a neighborhood mailing list because it only accepts mail from subscribers. However, I subscribed with my permanent forwarding address, not my “real” email address—and it’s the latter that appears as my return address in outgoing mail and is used to authenticate me.)

Sigh. Passport appears to be edging closer and closer to the dustbin of history, and the Liberty Alliance is no closer than it was over three years ago (when I first wrote about single sign in) to delivering true identity services. When is someone going to solve this problem?

Welcome to the neighborhood

It’s nineteen hours into the new year, and I’ve received our first present from the far right fringe hate groups. In a plastic bag, tied with a white twist-tie and weighted with a piece of slightly red-tinged granite, a flier greeted me when I took the dogs out tonight:

Don’t Have Sex With Blacks
Avoid AIDS!

The flier then showed a mug shot of a young black man, and the names and counties of three accused black “sexual predators” who “lied about being HIV positive and had sex with dozens of White Women!” (emphasis in the original). The flier was signed by the National Alliance (note my disapproving vote attribute in the link). Googling the text led me to this file.

I frankly feel sick to my stomach. And I don’t know what recourse I have. The leaflet text is protected by the First Amendment; a similar offense in Princeton was prosecuted as littering last year. A similar incident was reported at Rice in 2000. I suppose I should take some comfort in seeing that in four years the racist minds behind this haven’t been able to come up with any additional attacks, but I can’t.

The only constructive action I can think of is to talk to other people in the community and figure out how to coordinate a response.

Family updates

I updated the genealogy section of the site; this long overdue update added in all my living Brackbill second and third cousins. I had never had a chance to transcribe the Brackbill Book, the 1989 compilation of our family tree from Great-Grandfather Harry on down, and so I was in the embarrassing position of having tons of information about people born in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries and no representation of my living cousins. The updated genealogy has been uploaded to the site; as always, please note the caution about the Freeman data.

Cotechino? Cotechini? Zamponi?

We had Charlie and Carie over last night for a traditional New Year’s meal of cotechino and lentils—we upped the ante by serving them over homemade pappardelle in a sauce that also featured fresh sage, onions, and pancetta. (Skip’s Italian Food Blog: Felice Capo d’Anno talks a little more about the tradition).

Interestingly, Lisa had trouble communicating with our normally simpatico Abruzzese butcher to get the cotechino. They went back and forth for three or four different dialect variations until they settled on cotechini—which I suppose is just a plural, after all. But it didn’t resemble what we remembered—the sausages were much smaller, while we remembered great big 2-inch-diameter sausages. I think what we had had before was zampone, which is the same filling in a larger skin. It was delicious anyway.