Antivirus (Tuesday, 2010 July 20)

July 21, 2010

Turns out antivirus is the same word in English and French. I discovered this while I was trying to load the software I had painstakingly downloaded onto the computers in time for clubs tomorrow.

The computers in the lab room here at the model school are already majorly fucked. How exactly they got that way is anyone’s guess, but probably some got something off of some USB key and some, which are actually connected to the Internet, probably caught something that way. IE6 or whatever. Naturally it’s bad practice to cross-contaminate, so after you put the USB key into one infected computer, you go back to the Linux machine to decontaminate. One really nasty system managed to corrupt the installers for the software. To make sure that didn’t happen again, I did a diff on the USB key after each system. Fortunately the installers have consistency checks, and they only failed on one system, so likely that didn’t go too far. Also awesome: shitty little *.exes that get sprinkled through your filesystem.

In theory we could download some antivirus software onto a key and use that to clean up a little bit. This was my assignment this afternoon. No luck for varying reasons, all more-or-less boiling down to the fact that antivirus would really like to have Internet access in order to update its virus definitions. AVG flat out refuses to install without a valid connection. Microsoft Security Essentials installs but lets you know it’s outdated, and refuses to do anything until it’s updated. As far as I can tell it’s not possible to download a virus signature database onto a key or anything like that, although all the help files are in French so who fucking knows? Avira is almost 30 MB so one hopes it has virus definitions in there somewhere, but on any given run from C|Net I only managed to get a 1/3rd of the file before running out of patience, so again who fucking knows. Broken OSes, viruses transmitted by USB keys, antivirus software that doesn’t work out of the box. I can’t believe any one of these problems exists, much less all of them in the same reality. Long story short: fucking goddamnit, people.

All of this really makes you wonder who wrote a virus that transmitted itself via USB key, why they thought this would be a good idea, and what the eventual payoff is. It’s not like attacking systems connected to the Internet, where if you 0wn them, you basically get an additional computer with an additional Internet connection. If you 0wn some arbitrary Pentium I in the middle of Underfuckistan, what do you have?

Today Claude came back from working "in the country" for a few days. He brought a cacao fruit and a citron, a little lime. When you crack open the cacao fruit, there are these white seed-ish things that you suck on. They have a sweet, citrusy taste. You spit out the seeds. I think the cacao nibs are found inside, and they get sold by the bag after they dry. Apparently you just can’t buy the fruit fresh, probably because of the value of the seeds. Too bad. If you ever get the opportunity to try it, I recommend it.

Been playing a little bit with my other laptop, the ZaReason Teo. It’s almost exactly the same form factor as my MSI Wind 110, but the hardware is more open-source friendly. Power it on and it walks you through the Ubuntu install, but it’s customized a little bit evidently because the machine is showing up on the mDNS network as zareason-teo. Cute. Hoping that goes away when I reboot. I named the machine jonah-hex, after this review on with the teaser, "It’s like a drinking game that hired actors". I have high expectations for this machine, but I think I’ll probably be satisfied. Some things are already nicer on jonah-hex. It’s running 10.04, whereas the MSI Wind, who is named joker, is stuck perpetually in 9.10, which is 6 months older, and can’t be upgraded because of the finicky video driver. In general 10.10 feels a little snappier, and UNR is basically the same, no real changes.

Also interesting: turns out you don’t need usb-modeswitch — I plugged the Camtel key into the freshly-installed laptop, and after about 20 seconds it just disconnected itself and started over as a modem. Hmm. Need to tell Timothy, who’s had no end of trouble with the damned thing.

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