Archive for September, 2007

Interesting (yet alarming) Excel 2007 bug

Tuesday, September 25th, 2007

A few people sent me emails about this so I thought I'd pass it on ...

It seems like there's a bug in Excel 2007 with some multiplication operations where the product should be 65,535.  Rather than displaying the correct answer, 100,000 is displayed instead.

This graphic illustrates the issue - in all cases the product should be 65,535:

Excel 2007 multiplication bug

If you're a heavy Excel 2007 user, you might want to check your spreadsheets in a previous version on Excel, or with OpenOffice.org Calc, a calculator, or just a pen an paper.

ZoneAlarm ForceField sandboxes browser

Monday, September 24th, 2007

This sounds quite interesting:

Check Point Software Technologies has released a public beta of ZoneAlarm ForceField, a browser virtualization security tool that promises anti-phishing and spyware-blocking capabilities.

The software is available as a free download during the beta testing period. Check Point plans to slap a $29.95 price tag on the product once the final version ships in early 2008.

ZoneAlarm ForceField essentially puts the browser in a sandbox (Internet Explorer 6/7 and Firefox 2.0 are supported on Windows XP and Vista), allowing users to surf and shop online without fear of falling victim to drive-by exploits.

What surprises me is that the Firefox team haven't done this already.

Virgin Digital music store bites the dust

Monday, September 24th, 2007

Bye bye Virgin Digital ...

 Virgin Digital offers users the chance to download songs a la carte or subscribe for content a la Napster/Rhapsody. The service, which was only available to users in the US and UK will officially shut down on October 19th, although Virgin Digital has already stopped accepting new customer registrations.

Anyone with more than a month of subscription credit will get a refund. If you've got credit for song downloads, there won't be a refund, so it's time to start a downloading binge or you can use your credit on Napster.

PDF leaks Formula 1 secrets

Monday, September 24th, 2007

Blanking something out doesn't mean that it's gone!

Notes from a meeting of the World Motor Sports Council were released recently by the FIA. The document was redacted, as you can see from the example below:

Fia00123999999However, as F1Fanatic found out, simply copying and pasting the text into another document reveals the redacted text. In this case, I simply copied the text into Word:

        Nigel TOZZI

        He was paid around 300 000 to 400 000 pounds per annum. Is that correct?

Apparently, the person responsible for redacting the document simply drew a black box around the sensitive text, not realizing that the underlying text was still available. I feel a bit sorry for the poor sod who did this. Simply copy-protecting the PDF would have prevented this type of thing from occurring.

Thoughts on RAID

Sunday, September 23rd, 2007

Over on CNET blogs Michael Horowitz takes a look at the pitfalls of using RAID 0.

Raid level zero, however, is the black sheep of the RAID family. It's goal is performance rather than reliability. I'm writing this posting because two of my clients have been burned by their inadvertent use of RAID level zero. Consider this a word to the wise.

RAID 0 offers the best performance of all RAID configurations and can dramatically improve data transfer rates because data is spread across two drives.  However, there's a downside - if one drive dies, they both die and your data is gone (unless you have it professionally recovered).  Because the data is written across two drives, that doubles the chances of a failure, and then you have to add in the chances of the RAID controller going belly up.

I have a personal philosophy when it comes to backup - three is two, two is one and one is none.  If you only have one copy of your data and you lose it, you're lost, if you have two copies and one vanishes, you're down to one you're still safe, but if you have three copies, losing one is no problem.

If you want the performance offered by a RAID 0 array, here are my recommendations:

  • Have a good understanding on the benefits and pitfalls of RAID 0 before using it
  • Backup regularly!
  • Don't store important data on a RAID 0 array
  • Replace drives every three to five years

There's a follow-up post by Michael Horowitz on RAID 0 here.