TV-PGNovember 6, 2000: Whatever possessed two honor students to steal $30,000 worth of Macs and then sell hot iBooks for $20 apiece? Meanwhile, Microsoft faces heat in Germany for its tenuous ties to Scientology-- is Apple in for trouble, too? And the Redmond Giant need to get better about installing patches; someone compromises one of its web sites by exploiting a known security hole...
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Society Made Us Do It! (11/6/00)
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Oh, these damn mixed-up kids today-- using their powers for evil instead of good. Have they learned nothing from such modern moral compasses as Xena: Warrior Princess? Granted, the attention span of the average high schooler in this day and age almost makes the AtAT staff appear alert and focused by comparison (naaahhh), but surely if teens today never figure out that walking the Dark Side only leads to heartache, they're actively trying to steer clear of any sort of moral education. What else could possibly explain the story of the two students who stole ten iBooks from their own school's computer lab? Evil, we say, eeeevillll!!

See, faithful viewer Jeffrey Czerniak forwarded us the sad news via a Houston Chronicle article about the unfortunate incident. The angle that the article tries to play up is that these kids are smart, being "straight-A students" in the National Honor Society and "orchestra geeks" on top of that. Apparently we're all supposed to feel shocked that even the school brains are morally bankrupt enough to rip off their own school to the tune of $30,000 in high-tech gear. We, on the other hand, aren't bothered nearly so much by the unexpected nature of the culprits as we are by the fact that these miscreants actually stole Macs. Depriving others of one of life's few true remaining joys? It's a heinous, heinous crime and we hope they get the chair.

Then again, perhaps we're being too hard on the little reprobates. Maybe we should be looking at the whole thing from a Robin Hood sort of angle-- they "liberated" the iBooks from the greasy paws of the fatcat establishment and helped out the Macless by selling some of the units for twenty bucks. Yes, twenty bucks. How's that for a bargain? (Kinda makes the 25%-off deal we were so proud of getting last year sound like a chump's price, doesn't it?) So it's entirely likely that the two thieves were simply doing their part to make sure that people of all financial situations can afford their own Macs. Maybe these two "smart" kids are striking some sort of political blow, bringing the power to the people.

Or maybe they just aren't that bright after all. Straight-A students they may be, but that would appear to say more about grade inflation than the mental acuity of our budding cat burglars. For one thing, they can't be all that good at math if they were willing to sell an iBook for $20. For another, considering that the theft was described by the fuzz as "a very well thought-out burglary," the motive could probably have used a bit more brainwork: they just "wanted to see if [they] could get away with it." Well, guess what, guys? The answer would appear to be a big fat no. Go figure. Oh, and for those of you who are worried about the poor Mac-deprived kids at the burglarized school, fear not-- seven of the ten iBooks have already been recovered. And remember, kids: crime doesn't pay. Especially when you only fence your booty for an eightieth of list price.


 
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Intolerance Can Be Fun (11/6/00)
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Well, here's something we never thought we'd see: a whole country rejecting Microsoft software. Hang on, that's not the surprising bit; what has us scratching our heads in wonder is the fact that the country in question rejected the software for a reason other than the inherent suckiness of the product itself. No, what's fueling this anti-Microsoft fervor is, of all things, religion. Faithful viewer Mr. Nick made our day just that much more surreal by pointing out a Seattle Times article which explains that Germany is so uptight about the fact that Windows 2000's disk defragmentation module was produced by a third-party company whose CEO happens to be a Scientologist, Microsoft actually caved and provided instructions on how to remove that "integrated" portion of the operating system.

Wait a second, here. How come all of a sudden it's so easy for Microsoft to remove a tightly-integrated part of one of its operating systems? We're sure that the Justice Department is smacking itself on the collective head right about now for not having tried the same tack a few years ago. Evidently they could have avoided this whole "Redmond Justice" trial rigamarole if, instead of demanding that Internet Explorer be removed from Windows because it constituted an antitrust violation, they had simply objected to the software on religious grounds. Yes, if they'd just complained that the IE logo is reminiscent of an obscure Satanist sigil, we never would have heard all that whining from Bill's boys about how IE is an inseparable part of the OS blah blah blah-- out it would have come, tout de suite. We'll have to keep this in mind for next time.

But we digress. The thing that really freaks us out is that Germany is actually rejecting a product just because it was made by a company whose CEO happens to be a Scientologist. (Do they have a standing ban on Travolta flicks, too? And, heaven forbid, the playful hijinks of "Dharma and Greg"?) That's not to say that the AtAT staff is pro-Scientology or anything-- as far as we're concerned, you can all believe whatever you want-- but it sounds to us like the German government might be overreacting just a leetle bit. What do they think, Windows 2000's going to start proselytizing when the defrag utility kicks into gear? "3642 blocks optimized. Psychiatry is hurtful and wrong. L. Ron rules. Have a nice day."

Our biggest concern is that if tenuous ties to Scientology are all that it takes to keep a product out of Germany, what's going to happen to Apple? As you all know, Apple signed a deal with EarthLink making the company its official ISP for Mac customers. Well, you may or may not be aware of the fact that EarthLink was founded by a Scientologist. Gasp! In fact, unless we're mistaken, we're pretty sure that the EarthLink Total Access software that's been shipping on every Mac for years now was written by a Scientologist. Granted, you wouldn't get many Germans scrambling to sign up for EarthLink accounts anyway, but is Apple going to get burned in Germany for having signed a deal with members of, as the country apparently considers it, an "unwelcome cult"? Oh, the humanity...


 
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The Break-In Of The Week (11/6/00)
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Okay, settle down-- everybody quit pushing. If you all relax and wait your turn like civilized human beings, sooner or later everyone will get a chance to compromise Microsoft's corporate data. At least, it sure seems that way; the buzz about the company's recent big break-in (which may have involved the theft of source code over the course of up to five weeks of stolen access by crackers unknown) has barely subsided to a dull roar, and already faithful viewer Tim Rzeznik is forwarding us InfoWorld articles about the next Microsoft crack attack. Evidently, when it comes to security, the company has more important things that have to take precedence-- like, say, extracting disk defragmenters from operating systems or something.

So here's the latest: a Dutch hacker calling himself "Dimitri" claims to have gained illicit access to Microsoft's web servers last Friday. By exploiting one of the eight gazillion documented security bugs in Microsoft's Internet Information Server product, Dimitri was able to alter the content on events.microsoft.com. On top of that, once he had access, he "could add Trojan horses to software that Microsoft customers download," and could also download and decrypt "files containing administrative user names and passwords." Sure, it's not exactly on par with infiltrating Microsoft's intranet and cruising for source code, but hey, if ever there was a situation tailor-made for the old "adding insult to injury" phrase, this is it right here.

The reason this must be particularly embarrassing to Microsoft is because since the security hole in question is a known bug, there's been a patch available for weeks now to plug the leak. Obviously Microsoft doesn't even apply its own patches in a timely fashion, which probably says a lot about just what percentage of the company's customers actually stay on top of downloading and installing the plethora of bug fixes that streams steadily out of Redmond. Well, all we can say is that we hope Apple's a little more careful with its data than Microsoft is. Given how solidly Steve seems to have plugged the Amazing Wall of Leaks in months past, we imagine Apple's info is pretty safe. Nothing's 100% unbreakable, of course, but we imagine the crackers are having more fun picking on Bill than Steve anyway.


 
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