Sunday, March 10, 2013

We Pause for this Birthday

I turned 63 yesterday! Jeepers!

Mrs Elliott took me out for dinner last night. She asked me where I wanted to go, and I picked Bōken, downtown. The food there is wonderful: densely-flavored and rewarding. If you are a fan of mild, "safe" foods, if two or three chilies are too "devilish" for you, then Bōken is not for you; but if you appreciate and seek "challenging" food, check the place out.

Just before the soup arrived, my beloved 22 year-old daughter called to wish me a happy birthday. We briefly discussed how school was going, and (here's the Big Deal for me), it was at that moment that I realized that I don't have to fret about her any more.

She's going to be okay: My girl child has things under control. I can relax, Dad can let go now. She is intelligent and autonomous, "launched," and has a Plan.

So while that thought was settling in, the soup arrived. Being totally about me, I knew that daughters are for a lifetime, but hot soup is ephemeral. So I had to say goodbye to my sweet daughter.

Me talking to the best daughter a man can have. Soup had not yet arrived.
The food was lovely, we came home, I built a fire, we basked. Mrs Elliott and I stayed up late last night.

Today, Sunday, has been a mellow day. We went to the Victorian cafe for breakfast, I had a couple Bloody Marys.

Mrs Elliott originally had plans to go to drive to Bachelor for skiing, but the truth is, she and I have only enough energy to putter about. (See "Mrs Elliott and I stayed up late last night.", above.)

Today, she's been banging about downstairs, building office furniture from Office Depot for her new office while I've been doing computer geek stuff on her company computers.

While I was staring at a warning screen from a third-party firewall application, my dear son, who runs on his own schedule, called to wish me a happy birthday-- it was a day late but that's how the boy rolls and I'm good with it. He invited me and the missus out for dinner tomorrow night. I'm pleased.

I requested Sweet Saigon. It ain't great Vietnamese food for aficionados (my former technician, Phan Dai, a Vietnamese guy, tasted their offerings at Pho Viet cafe out on 3rd and pronounced it to be "uninteresting"), but their VS1 sandwich is -- to me -- stunningly delicious.

So that's my choice. It's cheap and easy, and what my son can afford.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Got Sidetracked

I was working on Part 2 of my multi-part story about my research into the old rail spur beside Wall Street Storage when I got sidetracked (heh) by some computer issues in Mrs Elliott's company.

It started with the hard drive on Mrs Elliott's computer -- the computer she uses and which also serves the company accounting files with the bookkeeper. It was making some funny sounds, and the machine crashed a couple times.

So my attention was deservedly diverted.

I ran some diagnostics on the drive and, yep, it came up as an unhappy camper.

Paul Spencer (of Paul the Computer Guy) said that the drive needed to be backed up immediately and the data cloned it to a new drive.  I ran the backup, then drove the machine to his shop for the cloning.

That was Friday morning of last week.

Later that same day, they called to say that while the cloning went fine, the machine was running slower than they felt it should, so they were going to scan it over the weekend for viruses.

(Computer viruses are a rather small subset of what is known as "malware" or malicious software: an umbrella term for all sorts of computer nasties. Wikipedia says that malware

[...] includes computer virusesransomwarewormstrojan horsesrootkits,keyloggersdialersspywareadware, malicious BHOsrogue security software, and other malicious programs; the majority of active malware threats are usually worms or trojans rather than viruses.)

This worried me. Were malware found on Mrs Elliott's computer, then other company computers might be infected, too. So over the weekend I scanned the other computers and while most came up clean, one was hosting a kind of trojan called a Browser Helper Object, or "BHO," and another had a malicious rootkit. I scrubbed them both, but I was troubled.

To be fair, I have a good firewall between the office and the big bad wild world of the Internet, I have a  good and strong anti-virus program on all the computers (except for my personal Linux machine which doesn't need it, a-hem), and I recently rebuilt the wireless network in the building so that visitors and employees with mobile devices are restricted to a "guest" wireless network which keeps them from accessing the company computer resources. I thought we were fairly safe.

Anyway, on Monday, when I picked up Mrs Elliott's computer after Paul the Computer Guy's shop, they reported that no malware was found on it. There were a few extraneous processes they found running that might have slowed it down a bit, but nothing malicious.

But still. One computer with a trojan and one with a rootkit. I needed to take a harder look at what IT people consider to be Best Practices for small office/home office (SOHO) computer security.

So, rather than catching my reader up on the fascinating story about the old rail spur that was put in in 1910 to go to the old Bend Flour Mill, I've been geeking about, reading articles, harmonizing the update schedules on all the company computers for such vulnerable software as the Microsoft Windows operating system, and Adobe Reader, and Adobe Flash, and Oracle's (laughably exploitable) Java, and Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox and Microsoft Internet Explorer browsers, and Mozilla Thunderbird (email), and setting up malware scanners, testing sandboxing applications, Microsoft's Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit (EMET), and secure DNS providers, -- and, just in case I wasn't being thorough enough -- writing up Acceptable Use agreements for the computers and the network for the employees to sign.

The bases, for Mrs Elliott's company, I am trying to cover. Oy.

Railroads, old rights of way, maps and ancient Bend Bulletin stories have been backburnered. I will return to my story soonest.

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