Computers

Why can’t I buy a basic 4:3 1600×1200 LCD monitor any more for less than $380?

A 1080 monitor is “missing” 120 pixels of vertical resolution.  In practical terms, this means you spend a LOT more time scrolling up and down when you browse the web, write a Microsoft Word document, edit your latest eBook, work on updating your website.

When it comes to computers, I’m a power user.  Lots of applications running, Internet browsers, file transfer applications, e-mail, office applications (Word, PowerPoint and Excel), graphics and website development software, even video conferencing from time to time, all at the same time.  It takes not only a lot of CPU and RAM to run all of this, but it takes a lot of desktop real-estate too, which is why I need high-resolution monitors. The rise of High Definition television (HD or 1080p) and mobile devices has brought about an odd situation.   Six years ago, you could get a 1600×1200 LCD/LED monitor for around $189.  I bought two Samsung monitors at that price.  One of them failed recently, and I went shopping for a new monitor with the same resolution, only to find that I had to choose between medical-industry-grade monitors at $1200+, new monitors at $450+ (if I could find them), refurbished monitors for around $200, or settle for a 1980×1080 monitor.

I was flabbergasted that you just can’t buy a new, standard 1600×1200 monitor these days for under $300.

After some research, I discovered that the people that make monitors aren’t interested in making PC monitors any more. They can take the same materials and produce an HD television at three times the price.  A basic 27-inch 1920×1080 LCD monitor will run you $109 US.  A 27-inch 1920×1080  HD-TV will run you $349 US.   Manufacturers add a tuner component, but otherwise, the HD-TV is the same materials, components, screen-size and electronics. Because it’s an HDTV, you’re willing to pay more and so you do, and the manufacturers realized that at a 250% markup, HD-TV’s are more profitable, so they retooled their factories to turn out 1920×1080 screens for HD-TV’s.  Even better, they can carve up what could have been a $109  27-inch screen into a dozen iPhones, charge $100 for each iPhone screen,  and make at least  600% markup with the same materials and production costs.  Thus, today’s monitor manufacturers see PC monitors as “unprofitable” by comparison to HD-TV’s, mobile phones and tables, so they refuse to put anything more into a PC monitor than is required to get a consumer to buy it.  Since they converted their factories for HD TV’s, they can only crank out 1080 PC monitors now.  Setting up a production line to turn out a 1600×1200 monitor may be possible, but they see making a smaller profit as a financial loss.  Since consumers are unaware that 1600×1200 used to be the standard monitor… Continue reading

I happen to have the ‘good fortune’ of having more than one Apple Fanboy amidst my network of associates and they are all downplaying the latest round of Flashback-based malware infections on the Mac as being ‘unusual’ and ‘nothing to worry about’ and they still insist that installing anti-malware software is pointless.  Same thing they have been telling me for just about a decade.

Contrary to what the Fanboys say, Mac OS X has been hit with viruses and worms in the past.  Flashback is not the first. Malware specifically targeting the Mac OS X platform starting appearing as early as 2004.  Apple computers have never been ‘immune’ to malware and spyware, contrary to Apple’s advertising, and Apple computers have been part of the earliest history of virus development, beginning with Elk Cloner which predates the first PC virus “Brain” by about 4 years.  Yes, owners of Apple products had to worry about viruses four years before PC users did…

Here’s the a small sample of the kinds of malware targeting Apple computers that I could dig up in a quiet evening at home from the web. This list of Apple Malware is far from complete:

  • 1982 – Mac Virus Elk Cloner (created by Richard Skrenta).  A boot sector virus attacks the Apple II.  This predates the first virus on Windows computers, so Apple computers got viruses before PC’s did. Dwindling market share protected the Apple computers–just wasn’t worth the hacker’s effort.
  • 1992 – INIT 1984 – Triggers on Friday the 13th on any computer running MacOS (pre-OS X)
  • 1994 – Mac Virus INIT-29-B  modifies system files and applications, crashes the early Macs.
  • 1995 – HyperCard Virus HC-9507 embeds itself in all HyperCard stacks.
  • 1987 – nVIR Virus. Spread by infected floppies.
  • 1988 – HyperCard viruses start appearing
  • 1990 – MDEF (Garfield) infected the operating system files.
  • 1998 – Hong Kong / AutoStart 9805 infects via the AutoPlay feature of QuickTime.
  • 1998 – Sevendust / 666
  • 2004 – OSX /Renepo (opener) script worm
  • 2006 – OSX/Leap-A (OSX.Oomp). First ‘official’ Mac OS X virus. Actively infects via iChat buddy lists.
  • 2006 – Inqtana worm and virus
  • 2006 – Macarena – Proof of Concept worm
  • 2007 – BadBunn; also OSX/RSPlug (DNS Changer) – Persisted till 2011 due largely to the myth that Macs are immune, so Mac users did not patch or protect their systems.
  • 2008 – MacSweeper scareware, Imunizator scareware
  • 2008 – AppleScript.THT that spreads via the Remote Desktop Agent feature by using a tunnel to hide  itself from the firewall and allow remote hackers complete access and control of the Mac.
  • 2008 – OSX.Lamzev.A – Opens a backdoor to allow hackers to control your Mac remotely
  • 2008 – OSX.Trojankit.Malez … Continue reading

I’m paranoid about the web, and with good reason.

The #1 way hackers get into computers today is through your web browser from an infected website.  The battle for control of your computer has spread from e-mail and attachments. Another battlefront has opened up on your web browser.  A large number of big-name sites have been hacked recently and nobody is completely sure just what the hackers made off with.  Hackers use DNS spoofing to trick computers into coming to an infected website, so you can’t completely be sure that you ended up on the website you intended to visit. They also buy up common misspellings of big sites to catch anyone that makes a typo.

Hackers have been using SQL injection vulnerabilities to break into websites for years (it is in fact one of the primary ways hackers get into a server), and these vulnerabilities still go unpatched. Now they are infecting websites in order to set up complex computer/browser/plugin fingerprinting engines that detect vulnerable versions.  These engines deliver attacks custom-tailored to infect the visitor’s computer with slimy botware.  Take out the cookies, pop-ups, plugins and JavaScript and you’ve stripped your attack surface these engines can attack, down to just your web browser. But this makes browsing less user friendly and a lot more frustrating in the short term, and confusing for people who aren’t technical.

Of course, whenever someone starts talking about a really secure platform, the Mac fanboys jump right in to tell me how secure Apple MacOS is–never mind that the MacOS/Safari combo gets hacked every year (2007200820092010,2011)  during PWN2OWN at CANSECWEST.  Never mind that the hackers have now developed a crimeware kit for the Mac, which means Mac users will need to be on the lookout for a deluge of malware from now on.

With so much dangerous malware and so many threats, how do I stay secure online?

READ MORE: Browser inSecurity – How I Stay Protected Online

The term computer appliance is a generic term for a class of computer devices that come pre-packaged and pre-wired from the factory with special features and functionality pre-configured and ready to use with only minimal setup. There are several types of devices that fall into this category such as storage appliances, network appliances, security appliances, anti-virus appliances and so forth.  You can find this new tutorial I’ve written in my Tutorials section, under Computers as computer appliances