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Preventative Maintenance August 14, 2008

Filed under: Everything — Jason Olson @ 8:34 pm
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It is great that our culture has ingrained in us a sense of Preventative Maintenance in many areas of our lives. We don’t always recognize the significance until someone we know neglects to perform this maintenance. Two example which come to mind is having your oil changed in your vehicle, as well as brushing your teeth (and the bi-annual teeth cleaning appointments).

We all know that a failure to perform these tasks will not cause catastrophic failure or problems immediately, but the longer we put it off for, the worse it will become. Your car can easily run a whole year without an oil change, 12,000, no problem. However your fuel efficiency goes away and you begin to do permanent damage to your engine. Same goes with your teeth, missing a brushing here-or-there will not cause your teeth to fall out, but failure to be preventative and proactive amount maintenance can really do some damage — and you cannot buy new teeth like you can with a car.

However, in many areas of our live, basically because there hasn’t been enough public awareness, we forget that maintenance can help. While I can discuss many areas, today I’ll talk about computers — they need maintenance too. On more that one instance — okay, just about every instance — I’ve been asked to look at a friends slow computer at home, and what do I discover, 5 years of caked on dust within the system. Something that doesn’t cause a lot of problem at first, just mild overheating, which might cause the fans to work harder and the system to work a little slower. But left that way for too long and you’ll end up with components which begin to prematurely break down until they start to have real noticeable failures. At that point, the damage is done – buy a new system. However, taking the system out and at least blowing out the dust once a year could prevent this from ever happening. Other things like disk fragmentation, clearing out your unneeded applications and data, each one by itself is minor, but a bunch of minor 2% slowdowns begin to add up. By the time I typically see a system, it would be faster to start from scratch instead of fixing all of the issues caused by a lack of maintenance.

Mark it on your calendar, take the system out and blow out the insides. Run a disk fragmentation software (or purchase an automated one). Stay on top of updates, and remove unneeded software. Go through you data and archive or delete unneeded data. Purge those old e-mails, funny pictures, etc. Run a manual anti-virus scan, clean out the keyboard, mouse and monitor. Go through and perform a little TLC once and a while and it will make your system last a lot longer. With proper care and attention, we’ve have had plenty of systems work strong for 7 years!

It is always faster, easier and cheeper to perform maintenance then to fix a problem after it has exploded.

 

Cryptography

Filed under: Everything — Jason Olson @ 9:15 am
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I just completed watching the bonus features of National Treasures, Disc 2, where there was a featurette on cryptography. While it didn’t do the field much justice, it did a wonderful job of explaining the science of cryptography to the average person, along with a brief history lesson.

What disturbed me the most was a single statement which was used repeatedly as if it was fact, “current cryptography will never be broken”. Reiterated several times by several “experts”. However, if the “history” of  cryptography has taught us anything, it is that all codes can be broken, given enough time and resources. And while today we do not see the computing power to break current ciphers, if we look at the computing advances in the last 50 years, we can see the quantum leaps forward in computing capacity. If that trend continues virtually every cipher today is doomed for cracking.

Some of you may remember the Oracle advertising campaign that their database was “unbreakable” — touted very strongly after Microsoft’s Secure Computing Initiative. However, it wasn’t long before it was broken, and they ceased that campaign. Anyone who tells you that something is unbreakable, doesn’t really have a full understanding of the situation. There are strong, as well as stronger security mechanisms, and there are systems which have yet to be broken…yet. But the fact that it hasn’t been broken, doesn’t mean that it is intrinsically safe.

I remember when the Mac OS X came out, and one of the false arguments to purchase a Mac was that it didn’t have any viruses written for it…yet… But today there are several. So does that argument of switching to a Mac hold true? How about Firefox (versus Internet Explorer)? Choose it because it’s faster and has no major flaws, less updates? Today we see that there are several vulnerabilities and has more patches required that Internet Explorer on a monthly basis, and it’s slowing down as it receives more patches and becomes more compatible with other websites. These arguments of “more secure” have fallen flat over the years.

Something new always promises to be better, until given the opporunity to be broken.