Desktop Firewall Silently Blocking Breeze Live Meeting

Breeze Live meetings, analogous to WebEx meetings, utilize the Flash Player as the medium for permitting multiple guest attendees to view the desktop of the Presenter. Breeze Live has built-in video and audio capability as well as whiteboarding and chat, and the Breeze Live Presenter can grant permission to a specific guest to also become a Presenter in order to share the guest desktop with the original Presenter and other guests.

This could be a great way to handle many technical support problems as Breeze Live is conducted over the HTTP port 80, so if the person needing support can at least browse the internet, then that person can also participate in a Breeze Live meeting with technical support. Both sides can visually demonstrate problems and solutions to eachother as needed. Breeze Live can faciliate problem solving by reducing confusion that can occur during telephone or email communications.

While attempting to practice a Breeze Live meeting today, I was completely perplexed for longer than I care to say when the Breeze meeting would not start. I was able to set up a meeting, invite attendees, but when clicking on the button to enter the meeting, the Breeze Live presenter plug-in (Breeze Add-In, a special Flash player called breezeaddin.exe) launched in a small white box with the text "Loading Breeze...". Nothing else happened, and the normal Breeze presenter interface didn't launch. I began following all the troubleshooting instructions that are documented for Breeze Live, scouring the TCP/IP settings of my network connections, monitoring the executables in memory with Process Explorer, and even doing network traces to determine if Breeze was even getting to the network.

Somewhere during this I recalled that earlier in the day I disabled the Zone Alarm personal firewall for Windows desktops. I confirmed that the ZA icon wasn't in the system tray, so I assumed that it wasn't running. But when looking through the Services control panel, I found the TrueVector Internet Monitor and it was running. It occured to me then that the Service was tied to the Zone Alarm program, and I realized that the TrueVector Service was still blocking new programs from accessing the internet even though the ZA system tray icon was not running. When the ZA icon is present in the system tray, the program will display a pop-up alert when an unauthorized program attempts to access the internet. The user can click YES or NO. But without the GUI in the sys tray, all programs are blocked and no notification is provided.

I added the Zone Alarm program back to the Start Up group under the Windows Start menu, so that the sys tray program would launch upon a reboot, and so that the gui would be present when the service is running. Starting the Zone Alarm sys tray program and then running Breeze Live caused a pop-up alert notification that the Flash Player would like to access the internet. Clicking the box for YES permitted Breeze Live to initialize the Presenter interface, and the practice meeting then succeeded.

Starting Breeze Live Failed, Showing Only a Pop-up Flash Player Window The Zone Alarm GUI Was Stopped, But the TrueVector Service Was Still Running Starting the Zone Alarm System Tray Program Permitted Notifications for Programs to Access the InternetConfiguring the ZA Firewall Permitted the BreezeLive Meeting to Begin

Macromedia to Port Products to Wine

I'm a little late to catch this, but while once again working on getting HomeSite+ 5.5 and Dreamweaver MX 2004 to run under WINE on Fedora Core 1 Linux (see previous blog), I came across a very interesting news article from the recent Flash Forward conference regarding WINE.


Effects of Caloric Restriction on Age-related Disease and Lifespan

While reviewing past articles from the Digital Edition archive at Scientific American Magazine, I came across a 2002 article from my old lab at the Gerentology Research Center at the National Institute of Aging. The article describes a summary of what is known about the effects of caloric restriction on aging, lifespan, and disease.

In short, caloric restriction (CR) is simply the consumption of fewer calories, typically about 30% less, which has been demonstrated to decrease age-related disease, increase average lifespan, and increase maximum lifespan. While this has been well characterized in rodents, roundworms, and fruit flies, the most intriguing studies are being performed on populations of monkeys at NIH and the University of Wisconsin, which must go on for decades before confirming the effects of CR conclusively. In lieu of waiting some 20 or 30 odd years for those projects to complete, scientists can and do look at biologicial indicators that measure the aging process at various ongoing intervals.

As anyone on a typical diet can attest, eating less has the unwanted effects of making one grumpier and less able to focus or concentrate, and it's not very likely that people will really be able to stay on a calorically reduced diet for any significant amount of time, although Dr. Roy Walford is giving it his best try. Scientists hope to develop drugs to mimic the effects of caloric restriction, without actually requirnig humans to eat less. Although I'm personally still hoping that they will come up with one to help me drop the 30+ pounds I've put on since working in the software industry!!


Hurray For The Proposed Harvard Stem Cell Research Center

It's not every day that I find an article about someone I know as the front page story of the Boston Globe. I was very pleased this past Sunday to read about Harvard University's initiative to launch a center for the study of human embryonic stem cells, and as a follow-on to the main article about fund-raising for the proposed center there was an article about Dr. Ole Isacson of Mclean Hospital in Belmont, MA. Harvard's new center will be comprised of an amalgamation of various existing laboratories throughout the greater Boston area, including Mclean Hospital. Since the federal government currently limits funding of stem cell research to existing (aged) cell lines while prohibiting funding for research conducted from newly generated cell lines, Harvard is skirting the ban by funding its center through privately raised money.

Dr. Isacson, a professor of neuroscience and a director for the center of regeneration at Mclean, focuses on the transplanation of fetal brain tissue into the degenerated area of the brain for those afflicted by Parkinson's disease [listen]. The brains of Parkinson's patients exhibit a degeneration of the Basal Ganglia (striata or corpus striatum), a dopaminergic center of the brain involved in (extra pyramidal) regulation of fine movement (or motor control). Some degree of this type of degeneration occurs "normally" in the aging process and can be noticed by the slight shaking of the hand of an elderly person for example, but this condition is exacerbated in Parkinson's patients to the point of spasms and the complete inability to walk or sit still. A type of cell therapy to treat Parkinsons harvests young cells from that part of fetal mamalian brain that would normally develop into the Basal Ganglia (corpus striatum), and transplant it into the equivalent area of the host brain in the patient. The transplanted cells would recognize the cellular signals given off by neighboring areas of the brain, which would cue the cells to develop normally and replace those that have died in that brain area. Those cells have been shown to take hold in the patient's brain, develop properly, and begin producing dopamine, hopefully in the desired levels to restore the neural networks that govern fine control of movement. The result is the amelioriation of Parkinson's symptoms indefinitely. Some day this type of therapy may be replaced by the use of neural tissues grown from embryonic stem cells instead.


Big News in the Linux World Today

Discussion forums all over the web today were heatedly debating the significance of two items of news in the Linux world:

  • Red Hat announces an end of life for support of Red Hat Linux 7, 8, and 9. Red Hat Linux is to be replaced with the Fedora Project. Red Hat will focus on the enterprise class customer by continuing development and support of Red Hat Enterprise Linux which comes in 3 flavors, AS, ES, and WS.

  • Novell announces the aquisition of Suse Linux. Novell is a US based company whereas Suse was based in Nuremburg, Germany. Novell also used to own Caldera. Caldera morphed into SCO, and SCO as we all know has gone rabid this year.

I'll be digesting the many discussions over the next few days, but for the moment here are a handful of links to the various threads and topics:


Mounting Filesystems: External USB Hard Drive and NTFS

I've never had formal training in the basics of Linux Administration, and so this week I'm finally in the RH133 Red Hat Linux System Administration course. So far the course completely lives up to my expectations based on my previous experience in the RH253 Red Hat Linux Networking and Security class.

I highly recommend RedHat training because the instructors are both very knowlegeable and capable of effective presentations; two traits that aren't always found together in IT training.

The RH133 curriculum is saturated with great tips and tricks in addition to the curriculum which itself is incredibly packed with very useful information.

Among the many things I'm learning in class that I'm finding personally useful at home is how to mount an external USB harddrive and how to mount the NTFS partition on the "flip side" of a dual boot machine. I could never figure out just what device to mount for the USB drive... I was trying things like /dev/usb or /proc/bus/usb/001, but that wasn't working. When I inquired with the instructor about this, he immediately knew it should be /dev/sda1. Well, I asked him how he knew this and he said that `lsusb` should list the proper device in the output if you search for the vendor name of the drive such as "Lexmark" or "Western Digital". But when he demonstrated the command, it turns out that the device wasn't in there, and when pressed he said that he "just knew" that it was /dev/sda1. He added that I should try mounting /dev/sdaN where the maximum value of N is the total number of USB ports on the machine. Upon trying this at home, I found that `mount -t vfat /dev/sda1 /mnt/usb` worked like a charm on the first try.

To facilitate mounting this drive, I added a line to /etc/fstab with the desired options. Example:

/dev/sda1 /mnt/usb vfat noauto,rw,user 0 0

When I first installed the external hard drive from the Windows side, I formatted as FAT32 knowing that a filesystem of this type could be mounted from Linux... once I knew how to do it. FAT32 is accessible as vfat from Linux. The options "noauto,rw,user" mean that the system does not automatically mount the partition upon boot (noauto), that the filesystem should be mounted as read/write (rw), and that any user has permission to mount and umount the filesystem (user). Then when logged in as a non-priveleged user, all I have to do is issue `mount /mnt/usb` and voila! Note that I previously created the /mnt/usb directory for the purpose of mounting /dev/sda1 there. The directory /mnt is the conventional location to mount filesystems such as floppies, cds, nfs, samba and as well as others.

I also learned that although RedHat cannot automagically mount NTFS partition out of the box, it is possible to install a kernel module that will let you do it, with the only downside that the module provides read-only access not read-write. No biggie to me, but if you want rw access to an NTFS partition then you can either use samba if the disk is on another machine or recompile the kernel to mount either another NTFS machine or the NTFS side of a dual booted machine. Not knowing exactly how to recompile a kernel (yet!), I'm satisfied with just ro. By the way, the RedHat instructor said that they are discouraging the practice of rebuilding kernels due to the added complexity and difficulty of supporting "mystery kernels".

I found everything I needed to know about installing the module for NTFS support at the Linux NTFS RedHat Page. I just downloaded the appropriate rpm, ran the followup commands, and away we go. I added this line to /etc/fstab to allow any user to mount the NTFS side of the machine in read-only mode:

/dev/hda1 /mnt/windowsxp ntfs noauto,ro,user,umask=0222 0 0

One thing I've yet to figure out is that when a regular user mounts the NTFS partition why is the user-group on the directory set to root root while when the same user mounts the USB disk the user-group is the user user. Example:

[steven@dragonfly mnt]$ ls -ld usb/ windowsxp/
drwxr-xr-x 8 steven steven 32768 Oct 28 18:31 usb/
dr-xr-xr-x 1 root root 8192 Oct 26 19:02 windowsxp/

Now any user can mount/unmount the external USB hard drive and the NTFS half of the machine. The USB is available as read and write and the NTFS is read only. This makes it possible share resources between the two sides of a machine and saves the trouble of having to write to floppies or zip drives. Here are relevant lines in /etc/fstab when I was finished:

/dev/sda1 /mnt/usb vfat noauto,rw,user 0 0
/dev/hda1 /mnt/windowsxp ntfs noauto,ro,user,umask=0222 0 0

Happy Mounting!

Beware of Howard Johnson, West 34th Street, New York City

I'd like to share the photos from a recent trip to New York City. Specifically, I'd like to share my negative review with supporting photographic evidence for the Howard Johnson on West 34th Street.

Take a photo tour: Hotel from Hell

Complaints regarding Howard Johnson on West 34th St:

  • Only 1 elevator. Serves dual purpose for cargo/trash and guests. Smells like ripe trash. Watch out for the puddles from the leaky trash.

  • Hallways very narrow, need to carry bags lengthwise to pass
  • Rooms exceptionally small, perhaps just 7x 15', plus a room they refer to as a bathroom.
  • Map of fire escape route doesn't show you where your room is on the map.
  • Advertises internet access in hotel. In reality this means a coin operated kiosk in lobby. Bring a napkin to wipe the snot and greasy fingerprints off it.

  • Advertises desk/work area. In reality there is a narrow desk opposite the door and cluttered with coffee maker, telephone books, etc... No chair provided
  • Air conditioner did not work. The cold setting just blew hot air. Windows did not open.
  • View from window to a dark, inner courtyard consisting of concrete, trash, and views to other guestrooms. Very depressing.
  • Television marred with many cigarrette burns where the plastic was burned. No remote control.
  • Dorm-like shower stall had no lights, a flimsy plastic curtain with rusting hangers, and tile floor infested with god knows what fungus.
  • Toilet paper 5 feet away from toilet. Picture this in your mind for a second...

  • Sink positioned in tiny alcove only shoulder-wide.
  • One wash rag. Two towels. That's it. Material was thin enough to see through.
  • Ventilation system had something like spanish moss hanging from it or growing out of it. Last I checked spanish moss does not grow in New York City.
  • Ceiling tiles ajar and water stained with yellow tint. You may want to consider moving the bed under a tile that does not have leak stains, but you may be torn between that and moving the bed towards the hot air coming from "air conditioner" just to have a breeze of any type.

  • Coffee maker was clogged. Coffee (dark water) ran over and onto desk. Saturated personal items on desk.

Any hotel in NYC is going to be much more expensive than hotels in most other small cities, and the Hojo charged about $100+ for this dump. What a hell hole. After one night in the Hojo we cancelled the remaining 5 days and went somewhere else. Just say No Go to the HoJo!

For about $240 we stayed at the Hilton. The Hilton is immaculate, elegant, and professional. The rooms were spacious, well appointed, and had spectacular view of the Hudson in the distance and 42nd street below. Take my advice, stay at the Hilton in Times Square instead!!!

See also Eric's Guide to Hotels in NYC

ColdFusion MX and J2EETechnical Introduction by Ben Forta

I've recently discovered a great presentation on the topic of J2EE integration with ColdFusion, created by Ben Forta:

Java and ColdFusion MX - The Marriage of Power and Productivity

This is perhaps the best presentation I've seen on the topic for both its content and presentation. Ben illustrates the technical highlights of ColdFusion in fluent manager-ese in a manner that is aimed at traditional Java audiences. The presentation itself is given in Macromedia Breeze, which can be loosely thought of as an enhanced PowerPoint with audio.

- Additional information: ColdFusion MX and the Java Platform

Marriage Ceremony at Town House in Concord, MA

Today my wife and I were married at the Concord Town House. The Concord Justice of the Peace presided over the ceremony. We expect to have a formal and much more elaborate wedding next year in Spain either in Barcelona or in Eresue.

Photos from the Frontline: Korea, 1951

Click for Photo Gallery of the Korean War, 1951 I've recently discovered a link while doing a Google search for my father's name, Gustave Erat. The link is a message board entry from a fellow soldier that trained with my father at Parris Island in the summer of 1951.

"A-1-5 (DEC 1951 - FEB 1953) Message: 10430 - 2000-07-18 Unit: Able Co., 1st Batallion, 5th Regiment, 1st Marine Comments: Looking for info on those who were in Able Co, 1st Batallion, 5th Regiment, 1st Marine Division. I was in Korea from December 1951 to February 1953. Also looking for men I was in Boot Camp at Parris Island with from July to September 1951 (Platoon 302, 16th Draft), especially Robert Raab (NJ), Gus Erat (MD), Louis Jordan (MD), James Walsh (NY). Keywords: Outpost 3, Whitehorse Hill, Platoon members Kelly, Milewski, Givens, Giuliana, Durken; Platoon leader Raymond Murphy."

This one message provided more factual information about my father's history in Korea than I'd ever previously known before. You see my father was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder when I was a child, and the man I was growing to know faded into a shell of his former self. He died not long after that due to his deteriorating health and inability to care for himself.

He never had the opportunity to describe his experience in the war to me , or the events that led to his disorder.
I do have a small collection of original color slides that he took during the war. Those slides are displayed here.

Gustave Erat was honorably discharged from the U.S. Marine Corps on May 21, 1953. His discharge paper reports a 'Total Payment Upon Discharge' of $85.30. He received a Korean Service Medal with 2*(stars), a U.N. Service Medal, and a National Defense Service Medal. He is buried in a small cemetary on German Hill Rd., Dundalk, MD. Gus was 52 when he died.

Photo Gallery

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