Craig 1, Hacker 0

When you purchase a product from our website, you click on a link to download it. The link appears to be legit — just a regular link to a file on our server. But it’s not. The file does not actually exist. We intercept the link and parse it to determine what to download to you.

When geeks like me see something like this, they poke around to see what they can find. When our server sees someone like me poking around, it sends me emails so I can watch them do it, because that’s what geeks like me like to do. No, we don’t tell the customer who’s doing the poking that we’re watching them. In fact, the error message they get tells them to forward the message to tech support. In reality we already know. ๐Ÿ™‚

So here’s a customer from Australia doing some late-night hacking. He’s trying to download MyBible 5 for Palm OS without paying for it. Ironically, it’s free so if he really wants it, he can just go through the steps of ordering it and we’ll add it to his legitimate download account. But it’s more fun to try to get a free thing for free without not paying for it.

Two things you need to know: The product code for MyBible 5 is 3MBPGM005, and MyBible 3 is 3MBPGM002. The file name he’s trying to accidentally discover is “mb5setup.exe”. So this is the real link he’s trying to find:

From the log:
The filename requested (\mybible5\program\MyBibleSetup.exe) does not match the product (3MBPGM005).
The filename requested (\mybible5\program\MyBible5Setup.exe) does not match the product (3MBPGM005).
The filename requested (\mybible5\program\) does not match the product (3MBPGM005).
The filename requested (\mybible5\program\MyBible51.exe) does not match the product (3MBPGM005).

Next he tries to get an older version:
The filename requested (\mybible3\program\MyBible3.exe) does not match the product (3MBPG3002).

Back to looking for MyBible 5:
The filename requested (\mybible5\program\MyBible5.exe) does not match the product (3MBPGM005).

And back to MyBible 3:
The filename requested (\mybible3\program\mb3setup.exe) does not match the product (3MBPG3002).
The filename requested (\mybible3\program\MB3Setup.exe) does not match the product (3MBPG3002).

Here he gets it right! But he can’t download it because he doesn’t own it:
Customer 1158044 is not authorized to download product 3MBPGM002.

Now he switches his customer number to see if he can find a customer who *IS* authorized to download it. But he’s not going to get it without logging in as that customer first:
You are requesting files for customer 1158045 but customer 1158044 is logged in. You must access files through your download account. Exit your browser, then re-launch and go to our Login page to log in again.

Not sure what he’s doing here:
The filename requested (\mybible3\program\mb3setup.exe) does not match the product (3MBPG3002).

And at this point he admits defeat. Craig 1, hacker 0.

My Computer Bag

Tumi Expandable Leather Laptop BagI’ve been accused of having something of a luggage fetish, though more in the past than recently. Back in my Parsons Technology days I spent a fair amount of time on the road โ€” nothing like my friend Dave, but more than most folks โ€” maybe 3-5 days per month. It only took a couple of trips to figure out that the old suitcases in the closet weren’t up to the task, and what followed over the years was a series of suitcases and carry-ons as I tried to zero in on what worked best for me.

I’ve been traveling with a laptop since there were laptops. One of the first IBM-compatible PCs I used was a Compaq Portable. It weighed 25-30 lbs, but Rockwell had a padded case for it that made it look like a soft-side suitcase, and we literally checked it as luggage when we travelled with it. My first PC was a Compaq Portable II, but after traveling with and repairing Rockwell’s Compaq, I never traveled with it. In 1988 I bought a Toshiba T1200. Some of the early QuickVerse code was written while on the road with that laptop.

Throughout this period of heavy business travel, one constant companion was my Tumi leather laptop bag, which I purchased around 1989 for about $450. It was a crazy price to pay for a laptop bag, but this one had everything I was looking for and 25 years later I still carry it every day.

The front of the bag features a large and a small zippered pocket, each with a small zippered pocket on the front of it. Behind those pockets is a large, open compartment for cables and other bulky items. It has a small organizer sewn to one side that holds pens and business cards and gives you quick access to a calculator (back in the day), PDA (still back in the day), or a phone (there you go).

The second large compartment is divided into sections and opens up like a portfolio file. I find this side ideal not just for papers, notebooks, and other flat items, but also for my laptop. On the back of the bag is a large, flat, zippered pocket. On the back of that pocket, the straps from the handles form open loops that allow you to easily carry a newspaper (a what?) or an umbrella (ah, that’s better).

The bag has a leather handle sewn to each side. After 25 years of regular use, these handles are still firmly attached. There’s also a clip on shoulder strap that I leave permanently attached to the bag.

For short trips, I’ve found I can use the expansion feature to give me room to pack a change of clothes and shaving kit right in the bag. Just unzip the zipper that runs around the center section of the bag, and you gain 2-3 inches of space in the open compartment on the front of the bag.

Tumi still sells a version of this bagย for $650, but they’ve removed the little organizer on the inside and replaced the umbrella straps with a feature that allows you to slide the pull-out handle of your wheelie through the pocket on the back so you can carry it with your suitcase. My Travelpro carry-on has a hook that I can use to carry the Tumi bag, so I don’t need this feature.

Even though Laridian started renting office space about two years ago, I still work one or two days per week at home or in a coffee shop. My MacBook lives in my Tumi bag, and my Tumi bag goes with me wherever I go. You can laugh at spending $450 for a computer bag, but if you divide by the number of years it’s lasted, you’re looking at $18/year and falling. That’s a great investment.