Snakes on a LAN, Laptops on a Plane, Laptops in Flames

The Rat

If there's one thing we have plenty of these days, it's things to be nervous about. From snakes on a plane to worms on a server, it seems like there are new things every day to make the Rat curse a Samuel L. Jacksonlike blue streak.

First, there's the latest heightening of airport security, timed impeccably with the release of New Line Cinema's 'Snakes on a Plane.' The whiskered one had become concerned about the security of his traveling IT assets, as agency employees boarding domestic flights, either out of confusion over the new security requirements or just a desire to avoid a hassle in the security line, are starting to check their notebook PCs as luggage.

Considering that checked bags aren't allowed to be locked, and few users have been issued armored cases for their computing equipment, this trend has the Rat worried on two fronts'that the notebooks he issues will end up on shelves at local pawn shops, or broken into tiny little pieces.

The wirebiter has been trying to inform his frequent flyers that they can carry on computers. They were reacting to a temporary rule in the U.K., after the foiled bombing plot, that prohibited cell phones and notebooks. U.S. rules never barred people from boarding with all of their normal appendages.

But there is an exception to that instruction. For those few Dell notebooks in the cyberrodent's deployed fleet of computers, there's always the chance that they'll just spontaneously combust in transit.

Dell's recall of more than 4 million notebook batteries after the fiery and very public deaths of several Dell computers has the whiskered one checking his inventory list for affected systems. Fortunately, all the agency's Dell users have been calling the Rat repeatedly since the recall was announced to determine whether they are carrying potential deathtraps.

Of course, all they needed to do was check the part numbers on their batteries against the list that Dell has posted at https://www.dellbatteryprogram.com/ and the Rat has circulated in e-mail. But to do that, they would need to turn on their notebooks'an act many are, at the moment, equating with reaching into a basket of cobras.

The Army alone has to replace batteries in 150,000 Dell notebooks, and getting new batteries could take weeks or months.

On the plus side, that could give sysadmins a little breathing room in rolling out MS06-040, the Microsoft bug patch that the Homeland Security Department went out of its way to flag as hypercritical in a week full of plenty of Level Red threats.
The bug, which affects most of the recent releases of Microsoft Windows (2000, XP and Server 2003), theoretically could be exploited to execute a giant, Internet-eating botnet of worms that could bring the free world to its knees. Either that, or not.

More likely, the Rat's network will be brought to a crawl by users playing 'Snakes on a Plane' satire videos on YouTube. To which the Rat will say, 'I've had it with these $^@% snakes on a #$^@# LAN!'

The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad packets in cyberspace. E-mail him at rat@postnewsweektech.com.

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