Double Agent, WSLv2 and named pipes

So digging around an old SDK I came across an old friend, Microsoft Agent:

This was the bold new strategy of having a digital assistant that you could interact with on the desktop to help you with common tasks, and help with common issues. Oddly enough as popular a Alexa is these days, Microsoft’s attempts didn’t work out so well.

Perhaps it was the infamous Clippy of Microsoft Office infamy that left a bad taste in the world of talking animated agents. circling back to the popular Alexa perhaps Clarke/Kubrick had it right in that people prefer an omnipresent voice rather than some animated animal. Perhaps the need to animate Cortana led to it’s downfall as well.

Agent was at least an open ended platform so 3rd parties could drive the agent. However like so many other innovate things Microsoft made in the late 1990’s like Internet Explorer, Comic Chat, and Active-X, Microsoft Agent is no longer supported on Windows 10 (I didn’t even try Vista or 7). Enter Double Agent, a 32bit/64bit Active-X emulator of the old Microsoft Agent control. Download some characters for end users, and install them as Administrator, and you are in business!

How cool. Now for the fun part I took the sample ‘Hello’ from the Microsoft Agent Web SDK for C, and added a named pipe, so it simply sits on \\.\pipe\agent1 and will speak anything you send it. Pretty simple, right?

Adding WSLv2

Now one of the cool things about WSL(Windows Subsystem for Linux), is that you can run Linux commands from the CMD prompt. For example:

C:\Users\jason>wsl uname -a
Linux remlazar #1 SMP Fri Apr 2 22:23:49 UTC 2021 x86_64 GNU/Linux

Although there is a mechanism for sharing Unix sockets between WSL & Windows, I opted for something more casual and simpler, stdio redirection and a named pipe. I instead opted for the simple command:

@wsl x=$(fortune %1);echo ${x,,} > \\.\pipe\agent1

I should add, I found the hard way that UPPERCASE words are read letter by letter by agent, so I have to do the ‘,,’ trick to force the output to lowercase. Pipes and redirects appear to be interpreted by CMD, so I opted for environment variables instead.

So with some pipes, and a simple example I now have one of those annoying desktop agents reading jokes to me from Linux. It’s not a terribly complicated or involved program, but sometimes it doesn’t have to be. I do like how reading from a pipe is a great LCD, as anything that can open a file can send data to a named pipe, so this makes it ubiquitious.

I guess if I was more involved, I’d add timers, and have the agent walk around, sleep disappear etc etc. But I’m happy enough for it to be acting as a text to speech. The only downside is once kids see it, it’ll be the greatest thing ever. Perhaps Microsoft wasn’t wrong it’s just that the magic of an animated bird reading ‘zippy the pinhead‘ fortunes appeals more to children than to adults.

I’m sure there is books written about user interfaces, and the rise and fall, and rise again of the PDA, but I wonder what they have to say about Microsoft Agent?

Is reddit finally dying?

A king has his reign, and then he dies.

Granted I’m not netcraft so I really have no way to confirm but I found something kind of interesting the last week or so while fighting various link386’s.

not quite netcraft but it’ll do

Granted with redirects I’m a large referrer to myself. But it’s no surprise that in the top ten that 3 of them are google, duckduckgo is becoming a real force to be reckoned with and BING?! It must be no rumor that BING has always been incredibly profitable, to the point where Microsoft had been giving away Windows 8/8.1 licenses for free with the condition that they were basically BING machines. It’s too bad the UWP thing and the constant rebrands and failure of the phone killed it all as I liked the idea of sub $100 personal computers.

But the real news here is ycombinator aka Hacker News. It’s the new slashdot, and it’s not surprisingly eclipsed the more insular, but also both are ahead of the once mighty juggernaut reddit!

Looking at local graphs & cloudflare

local blog stats

Ever since I had to use cloudflare the stats never report anywhere near correctly but you can pretty much see when I post, and the uptick, except when some stuff gets crazy popular years later for seemingly no reason like processing NASA images of Saturn.

Cloudflare freebie graphing.

Now compare and contrast with Cloudflare and you can see how nothing aligns. I do have the cloudflare plugins and stuff on WordPress but it never seems to do the right job. oh well I guess I can’t complain too much.

So what’s the big deal?

Its always about user engagement. And the other issue being that despite reddit’s horrible reputation for censorship and group thing anyone can sign up. When engagement happens over there anyone is free to join in. Hacker News also allows user account creation, but however is different requiring an invite. And for new upstarts or anyone getting a start it really sucks to see an audience behind a gate and you aren’t invited to that private club.

Looking at Ycombinator’s Hacker News, you can see far more engagement and crossposting. Neat! And over at there is a bit of posting but far less engagement. Ending it out of course is reddit. Or maybe reddit is just fresh ground to crosspost. I know it’s bad taste to post your own stuff over and over, and I’m not going to publish on a 3rd party site, ever since the massive blogger outages of 2011.

Is reddit really in decline?

Has reddit finally lost its appeal? Or do people just post directly to there hoping their posts and images don’t get erased? I can’t imagine putting so much time and effort into something to only potentially lose it all because of someone else. I know the US political scene certainly turned a LOT of people off of American sites as it became wall to wall USA. It was so crazy I had people calling me in Hong Kong wanting either donations or votes, despite the fact that I’m nether there nor American. Otherwise it’s just a meme fest over on RLM, 80’s design, retro-cgi, unixporn, and of course The Stop Girl.


I occasionally see people asking about blogging, writing or even the video thing. I’d love to do videos but being in Hong Kong there is no space I’m always getting people walking into my office, I have young kids screaming and crying and of course thanks to the RIAA and tall buildings I get people’s music overlapping.

Years ago it was the slashdot effect, then getting DUG at DIGG, then being reddited. how is YC’d? Are boiled? One thing is for sure find your audience and engage them everywhere. That’s my advice to anyone crazy enough to get started, but it’s never too late. And own your data, own your platform, even if it’s bigger elsewhere, but you cannot depend on a 3rd party to ever care as much as you do.

oneAPI Base Toolkit from Intel [free as in beer]

I’ve been informed that the toolkit includes some fancy memory tools to detect incorrect access types when you use void pointers for fun and profit, but accidentally copy in too much ( or little ) and can really mess stuff up. Just because of alignment and it ‘fits’ doesn’t mean you are doing what you think you are doing!

Anyways, link is here!

The intel toolkit is expected to integrate with Visual Studio 2017 or 2019. I have the ‘community version’ and it picked it up fine. In addition 2019 has ASAN which also helps combat the infamous memory issues of C/C++

<need quote from [HCI]Mara’akate…>

With the win being the profiling tools, and the memory leak tool. I just haven’t had time lately, I’ve been busy IRL, and wanting to wrap up some a.out to OMF adventures.

It’s that time of the year again, another blog migration.

Every time the yellow touches bottom it’s an outage

You’ve probably seen it, lots of outages lots of delay and well not a lot from me.

life has been incredibly busy as I thought I was out of the IT rat race but things happened and I’ve ended up staying in.

Failure is arriving!

so yes once more again “docker” and k8 make everything easy to deploy but maintain and work, well that is another story. So it turns out that Rancher OS k8’s will shut down once the disk hits 85% capacity.

Under pressure!

ok that sounds like a lot but on a 1tb volume that is 125GB?!!! No warning no, no nothing just “disk pressure” on the console and that is it.

[email protected]:/opt/local-path-provisioner# df -h .
Filesystem Size Used Avail Use% Mounted on
/dev/sda1 873G 712G 115G 87% /opt

honestly WTF!

I like the ability to publish secrets and import and export settings between containers, but the incredible lack of logging is unreal. The k8 manifest for MySQL kept on failing on my server. I have no idea why.

zero logging info

I deploy the docker version directly, and if you can read this it’s working.

clearly I’m the old man out of touch.

but for a single node, UML is the way to go.

plus you can use your entire disk.

so yeah trying something new although I don’t think it’ll last all that long.

Microsoft to buy Bethesda

In the world of “If you can’t encourage an exclusive, buy it” here we are at this crossroad again. With the new MS console getting ready to be pushed out into the world, there is no doubt that we are not only in for a new deluge of Skyrim ports, but the much anticipated Starfield should be appearing on nextgen consoles, the best way to keep it exclusive is to just buy the beleaguered studio, and push onwards.

No doubt the fallout from … Fallout 76 has burnt a lot of people, so this may just further isolate their diminishing fan base, only time will tell. Or normies just don’t care about FO76 as it was some MMMMOOOORPG thing that normal people don’t care about, and all they want to do is kill dragons, and shoot lazzer beams from their hands.

One thing that is kind of fitting is that the culture of ‘release it and patch it in the field’ is in safe hands at Microsoft!

Praise be Todd!

Ну вот-Ну вот?

What what?

I don’t get how this is a search term, all about “Ну вот” so I guess I’ll poison the well.

Ну вот dolor sit amet, nu vot adipiscing elit. Duis ultrices fringilla turpis ac nu vot. Vivamus dignissim arcu ac arcu elementum, non condimentum neque scelerisque. Nullam et turpis non tortor Ну вот commodo. Ну вот vehicula lorem quis sem bibendum, eu efficitur tellus feugiat. Nam tempor, sem ac semper congue, felis mauris dignissim tortor, ut elementum ex leo gravida lacus. Maecenas imperdiet dapibus risus, eu rutrum felis feugiat eu. Nullam sodales bibendum porta. Ну вот diam justo, fringilla et nisi eget, mattis varius lectus. Nullam blandit luctus orci, a finibus arcu lobortis nec. Etiam accumsan fringilla quam vitae pharetra. Fusce consequat rhoncus elit, ut mollis velit egestas id. nu vot quis quam ac arcu efficitur blandit quis in augue.

Nullam vitae aliquet magna. Sed non augue diam. nu vot efficitur egestas quam, quis cursus felis euismod in. Ut ac dui erat. Donec at dui fermentum, fermentum dui nec, accumsan tellus. Vivamus cursus, ex in cursus lobortis, mi orci gravida metus, at maximus quam leo vitae tortor. Ну вот ipsum diam, tincidunt id luctus vel, ultricies nec tellus. In placerat quis neque sit amet facilisis. Sed sagittis nisl eget lectus fringilla laoreet. Ну вот rhoncus at urna vel mattis. Ну вот sed velit lorem. Sed orci mi, facilisis id neque non, sagittis malesuada orci. Cras blandit, tellus quis pretium imperdiet, nibh metus tincidunt dolor, suscipit vestibulum ligula felis Ну вот. Fusce mollis id enim eu faucibus.

Hope that ad buy didn’t cost too much bro, it was super ineffective.

Nulla ac tortor faucibus, tristique dolor gravida, tincidunt nunc. Donec tempus, metus at condimentum sollickitudin, risus orci egestas risus, et egestas est augue vitae metus. nu vot ultrices massa nec lacinia rutrum. Curabitur neque turpis, dignissim vel pretium ac, viverra et dolor. nu vot eu ligula dui. Sed neque ipsum, sagittis at nisi tempus, auctor pellentesque lacus. Aliquam pretium enim ac libero faucibus fringilla.

Mauris laoreet felis elit, nec viverra leo elementum id. Duis eget consequat quam. Duis at felis maximus, ultrices ex sollicitudin, fermentum mi. Maecenas cursus nu vot bibendum. Vivamus sit amet leo congue, vestibulum neque et, convallis purus. Nam sed viverra purus. Vivamus viverra sapien at rhoncus lacinia. Phasellus id justo fermentum, porta dolor eget, ornare lorem.

Nulla facilisi. Sed placerat convallis bibendum. Ну вот eu nisl est. Sed tempus eget nisi at blandit. Ну вот sollicitudin sapien et quam aliquet, ut mollis sapien scelerisque. Ну вот ex justo, condimentum quis gravida sit amet, finibus sit amet dui. Ну вот eget posuere nunc, id blandit sapien. Class aptent taciti sociosqu ad litora torquent per conubia nostra, per inceptos himenaeos. Ut euismod lectus eu leo sollicitudin, eget faucibus nunc vehicula. In quis fringilla ligula, mattis porttitor justo. Aliquam erat Ну вот.

Ну вот Ну вот.

How not to write a web scraping engine

Seriously, the sad thing is that they wasted all their time, and bandwidth. The good thing is that PHP7 is far better at this, than PHP5. I know it’s not hipster neaveaux but PHP7 is really awesome stuff.

I didn’t wake up to a million messages about being down, rather a look at what was going on showed me this:

Obviously something is up.

I checked Cloudflare:

All those hits, and no change in user traffic. So I’m not popular.

And it’s all from the United States. Going back to WordPress I can see it’s mostly from one user!

A look through the 30MB log, and it’s a broken site scrape - - [20/Aug/2020:20:43:39 -0400] "GET /wordpress/category/windows-nt-4-0/%5C'' HTTP/1.1" 301 - "" "Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 10.0; Win64; x64) AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/68.0.3440.106 Safari/537.36" - - [20/Aug/2020:20:43:40 -0400] "GET /wordpress/category/windows-nt-4-0/%5Chttps:/ HTTP/1.1" 404 32750 "" "Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 10.0; Win64; x64) AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/68.0.3440.106 Safari/537.36" - - [20/Aug/2020:20:43:40 -0400] "GET /wordpress/category/windows-nt-4-0/%5C'' HTTP/1.1" 301 - "" "Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 10.0; Win64; x64) AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/68.0.3440.106 Safari/537.36" - - [20/Aug/2020:20:43:41 -0400] "GET /wordpress/category/windows-nt-4-0/%5Chttps:/ HTTP/1.1" 404 32752 "" "Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 10.0; Win64; x64) AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/68.0.3440.106 Safari/537.36" - - [20/Aug/2020:20:43:41 -0400] "GET /wordpress/category/windows-nt-4-0/%5C'' HTTP/1.1" 301 - "" "Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 10.0; Win64; x64) AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/68.0.3440.106 Safari/537.36" - - [20/Aug/2020:20:43:42 -0400] "GET /wordpress/category/windows-nt-4-0/%5Chttps:/ HTTP/1.1" 404 32751 "" "Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 10.0; Win64; x64) AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/68.0.3440.106 Safari/537.36"

This is just terrible you are quoting the link to the link, having slashes going every which way. What the heck!? Don’t be a jerk, pace the thing, why are you trying to DOS it? While my hosting is clearly not robust, why can’t you wait a few seconds between each query? Also look at the output and URL’s it’s sending it’ll never work!

Oh and speaking of WTF:

[Sat Aug 15 02:54:16.376342 2020] [:error] [pid 2176618:tid 46981722752768] [client] [client] ModSecurity: Access denied with code 403 (phase 2). Match of "rbl" against "TX:rbl_ip" required. [file "/etc/apache2/conf.d/modsec_vendor_configs/imunify360-full-apache/001_i360_1_generic.conf"] [line "18"] [id "77140164"] [msg "Infectors: PHP Injection Low value||MVN:TX:rbl_ip||T:APACHE||MV:02-||PC:74973||SC:/home/virtuall/public_html/wordpress/wp-comments-post.php"] [severity "WARNING"] [maturity "1"] [accuracy "7"] [tag "service_o"] [tag "service_i360"] [hostname ""] [uri "/wordpress/wp-comments-post.php"] [unique_id "XzeGmAmHABK5lhefvTgiWQAAAQI"], referer:<br>
[Sat Aug 15 00:59:09.378579 2020] [:error] [pid 2121712:tid 46981729056512] [client] [client] ModSecurity: Access denied with code 403 (phase 2). Match of "rbl" against "TX:rbl_ip" required. [file "/etc/apache2/conf.d/modsec_vendor_configs/imunify360-full-apache/001_i360_1_generic.conf"] [line "18"] [id "77140164"] [msg "Infectors: PHP Injection Low value||MVN:TX:rbl_ip||T:APACHE||MV:00-||PC:71624||SC:/home/virtuall/public_html/wordpress/wp-comments-post.php"] [severity "WARNING"] [maturity "1"] [accuracy "7"] [tag "service_o"] [tag "service_i360"] [hostname ""] [uri "/wordpress/wp-comments-post.php"] [unique_id "XzdrnVSmjfAxcRCyCxt4rAAAAIU"], referer:

There is no comment on that page. There never was. Look I know it sucks he’s dead, but there is nothing you or me can do about it.

Microsoft to delete legacy updates in the great SHA-1 purge

Get ready to see this quite often.

From the article here, on August 3rd, (aka yesterday) the purge will be complete. Instead of introducing an update to verify SHA-2 into legacy systems, and re-signing old updates, instead MS has taken the path of obsolesce and pulled the downloads instead.

And we’ve been here before.

Microsoft movie maker was a popular download for Windows XP, and MS removed the download, as hosting it was apparently encouraging people to keep on using XP. Naturally this wasn’t taken as a message that people wanted this kind of product, and why fill a void when you can remove a product? So now the majority of downloads that you will find are infected, corrupted and just going to cause further problems.

And here we go again.

Office 2003 SP1 is no more

A quick search on BING for MS Office 2003 updates still shows links, but they are simply no more. The purge is in full force, and search pages haven’t caught up. And as you can see cnet is already in the top downloads, and will become the authoritative download by fiat.

Also the early .NET’s deployment packages are no longer for download, while .NET 1.1 SP1 is still online surprisingly. For reference:

$ shasum -a 512256 NDP1.1sp1-KB867460-X86.exe 
7b44095feff471dee9366a2153dfe2654d70754c21b7e5204ed950cdf4a3f15a  NDP1.1sp1-KB867460-X86.exe

For what it’s worth.

Calculating with shasum offers a few algorighims as this isn’t a simple one shot deal.

-a, --algorithm   1 (default), 224, 256, 384, 512, 512224, 512256

Naturally to add further confusion. Like everything with crypto, it’s so easy to mess it up.

$ shasum -a 1 NDP1.1sp1-KB867460-X86.exe 
74a5b25d65a70b8ecd6a9c301a0aea10d8483a23  NDP1.1sp1-KB867460-X86.exe
$ shasum -a 224 NDP1.1sp1-KB867460-X86.exe 
18507f80722780ca477d7f10528ae28dd176f8d36cbce05a50cc7be0  NDP1.1sp1-KB867460-X86.exe
$ shasum -a 256 NDP1.1sp1-KB867460-X86.exe 
2c0a35409ff0873cfa28b70b8224e9aca2362241c1f0ed6f622fef8d4722fd9a  NDP1.1sp1-KB867460-X86.exe
$ shasum -a 384 NDP1.1sp1-KB867460-X86.exe 
c2372c71f93b5dc2a1c21c804bc74e27d82bfa45ee50fbc9037e713c156f1c591ffbe5e87f94022157906098916403b4  NDP1.1sp1-KB867460-X86.exe
$ shasum -a 512 NDP1.1sp1-KB867460-X86.exe 
bbe643f447f49636732b12d23a052d02681ad41f6920dc1038b073fa600f7589b378ed8e7de97e811543d93ae89ce52871a85ee58aa3b6aeaddc01bc1617ad85  NDP1.1sp1-KB867460-X86.exe
$ shasum -a 512224 NDP1.1sp1-KB867460-X86.exe 
63b2ffb0c5f1cd68abafba23997482b2087d486dcf60bec6fef7446d  NDP1.1sp1-KB867460-X86.exe
$ shasum -a 512256 NDP1.1sp1-KB867460-X86.exe 
7b44095feff471dee9366a2153dfe2654d70754c21b7e5204ed950cdf4a3f15a  NDP1.1sp1-KB867460-X86.exe

Oddly enough a quick search for these checksums isn’t coming up with anything so I guess I’m first. Which of course is a further problem, is that there is no authoritative source from MS. I get the contract obsolescence thing, after-all the strongest competition to NEW MS products is OLD MS products. I still use Excel 3 & MS Word 2, despite having an Office 365 subscription, and various newer versions retail.

The sad thing is that many people will get screwed over from this action, and the only “solution” is of course move to Windows 10, embrace the new, and hope that you don’t have applications that actually require .NET 1.1 (or 1.0!).