Sears – purveyors of Spyware to the masses ?

I wonder how many people using Windows have been bitten by this new spyware, as related by the Computer Associates Security Advisor Blog ? is distributing spyware that tracks all your Internet usage – including banking logins, email, and all other forms of Internet usage – all in the name of “community participation.” Every website visitor that joins the Sears community installs software that acts as a proxy to every web transaction made on the compromised computer. In other words, if you have installed Sears software (“the proxy”) on your system, all data transmitted to and from your system will be intercepted.

The mention of “banking logins” is to get your attention, because as this apparently hoovers up all your traffic it will get whatever you do, presumably including credit cards, etc.

They also have an interesting take on how to do privacy policies:

What I have come to learn is that if you navigate to you could actually get one of two policies. […] If you access that URL with a machine compromised by the Sears proxy software, you will get the policy with direct language (like “monitors all Internet behavior”). If you access the policy using an uncompromised system, you will get the toned down version (like “provide superior service”). Both policies share the same URL and same look and feel – coloring, page layout, Kmart and Sears branding, etc.

In other words they have a policy that implies that it’s inoccuous prior to installation, which then springs into sharp relief once you’ve crossed the Rubicon and installed their spyware – nice touch!

(Via Bruce Schneier)

SMP implementation of bzip2

Here’s something of a find, courtesy of Jordan Mendler on the ZFS/FUSE mailing list, an SMP implementation of bzip2 called pbzip2 by Jeff Gilchrist:

PBZIP2 is a parallel implementation of the bzip2 block-sorting file compressor that uses pthreads and achieves near-linear speedup on SMP machines. The output of this version is fully compatible with bzip2 v1.0.2 or newer (ie: anything compressed with pbzip2 can be decompressed with bzip2). PBZIP2 should work on any system that has a pthreads compatible C++ compiler (such as gcc). It has been tested on: Linux, Windows (cygwin & MinGW), Solaris, Tru64/OSF1, HP-UX, and Irix.

It’s packaged in Ubuntu (in Universe) and testing on this quad core Intel box (2.4GHz with 4GB RAM) on a 712MB tar file in comparison with the standard bzip2 showed pretty impressive performance!

Standard bzip2 compression:

chris@quad:/tmp$ time bzip2 -v backup-20020122.tar
backup-20020122.tar: 1.531:1, 5.227 bits/byte, 34.66% saved, 746250240 in, 487572628 out.

real 2m32.331s
user 2m29.593s
sys 0m0.976s

Standard bzip2 decompression:

chris@quad:/tmp$ time bunzip2 -v backup-20020122.tar.bz2
backup-20020122.tar.bz2: done

real 0m56.215s
user 0m54.519s
sys 0m1.136s

Parallel bzip2 compression:

chris@quad:/tmp$ time pbzip2 -v backup-20020122.tar
Parallel BZIP2 v1.0.1 - by: Jeff Gilchrist []
[Mar. 20, 2007] (uses libbzip2 by Julian Seward)

# CPUs: 4
BWT Block Size: 900k
File Block Size: 900k
File #: 1 of 1
Input Name: backup-20020122.tar
Output Name: backup-20020122.tar.bz2

Input Size: 746250240 bytes
Compressing data...
Output Size: 487531723 bytes

Wall Clock: 41.335455 seconds

real 0m41.338s
user 2m40.962s
sys 0m2.248s

Parallel bzip2 decompression:

time pbzip2 -v -d backup-20020122.tar.bz2
Parallel BZIP2 v1.0.1 - by: Jeff Gilchrist []
[Mar. 20, 2007] (uses libbzip2 by Julian Seward)

# CPUs: 4
File #: 1 of 1
Input Name: backup-20020122.tar.bz2
Output Name: backup-20020122.tar

BWT Block Size: 900k
Input Size: 487531723 bytes
Decompressing data...
Output Size: 746250240 bytes

Wall Clock: 18.078961 seconds

real 0m18.081s
user 1m3.516s
sys 0m1.776s

So that’s almost a x3.7 speedup over the single CPU version, not bad!

Oh, and yes, there is an MPI version available too, called mpibzip2.. 🙂