Monday, January 30, 2006

I had a bit of time tonight, so I decided to go through and clean all the "dead" links. By "dead", I mean those that haven't been updated in a calendar year, or have lost all their content. To my surprise, only three needed to be culled. Gone, but not forgotten:

  • Asian Labour News: the content is gone, and the URL is being hawked to the highest bidder.
  • BrainySmurf: left with a single root directory to its name. 
  • Living in China: got ourselves a 404, and won't be visiting any more.

Still, that's a mere 2% extinction rate, and all the local blogs seem to have survived quite nicely - some with new domains, but all just chugging along. Admittedly, Long Xuyen (after nearly a year of inactivity) escaped the chop by the barest margin, and I quote: "I am still alive. I am still alive."  Phew. No autopsy needed, then.

What's better is all the new bloggy goodness I've added on. You can read Dennis the Peasant's long standing vendetta against Pajamas Media, or Driftglass's take on James Frey (blame it on the writers' groups, I think) or Peak Energy on Peak Oil. Or you can just read James Wolcott; that's its own reward. I've also added Global Voices, which gives you a nice little blog aggregate for this country. So feel free to check out my mighty blogroll, with real Senators and Princes included for free.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Word of the week: sỉn

(Say) sỉn is an adjective or verb expessing being drunk, intoxicated, or just plain hammered. For example, "Tôi say sỉn" means "I am drunk". "Say sỉn" may be more formally correct, but Vietnamese often elide it down to "sỉn" in spoken speech. Thus, "Tôi sỉn" also means "I am drunk", and has the added advantage of being shorter. When you're pissed, terseness is indeed an advantage.

Today's the first day of Tết, and there's a lot of sỉnning going on right now.

UPDATE: After some discussion with my wife, I learnt that the word is not "sỉn", but "xỉn". (That is also what "Anonymous" claimed in the comments section). My apologies.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

I didn't even know I was nominated for the Blog Awards

To be specific, The 2006 Australian Blog Awards, as hosted by Collective Apathy. Seriously, I didn't have the foggiest idea at all until I checked the little Technorati link on the right a few minutes ago. I just learnt that I'd been nominated for "2006 Best Overseas Australian Blog". I learnt it from "Paul and Mel's UK", who had a little, light-hearted gripe about being left out of the whole affair.

Who was my nominator, you may wonder? If you check the nominations page, you find Barista (aka David Tiley) is the culprit. I want to express my appreciation of David, who has been a constant supporter of my site during those ADSL-less times last year when the blog went on hiatus.

Did I win? It would have been nice, but no. That award went to a far finer blog than mine: The Road to Surfdom. He types more, and he's been around for longer. And I'm glad that Barista scored the "Best Overall Australian Blog". His site deserves the award. You don't believe me? Click on the link above.

On the subject, I don't know if there's anything like a "Best Việt Nam Blog 2006 Award". There used to be one at SimonWorld, but the link is about 2 years old. If there is one, I wouldn't nominate myself - because it's not done, you know - and I think this blog isn't that great. But if there was an award, I'd nominate Diacritic in a second. I like his site, because his writing goes beyond the journalism banalities ("friendly people", "bad drivers") and oversimplified dichotomities ("market economy" versus "collective planning") that are often printed in the press. He has a long memory (longer than mine, when this country is concerned), and he's better at connecting the dots.

Merry Tết, everybody.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Hurray for Harry

I have not yet heard from the repair shop for my Dell laptop. I'm not too worried. They've come through before, and I'm sure they'll come through again. They've done miraculous things with the machine - the machine that I took to Australia (and back) to fix - the machine that other, Australian, repairpeople told me to abandon. (For one simple reason: in the West, it is often a lot cheaper to buy a new computer than repair an old one. But it's not so true here, when hardware is expensive, but labour not so much.)

Unfortunately, it's a busy time at the repair shop. A lot of people are trying to get their machines fixed up, including a corporate client or two. Everyone wants their computers back before Tết (the Vietnamese New Year). Because during Tết, the shop with be closed, CLOSED, CLOSED, and the staff will be off to visit their relatives. If the customers don't get their laptops back now, they'll have to wait for a week until the shop opens again.

I reckon my machine is fairly low on the repairpeoples' list of priorities, and it looks like there will be a bit of a wait before I get it back. Damm... lots of free time made for blogging, but no hardware to do it with. Blast.

So, I'm using this site to give my hearty thanks to Harry - a great guy, but sadly now an ex-workmate. Harry (who is also in the business of English Teaching) has been working on and off in Việt Nam since the mid 90's. He's had enough of the country, and of the school I work for. He's off to Macao with his family. Since he's discovered the joys of Powerbooks, he wants to unload his computer. So I bought it off him, and for a very, very good price too, and just when I needed it most. Now I'm using it to type these very words. Thank you again, Harry - and best of luck in the future.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

SITC management do a runner

This is a big story. Cowboy schools come and go, but it is rare to see one this large rip off their customers, and then run away to Singapore. From VietnamNetBridge: Singapore-owned schools shut down:

VietNamNet – Schools operated by Singapore International Teaching Consultancy (SITC) in HCM City, Da Nang and Can Tho suddenly closed last week, leaving thousands of students and teachers in the dark about the cause.

Nguyen Ngoc Hong Chau said she and other students in HCM City were asked to leave on Friday afternoon because of a power cut. "But the school hasn't opened since then," she said.

Teacher Joseph Hermann said no one was at the school when he arrived on Monday to collect his salary...

Why is it a big story? Because this school has offices in six cities:

Besides its five schools in HCM City, SITC has branches in Hanoi, Hai Phong, Da Nang, Vung Tau and Can Tho.

About 13,500 students were enrolled in SITC schools in HCM City, reports Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper.

Nguyen Thi Dung said she had paid US$175 for her daughter's year-long course at SITC's school on Suong Nguyet Anh Street. "She has studied only three months," she said.

And why did the management choose this time? I suspect the "work permit" thing had a bit to do with it. But it was also the time when their license was up for renewal:

"Can Tho's SITC began operation nearly two years ago with the approval of the Ministry of Planning and Investment," Tran Ngoc Sau, inspector of the city's Education and Training Department (ETP), said.

Can Tho's People's Committee on October 2005 asked SITC to apply for a license from the city's Education and Training Department.

"However, SITC did nothing while it continued to recruit students," Sau said.

People are angry about it - people like one of my in-law's neighbours, who shelled out $200 dollars for her son to learn at the school. $200 dollars is big money here. It wasn't just the students who lost out. The (mainly-foreign) teachers didn't get their salaries paid, and the same goes for the (mainly-local) staff. Hmmm... I wonder what Singapore has in the way of extradition treaties...

UPDATE: If you are puzzled by the last sentence above, I understand. I forgot to quote another line:

A member of SITC staff met with us on Monday but the top managers could not be contacted because they are in Singapore."

Sunday, January 22, 2006

If life was an interactive fiction computer game

... then it wouldn't be life. On the other hand, no-one would be killed either.

(On reflection, that sounds profound. Or pseudo-profound. Or something.)

Via Defective Yeti: lots of clicky goodness in Iraqi Invasion: A Text Misadventure.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Dell Laptop

When the chip fan is making grinding noises, it's time to take it in for servicing.

In case you haven't guessed, I'm typing this from work.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Work Permits and Sex Offenders

... However to muddy the waters still further, today I've just learned that VATC has had, and I quote: "2 teachers arrested and 20 deported" for not having a work permit that is extremely difficult to obtain in so short a time. This information is unconfirmed but has been given to me in good faith. The thought of being detained (and ultimately fined) in a country like Vietnam is, how shall I say, unappealing.

There is a hanging pall of uncertainty and fear in Saigon at the moment. I don't want to be around to be detained, questioned and fined, then told to leave, never to return. Next week is the last I shall teach in Vietnam, barring some significant sea-change in the way Vietnam views it's foreign resources...

Proffeshnial Teachman - "How can Vietnam pay ESL teachers so much?" - ESL Cafe - Fri Jan 13, 2006 5:38 pm

At 16:30 on January 3rd, Peter Mueller was escorted by Vietnamese police to HCM City’s Tan Son Nhat Airport and transferred to Austrian authorities who will take him home. All of Mueller’s possessions were also transferred to Austrian authorities. Peter Mueller of Bradford, 69, was arrested in HCM City under a wanted notice from Interpol for child sex abuse.

During his time in Vietnam, Mueller appeared to carry-on a normal life. He participated in social activities, and he taught English at the Vietnam-America Training School. However, he also allegedly engaged in unlawful acts with minors and reportedly enticed several disadvantaged children to live with him.

According to police, Mueller molested at least five Vietnamese boys while in Vietnam. When he was arrested on December 26, he was found living with a 14-year-old boy in a hired room in HCM City’s District 1.

In early 2003, Mueller was prosecuted by Austrian police for "child abuse". In October 2005, Interpol issued a special wanted notice for Mueller for child sex abuse.

VietNamNet Bridge - "Sex offender extradited to Austria" 11:17' 04/01/2006 (GMT+7)

[Mueller] worked at VATC. A friend of mine worked there with him at one time and says he;s a horrible person. I was interested in the quality of his English as a non-native, to be teaching (also as a measure of a school!) and friend said 'not good enouogh to be teaching'.

I think these articles are a good thing, as there are a lot of these animals around (really, a lot) and it appears for years the people of Vietnam have, in general, been completely naiive to it. Obviously with so much poverty here, a lot of people are grateful for money however they can get it, and this scum abuses this desperation.

These two have been addressed because a) Glitter was hounded from his house by British paparazzi; and b) Interpol told VN authorities to look out for Mueller.

I can think of at least 3 or 4 people who I know have abused minors in Vietnam. One of them I challenged in a cafe, as I had been involved with one of the victims, in a counselling role. I later found out from a friend who knew someone in the relevant consulate that this character had a history of drug and alcohol related violence. At that time he was teaching in a school much more reputable than VATC, let me say.

These scum should be named and shamed and the word out around the planet not to come here for nonsense like that.

Beer_Monster - "A teacher following the Glitter trail" - Mekong ESL - Sun Jan 01, 2006 12:06 am

...Here's exactly what's needed for work permits: completed work permit application; completed cirriculum vitae; completed local police record application and a completed Certification of Temporary Residence form (this involves the local police in whatever district you live in HCMC, not where you live overseas); three passport size color photos (without wearing glasses or a hat); medical exam certificate; copies of your degree and/or teaching certificate; properly authenticated criminal background check (I'll go into more detail about this below)...

Ryno - "Here's what you need to bring to work in VN" - ESL Cafe - Mon Oct 24, 2005 2:42 am

I'm 100% certain that Peter Mueller - known English teacher and child molestor - never had a work permit. A criminal background check would reveal his checkered past. His English appears to be mediocre, which would bar him from obtaining a decent teaching certificate like a CELTA. (I've done one. You have to be a very good English speaker to even enter the course.) That he was teaching English at all is a disgrace - but VATC - like many other schools - were pretty lax with this particular paperwork.

So I'm not surprised that they got the first crack of the government crackdown. Having a known paedophile working with you can damn you by association. But then, he's not the only sex offender here teaching ESL. (I've even heard rumours that Gary Glitter was teaching English in Vũng Tàu before his bust.) I doubt not that there's going to be more busts after this. 

UPDATE: After posting this (and a good nice's sleep afterwards), I fear I might have given the implication that the English teaching industry is swarming with pervs. That's not true at all. Most English teachers are fine, fine people. I work with them. I've worked with them. I am one.

But this government does not know that. The government has not borrowed a textbook, attended a seminar, or gone out for drinks afterwards - the sort of things that help you assay someone's character. All it can do is opt for background checks. Sadly, this will make a lot of teachers leave - but then again, there's a high turnover anyway. However, it will also make a lot of paedophile masquerading as teachers leave. That's a good thing. If the Vietnamese want to kick that sort of individual out of the country - who could blame them?

Thursday, January 12, 2006

The James Frey Experience

There's a little literary scandal building around James Frey, the author of A Million Little Pieces and My Friend Leonard. In case you don't know, story one is this trustafarian author's "tale" (and the scare quotes are there for a reason) of crime, drugs, and kicking off same by going into rehab. Story two is the sequel. People die and the author cries a lot about them in the novels, and then goes on Oprah in real life. That's what I've heard. No, I haven't read them: there's a lack of English-language bookshops here. The books don't sound like me at all. But literary fraud has always fascinated me, and the author sound like a major league (as in 20,000 leagues under the sea) prick. Cardinal, read the charges.

The first is of plagiarism. John Dolan (the review for the eXile)  alleges that quite a bit of AMLP is stolen from Eddie Little's Another Day in Paradise. Not everything. Just the drug anecdotes. He changed a lot of other things, such as adding "redemptive" endings where there was no redemption before.

The second allegation? Fraud. The Smoking Gun did a lot of investigating of such things as: "Police reports, court records, interviews with law enforcement personnel" and so on. Basically, they state that James Frey made shit up about "his purported criminal career, jail terms, and status as an outlaw 'wanted in three states.'" This Bad Boy ain't so Bad after all, unless you count conning the self-help market. 

I don't mind buying a book from an author who admits to warping the truth. Hunter S. Thompson may have had a weird time in Las Vegas with Oscar Zeta Acosta, but it wasn't as weird as what happened in Fear and Loathing. William S. Burroughs could have based Naked Lunch on the most depraved existence imaginable in Tangiers, but I'm still pretty sure Mugwumps don't exist. It's no problem for me. Writers can bend reality like a Moebius strip as long as they're up-front about it somewhere along the line.

Now, that James Frey character - the way I heard about him talk about himself, he's harder than the Kray brothers, yet with a sensitive side TOO. He ain't faking it either: AMLP is 100% the real story of accept-no-substitutes Mr. Frey.

Until it isn't.

And then his mystique breaks into a million little pieces. Well, at least the title is true.

(Link back to Steve Gilliard. Again.)

Monday, January 09, 2006

Looking for more reasons not to fight Iran?

Not convinced that attacking the country is a bad, bad, bad idea? Here's two more reasons, courtesy of The Guardian article: Did the CIA give Iran the bomb? Extracts from New York Times reporter James Risen's new book. The book is called "State of War", but I haven't read it yet. Let me summarize the article.

Reason 1: the CIA did indeed leak the plans for a bomb to the Iranian government. The idea was to introduce a few flaws in the plan for the time "when [Iran's] scientists tried to explode their new bomb. Instead of a mushroom cloud, the Iranian scientists would witness a disappointing fizzle. The Iranian nuclear programme would suffer a humiliating setback, and Tehran's goal of becoming a nuclear power would have been delayed by several years." Do I need to explain why the plan wouldn't have worked? That the Iranians have some very smart cookies on their nuclear program? That they would have sussed out the errors and corrected the blueprints? Or possibly, improved them?

The CIA then decided to make it extra difficult for themselves. They hired a Russian nuclear engineer (a defector to the U.S.) to courier the plans to the Iranians in Vienna, but without telling him about the flaws. Their problem is that the defector found the faults himself (within minutes, it should be noted), realized the deep shit he was in, and decided to play both ends against the middle. He appended a little letter to the plans - something like "Guys. Boris here. I've been asked to give this to you. Just watch out for parts A, B and C. Let's just say they're - ahem - a little buggy? Nothing personal. Inshallah, all."

(If Bill Clinton really did approve the plan, as the article alleges, then I would say that this is the most imbecilic thing he's ever done. We're talking about 100 kiloLewinskys on the fuckup scare.)

Reason 2: the CIA wouldn't be able to find any secret nuclear sites the Persians may have up their sleeves - not any more. They ended up leaking all their spies to Tehran. How did they do that? By email. You see, one of their agents had incriminating information on their network in the country - all in a single file. She ended up attaching it to a message to the wrong "asset": one of her employees who happened to be a double-agent working for the Iranian security forces. It took Kim Philby years to do what she achieved in a single keystroke. Okay, it wasn't that easy; she probably had to drag her mouse a few times, and select from a dialog. I don't want to exaggerate here.

I like computers, but I have to say the whole affair makes one nostalgic for "old-skool" filing - when confidential documents were actually made out of paper and cardboard and kept in combination safes.

I do not like the idea of Iran having a nuclear weapons program. I do not really have any idea how to stop it. A couple of weeks ago, I would have thought a "Good Cops - Bad Cops" strategy would be the way to go, with the EU being the nice guys, and the US shouting and banging the walls in the interrogation room. Unfortunately, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - Iranian President - seems as mad as a cut snake.

But we can at least start by excluding strategies that will not work. One of those is to bomb Iran. Even if the USAF can find all the sites (see reason 2), the Iranians have got some nasty surface-to-air-missles. But there's a moral aspect as well. If they've got nukes, who's fucking fault is that? People notice this sort of hypocrisy these days.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Mỹ Lai massacre hero dies at 62

From the BBC:

Hugh Thompson Jnr, a former US military helicopter pilot who helped stop one of the most infamous massacres of the Vietnam War has died, aged 62.

Mr Thompson and his crew came upon US troops killing civilians at the village of My Lai on 16 March 1968.

He put his helicopter down between the soldiers and villagers, ordering his men to shoot their fellow Americans if they attacked the civilians.

"There was no way I could turn my back on them," he later said of the victims.

Mr Thompson, a warrant officer at the time, called in support from other US helicopters, and together they airlifted at least nine Vietnamese civilians - including a wounded boy - to safety.

He returned to headquarters, angrily telling his commanders what he had seen. They ordered soldiers in the area to stop shooting.

But Mr Thompson was shunned for years by fellow soldiers, received death threats, and was once told by a congressman that he was the only American who should be punished over My Lai.

He was brave man both physically and morally. Physically? Well, it goes without saying: he was a helicopter pilot in Việt Nam. According to Wikipedia, his job was "to fly over Vietnamese forests and try to draw enemy fire, to pinpoint the location of troops.".

Physical courage is common in armies. But moral courage always seems to be rarer - at least in the U.S. Army circa 1970. As it says, Thompson was treated like shit by his peers. Was it because he blew the whistle on the affair? Was it because it was bad for your career? Did certain higher-ups not even see dead "gooks" as something to get worked about? Or was it just too embarrassing? (Colin Powell tried to whitewash the affair, if you didn't know already). The Wikipedia article continues:

Kept in the dangerous OH-23 Raven Helicopter missions, which some considered punishment for his intervention and the subsequent media coverage, Thompson was shot down a total of five times, breaking his backbone on the last attack. He suffered psychological scars from his service in Vietnam through out the rest of his life.

I don't like to eulogize people; that's not my style. But this man was a true hero. Rest in peace.

Link found courtesy of Steve Gilliard.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

WMF Hotfix Update

In the last post, I mentioned an "unofficial" WMF Hotfix and a WMF vulnerability detector. They've been popular. Too popular:

Due to incredibly high load, the page has been reduced to the bare minimum.
Thanks for understanding.
Safe computing!
Ilfak Guilfanov

Fortunately, other sites have decided to host the applications. You could try Castle Cops or Sunbelt Blog. They are on the side of the Angels, so don't worry about bad stuff sneaking in the payload.

For those suspicious of electronic vigilantes, you could wait until Redmond gets its act together: January, the tenth, according to Email Battles.

Whatever happens, please be safe.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Viruses, Việt Nam, and WMF

From Thanh Nien Daily: Survey finds computer virus explosion in Vietnam:

Vietnam’s leading cyber security center said Wednesday 232 computer viruses, adware, and spyware were spotted this year, up from 84 last year. A survey of 2,000 users by the Hanoi University of Technology’s Bach Khoa Inter-network Security Center (BKIS) showed 94 percent of computers to be infected with viruses, and 87 percent with spyware and adware.

Spyware is a software that covertly gathers user information through the user's Internet connection, usually for advertising purposes. Adware is a form of spyware that collects information about the user to display advertisements in the web browser based on the information it collects from the user's browsing patterns.

Forty-four percent of the surveyed users said their companies or organizations had to stop working for at least one day due to virus infections. Viruses hit 96 percent of computers of people working in the field of commerce, 95 percent in education, and 94 percent in services.

... By late last month, Vietnam had 9.9 million Internet users, or over 11.9 percent of the total population, compared with 6 million and 7.3 percent a year earlier. Nearly 2.7 million were Internet subscribers, many of whom used broadband, the Vietnam Internet Network Information Center told Xinhua, noting the country's total international bandwidth stood at 3,505 Mbps. Vietnam linked up with the global computer network in December 1997.

Here's the situation as I see it. This country got a fairly large population of users. They're growing rapidly too: the figures above equate to 65% growth per annum. Most use the Internet in Internet Cafes or at work, some use them over a phone modem, and very few use broadband connections like ADSL. Accordingly, technological literacy is low, but growing - albeit slowly. Two years ago, many Internet Cafes didn't have anti-virus software; even the administrators didn't know any better. Installation is now the norm. However, I'm not sure how many people suss out that you're supposed to keep your anti-virus files up to date as well. Installation isn't enough; you've got to download the latest patches to fight the newest viruses. Antiviral software are essential for Windows machines in this day in age. But they have to be used properly, and not just as a totem to ward off evil. For these reasons, I'm dismayed (but not too shocked) at the 9X% incidence of infection.

I wouldn't blame the users too much, however. First, Vietnamese people speak Vietnamese... but computer security material is generally written in English. This discriminates aagainst the computer professionals - but it really causes problems for the amateurs, the computer hobbyists and so forth in this country. Unless someone translates for them, they'll be kept in the dark like everyone else. The second problem is that most users don't use their own machine. It's owned by someone else, whether it is their employer or the local cafe. If the machine crashes, it's not their problem, but that of the people who are meant to maintain the machines. (Do not pass Go; go straight to coffee break.) In short, they've got less incentive to learn. One final factor: this is a place where hardware is expensive, but software is pirated and cheap. If the machine is well and truly cocked up, you save as much as you can and reinstall. Never mind that you've lost about 20 new security patches as well.

Then, there are incidents when the lack of local knowledge interferes with my machine, and I get really pissed off. A year ago, when my wife had her own graphic design business, some one decided to install PurityScan (please don't click) on some of the computers, including my laptop. The woman thought it was some sort of anti-viral software. Alas, it's not; it's spyware, as I tried to explain to her afterwards... but I got the feeling she wasn't grokking what "spyware" was. 

And there was that time, a month ago, when I got reconnected to ADSL, and someone decided to turn the firewall off. Imbecility.

Now, we have a new virus on the scene: the Windows Metafile Vulnerability. It's a nasty one, too. From Wikipedia:

The Windows Metafile vulnerability is a vulnerability in Microsoft Windows which was first disclosed on Bugtraq on 27 December 2005 [1], and subsequently used in a variety of exploits. The vulnerability, located in gdi32.dll, arises from the way in which Windows operating systems handle Windows Metafile (WMF) vector images, and permits arbitrary code to be executed on affected computers without the permission of their users. Windows versions from Windows 98 to Windows Server 2003 R2 are known to be vulnerable to the exploit, while versions as old as Windows 3.0 are probably also vulnerable. Exploits of this vulnerability are thus among the very few examples of genuine drive-by download.

So we've got a 15 year old bug that's now become a problem. Given what I know about Microsoft quality assurance, I'm not too surprised. However, this is the sort of bug where you could infect yourself instantaneously by viewing the wrong page. Especially with that abomination called Internet Explorer, which still seems to be the norm here. But other browsers aren't safe either. The flaw is in the operating system, and how it display the file.  

Don't trust your anti-virus software either. We learn from the Internet Storm Centre how the malicious WMF files could be tweaked in almost infinitely random permutations - making it harder to detect by antiviral software. This quotes an email by "white hackers" Metasploit, who are trying to show how the WMF vulnerability could be exploited:

We released a new version of the metasploit framework module for the WMF flaw, this one uses some header padding tricks and gzip encoding to bypass all known IDS signatures. Consider this "irresponsible" if you like, but it clearly demonstrates that a run-of-the-mill signature-based IDS (or A/V) is not going to work for this flaw. If anyone has any questions about why we are releasing these types of modules so early after the disclosure, feel free to drop me an email.


So what can you do, dear reader? Fortunately, there are several things you can do.

  • First: check if you are vulnerable. From IDA Pro, you can download a program from that address, and run it. It will not infect your machine; it will only test it, and state whether you are vulnerable or not. I have run this program.
  • Secondly, if you are unprotected, install the patch on your computer. It's not by Microsoft, I'm afraid; they seem to be on an extended New Years Break. But there's a temporary hotfix also by IDA Pro. What it does is disable the dodgy command in gdi32.dll. I've installed it. It works fine. Microsoft will probably get around to releasing an "official" patch in a fortnight or so. But that may be a little long to wait.
  • Thirdly, Sunbelt Blog recommends that you unregister "shimgvw.dll":

As CERT says, “Remapping handling of Windows Metafiles to open a program other than the default Windows Picture and Fax Viewer (SHIMGVW.DLL) may prevent exploitation via some current attack vectors. However, this may still allow the underlying vulnerability to be exploited via other known attack vectors.” ... At any rate, here’s how you do it. From the command prompt, type REGSVR32 /U SHIMGVW.DLL.  A reboot is recommended.  (It works post reboot as well.  It is a permanent workaround). You can also do this by going to Start, Run and then pasting in the above command. This effectively disables your ability to view images using the Windows picture and fax viewer via IE. However, it is not the most elegant fix.  You’re probably going to have all kinds of problems viewing images. But, no biggie: Once the exploit is patched, you can simply type “REGSVR32 SHIMGVW.DLL” to bring back the functionality.

  • Finally, it won't do you any harm (and it will do you a lot of good) if you stop using Internet Explorer. Perhaps you could change to another browser like Firefox, which both my wife and I use happily. This may be hard at work if clueless system administrators insist you use IE. But you have no excuse at home. 

How will this affect the Vietnamese computing community? There is some awareness, at least: Nhân Dân has an article on it, and so does VCDOnline. But it looks like there's going to be a lot of infected machines. It will take time for information to percolate down to the users. More people will use the Internet, ignorant of viruses and adware and spyware. Most people already on line won't change their habits; they'll continue to use IE, and forget to update their anti-virus patches, and their machines will end up trashed. Then they'll reinstall and start again. Just like anywhere else, really. 

Oh, and I'd best say Happy New Year. We'll need it.