Are cookies too intrusive? Are vendors justified in tracking us? Will we care in 10 years?

There is a stark difference between the degree of monitoring that inhabitants of the United Kingdom experience versus the amount of camera-time and surveillance that is applied to American citizens. Part of this is because European assumptions about privacy have evolved on a very different track for the last couple of centuries — ideals and observations about the likelihood of abuses in oversight are legitimate; but compromises have been made by both societies based on how perceived gains are sold and accepted. For instance, if crime is measurably decreased or criminals are measurably convicted in greater numbers, many people are willing to give up a little privacy when they are in a space that is already portrayed as ‘public’.

Americans, though, for a long time have struggled with a very different concept of what ‘public’ means. In Europe, it may mean, ‘belonging to everyone’; but in the United States, if often means, ‘belonging to no one’. The assumption that no one has a legitimate right (or need) to monitor our activities is bred into us from the ideals that set us apart from the UK those two centuries ago — that individual existence is several orders of magnitude more relevant to our comfort and self-value than our need to belong. And that’s of note specifically because of our very strong need to feel like we belong.

Beginning with this difference of perspective, and the fact that much of internet-enhanced culture is rooted in technology and social constructs that began in America, and it is easy to grasp the ideal that individual freedom, self-regulation, and an assumption of privacy just through anonymity alone is the assumed norm across much of the internet — regardless of geographic, civil and social boundaries.

The problem is that tracking of every activity, every route, every identity on the internet is already happening because it’s completely necessary for traffic to move. It’s just that most users have not been sophisticated enough to grasp that all this addressing and routing is occurring; all they know is that they saw the web page they searched for, and they received the email their mom sent.

People are becoming increasingly aware, faster than the degree of collection is increasing. It’s the expansion of technological literacy that is the catalyst for stark concern about privacy issues.

Regardless of what decisions are made about what is acceptable for vendors, publishers, and ISPs, the literacy of its citizen will always increase. The amount of information collected about the traffic, and its travelers, will eventually be something users can regulate as individual endpoints. The shock of discovering we’re under surveillance will eventually be dismissed by the public, just as we no longer flinch when someone pulls out a camera phone in a public space.

Meanwhile, vendors can take a market-driven approach to gauging what is appropriate. They will gamble just as vendors in the physical world do — “What will the buying public do… how will they react… will they still spend time and money, or will they boycott?” These are struggles that crowdsourced experimentation will be much more well-suited to deal with than regulation.

For a best-case perception by the public, the public relations task of making users informed will be what reduces fear and ignorance. Fifteen years from now, it will be normal for young school children to understand how packets are created, sent, routed, received, and processed. They will read in history books how we had adult humans, wandering about, not grasping at all how information is collected or is moved, and they will wonder how we managed.

Kustom PA-50 or Powerwerks PW-50 Tiny, Roadworthy, Active Cabinets

pa50bothsidesnowI don’t understand why retailers don’t do a better job at explaining what these are. Yes, they are self-powered cabinets with a built-in mixer, and they are easy to transport. But there are a couple of features that make them much more useful than most other devices competing in this space.

FIRST, there is an ‘in’ and an ‘out’ (master bus) XLR connection that lets you DAISY-CHAIN a bunch of these. So, starting small, let’s say you buy one and you can plug in a laptop and two microphones. You buy a second in a few months and daisy-chain them together… now you can plug four mics in and have two 1/8″ stereo jacks for sources like laptops, MP3 players, CD players, etc. Note here that any source you plug into one of these devices is equally available on all of them… no outboard mixer needed!

So, imagining that you can get that much flexibility out of two of these devices, think what happens when, in a couple of years, you decide you want to expand — but you don’t want to start over and leave equipment unused in a closet. Just buy two more… daisy-chain all four for a mono production (or daisy-chain two on the right, two on the left) — now you’re up to 8 mic inputs, etc. (got a digital piano or a direct box for your guitar?… all in a setup that still fits in the trunk of a hatchback (no more ugly vans for musicians!). You could daisy chain 6 of these to a side, if you wanted, and cover a lot of territory in a lot of different shapes of venues.

Here’s the thing… every musician, every player, every vocalist, needs their own ‘little rig’ — this is it, because each person can buy one for themselves and when you all gather, your equipment ‘just works’ together to embiggen your sound for that dive bar, that ballet performance, that karaoke party, that high school talent show.

My daughter has one that she uses with her semi-acoustic guitar; my son uses one to watch Netflix — when everybody gets together for a party, we string XLR around the perimeter of the room(s) and flood the place with clear, even sound.

kustompa50busandsubSECOND, there is a bass output with a built-in crossover. So imagine again that you start with a smaller setup (two of these is enough for an indoor show with 100 in the audience), and want to add more bottom end for louder productions… plugging in a 1/4″ instrument cable at this port engages a built-in crossover, effectively cutting the bottom third off the sound the PA-50s emit… and sending that low-frequency sound to whatever you plug in at the other end… bass amp, subwoofer, guitar amp, etc. In many cases, just separating the bottom third from the ‘work load’ that the PA-50 carries make them operate so much more efficiently that you’ll find you’ve about doubled the level of CLEAN audio you get to fill the room.

We used a PA-50 on each side of the stage at my kids’ high school talent shows (over several years), sending the bass out to a couple of guitar amps that were laying around, and covered a room with seating for 300 people with headroom to spare. That means I was able to fit an entire stage worth of PA equipment (plus my digital piano) in the trunk of a Buick.

These two features mean SCALABILITY… start small, spend small… grow big, still spend small… interested yet?

LINK: Kustom PA PA50 Personal PA System (MusiciansFriend.com)
LINK: Kustom PA PA50 Personal PA System (GuitarCenter.com)

Alesis Vortex over Camera Connection Kit to 6th-Gen iPod Touch running Roland Sound Canvas iOS

vortex_angle_web_lg

I have the (white, non-wireless) Vortex, and have finally pulled it out to get some mileage on it… I had an idea that I would velcro my 6th-gen iPod Touch to the front of it (between the keys and the neck), and run Roland Sound Canvas iOS as the sound source… piping it from the iPod through Bluetooth to my mixer (this part I already have working).

I’ve read that I only needed to connect to the Vortex’s USB port with a ‘camera kit’ (lightning port on the iPod to Vortex’s USB), and I’d be good — but got conflicting reports on whether it would work. Alesis technical support tried, but didn’t know that people are doing this successfully with iPads — lots of users jumped in on their support pages to say this is working.

But that’s an iPad — mine is an iPod Touch, so when I switch the power to ‘USB/DC’, the Vortex doesn’t power up (no juice from iPod); yet when I move the switch to ‘BATT’, the Vortex does power up and then does absolutely squat on Sound Canvas iOS. I would love to find out I’m just skipping a config step on the iPod. Anyone?
sound_canvas_for_ios_ipad_2_gal

vortex_sidepanel_web_lg

Ham Radio Operator Licensing with Baofeng (cheap) Radios

The inexpensive analog Baofeng radios, made in China, and coming with a you-get-what-you-pay-for reputation, are at least reliable enough to justify owning one (or several), to stow in various places for emergencies (glove box, trunk, Get-Home-Bag, office desk drawer) — or to use as your daily rig until you maybe upgrade to a more expensive radio capable of digital.

I have a Baofeng UV-5RA and a smaller (without a built-in keypad) Baofeng UV-3R (which slides into a pocket, which is a good thing since the belt clip broke immediately upon unboxing).

I’ve added an extra-capacity battery for the ‘5’, and programming cables for both radios. All told, for two radios and accessories, I’ve popped for just over $100 of ham radio fun. Compare that to when I was a teenager (30 years ago), and my father spend more than $400 for one radio (‘HT’, hamspeak for ‘handy-talkie’, or what non-hams refer to as a ‘walkie-talkie’). Time is kind to technophiles; or at least to their wallets.

There is software that comes with these radios; but it isn’t very respectable compared to another application that is available as open source, which I highly recommend, called ‘CHIRP’. It can be found, with instructions, here: http://chirp.danplanet.com/projects/chirp.

The software is easy to use; the harder part will likely be getting the driver software for your programming cable (goes in your USB port). Some tips can be found here, though if you still have trouble past this you may have to rely on Googling up information about your particular cable, in conjuction with the search term ‘baofeng’: http://chirp.danplanet.com/projects/chirp/wiki/MacOS_Tips.

The driver that finally worked for me (I tried several) was this one, because the chipset in my programming cable is the Prolific variety: http://www.prolific.com.tw/US/ShowProduct.aspx?p_id=229&pcid=41.

I used the CHIRP software to make queries against online resources that already know what repeaters are in my area (by choosing, by county, which areas I care about). So now I have a file, called ‘CentralINandPurdue.img’ that includes all the repeaters in Marion County, and all surrounding counties. And since I have someone asking me who will be going back to school at Purdue next fall, I also included Tippecanoe County (and surrounding counties).

Get the file here: CentralINandPurdue.img

If you get CHIRP installed, and the correct driver for your programming cable, you can upload the file I created to add these channels to your radio without a lot of manual labor on your radio’s keypad.

Once you import this file into your radio, you may notice a lot of noise on channels you don’t want distracting you every time it scans up the channel list. There are two ways to deal with this… one is to delete that channel in CHIRP, another is to tell your radio to ‘skip’ that channel when scanning, which is already done for you on the NOAA channels in this file — just look for the ‘S’ in those rows, and you will see where you can do the same thing for other channels that you want to pass over.

Ham Radio Operator Training/Tutorial Resources (Technician Class License):
AA9PW FCC Exam Practice (AA9PW.com)
Ham Technician STUDY Playlist (YouTube.com)

Further Reading:
Program a Baofeng Radio with CHIRP (geekprepper.org)
Tips on How to Best Configure and Use Your Baofeng UV-5R (codegreenprep.com)
Guide to Using the Baofeng UV-5R (essexham.co.uk)
Baofeng UV5R Menus (Miklor.com)
Baofeng UV Squelch FAQ (Miklor.com)
Program your VHF/UHF Transceivers for Disaster Preparedness (radiofreeq.wordpress.com)
How to Set Up a Ham Radio (1) (backdoorsurvival.com)
How to Set Up a Ham Radio (2) (backdoorsurvival.com)
2014 No-Nonsense Tech Study Guide v2.0 (kb6nu.com)

So You Have A New PC…

[I repost something like this, it seems, about every time Black Friday rolls around… hopefully it will answer some questions if this is new territory for you…  -ed]

 

If you’re asking what software to add to a newly-acquired computer, the first advice I would give you is not to add anything at all… until you need it.  Most users clutter up their computers with a lot of software that they never end up using; and the end result is a tangled, poorly-performing machine.  The best-practice rule is to only add those things that you need… when you need them.  That said, the following list shows software that I personally recommend for most users — and why I chose them for myself:

 

Google Chromehttp://google.com/chrome

Because the web browser that comes with Microsoft Windows is a favorite target of hackers, information thieves, and virus authors, I recommend choosing (and setting as your default) an alternate web browser.  Google’s Chrome is among the top 5 and is available for multiple platforms (Windows, MacOS, Linux).  Additionally, choosing Chrome makes several other software options (listed below) work easier…

Apple iTuneshttp://www.apple.com/itunes

While there are several very well-designed tools for managing media files (music, movies, etc.), iTunes is the current favorite for both MacOS and Windows users — and not just for users of Apple’s iOS devices (iPod, iPhone, iPad).  Just know that using iTunes doesn’t mean that you can only purchase music and movies through Apple iTunes Store — you can simply use it as a (free!) place to organize your files, no matter where they come from.  And, if you also happen to have an iOS device, it’s nearly a requirement for keeping your PC and portable device in sync…

AVG Antivirus Freehttp://free.avg.com

New PCs usually come with some brand of antivirus tool preinstalled — and with a 12-month subscription that is no longer free when that first year is over.  While there is nothing wrong with taking advantage of those first 12 months of free protection, if you don’t want to hand over your credit card when it expires, I have had good success with AVG Antivirus Free.  Just be sure to remove the older antivirus program you are replacing — having two different programs attempting to do the same job can drastically slow down your computer.

VLC Media Playerhttp://www.videolan.org/

Your PC may already have a tool provided for playing movie files in several formats — but eventually, someone is going to give you a file that is in an odd format you can’t open.  The ‘Swiss Army Knife’ of video players is VLC — it plays almost every format in existence.

Audacityhttp://audacity.sourceforge.net/

What VLC does for video, Audacity does for audio files — and you may not have a need for something that opens dozens of different audio formats; but it also allows you to edit (crop, alter, concatenate) sounds to better fit your purposes.  I use it to create short ringtones from longer sounds I find on the internet, or in my iTunes.

Paint.NEThttp://www.getpaint.net

Windows comes with a simple image editor that might be enough for many users — and professional use Adobe Photoshop, which is a very complex (and very expensive) image editor with hundreds of features.  Somewhere in the middle is Paint.NET, which is free, but includes the features most users need for resizing, correcting, cropping, and changing the file format of pictures.  For those who have grander aspirations, there is another free application (closing to Photoshop on the learning curve) called GIMP at http://www.gimp.org/ .

Google Docshttp://drive.google.com

Docs is not an application that you install — it is an online application you can access from any internet-connected computer (Windows, MacOS, Linux).  Included is a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation graphics, and simple drawing program — all of which can save out to common file formats (like DOC, XLS, PPT, PDF, etc.).  Documents you create in Google Docs are stored in your online account (requires a free Google account, which also comes with a free personal email address on GMail.com) — again, making your creations available to you from whatever computer you log in from.  NOTE that Google Docs is not as full-featured as a commercially-available office suite (like Microsoft Office); but since most users never use more than 25% of the tools available in MS Office, Google Docs likely provides all the functionality most users depend on.

DropBoxhttp://dropbox.com

There are many vendors out there who provide a way for you to store documents up on some internet server (that’s what the phrase ‘in the cloud’ means); but DropBox is a favorite of mine because it doesn’t require any extra effort to use — AND it makes sharing large files with other people easier (no more sending them through email).  With DropBox installed, there is a folder on your PC that will sync (automatically keep copies in both places) between your computer and your online account, so that if anything ever happens to your PC (breakage, theft, accidental file deletion), you still have the online version to fall back on.  Also, you can reach these files through any web browser on any other computer — so it’s ideal for checking on a document from work that you created on your home computer.  Free accounts at DropBox.com start at 2Gb of storage space.  [See also Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive…]

Calibrehttp://calibre-ebook.com/download

Many eBook readers are limited to just a handful of file formats (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_e-book_formats); Calibre is able to read almost all of them, and is a great place to keep all the ebooks you collect from various sources in one place.

InkScapehttp://inkscape.org/

Vector artwork is imagery that can be stretched in size without losing quality… the industry standard for this in the commercial art world is Adobe Illustrator.  While Inkscape is not feature-for-feature as powerful as Illustrator, it also doesn’t cost several hundred dollars (Illustrator does).  For this reason, many high schools and universities that have art and design classes are favoring Inkscape — and it has quite a following all around the world.

Notepad++notepad-plus-plus.org

Every Windows computer comes with a simple text editor called NOTEPAD.EXE, which is really handy for looking at text without formatting — or for deliberately stripping formatting that you don’t want out of a document.  But it is very limited; the search-and-replace isn’t very capable, and some larger files won’t open in it.  For user who need more control over their plain text files, I recommend Notepad++, which I use to edit web pages, instructional documents, and for projects that require a more powerful search-and-replace than is provided in even strong applications like Microsoft Word.

Browser pluginshttp://java.com (Java Runtime), http://adobe.com (Flash & Adobe Reader), http://www.microsoft.com/silverlight/ (Silverlight), http://www.downloadhelper.net (DownloadHelper)

There are literally hundreds of plugins, toolbars, extensions and enhancements that can be added to your web browser to add to it’s functionality, but those linked here are the ones that I put on every computer I configure — some of them are required by most web sites and one (DownloadHelper) allows me to grab an offline copy of YouTube video for watching later when I am perhaps away from a good internet connection.

Skypehttp://skype.com

Of the many tools available for having voice and video communication over the internet, the most popular among consumers is Skype; and it’s well-favored among business users as well.  The free version lets you have one-to-one video chat as well as larger audio-only conversations.  As an added bonus, you can define your own screen as a ‘camera’ in a video chat — so that you can show the person you are talking to what you are doing in an application (such as PowerPoint or Google Docs).  There is a paid version that adds the ability to connect from Skype to a regular phone number, should you need the ability to make lots of outbound calls with a USB headset (I use this instead of my cell phone when I plan to spend the whole day talking on the phone from home).

Scribushttp://www.scribus.net

The industry standard for most professional page-layout artists is Adobe’s InDesign — and in the low-end (non-professional) world is Microsoft’s Publisher.  Somewhere between those two stands Scribus, available on multiple platforms (Windows, MacOS, Linux, etc.) and used by many university, not-for-profit and small-office environments around the world.  If you want to crank out a book, a newspaper, a magazine, or a print advertisement — this may be a tool you’ll benefit from.

General PC Maintenance

I get asked all the time if I will fix people’s computers. I wish I had the time (I have a compulsion to repair things that are misbehaving); but I really don’t. And unfortunately, computers these days are not getting simpler — they are getting more complex … even though their snazzy user interfaces are getting slicker and ‘swoopier’.

1643_fix_your_computer_mugBut that does not absolve you of the responsibility to maintain your ‘ride’. If it were a car, you would either learn how to do the repairs yourself or take it to a reputable dealer. A ‘reputable dealer’, though, for repairing PCs is more difficult to find than you might think. Many people get frustrated enough to just give up and buy a new machine every once in a while rather than repair what they already own.

I’m not against the idea of buying new hardware every few years… but I’d hate to be forced into it out of ignorance or fear.

If you are one of those people who takes your car to a mechanic for everything, I’ll bet you are still capable (whether you choose do to it or not) of changing a tire, adding windshield-wiper fluid, and vacuuming out the interior. That level of know-how is analogous to basic PC maintenance, as well — you should be able to back up your data, add ink to your printer, and clear out unnecessary files that accumulate on the hard drive — causing it to slow down and perhaps even misbehave.

If your PC is causing you fits, and you’re teetering on the edge of an impromptu trip to the BuyMore — take a deep breath and count to 10 (which in binary is ’00’, ’01’, ’10’ — so it shouldn’t take very long). To start with, you’re going to need some tools. The following are all free (some also offer a ‘pro’ version for $$$):

MALWARE DETECTION/REMOVAL:

CLEANING:

If you pick one from each category, install it, and use it, you might easily add years to the usefulness of your PC.

While some entities work hard to unearth YOUR dirty laundry, others are hard at work to obscure the deeds of the Truly Evil

I hate Microsoft. I’m in the business, and I hate them. So, it really pisses me off when I have to choose one of their products over someone else’s.

But today, I stumbled across THIS while looking something up to answer a question:

GOOGLE’S RESULTS: https://www.google.com/#q=%2B%22joe+biden%22+%2Bshotgun+%2Bwife
BING’S RESULTS: http://www.bing.com/search?q=%2B%22joe+biden%22+%2Bshotgun+%2Bwife

BidenShotgunSearchResults

I tried fiddling around with the settings on the Google page, hoping that maybe I was just missing some configuration error on my part… perhaps it was only searching on pages that Google thought matched up somehow with my previous online behavior? No improvement. So I SIGNED OUT of my Google account and tried again in a fresh browser window. No change.

I am left with the understanding that Google has been paid off, or sees political merit themselves, to removing evidence of an event from public awareness.

Thanks, Google — I had thought your mantra was ‘Do No Evil’; now I can see that it’s really ‘Hide Evidence of Evil to Protect those on the Left’.

LINK: “Joe Biden’s Shotgun Advice Could Land Jill Biden in Jail” (USNews.com)
LINK: “JOE BIDEN HAS MORE GUN ADVICE: ‘JUST FIRE THE SHOTGUN THROUGH THE DOOR'” (theBlaze.com)

So, I used to have this 300Gb external hard drive…

That’s “used to have”, as in, it’s still taking up space in our house — but now it only makes a feeble ‘click-click-click’ sound when I try turning it on.

I haven’t plugged it in for years; but was looking to pull copies of the pictures I took when our house was being built… I got to capture what the walls looked like before the builders closed them all up with drywall — and specifically, where the wires, pipes, and ductwork are (so that I didn’t accidentally cut into one of them during renovations and repairs).

But, it doesn’t look like I’m going to be able to provide those pictures to the new owner (we’re still shopping for one, as well as a new home for ourselves). The drive is dead, and it was the only copy of everything that was on it.

But I was just telling the woman that promised to Love, Honor, and Share My Broadband that it’s been so many years since I’ve backed up files to it that I don’t know what I’m missing. That’s a good thing, at least in that I don’t know what to mourn — I have little idea what I no longer have access to. But this was my backup drive for all the machines I’ve used up until about four years ago.

After that, I started using cloud storage more and burning things to DVD-R discs… not out of a deliberate plan to change my methods but because my backup drive was completely full.

Full of data that I have now lost.

At least I know the NSA can no longer read my files, either.

LINK: “Maxtor OneTouch III FireWire 400 and USB 2.0 Data Sheet” (Seagate.com)

Oops… what happens if you crack your iPad glass?

Apple’s iPad line — and in fact, most of the tablets out there on the market — are a lot sturdier than they look. However, (to paraphrase the Ohio State motto), doo-doo happens. Today a fellow techie (who has the chops and tools to refurb any laptop, any style) shot me a note about repairing an iPad 2 that has a visible (and distracting) crack.

—–
The cheapest route might be to do it yourself (tutorial vid and parts list below); however it’s not for the faint-of-heart. The tolerances inside are so close that it’s more like repairing a watch than cracking open a laptop. Getting it to look pristine when you are done (with no dust inside, etc.) can be tough — even with a controlled, clean workspace.

But Apple sometimes cuts people a break on the repair at the Genius Bar; so it’s worth a visit to the Keystone Apple Store to find out. Worst-case, I’m seeing that Apple *can* charge $300 for the repair — which hardly seems worth it since you can get a new iPad Mini in the same price range.

LINK: “Replacement Parts For iPad 2” (GadgetMenders.com)
LINK: “Cracked the ipad screen, got a free replacement from the apple store” (iPadForums.net)

Facebook Graph Search: *NOW* is the PERFECT TIME TO PANIC!

Do. Not. Panic. Sadly, the AOLstyle panic-attacks are still alive and well; they just focus on Facebook now, since even your grandma has abandoned AOL. BUT, there is still plenty of unfounded fear to go around — so if you haven’t bothered to check the viral status message that is going around with something like http://LMGTFY.com/ yet, here is the non-hoaxy low-down:

THE TRUTH:
http://websearch.about.com/od/facebook/a/Facebook-Graph-Search.htm

Only content that is publicly available to view is available in Facebook’s Search Graph; in other words, if a user has set their settings to be private, than their information will not show up and their content will not be indexed in the internal search (read more on making your Facebook settings private in How to Block Searches Of Your Facebook Profile).

THE DEBUNKING:
http://theencyclopediaofmatt.blogspot.com/2013/03/the-graph-app-facebook-hoax-and-what.html

If you take the recommended steps, all you really do is remove your friend’s updates, Likes and Comments from YOUR view. You are not protecting yourself, or them. You simply won’t see their updates when you use Facebook. Why would you do that? Why remove your friends’ updates from YOUR view? Isn’t that why you are friends in the first place, so you can see what they are up to? There are 3 recommendations I make to better protect your information, and they will quickly get progressively more draconian. …

http://urbanlegends.about.com/od/facebook/ss/Facebook-Graph-App-And-Privacy.htm

Contrary to what’s claimed, Graph Search won’t make any of your Facebook content or other activities visible to strangers unless they’re already visible to the general public per your own privacy settings. It simply gives other members another way to find your stuff. For example, if your current privacy settings only allow friends to view photos and status updates, Graph Search won’t change that — only friends will be able to see your content in search results. However, if your current settings allow your content to be viewed by everyone, then everyone, friends and non-friends alike, will be able to see it in Graph Search results. That’s pretty straightforward.

http://www.thelikeffect.com/index.php/facebook-privacy-hoax-and-the-top-3-ways-to-set-boundaries-on-facebook-and-protect-your-privacy/
http://www.fws.net/blog/template_permalink.asp?id=137
http://www.wlbz2.com/news/watercooler/article/234159/109/Facebook-Graph-App-status-is-false
http://howto.cnet.com/8301-11310_39-57564134-285/nows-a-really-good-time-to-update-these-facebook-privacy-settings/
http://www.snopes.com/computer/facebook/timeline.asp
http://www.thelikeffect.com/index.php/facebook-privacy-hoax-and-the-top-3-ways-to-set-boundaries-on-facebook-and-protect-your-privacy/
http://www.fws.net/blog/template_permalink.asp?id=137

THE HUMOR:
http://actualfacebookgraphsearches.tumblr.com/
http://humor.about.com/od/smartstuff/a/Beware-Of-Facebook-Graph-Search.htm

I repeat: Do. Not. Panic.

18_49_40_985_file

Friday, July 27th – International SysAdmin Appreciation Day

SysAdminDay
No, we’re not making this up — go and buy a cold Dew for the guys in your company’s basement; this is their day for kudos. Friday, July 27, 2012, is the 13th annual System Administrator Appreciation Day.

For motivation, I’ll remind you that if you tick these guys off, they could:

  1. Suspend your network priviledges
  2. Block iTunes
  3. Redirect DNS requests for Monster.com to BabeVsBabe.com
  4. ‘Accidentally lose’ your home directory
  5. Share your web traffic log with your boss
  6. Send email to the White House from your email account
  7. Kill your last-minute print job just before the Big Meeting
  8. Schedule your next Windows update to begin halfway through your PowerPoint presentation
  9. Begin to use your PC as a test-bench for the latest virus definitions
  10. Block this blog address at the firewall

Good Cookie / Bad Cookie / Truly Evil Cookies

How a Well-Mannered Cookie Behaves:

1) You visit a web site (say, http://saturn.com ) to shop for a car, and while there you click on links for 4-door sedans and then another to see what a particular model looks like in a nice deep dark blue.

a) While you are on their web site, they dropped a cookie in the temporary items folder of your browser, that stored some brief notes about what you looked at during your visit.

2) The following week, you go back to the home page http://saturn.com – and, lo and behold! – the exact car you ‘custom-built’ is what is on the huge banner graphic across the top of the screen… Wow!

a) When you revisited the site, their home page provided the code for several different versions of that banner graphic – and your browser noticed that their cookie was already present, so used information combined from both the live site and instructions built into the cookie to decide which version to present to your eyes. At no time was the cookie sent ‘up’ to the web site.

How an Ill-Mannered Cookie Behaves:

1) You visit a web site (say, http://saturn.com ) to shop for a car, and while there you click on links for 4-door sedans and then another to see what a particular model looks like in a nice deep dark blue.

a) While you are on their web site, they dropped a cookie in the temporary items folder of your browser, that had some brief notes about what you looked at during your visit.

2) The following week, you go back to the home page http://saturn.com – and, lo and behold! – the exact car you ‘custom-built’ is what is on the huge banner graphic across the top of the screen… Wow!

a) When you revisited the site, your browser noticed that their cookie was already present, and when requested, sent that cookie ‘up’ to the web site.

b) Their web server collects and analyzes the cookie and makes a decision about what to present to you on the web page. They also keep a running log of information collected to be sold to unscrupulous data-mining vendors. That can include any passwords you saved on their web site and any of the technical information listed at these sites:

http://www.mybrowserinfo.com/detail.asp

http://www.cyscape.com/showbrow.asp

http://browserspy.dk/browser.php

http://www.dtic.mil/test/

http://panopticlick.eff.org/

http://www.internetfrog.com/mypc/browserinfo/

A less-simplified discussion/reference on cookies that are not oatmeal-raisin:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HTTP_cookie

Just had to send an angry note to AT&T after learning why our phone bill was twice as large…

Looks like we’re everybody’s favorite pecking post this week. As if there aren’t already enough reasons to hate the phone company, I just had to send the following on their web site: “We just activated this number last month, and already we have a FRAUDULENT CHARGE ON OUR ACCOUNT. It’s from PaymentOne Corp, for $17.95 — and we have already done our research; if you respond only that it’s not your problem and that we need to ‘take it up with the other vendor’, we’re SUING (conveniently, there are already several class-action suits for us to choose from). TAKE THIS OFF OUR BILL AND DO NOT ALLOW THIRD PARTIES TO CHARGE US AGAIN FOR ANY REASON.” http://lmgtfy.com/?q=PaymentOne+Corp+complaints+fraud+unauthorized

Sure, it’s only a few bucks…

[The following in response to ‘Netflix betting on subscriber fallout in Q3, everyone over it in Q4’ http://www.zdnet.com/blog/btl/netflix-betting-on-subscriber-fallout-in-q3-everyone-over-it-in-q4/53159 ]

…BUT, Netflix crossed the line where they used to be price-competitive with products and services they’re competing with (at least, where my own family is concerned).

As others have noted, an upgrade to an existing dish or cable package comes within reach when you’re talking about $16/month.

I wish there were more players in this part of the market — I may be re-visiting Hulu.com (which we had skipped over in the past because Hulu doesn’t support our Wii).

Although Netflix touts a lot of content at a low price, we’ve had trouble finding things we want to watch with our kids (10 and 13), as their titles seem to be too adult (or violent, creepy, or over-sexed) or too infantile for us to spend an hour on.

Hulu’s content may fill in some of the gaps where we lost access to some favorite shows from downgrading to the cheapest cable package (Warehouse 13?).

Monday, June 20th is National Ride to Work Day!

Learn more about why this day was set aside to increase awareness of how motorcycles and riding can make our commute less expensive, less a waste of time, easier to find parking, greener, cleaner, more empowering, and yes — even safer, by visiting the official web site at RideToWork.org.

Click to listen to a podcast by Steve Natt of Cycle World Magazine, as he interviews Ride To Work Day organizer, Andy Goldfine. (27 minute MP3).