dannyman.toldme.com


Biography, News and Reaction, Testimonials

Maxwell the Cat, 2009-2014

Link: http://dannyman.toldme.com/2014/08/07/maxwell-the-cat-2009-2014/

We had company over Wednesday evening. Friends of the family who have cat-sat for us. They brought dim sum. After dinner we sat around chatting. I got a call on my mobile from a 408 number. I took it.

“Are you the owner of Maxwell?”

“I am. Is he causing trouble?”

It was the opposite. I grabbed a cardboard box and hustled down to the corner, where a small crowd had gathered. The woman who had called me said he had been standing in the street, looking the other way, when the car hit him. He died instantly. She removed him from the street and found my number on the tag. We hugged. She was obviously a cat person, who was glad that he had a collar, a bell, and an identification tag.

I brought him home. He rested briefly where his feline companion Maggie took a last opportunity to groom him. The young woman who drove the car and her father came by to express their remorse and see if they could make amends, but there was nothing to be done. The young woman was in tears. She wants to be a veterinarian. The Father remembers dogs who had been lost to cars. We agreed that the Humane Society might receive a donation. We shook hands several times. What a way to meet the neighbors.

Maxwell napping in the front yard in June.

Maxwell napping in the front yard in June.

In the back yard, a shallow grave was dug. Maxwell was wrapped in a familiar fabric, and lain to rest. Words were said.

It will take some time to feel his absence and truly mourn his departure. He might have lived a much longer life as a house cat, but he loved the outdoors and was well known in the neighborhood. He lived as he chose and while his end was violent, it was swift and he did not suffer.

We’re going to miss you, Maxwell!

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Sundry, Technical, Technology, Testimonials

New Phishing Scam: Call Toll Free to Refresh Your IP Address!

Link: http://dannyman.toldme.com/2014/05/14/new-phishing-scam-call-toll-free-to-refresh-your-ip-address/

I reported the following to the FBI, to LogMeIn123.com, to Century Link, and to Bing, and now I’ll share the story with you.

Yesterday, May 12, 2014, a relative was having trouble with Netflix. So she went to Bing and did a search for her ISP’s technical support:

Bing leads you to a convenient toll-free number to call for technical support!

Bing leads you to a convenient toll-free number to call for technical support!

She called the number: 844-835-7605 and spoke with a guy who had her go to LogMeIn123.com so he could fix her computer. He opened up something that revealed to her the presence of “foreign IP addresses” and then showed her the Wikipedia page for the Zeus Trojan Horse. He explained that she would need to refresh her IP address and that their Microsoft Certified Network Security whatevers could do it for $350 and they could take a personal check since her computer was infected and they couldn’t do a transaction online.

So, she conferenced me in. I said that she could just reinstall Windows, but he said no, as long as the IP was infected it would need to be refreshed. I said, well, what if we just destroyed the computer. No, no, the IP is infected. “An IP address is a number: how can it get infected?” I then explained that I was a network administrator . . . he said he would check with his manager. That was the last we heard from him.

I advised her that this sounded very very very much like a phishing scam and that she should call the telephone number on the bill from her ISP. She did that and they were very interested in her experience.

I was initially very worried that she had a virus that managed to fool her into calling a different number for her ISP. I followed up the next day, using similar software to VNC into her computer. I checked the browser history and found that the telephone number was right there in Bing for all the world to see. She doesn’t have a computer virus after all! (I’ll take a cloer look tonight . . .)

I submitted a report to the FBI, LogMeIn123.com, Bing, and Century Link. And now I share the story here. Its a phishing scam that doesn’t even require an actual computer virus to work!

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News and Reaction, Technical, Technology, Testimonials

FAQ: Should I Change All My Passwords!!??

Link: http://dannyman.toldme.com/2014/04/11/faq-should-i-change-all-my-passwords/

As a SysAdmin, people ask me how much they need to worry over the heartbleed vulnerability. Here’s my own take:

heartbleed

Google were known to be vulnerable. They co-discovered the vulnerability and deployed fixes quickly. I like to believe they are analyzing the scope and likelihood of user password compromise and will issue good advice on whether Gmail passwords should be updated.

For everything else, my small opinion is “don’t panic.” Not every web site would have been affected. The Ops folks at each site need to patch their systems and assess the extent to which credentials may have been compromised, then take appropriate steps to mitigate compromised data, which might include asking users to set new passwords. But if they’re still waiting on some patches, then submitting a new password could actually put both passwords at risk.

For other important passwords, like your bank, check up on what they’re recommending that you do. If a site is important to you and they offer two-factor auth, go for it: that typically means that if you log on from a new computer they’ll text a one-time pin code to your mobile phone to double-check that it’s you.

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Excerpts, Free Style, Quotes, Recipes, Testimonials

Slaughterhouses and Battlefields

Link: http://dannyman.toldme.com/2013/11/25/slaughterhouses-and-battlefields/

Two quotes passed along on September 11, from my meat-eating Grandmother:

A  USDA inspector reviews the carcasses of slaughtered pigs for our safety.  Credit: Wikmedia Commons

A USDA inspector reviews the carcasses of slaughtered pigs for our safety. Credit: Wikmedia Commons

“As long as there are slaughterhouses there will be battlefields.” –Leo Tolstoy


“We are the living graves of murdered beasts
slaughtered to satisfy our appetites.
We never pause to wonder at our feasts,
if animals, like men, can possibly have rights.
We pray on Sundays that we may have light,
to guide our footsteps on the path we tread.
We’re sick of war, we do not want to fight -
The thought of it now fills our hearts with dread,
and yet – we gorge ourselves upon the dead.

Like carrion crows we live and feed on meat,
regardless of the suffering and pain
we cause by doing so, if thus we treat
defenseless animals for sport or gain
how can we hope in this world to attain
the PEACE we say we are so anxious for.
We pray for it o’er hecatombs of slain,
to God, while outraging the moral law,
thus cruelty begets its offspring – WAR.”
–George Bernard Shaw

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Sundry, Technical, Technology, Testimonials

A Computer Telephone Without a Keyboard!?

Link: http://dannyman.toldme.com/2013/11/15/a-computer-telephone-without-a-keyboard/

At long last, I retired my old T-Mobile G2. It was the last in a long line of phones I have owned for the past decade with a physical keyboard. (I think I owned every Sidekick up to the 3 before going Android with the G1 and the G2.) I like the ability to thumb type into my phone, but the G2′s old keyboard had long ago gone creaky, and it had lacked a dedicated number row besides.

Obligatory picture recently taken with my new computer telephone.  Featuring a cat.

Obligatory picture recently taken with my new computer telephone. Featuring a cat.

They don’t make nice smart phones with keyboards any more. Market research seems to indicate that the only remaining markets for keyboard phones are horny teenagers who need a cheap, hip Android-based Sidekick, and those legions of high powered business people who will never abandon their ancient Blackberries.

Anyway, the new Nexus 5 is here. The on-screen keyboard is okay slow and inaccurate. Like moving from a really fantastic sports car to a hovercraft piloted by a drunken monkey. I mean,the monkey-piloted hovercraft is undeniably cool technology, and I can eventually get where I need to go, but . . . its not the same, you see?

So, lets explore Voice dictation! It works . . . well, about as well as the monkey hovercraft, but with the added benefit that you don’t have to keep jiggling your thumb across the screen. But how do you do new lines and paragraphs? Where’s the command reference?

I asked Google. Google: android voice dictation commands?

Yup. If there is a reference somewhere, Google doesn’t know about it. How sad.

There is one humorous and not overly annoying video demonstrating how to do voice dictation. Various forum posts have users saying they can’t find a reference, but simple punctuation seems to work, and sometimes you can say “new paragraph” and sometimes you can not.

I have to wonder, at times.

The other thing that excited me about the Nexus 5 was that on the home screen you can drag apps right up to “Uninstall” . . . unless they’re Google apps! “Way to not be evil,” I cried. Until a Google colleague pointed out that it was just a bit of UI funkiness on Google’s part, owing to the applications coming bolted into the UI, there is at least a method to disable them.

Anyway, this is useful knowledge that helped me to vanquish the Picasa sync thing that has been hiding images from the gallery for the past few years. I have another project where I’m testing out BitTorrent Sync to pull images off our phones and then sync a copy of the family photo archive back down to the phones. If that works out, I’ll write it up. I may pursue that further to see if I can’t replace Dropbox, which, unfortunately, does not (yet) offer any sort of a family plan. Also, if I can host my own data I needn’t share as much of it with the NSA.

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About Me, News and Reaction, Politics, Sundry, Testimonials

Skipping Ender’s Game

Link: http://dannyman.toldme.com/2013/08/07/skipping-enders-game/

As new parents, it is not as if we are getting out to the movies at all these days. All the same, when the Ender’s Game Movie page popped up in my Facebook I had to pay a visit, and share my opinion:

FWIW, Card has continued to advocate and advance his beliefs that homosexual people should have lesser rights than heterosexual people. If you see this movie then some of your ticket price goes to Card and will help in your own small way to advocate for discrimination. This reason alone turns me so far of the prospect of seeing this movie.

When I was younger, I loved the entire trilogy, and I would still encourage folks to borrow the books from the library, but the thought of giving another dime to Card fills me with revulsion.

Discrimination is not cool, and every dollar of revenue this movie fails to book is a dollar that has been better spent elsewhere.

Unsurprisingly, people who are planning not see go watch Ender’s Game aren’t spending much time on the movie’s Facebook page. So, comments like mine get a lot of pushback. Some guy in Netherlands reads what I said above and responds, “So you liked the books and then you learned about OSC’s beliefs and you didn’t like the books anymore?”

Which, no, that’s not quite what I said. So, I’ll try again:

Peter, I love the books. What I dislike is the idea of giving any money to a guy who uses it as a soapbox to preach that gay people should be discriminated against. I dislike the idea of giving my money to someone who preaches against the rights of homosexuals just as much as I dislike the idea of giving my money to someone preaching Racism or Sexism or Ultranationalism or Religious Extremism or any of the rest.

Fortunately, there are plenty of great books to be read, plenty of great movies to be watched, that aren’t asking me to support the cause of hateful people. There are plenty of great books I have not yet read, plenty of great movies I have yet to watch. Plenty of enjoyment to be had without giving money to those preaching a tired old hatred.

Ask yourself this: would the idealistic young kids portrayed in “Enders Game” be lining up to see a movie produced by someone preaching hate? There are surely any number of more valuable things that you could be spending your time and money on, neh?

At any rate, as I said, there’s only so much time I have to spend that I’m not going to blow too much of it debating kids on Facebook. I have done my little part, and Orson Scott Card is pretty small-fry compared to the kind of awful stuff that is happening in Russia.

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Technology, Testimonials

Fitbit Feedback: My Own Data Are Not a “Premium” Feature

Link: http://dannyman.toldme.com/2013/07/15/fitbit-our-data-ourselves/

Feedback to Fitbit:

Hello,

I have for a long time wanted to be able to download my data. It seems simple: I buy a device to track my data, I should have access to the data collected.

It looks like now for the low low price of $50/year I can download my own data.

Honestly, that just feels slimy. They are my data. My data are not a premium feature. This restriction puts a bad taste in my mouth and that is a strong deterrent to purchasing further products from you folks. Which is too bad, since I otherwise like the hardware and I am ready to be upsold to an NFC device. But since my data are not my data … well, I’d rather just spend my money elsewhere.

Thanks,
-danny

If anyone has an activity tracker they particularly like, I am keen to hear about it.

1 Comment


Sundry, Testimonials

Scalia Resigns as Scoutmaster

Link: http://dannyman.toldme.com/2013/05/26/scalia-resigns-as-scoutmaster/

My Red State Relative Posted this to his Facebook Wall:

Justice Scalia quit his post in a terse resignation letter that read, in part: "Some of the happiest memories of my adult life have been as a scoutmaster. Huddling under blankets around the campfire, and so forth. But now, all of that has been ruined. Ruined."

“Scalia Resigns Post as Scoutmaster”

Justice Scalia quit his post in a terse resignation letter that read, in part:
“Some of the happiest memories of my adult life have been as a scoutmaster. Huddling under blankets around the campfire, and so forth. But now, all of that has been ruined. Ruined.”

I quipped that “if enough bigots quit they’ll have to start recruiting gay adult leaders.” To which my relative responded asking how I might feel about my son on a campout with the gays, or an alcoholic, and that safety, righteousness and common sense should prevail.

Turns out, this story is satire from the New Yorker, which makes it all the more delicious. I wrote back:

I thought it sounded like The Onion.

[Relative], I hope Tommy takes an interest in scouting, and I feel better to know that if he joins, he will not be denied the friendship of a fellow scout simply because one of them is gay. I hope they go camping together, and I know from first-hand experience that when Scouts exhibit a gross failure of ethical or moral conduct, their behavior is reported and disciplinary action is taken. (Like the boys who got expelled from the Scouts for shoplifting during a camping trip.)

And, for what it is worth, our Scoutmaster was a combat Veteran and a Recovering Alcoholic. He told some good stories that I think probably helped a few of us young men make smarter decisions in our adult lives. It was always hard to get a sufficient number of adults to join our outings, which is why I will be glad to see the eventual end of the exclusion of gay adult leaders.

I never made it to Eagle, but a friend of mine who did resigned his badge and sent the pin back to HQ because of the exclusion policy. I was really really proud that he would make a sacrifice for what he knew to be correct. A lot of Eagles have resigned their rank for the same reason. There’s even a blog at http://eaglebadges.tumblr.com/. It is nice to see those sacrifices have not been in vain.

2 Comments


Sundry, Technology, Testimonials

And So It Goes . . .

Link: http://dannyman.toldme.com/2013/05/24/and-so-it-goes/

You would think that turning a computer off would be a simple ask. But on my corporate laptop, Windows 7 is ever concerned that I am an idiot.

Me: Okay, we’re done. Shut down.
Windows 7: Okay. Hey, wait, some programs are still running.
Me: Kill them. Force shut down.
Windows 7: Bu-bu-bu-bu-buuuut you could lose your work!! Are you sure you want to shut down?
Me: Yes . . . I’m always sure . . . but thank you for your heartfelt concern.

So it goes.

(I do 98% of my work from Linux, which thinks shutting down is a grand idea.)

3 Comments


About Me, Biography, Technology, Testimonials

Testing out Ipernity

Link: http://dannyman.toldme.com/2013/05/23/testing-out-ipernity/

Earlier this week, Yahoo! unveiled a new and improved Flickr! !! A radical new redesign, which, while kind of slick to look at, totally steamrolls all the narrative features that many Flickr users like me love. Time will tell if Yahoo will backpedal enough to let us old-timers see our photos in the ways we like. Given that the new business model appears to be ditching the user subscription model for ads ads ads I am not optimistic.

Tommy vs Picmonkey
Tommy smiles at his father photographer.

Enter Iperntity, a 7-person outfit in Cannes, FR which appears to have cloned the Flickr interface back in 2007 and have since moved in the direction of building it into a site where you not only manage and share your photos, but you can also write stories, and keep track of the friends you have on the site. Basically, a little outfit building something like Flickr into what Flickr might have become had Yahoo! not spent the past decade neglecting it. In a way, it is even giving us the core sharing features that people like about Facebook, without all the skeeviness. (Or … critical mass.)

So far, I like it. Like Flickr, it features an API, and since Yahoo this week induced a lot more demand for the site, the migration scripts and Collections feature are coming along.

My reactions so far:

I of course opted for their 3-month paid service. Once the Collections feature comes online then I reckon there is a very good chance I’ll migrate my data from Flickr and sign up for their two year plan.

It is just nice to discover that there is new technology waiting in the wings when the big megacorp decides to shoot its product in the foot.

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Letters to The Man, Technology, Testimonials

Flickr Makes Me Want to Cry

Link: http://dannyman.toldme.com/2013/05/21/flickr-makes-me-want-to-cry/

I really really loved the Flickr interface and the new thing they rolled out today makes me feel like I have been punched in the gut. I added my voice to the torrent of objections in the forums at http://www.flickr.com/help/forum/en-us/72157633547442506/

A test view of a plugin I once wrote to view Flickr photos on a WordPress site.

A test view of a plugin I wrote to view Flickr photos on a WordPress site.

Wow. It is hard even to add a post here.

I loved the old interface. I also loved that when you added new layout options to the old interface, they were OPTIONS that users could turn on or off.

I like that you could browse photos with annotations, click on a photo for a larger view, look over the metadata, &c . . . then click through the photostream or set.

Back when I joined in 2005 I was wary that Yahoo! might eventually do something stupid to what was really a very nice, well-designed interface for managing photos. My main assurance is that there would still be an API . . . I guess I will have to brush off the old API . . .

Really, you should give users the option to use the interface they like. This feels like instead of sitting down with users, seeing how they use the site, figuring out how to make it work better, you brought in some jackass designer who sighed that the site looks oh-so-2005, and decided to replace it with a mashup of Google Image Search (which is a terrible UI, by the way) and the Facebook header image (which wastes space at the top of screens which are getting shorter and wider but at least looks kind of neat.)

Please respect your existing users, many of us who have been paying you real, cash money for years now, and give us at least the option to enjoy the user interface we loved about your site.

Thanks,
-danny

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About Me, Politics, Religion, Testimonials

Remember Gwen Araujo

Link: http://dannyman.toldme.com/2013/04/03/remember-gwen-araujo/

Remember Gwen Araujo

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

Back when I lived in Mountain View I was deeply saddened to read of the death of Gwen Araujo in 2002. She was a transgendered teen in the South Bay who was brutally murdered by classmates. Why? She had given a few blowjobs to the boys. The boys realized in horror that they had committed a “homosexual” act. They felt betrayed by Gwen, beat her to death, and buried her in the woods.

The tragedy bothered me because Gwen was apparently accepted by these friends enough to become somewhat intimate, but the homophobia that had been instilled in these kids was so strong that they went from lust to the worst sort of violence.

For me, “Gwen Araujo” is as a reminder that homophobia is a deadly poison that can turn even a lover into a brutal murderer. Gays aren’t murdering people: it is homophobia that is the dangerous sickness. The younger generations have proven increasingly tolerant, but Gwen’s friends were still held under its deadly influence . . .

I dream of a world in which people can be who they are as they are without fear of violence.

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Politics, Presidential Decrees, Technology, Testimonials

Presidential Decree #6: Intellectual Commons Restoration

Link: http://dannyman.toldme.com/2013/02/19/presidential-decree-6-intellectual-commons-restoration/

In an age where innovation and creative thinking move ever faster, it is sick and demented that we have extended copyright periods to over a century. It is shame for the current generation and those of the twentieth century that the intellectual commons ended in 1923.

The gradual seizure of the intellectual commons.  CC: Wikipedia

The gradual seizure of the intellectual commons. CC: Wikipedia

The United States hereby withdraws from International Copyright Treaties, especially the Berne Convention. The substance and spirit of the Copyright Law of 1790 shall be restored. All intellectual property rights must be recorded by the government. Software copyright protection requires a copy of source code for software to be stored in escrow with the government. Exclusive rights are conferred to the author for 14 years, plus an option to extend rights for 14 years if the author is alive at that time.

A Copyright Will Protect You From Pirates!  CC: WikiPedia

A Copyright Will Protect You From Pirates! CC: Wikipedia

All other works are Public Domain. Upon expiration of software copyright protections, the government will publish the source code.

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Technical, Technology, Testimonials

SAQ: Is a DSL Modem Actually a Modem?

Link: http://dannyman.toldme.com/2013/02/19/saq-is-a-dsl-modem-actually-a-modem/

This question came to mind the other day. “DSL modem” sounds dumb, because as any geek over the age of 30 knows, a “modem” is a device with MODulates and DEmodulates a digital signal over an analog network. Thus a “Digital Subscriber Line” has no need for modulating and demodulating.

modem and phone

THIS is a modem!
CC: BryanAlexander

Except, DSL is actually an overlay on the analog telephone network. So, wait . . . what?

Wikipedia wastes its time on a pointless distinction:

“The term DSL modem is technically used to describe a modem which connects to a single computer, through a USB port or is installed in a computer PCI slot. The more common DSL router which combines the function of a DSL modem and a home router, is a standalone device which can be connected to multiple computers …”

Yeah, really helpful. But as geeks know, you need to check the Wikipedia talk page:

The usage “DSL Modem” is not erroneous. A DSL modem does indeed perform modulation and demodulation. It uses either Quadrature Amplitude Modulation (QAM) or Phase Shift Keying (PSK) modulation. Multiple modulated subcarriers are then combined into an OFDM stream. The distinction between this type of modem and a traditional one is that the traditional one modulates audio frequency signals whereas the DSL modem is upconverted to an RF band. But they both perform modulation and demodulation. The digital signals are not sent as baseband digital signals.

I do not know what all those words mean, but I read that as “a DSL modem is still a modem. It modulates and demodulates a digital signal into the RF band of a telephone line.”

I made my own contribution to Wikipedia’s Talk page:

The distinction between whether your “DSL modem” connects via USB, ethernet, wireless, or provides NAT, sounds like a spurious distinction to me. I interpret and interchange “DSL modem” and “DSL router” as “the network device that bridges your local computing resources to your network service provider.”

But if I have learned anything about nomenclature disputes on Wikipedia, it is that they are not worth the effort.

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Politics, Testimonials

Speak Softly, and Carry a Crowbar

Link: http://dannyman.toldme.com/2013/01/14/speak-softly-and-carry-a-crowbar/

Biiiiig guns!!!

We are not the young, strong, boisterous nation that we once were. We are older and slower, hopefully a bit wiser. We are beginning to suspect that if we sold the old gunboat we have parked in the driveway that we could afford to repave the driveway, upgrade to energy-saving appliances, help the grandkids through school, and still have a few bucks left over to take the wife out for tango lessons.

But how can you be safe without a gunboat in the driveway? Well, I have been thinking about that. It turns out that almost any burglar can be scared off by a guy wielding a 2×4, or a baseball bat, or a crowbar. In fact, Grandpa used to sleep with a crowbar by his bed, just in case. He was tough and never scared. And these days if you don’t find an old man with a crowbar scary you can bet his wife is standing behind him, on the phone with the cops.

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