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User Journal

Journal Journal: The more I learn about UEFI

I have been reading and studying a lot about the EFI documentation at Intel and Microsoft's implementation of UEFI at the hardware level as a replacement for the BIOS. The problem as I see it is the one facing unwitting consumers. Imagine Microsoft or Intel pushing an update that knocks users of a particular version of the Windows OS that MS no longer approves of, is unofficial, or is pirated.

With the mechanisms built into UEFI, it is possible for Microsoft to write code to it that will allow them to block your system from booting.

Interesting money trail after that....

User Journal

Journal Journal: Things I have learned from teaching CIS at a local university

I am back. I have been working like a madman but I have also been teaching at a local university and I can tell you...the future computer techs and programmers that I see are going to be so much better than we were. These young men and women are so bright and talented and have such an imagination that it is actually a pleasure to teach them. This coming May, I am losing two of these students. One is a soldier in the U.S. Army. He is proof that the next generation gets it. These guys are so unlike who you see on TV news. Just remember...the next time you get laid're being replaced by someone who is probably younger and less stubborn than me. Ha!


Journal Journal: ISPs and hosting companies hosting spammers 2

Last week I posted my comments about the pro-spamming attitude or at least the heel-dragging of image hosting company, Picoodle. Today, I'll address the bigger problem, hosting companies hosting spammers.

Every day I surf a well known classified ads site looking for bargains for my hobbies. I'm seldom lucky but you never know. One day I was looking for one of those coolers that hold ice and drinks that you see inside most convenience stores. The round ones with the plastic tops are the ones I'm talking about and I looked in the Business/Commercial category and saw the ton of spam/get rich quick come on's/MLM offers, and other wastes of money (most borderline illegal).

Most users flag them but I began to do research and discovered that these people have automated software to make these posts. So I thought that I would address this by approaching the image hosters about removing the offending images. Most legitimate companies have so far complied within 36 hours. One, Picoodle, refuses to even respond to email inquiries asking them to investigate these claims.

So now...I began a project, identify the URLs of these posters, email their hosting company, ask them to investigate these claims and if appropropriate, ask them to enforce their Terms of Service (TOS).

Is this a good idea or am I asking for trouble/retaliation?
User Journal

Journal Journal: Spam hosting sites and images

It's a valid conclusion that I hate marketers period. They contribute nothing to the betterment of humanity and spend most of their lifetimes in pursuit of knowing what makes humans tick and how they can use that information to get you to buy a good or service.

And it has also been my longheld belief that marketers have ruined the web. If you think otherwise, I want you to think back on the very first spam message. It was sent by a law firm marketing itself to consumers to get a bigger share of the market.

That trend continues today except now it does not stop with just those attorneys. Now it covers drugs, magazine subscriptions, medications, and anything you can think of. If you ever venture over to CraigsList and peruse through the Business/commercial for sale area you will see scores of get rich quick schemes, credit come ons, MLM's, and a million other ways to seperate the fool (you) from your money (money).

And most of these posts do not have any text content. All text is displayed via a graphic since CraigsLists filters will block that text. These images are being posted from all image hosting sites: Photobucket, Flickr, Imagebucket, Picoodle. Most of these sites immediately react when one of these posts is brought to their attention.

One site that I have run across, Picoodle, does not take immediate action. Nope. Instead, they tell you that they will take up to three weeks to process your request. Think about that...three weeks; 21 days.

Meanwhile the spammer/malware purveyor/ne'er do well continues to violate the terms and conditions of the image hosting company.

Now Picoodle is part of the Funky Llama group of sites. The sites that this company hosts include a MySpace layout tool. So I have no doubt that their staff is stretched thin however, I believe that they have if they offer a service, they have a responsibility to the Internet community, just like every other image hoster, to act in a swift and responsible manner and not allow people accused of bad behavior to continue to reap profits from their behavior.

I have contacted Photobucket, Imageshack, Imagebucket, and Flickr previously regarding these types of posts and they responded within 36 hours just about everytime so I wonder here, why can't this hosting site be able to investigate and respond to these matters in a short time like the companies you would think they consider competition.
User Journal

Journal Journal: Upset about the lack of privacy and respect from companies

This morning, I noticed some unusual activity on my pc. So I did a quick check and noticed some data being sent to an IP owned by a company that was contracted by the site I was on to monitor web activity.

Now look, I understand that marketing people steer the development of most sites and gathering detailed information about users and their actions is a method of directing advertising efforts, as well as providing an additional revenue stream.

However, these folks are simply adding to my block list. That's right, in addition to a hosts file, I maintain a block list on that blocks advertising and other third parties from access my pc's and my networks.

If you want to know which ones I block, I use this well known Hosts file as a reference with some significant modifications,

No, I'm not going to tell you what modifications that I make but trust me, I block most third parties and I will continue to do so untill I feel it is safe for me to lower my guard.

Now, if you want my business, you will respect my privacy. When I check out, you will not keep my contact information for more than 30 days after the transaction unless your return policy is longer than that. You will not try to install web beacons, tracking cookies, or user any other technology to follow me. Just because I visit your web site or make a purchase from you, I don't think that it give you my permission to do whatever you want despite when you may have written in 6pt font in your privacy policy.

Speaking of which, has anyone noticed how all web sites talk about how important "your privacy" is to them yet they go out of their way most of the time to hide the fact that they will share your contact information with as many people as possible?

Take for instance the simple act of ordering a pizza. How many people daily pick up their phone, home or cell, and call the pizza delivery place and order a pizza? Before you pick a pie, think about what they ask you for first, to confirm your phone number, right? Now ask yourselves how many of those people know what those pizza companies do with that extensive calling list.

Yes..they resell it. Check out this privacy quiz from

No..there are no black helicopters swirling overhead in my world. Just out of control advertisers and marketers who have zero respect for anyone and no decency. I'm amazed that any of these marketing people can go about their day to day lives proudly boasting about what they do for a living. On the contrary, I would think they would want to hide this information from as many people as possible.

Which is why I don't feel bad about violating their privacy.
User Journal

Journal Journal: My brother in law has been published 1

My sister, you gotta love her, married a young man she met at MIT. Both are uber-geeky, both are somewhat reserved, and both have the same birthday. One thing this gentleman is not...a slouch.

He has worked with several other uber-geeks on mapping MicroRNA and while I have no idea what that means in the grand scheme of things, I do know that his work is more important to the human species than my work on encryption.

Congrats Stuart!

Here's a link to the article detailing their work:
User Journal

Journal Journal: Talk about timing...

I was taking a break from my day job and I stumbled upon the latest article regarding Vista, it's shortcomings, and it's benefits.

I have been looking for a new laptop now for a week and have come to the conclusion that I do not want Vista on my PC. The trouble is, it's next to impossible to get what you want from PC manufacturers. They push Vista and there is almost no other option.

Dell still provides XP on select laptops but there is the added punishment of having to pay almost $100 in state sales tax which I do not want to do either.

Yea...I know..I'm being difficult.

Look...if there is a laptop maker listening to me, "give the buyer a choice!" Let me decide what OS that I want on my new machine and if I can't figure it out, then force me to take Vista.

Why don't I want Vista? That's simple...I don't want a slow machine. I don't want the DRM. I don't want the networking woes that some of my clients and friends have reported to me. In short...I want XP, for now.

I can't use Linux on it because it's also going to be used by my girlfriend for some of her college assignments and her instructor insists on Microsoft Office products. So I'm stuck.

You's easy to see how the state of computing got into the sorry state that it's in. There is virtually no choice in products. Sure there are many manufacturers and they are all selling the exact same products just in their own wrapping.

You'll find the same Turion and Dual Core Intel chips, the same ram, the same DVD burners, the same everything. You'll probably even get support from the same call center in Bangalore unless you pay extra for Gold support and then they might let you talk to someone in the United States.

I build my own desktops and it's so much cheaper than buying one preassembled. So why is it cost prohibitive for a person to do the same with a laptop?

User Journal

Journal Journal: The Copyright Debate

Anonymous Coward has posted a Firehouse article extolling the virtues of reducing the term of copyright protection to two years. While I agree with most everything said about reducing the length of copyright protection, I'll say that in the case of entertainment media, copy protection should be no longer than 30 months from the origination of copyright protection.

You see...copyright origination begins when the rights holder produces the first samples of work. This would encourage faster movement to the market.

Items like entertainment media items need to be protected from illegal sales and theft, yes but should Disney's Mickey be protected for more than 100 years and thus disallow another creator from creating a better version of Mickey? Is it in the public's interest that copyright lock up intellectual property for that long and thus stifle innovation and creativity?

The electronics industry and the hobbyists were lured into the PC and high tech arena because those users had a curiousity. They, like me, enjoy taking things apart just to see how they would work and how they could be made better.

There is one company that advertises on television who boasts that they don't make the things that make our lives easier. They make those things better. Well that's what we want to do. We want to tinker with the products that we buy to enable these items to better suit our needs.

Be it software, music, movies, whatever. If we cannot adapt it to suit our needs or our styles, the urge to tinker is repressed and good ideas are never born.

Finally...does anyone think that old school rappers like 2-Live Crew, NWA, or Sugar Hill Gang worried about copyright issues? They used existing music performed by other artists from other genres and reworked it to suit their needs. They did not steal an entire song but just bits and pieces. A hook here, an intro there, and an ending in between.

It is disingenuous of the entertainment industry to try to stifle the very creation that it seeks so hard to have us believe that they are seeking.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Another sign of old age

Microsoft says that they have seen a 50% reduction in the number of pirated versions of Vista as they see in XP. Well there could be a reason for that beyond the PR spin.

Most of my friends run Windows products for gaming and for ease of available software. That's why I run it but I've got clients that have purchased new computers with Vista loaded on them. They have had nothing but problems. Networking issues, driver compatibility issues, and even software compatibility issues. We will not even discuss the problems with Windows Genuine Advantage that seemingly only punishes legitimate users of Microsoft products because we all know that pirated versions have work arounds.

So maybe, just maybe, the reason why Microsoft says that there are fewer pirated installations of Windows Vista is because it's a bad OS. I mean come many people do you know that rejoiced in having a pirated version of Windows Millenium Edition? Yes...Vista is just about that bad.

It's not the worst OS out there. It really does work well for someone in a one PC household with a broadband connection and maybe a wired LAN connection. But I would avoid it in a multi-pc environment and I especially would not use it in a mission critical environment.

In fact, I would expect this OS to be ignored by most organizations. I think they will wait for Microsoft's next newest offering. I think that's due out in 2009. It's got to be better than this but I could be mistaken.

Hey..I always reserve the right to be wrong.

User Journal

Journal Journal: So it costs extra to speak to an American for tech support

So tonight I was looking for a new laptop to replace my old workhorse laptop that I'm "donating" to my girlfriend. I went to Dell's site, not really intending to buy a Dell due to all the problems that my company has had with their systems in the last year since we upgraded to new GX620's.

Anyhow...I got to a page where it starts asking me to pay for technical support. And after I said no to accident care the next page that popped up suggested that I pay and extra $100 or so dollars for, and I quote:

"Add peace of mind with Gold Technical Support featuring North American-based technical phone support that is designed to deliver speedy access* to advanced level technicians and fast problem resolution."

North American based technical support?

Does this mean someone who knows what they are talking about in English? I have nothing against Indian tech support so long as they are knowledgeable and able to communicate with the customer. So far, my experiences with Dell's overseas technical help has been anything other than helpful.

I actually called them once while working on a client's PC and the Indian tech, reading from a script instead of using common sense, asked me to first, check in the system's Control Panel by clicking on Start->Control Panel.

I told him, "dude...the system will not turn on"

He said, "okay, reboot the system and press the F2 key to enter the bios setup" and again I repeated, "dude...the PSU is dead and the box will not turn on."

After three more silly requests from him, he said, "it sounds like you might be having problems with your power supply. Can you please unplug it and plug it in again" and I replied with " come over here and do it because it's arc-ing every time it comes in contact with electricity"'s very maddening to have to pay extra for the one thing that made Dell computers so desirable a decade ago. Back when Dell sold 486's, they offered lifetime telephone technical support and I never took advantage of it but then again, their PC was so solid, I didn't need it.

It's sad to see what Dell has become and I will not fork over $132 extra to speak with someone in the United States. If US technical support is considered the "Gold Standard" and if overseas technical support is inferior, then why doesn't Dell offer that to their customers to begin with.

It might just alleviate a lot of the problems and anger that Dell has aimed at it from disgusted former customers like me.

And if this is old news, I apologize. It's new to me and that's because I have not purchased a new Dell since they have become so problematic for consumers to own and since they have turned their back on the American workers that made them into one of the largest companies in the world.
User Journal

Journal Journal: Some days I feel like a cranky old man 1

Over the course of the last two years, I've ventured away, somewhat, from the Slashdot community and it's not because I grew tired of it. was just that other things took predence.

Well now I find myself angry almost all of the time. I am angry at the things that are just seemingly out of control and I insist upon complete control, or at least the illusion that I have some control.

Marketers, law enforcement, the government (both Federal and state), lazy citizens, and a host of other things have come together to create the perfect storm in my life and it makes me crazy.

In May, I opened a Bank of America account, and I insist that they only use my telephone number for emergencies. Within two weeks, I start receiving telemarketing calls pushing credit cards, new lines of credit, identity theft protection services, home equity loans, home equity lines of credit, you name it and the calls came for it. I have called several times to BOA customer service line (since their executives hide behind the wall of customer service agents touting the "I don't have access to that number so you don't either" line).

And to me...that's the worst. Companies that ignore your wishes and act as your enemy rather than your friend. They would rather milk you now for the quick buck rather than wait for that time in your life when you want to grow and get bigger homes, nicer cars, etc...

They want to punish the financially responsible and make it seem like irresponsible behavior is the way to go. And here's the one cares. The "do not call" list says that if you have an existing business relationship with a company, they may use that relationship to contact you.

Law enforcement wanting to bug our phone calls, our Internet sessions, and now our cars. It's bad enough that GM placed those black boxes in our cars to monitor air bag deployment but now there is a Federal mandate that these devices be placed in all new cars so that they can tell on you. And you cannot disable them. They are part and parcel of the car's computer system. To render the blackbox useless would be to turn your $30K vehicle into a giant boat anchor.

Then there is the Feds and the state governments wanting to tax, fee, and toll everything that we do. We cannot enjoy parks, rides in the country, nor just a pleasant time with the family because someone with some agency has a hand out. Here in Texas, the state is trying to get rid of as much state owned property as possible. Land that was given to the state to protect by the Sierra Club is for sale to the highest bidder because the state says it cannot profit from the land.

Oh and the Texas solution to road congestion, make every road a tollway. They wasted money for decades on bad highway designs and lack of preplanning and are now alleging to play catch up. Taxpayers are now having to pay twice to drive on the same stretch of roadway. We paid for it the first time with our gas tax money and a second time when the state turns it over to a foreign corporation for toll road purposes. And oh btw...they are playing a game of semantics. They are taking an existing highway that has been funded for an upgrade of overpasses at major intersections for a decade, put off that construction and instead say there isn't enough money to build the initial roadway and the only way that they can do it is via tolling it. Meanwhile, the Texas Department of Transportation seems to have more than a billion dollars to give to arts projects, ad campaigns, fees to consultants to tell them how great toll roads are, and finally to get the Federal Highway chair to tout toll roads as the only feasible way to get future road construction done.

Heck...I wouldn't be surprised if one day I opened my paper and read that someone uncovered that the Minnesota bridge collapse was allowed to happen in order to illustrate the point that the Feds will no longer help maintain our nation's infrastructure.

Finally...the lazy, "I need convenience," give me what I want when I want it and don't tell me how you got it, voters that are out there. It's because of their greed, laziness, sloth, etc...that we have the mess that we have. They do not want to get involved. They want to watch their American Idol. They want to tout how great it is to have less government and less taxes and then balk when they have to pay to use a park or drive a stretch of roadway.

Well here's some more goodies headed your way lazy insurance that charges you by the mile. Every month your bill will change. State vehicle registrations increasing their fees and also charging you by the mile. Every year, your bill will change and it will all be done via those little GPS devices like OnStar.

Back in the 70's and 80's when people tried to warn us about big brother's increasing power, we'd call them crackpots and kooks. We'd laugh at them and discredit them and shame them into hiding.'s 20 years later, maybe even 30, and maybe they weren't so kooky after all.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Things that need to be codified in law

We need to be clear on some things and they need to be put into law.

1) Fair-use. Our ability to create backup copies of legally purchased media must be preserved. The media production industries, audio and video, have a built in level of repear sales that comes from lost, stolen, or worn out copies of media. It should not be illegal for a consumer who makes a legitimate purchase to create backup copies of their media for their personal use. For instance, after I purchase an audio cd, I rip it and make a cd copy of it to keep in my car, and I load the songs on to my MP3 player. I am doing nothing illegal however, the manufacturers of these media would like to be similar to Microsoft and other software manufacturers and purchase a license for each device that the media will be played back on.

    In short...instead of making one sale and allowing the user to determine what devices they wish to play it on, they would rather force consumers to buy one copy for their home cd player, one copy for their computer, one copy for their car, and additional copies for every device.

2) A universal school curriculm needs to be adopted. A child who's parents move from Virginia to California should rest easy in pulling their child out of class, and the child should sit down in their new seat, open the same textbook to the same page that their old classroom would be on.

3) Infomercials should be limited only to no more than .5% of a television station/network's total 24 hour programming period. In more than one hour per day. American consumers are paying a lot of money to cable television and satellite networks and for what? At any given time after midnight, a consumer can find infomercials on late night television convering 80% of the available channels.

4) The final thing that should be written in law...domestic partnerships should be given the same standing as a married couple in the governments eyes. I have friends and neighbors who live in an alternative lifestyle. They choose their partner in the same way a husband and wife choose one another. No one has asked for any church or religious group to bless these arrangments but they do ask for the government, to which they pay taxes, to treat them equally.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Have you missed me?

I'm back.

I took some time off for a cruise and vacation.

And like Nixon...I'm tanned, rested, and ready.

So let's get to it, shall we?

Someone care to tell me what I've missed over the last several weeks?

User Journal

Journal Journal: I need a break

Well I've got two classes left for this session. It's been fun and I'm kinda disappointed because I'm really liking this class and I'm really learning something.

I wish that there was a second part to this networking course.

Alas...there isn't and now I've got about a month before I start the next one.

Let's hope I can hold my grade in there for the rest of this session.

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