January 29, 2014

House Projects Galore

I was commenting to someone the other day that Home Improvement projects are for saps.  This is why my husband and I tend to wait as long as we can stand it before wading in and fixing things.  Well, this is the year we start fixing stuff. Heaven help us.

The thing that kicked it all off was our old hot water heater dying a sudden and very wet death... leaking all over the floor and onto the carpets death. Since we had to get it replaced fast (I don't like living without hot water available) and the carpets suffered from that whole "wet dog" smell thing, we decided the flooring would need to be replaced.  But... the furnace was getting up in years as was the a/c.  Before putting in something nice on the floor, it was time to get those things taken care of first.  And so the adventure begins...

We had a new furnace install started at the end of November. It was supposed to include a heat pump/ac unit, but that never got installed before the really cold weather hit.  Now we have to wait until it warms up. Oh joy.   The good part, they have got the furnace itself installed, so the big item has been carted through.  The heat pump/ac unit sits outside. 

The problem is, the way our house was built. 

They finished the basement.  This is usually considered to be a selling point until you realize they finished off all the bits where one needs access to fix things or add new things.  *sigh*  Contractors will shrug and say "we'll just drill a hole through the foundation"...  Ummm... NO!  Double NO in that they always want to do this under the porch where it's nearly impossible to get at and who knows what bugs and small animals live there that will just love access to the house.  GAH!

To get round this problem, we had to rip stuff down. Since October a closet and the bathroom in the basement have had only partial ceilings.  Had to pull parts down so we could run a new coolant line for the a/c not to mention a new air intake for the heater.  They started the install very late because the guy giving us estimates, etc was just slow (the entire process having started in September).  

Jump to today and I have an electrician here trying to get the air intake fan to work correctly.  I figured it was a matter of simple wiring as to why it wasn't working correctly (it only comes on with the hot water heater not with the regular furnace).  But no... the entire process took 3 hours!  Wow.

And because we like to moosh everything together (thus making life far more interesting than normal), in about a week and a half we will be having new floors installed in the basement.  The old hideous carpet - that will be gone.  A thing of the past. 

While carpet is nice and warm in a basement, it does not play well with dampness or bugs, both of which like basements.  Our basement isn't particularly damp, but we did have the unexpected flood from the hot water heater. Add to that, we live in a forest and forests have bugs... even when you spray to keep them out. You can see where this is going. 

Then, of course. we had to pick out what we wanted on the floor.  This was also easier said than done.  Many options are cut out simply because it can't be installed below grade.  Then there is color matching because, damn if I want to paint baseboards!  Hopefully we picked the right thing.  The boxes were delivered yesterday.  We moved half the boxes last night and will move the other half tonight from the garage to the basement (they need time to acclimate).  We have already started moving our stuff so the work can begin.  They can move the larger furniture from one side to the other, but 7 book cases needed to be emptied, a table brought upstairs, the television will be moved over the weekend, etc etc.

It's amazing how much stuff can be fit into 2 rooms.  While I know it will soon be moved back to those rooms, during "construction" we would like to be able to move around in the rest of the house without tripping over too much stuff.  Thus we have a logistics puzzle.  The extra week before installation is good. We have more time to work it out.

So where are we to date?  We have holes in the ceiling in 2 rooms, we have 5 book cases worth of books and stuff moved out and distributed upstairs, and we finally have a working fan for furnace air intake.   Still 2 more bookshelves to empty, 2 file cabinets to empty and move upstairs and last of all the television and components (that will be the real fun part).

Once the new floors are in, there may even be pictures.  Old and new so you can contrast and compare.  I have a sneaking suspicion I will like the bamboo far better than the current golf green carpet in my office. We shall see.

Posted by: Teresa in FUN at 02:23 PM | Comments (5) | Add Comment
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January 24, 2014

My how time flies

Ten years ago today I wrote my very first blog post over at typepad. 

Thirty years ago today the Macintosh computer was introduced to the world. 

There is no connection. 

Posted by: Teresa in FUN at 10:28 AM | Comments (5) | Add Comment
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January 17, 2014

Hackers and breaches and credit cards - Oh My!

Well, it's a new year and another story of a big data breach. The more things change...

;">Update: Breach exposes data on 110 million customers, Target now says

As long as there is something to steal, people will try to steal it and periodically they will be successful.  Sometimes they will be wildly successful. 

Most people read about these things and their thoughts immediately turn to "OMG they have my credit card info! They're going to charge stuff!". While this is true, there are other things you will need to keep in mind.  Let’s consider the data that was taken.  Credit  and debit card numbers yes, but also, full name, address, email, and phone info too. This may be far more of a problem than the credit card numbers.  

It’s not possible to cover every bad thing that might happen from a data breach in one post (or even several posts) so let’s look at the most likely results and how you can keep from becoming a victim after the fact. 

With all that identifying data, it becomes very easy to target people with phishing emails and even phone calls.  The chances of a direct snail mail campaign are small, but possible.  With snail mail the cost is high and there are very specific laws that come into play that aren’t there for email, but please extrapolate anything said about emails and phone calls to include snail mail.   

Sadly, suspicion is your friend no matter the method of contact.  If someone walked up to your door and knocked, or stopped you on the street, then asked for your credit card info or login information for your bank, would you tell them?  Right now I’m going with - No!!! Please tell me you wouldn’t give this information out to a random person you don’t know!  

Phishing email has gotten very good over the last few years.  It can be nearly impossible for people to detect whether or not an email dropping into their inbox is from the place it says it’s from.  While there are still huge numbers of badly worded and misspelled phishing emails that can easily be spotted, the real problem are emails that are so good you believe it is legitimate. 

Because the information stolen is most of what a company would use to identify you, the bad guys can now create even more plausible emails and phone calls.  They know the correct name associated with an email. They know the correct address and phone number.  The end result is, the approach looks legitimate and you believe them because they have this information already.  

So, what to do?  Here are things to keep in mind. 

Never trust a person or business who contacts you directly asking for information. Do not open email attachments.  Do not click links to respond. Do not ever reply to an email asking you to fill out a form and return it. And please please don't tell me you would only do this if the email is from someone you know.  Don't. Period. 

Let me say that again.  Never give out information to anyone if you did not contact them first and were waiting for a response. 

But how about a little extra information so you can see why you should be careful.  

First of all, do not place all your trust in anti-virus software. It is useful for catching older stuff, but it won’t catch everything all the time and it won’t catch anything that is new and hasn’t had virus signatures created - I don’t care who makes it or what their claims are. It also will not catch an email that just asks you to fill out information and return it... that isn't a virus.  As always, you are responsible for what you click or delete or what information you give out. Think about it carefully.

Let’s start with email. Phishing emails are sent out by the millions. At some point in time, they are going to hit your inbox and look real.  It may say "we have tracking information about your UPS order please open the attached file” or "your bank account will be frozen unless you respond to this email, please open the attached file”. Or "this is an emergency, please click this link to go to our site and update your login information”. 

It may appear to come from your particular bank.  It may even appear to be a store you shop at regularly.  And you think, I need to check this out. After all, it couldn’t be the bad guys,  "how would they KNOW I just ordered something to ship via UPS???” , "how would they KNOW I use this bank???" The short answer is, they don’t (unless someone is stalking you and that’s a whole ’nother conversation).  So many of these are sent out on a daily basis, they will eventually contact a number of people who believe it applies to them simply because of timing. The variations on these emails are endless. Therefore, view all these requests with skepticism. The delete button is your friend.  

Another tack they take is to call and tell you they are from Microsoft, your ISP, a tech company, or some anti-virus company and there has been a virus detected on your system, could you please let them connect to your computer and they will clean it up.  Maybe they say they are from your bank and they need to confirm your information or you won’t be able to access your money.  (a bank threatening to take away money access is an easy way to scare people) 

No no no!!!!  Hang up.  Do not even talk to these people, don’t be polite, just end the call.   Here’s a hint… Microsoft has billions of copies of their operating system out in the world, they don’t call their customers.  EVER.  Never EVER.  Remember this.  Anti-virus companies don’t call either.  The idea is, you contact them if there is a problem. They never contact you asking to get on your system. If your bank really calls you, they will not ask you to give them your account number (if they do, find a different bank immediately!).  

If you are sincerely worried about your bank account.  Call your bank directly from a phone number on your statement, not from a number given to you by someone you don’t know. Better yet, go see them in person.  Don’t trust caller id as this can easily be spoofed by bad guys and be made to say anything they want. 

I have had my credit card companies call me because of likely fraud on my card.  They are generally automated calls.  I listen to them on my voicemail, then I call the 800 number on my card (not the one left on the voicemail).  These have all been genuine, but I do the calling to a valid number to make sure I know exactly who I’m talking to.  

And these are just a few things you can do to keep yourself somewhat safer out there in the Wild Wild Internet. 

Questions?  It's hard to fit everything into a post, so I very likely missed something. 

Posted by: Teresa in WebTech at 04:27 PM | Comments (6) | Add Comment
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