March 29, 2007

A Geek... To Be or Not To Be

Over at Venomous Kate's she has a short and to the point post about being your own geek.

Apparently, some sort of manual has been found, the claim being that it's a Geek Squad repair manual. Which is available at the link as a download.

Naturally sarcastic comments abound, criticizing the simplicity and idiocy of the manual. I didn't bother to even look at it... what's the point? It's noted to be at least 2 years out of date (via a commenter or two) plus, I have no way of knowing whether it's the "real deal" or if it's someone poking a bit of fun at Geek Squad.

The thing I noted, as per usual with the geekier set, the eternally annoying insistence that "you can Do It Yourself"... it's sooo easy.

Excuse me while I heave a deep disgusted sigh right about now.

After having helped people along the way and over the years with their computer woes, I can tell all the geeks out there right now... People Don't Want To Do It Themselves. They DON'T WANT TO... Period. No amount of "but it's easy" no amount of "just follow the directions" is going to change their minds. They want it to be like a car. You get in, start it, it goes.

Computers are following along in the path that automobiles took in their evolution.

First you had those who built cars from scratch - the inventors and hobbyists. They knew every piece and how it fit. They could jury-rig anything and make it work. They loved getting down and dirty working on the machines to make them go. Any amount of trouble was worth it.

Then cars started to move into everyday life. Those driving them had to know a bit about them so they could keep them going. Maybe getting into the engine and messing about with the carburetor so the engine would run better, changing the oil, that sort of thing.

Now things have evolved to the point that most people don't ever even look under their own hood to check anything. They take it to someone and have all the work done. Even though there are still people who like nothing better than tearing apart a car and rebuilding it, they are no longer the bulk of car owners.

Unfortunately, computers have not evolved to the point where they can just "go" with only the occassional tweak from the computer fixit person. We're still in the "tween" stage where a computer owner has to do actual upkeep on the system. The problem is, 99% of them don't want anything to do with it and of those 99% - most are scared to death they'll break something if they even look at it wrong, much less try to fix it. There are also a percentage who simply do not understand how computers work - and they don't want to. They have specific activities they perform and they leave the rest alone. (trying to talk one of these people through even the simplest task is a daunting experience - a tip for dealing with them... speak Greek, they'll understand you better)

There is also the time factor. Every time a geek starts talking about making a little "fix" on your computer - just assume you're in for hours - if not days - of fun. (if they say the words "piece of cake" - run away... far and fast). You see, most people just don't have the time to work on their computer. Even people who know what they are doing - cringe at the thought of lost weekends trying to make something work right.

This is why groups like The Geek Squad and Fire Dog along with many individually owned businesses are gaining traction. We've left behind the days where everyone who owned a computer was a geek... now we have regular people with busy lives. They'd rather have their weekends available for relaxing after a hard work week. They don't want to be crouched over a computer keyboard trying to figure out why the damned thing won't boot and then suddenly will, but looks odd...

So for all you sneering geeks out there - remember, just because you don't mind sitting in front of a computer 24/7, does not mean the rest of the world is stupid because they'd prefer to be doing something else instead. And for heaven sake please give up the - DIY. Look for those who express an interest - work with them. Leave the others alone or you will be required to go to your car, pull the engine block, and machine the cylinders before you can check your email... I'm just sayin'...

Posted by: Teresa in WebTech at 05:45 PM | Comments (5) | Add Comment
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March 26, 2007

Give It A Pass

It seems that the up and coming craze is for some businesses to "market" themselves via spam emails... with the consent of the person holding the email box!

But the site has also grown due to its aggressive viral marketing practices that have raised the hackles of some potential users.

Such practices might include the automated selection of your email account's entire address book in order to send a Flixster invitation to all of your contacts.

But such practices are becoming increasingly more common as new and even established web sites look to attract visitors without expensive marketing campaigns and a hefty advertising budget.

How are they doing this?

Flixster is getting their AOL (and Hotmail, and Yahoo, and Gmail) passwords!

Read on.

Using AOL as an example, when you first sign up for Flixster using an AOL email address, after you select a username and password, the very next screen prompts you for your AOL password!

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Once you give them your password, they grab everyone’s email addresses from your AOL, Hotmail, Yahoo or Gmail address book, and spam them with the invitation. In your name using your email address.

And they access your AOL account before you ever get to the next step. Even though they make you feel as if you have complete control over the process by telling you “On the next page you will be able to select whom to invite”, they already have your contacts by that point.

Read the whole thing. Yet to me, the even more appalling thing is someone giving out their password to anything just to get on a particular website. Geeze!

Please people! No matter how much you want to "join" a site, no matter how good someone makes it sound, if ANY website asks you for a password to your email, if any site asks you for a password to ANYTHING other than creating one to access that site - LEAVE IMMEDIATELY!

Once you've given your password out - it takes only seconds for a bot to gain access and send out spam to everyone in your email list. Viola! You are now a spammer. Gee thanks a bunch!

Boycott any business that attempts these tactics. Email them and tell them why you'll never be at their site again. At least in this one minor way we all have a choice to stop some of the spam flowing through our inboxes every day.

Hat Tip: Slashdot

Posted by: Teresa in WebTech at 09:59 AM | Comments (2) | Add Comment
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March 15, 2007

Much Better Than Expected

I have to admit that after my moaning last night about what today might bring, it turned out to be a surprisingly good day overall.

Anyone who has read me long enough knows I am NOT a morning person. So, allowing for the fact that I wanted to throw the alarm clock against the wall at 5:30 this morning, and the fact that I had totally forgotten to buy something for breakfast (I don't usually do breakfast which is fine while working at home - but doesn't cut it so well when I have to leave the house early). The rest of the day came together nicely.

I got to the station early enough to get a great parking spot. The rain didn't start until after I was under the awning at the station. The train was on time which meant I had 50 minutes to obtain my Starbucks. While the line at Starbucks was about 15 people long, it moved very quickly. I only sat for about 15 minutes by myself before a bunch of other people started showing up to "work" the booth too. I ran into a guy I knew in Chicago who now lives in the Boston area - terrific person, it was great to see him again. Had a very productive meeting. And still had time to see Steve speak. And had time for yet another Starbucks with one of the people from my group before heading back on the train.

All in all it turned out to be lots of fun. Oh, except for the fact that I was sneezing like mad. I don't know if it was the Convention Center and I was having an allergy attack or if I'm trying to get a cold... very odd.

Update: After re-reading the above - I conclude that I should stop typing for the night as it looks like a bunch of gobbledy-gook.

Posted by: Teresa in WebTech at 03:41 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment
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Looking For Answers Online?

This search can and will be used against you in a court of law...

It seems that a woman wanted to murder her husband...

At exactly 5:45:34 on April 18, 2004 a computer taken from the office of the attorney of Melanie McGuire, did a search on the words "How To Commit Murder."

That same day searches on Google and MSN search engines, were conducted on such topics as `instant poisons,` `undetectable poisons,' 'fatal digoxin doses,' and gun laws in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Ten days later, according to allegations by the state of New Jersey, McGuire murdered her husband, William T. McGuire, at their Woodbridge apartment, using a gun obtained in Pennsylvania, one day after obtaining a prescription for a sedative known as the "date rape" drug.

Here, my children, is a lesson for you in Computer Forensics. A professional with the right tools (or even an amateur for that matter) can find out all sorts of fun and interesting things about you - just by looking at your computer.

Jennifer Seymour, who worked for the State Police digital technology unit, testified thismorning how she examined the digital contents of computers and hand held devices obtained as part of the investigation.

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She testified that she isolated data that was accessed in the weeks leading up to the murder, by inserting the keyword "search," which showed activity by Google and MSN search engines, with the searches center-ing on poisons and gun laws.

Basically the expert here made a bit by bit copy of the hard drive - then she searched it for certain key words to see what turned up. In this case it turned up the search engine entries for the various methods to kill someone.

The murder took place the same day, according to allegations by the state, that a two-ounce prescription of chloral hydrate was purchased at a Walgreen's in Edison.

A search on April 26, 2004 of the computer seized by the state found that the user accessed the site www.walgreens.com/storelocator.

I'm still trying to figure out how she didn't know the nearest location for Walgreens.... they're everywhere!

On Monday Yan Kim Lee, a pharmacist at the Walgreen's on New Durham Road in Edison, testified that on the morning of April 28 she filled a prescription for chloral hydrate for a woman named Tiffany Bain, on script signed by Dr. Bradley Miller of Reproductive Medicine Associates in Morristown.

Melanie McGuire worked at the RMA office as a nurse, and at the time of her husband's death she was having an affair with Miller.

Lee testified that she typically fills only about three or four prescriptions annually for chloral hydrate.

It doesn't say if the pharmacist identified her as the woman picking up the prescription. I am assuming this is the case because of the infrequent use of the drug (I'm surprised they had it in stock most pharmacies would have to special order) the order very likely stuck in the pharmacist's mind.

In her testimony Seymour said she was able to trace e-mails on Hotmail accounts allegedly used by McGuire and Miller. She said the e-mails seemed to indicate the two had a romantic relation-ship, with such phrases as "I love you," and "I miss you."

How many times have I told you all... email will always come back to haunt you. You want to carry on an illicit affair? Stick to phone conversations.

They will probably need some other evidence to convict her. For one thing, the prosecution must prove that no one else could have done the searches, including the victim himself. That's one of the difficult things about computers. Depending on the environment, it's very difficult in some instances to have solid proof of who used it when. Or that only a single person had access.

Of course, this is a newspaper story, so we don't have all the details (who knows what the editor cut before it was printed). But right now, it looks like this computer will be instrumental in putting this woman in jail.

Let's hear it for Computer CSI.

Posted by: Teresa in WebTech at 03:11 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment
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March 08, 2007

Blog Roll Work Needed...

As usual there are a number of links I need to add to my sidebar. I'm going to wait a bit because of the imminent move from Moveable Type to Minx. But it's mainly because I haven't had time to go digging around in the templates and add things. (I know - sheer laziness on my part I will get to it).

For one thing - I need to add Michael Yon and Bill Roggio to my own blog roll instead of hitting them off other blogs as I've been doing. Today I hit Blackfive and found that Chris Muir who writes the wonderful Day By Day cartoon had a report up at Bill Roggio's site about his embed over in Iraq.

Head on over and read all about it. I mean, how can you resist with writing such as this...

Sand is a misnomer; subatomic particulate I think describes the main element present in Kuwait, Iraq, et al. A fine dust that finds it way everywhere and into anything, it also makes for an astonishingly mobile mud that actually travels up one's pants when it (infrequently) rains. I still grind when I walk.

Yeah, read the whole thing - you'll be glad you did.

Posted by: Teresa in WebTech at 06:35 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment
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March 07, 2007

Seminar

I went to a seminar today, it was an all day affair. This meant my day went as follows...

Out the door at 6:50am - stop at Starbucks - arrive at seminar location 8:15 (the rush hour traffic here is laughably light and I was driving down a major road with traffic lights). Seminar goes until 3:00 - go through all the wackiness of an automated parking lot payment - stop at the grocery store - get home by 5:30 (traffic a bit heavier but moving). Immediately get on the phone to solve problem that cropped up during the day, talk to darling daughter for a half an hour, go to pilates, come home and make dinner, clean up, finish up email... write blog post. It's now 11:15pm.

What a day! Being the stay at home slug that I am - I figured I'd be incoherent about now, but at the moment, I'm just cold as the heater has dropped to the "night" temp and I need to put on another sweater.

Oh yeah, the seminar was Computer Forensics... sadly it was all stuff I knew. *sigh* I was hoping for something a bit more detailed - but it suited most of the audience. It was presented well - for me it was a bit of a bore. Oh well - better luck next time.

Posted by: Teresa in WebTech at 06:20 PM | Comments (4) | Add Comment
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March 03, 2007

Daylight Savings Time

If you live in the US, most of you will have the fun of the new and improved Daylight Savings Time changeover. Oh the joy. Our Congress, who can't do anything constructive, has created a massive headache for the entire country, all in the name of "saving energy". Exactly how this is supposed to save energy remains a mystery... but there it is.

In and of itself the Daylight Savings Time change is a total PITA. But to make things even more fun and interesting, because we have every single item that changes time all set for the first weekend in April and the last weekend in October, it's all got to be changed. Now the time changes will take place the Second Sunday in March and the First Sunday in November. (THREE whole extra weeks... was it REALLY worth it? who got paid off to make this happen?)

This means we have to fix all our stuff because Congress decided to play footsie with our clocks... thanks a lot guys... we really didn't have anything better to do than patch all our systems and watch to see what breaks.

For those of you who have automatic updates going, the time change module is supposed to be part of a critical patch update. If it hasn't been installed already, it should be coming up with this Tuesday's monthly patch update from Microsoft.

For those who need to be sure they are patched on all their apps, here are a few links to read and walk through. Read down to the bottom before clicking through and trying to patch - things must be done in the correct order so it all works.

Preparing for Daylight Saving Time changes in 2007

This one is information overkill and will likely lead most people to tear their hair in frustration. Basically they are trying to put all information for all systems in one place... makes me cross-eyed. However, down at the bottom, they have a bunch of links to third party software that will need updating. This is the real value in the link. But first before you do the third party software, you MUST patch your system software. That's where the second (more valuable) link comes into play.

If you want to patch now, start with this link:

Daylight Saving Time Help and Support Center

This will walk you through installing the patch for your operating system. I did this last night and found it to be slightly unclear. So, this was what I did (YMMV). I first walked through, downloaded, and installed the Operating System patch. Then I went back to the beginning and walked through, whereupon it downloaded the Office patch which I then installed. (of course the unclearness could have been because it was about 2 in the morning when I was doing this...)

If you use the Calendar feature in Outlook - you will need to install the Office patch or your Calendar will be wonky for the three weeks of overlap. Plus, with Microsoft, you never know how much their own software will affect third party software. So even if you don't use Outlook, but maybe have it installed on your system - not patching it may cause issues with other programs.

After all that... now go and install your third party patches.

No reboot is necessary with the Microsoft patches.

Be very careful and check out your appointments in detail after the time change takes effect - at least for the first day - and make sure all is working correctly. I'm pretty sure there will be glitches. If you have a very important appointment... take extra care.

Big Hat Tip to Treonauts ... I wasn't even thinking about this time change thing (really had forgotten about it totally) until I saw the post about updating my Treo. Whew!

Posted by: Teresa in WebTech at 07:28 AM | Comments (5) | Add Comment
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