October 31, 2010

HalloweenHappy Halloween:
For the last six years or so, Kim's been working evenings, but now she's working days. This year she seemed happy to hand out treats to all the ghosts and goblins that came to our front door. I estimate that approximately 60 kids showed up. That's about the same as last year, but I'm still surprised by how few kids show up in a neighborhood full of young families (a new subdivision). I remember when I was a kid on Suburban Drive (Yes, I actually lived on a street named 'Suburban Drive'). The neighborhood was crawling with kids. My parents must have easily had a couple hundred kids show up at their door. That was back in the 60s - 70s though, and things sure have changed since then. This year we did more than we normally do. Last week we went to a 'Haunted House' (see the Annibirthday entry below), we went and saw Dracula (the play), and we watched a couple scary movies. I hope you had a good Halloween.
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halloween>

Mac Trojan?Trojan Affects Macs? Say it isn't so!
Recently, I became aware of a Trojan which affects Macs, or does it? Announced on the inter-webs, as if it were something new, something deadly, something every Mac owner should be afraid of. How did I lear about this new Trojan? Through Facebook of all places. I started noticing some unusual posts in my Facebook feed. Appearing on facebook were posts that said something such as 'Is this you in this video?' Now who would post to my Facebook feed with this sort of comment? No one, that's who. My 'Scam' alert sensor immediately went off. I carefully examined the posting. There's no way the person posting (someone I didn't even know - and there's the real danger of Facebook!) could have any video of me. Coupled with the wording of the post... "Is this you in this video?" is a classic example of the 'social-engineering hook' used by scammers, phishers, spammers and trojans.

Continuing my investigation, I did a bit of research. As it turns out, video linked to in this Facebook posting was actually a link to website, where visitors are subjected to malware. Depending on your browser/settings you could inadvertently download a trojan, infecting your computer. Bad news. Further investigation revealed that this particular Trojan actually infects Macs! What? No way! Say it isn't so. I did a little more research. The trojan in question is something called "OSX/Koobface.A" (Note: Koobface is an anagram of Facebook. Of course this malware has other names depending on the anti-virus company who characterizes it). This particular bug is a Java application/applet. That's right, built with Java, it's cross-platform, and could conceivably infect Windows, Mac and Linux systems. This malicious code spreads via Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and more. The risk of infection on a Mac is extremely low. The user must download the Java application. Double-click to launch the application, then provide a username and password in order for the application to install malicious code. This threat propagates as a worm, installs as a trojan (rootkit/backdoor). Once it's fully installed, it collects various information (passwords, browser cookies, log in information, etc), communicates with other servers (via IRC), institutes a propagation routine, basically turns your computer into a zombie.

Finally, some additional research revealed an interesting fact. Once you get past all the initial reporting - by Anti-virus companies, you'll find that this application can't actually infect a Mac. The runtime library used in this particular version of the Koobface malware is flawed, and it won't properly execute on a Mac. It will however infect a windows machine, so don't let your guard down. At some point, the architects of malware may figure out how to properly build a Java app that actually works cross-platform (on a Mac). When that day comes, you'll have to think twice before you authenticate that program, that you downloaded from some obscure website, that you didn't really want to launch anyway. Keep you computer secure, never download or execute code from untrusted sources. What I really despise about this story? Several anti-virus firms and blogs are running stories which make it look like this malware actually runs on Macs and infects Macs without the users entering a password or authenticating any type of installation. There's a lot of false and misleading reporting circulating with regards to this trojan's effects on a Mac. Oh yeah, and if you need a program to remove the trojan (which you don't really have) they offer you a link, to a website, where you can download one... while viewing advertisement!
<http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9193720/Koobface_worm_targets_Mac_users_on_Facebook_Twitter>
<http://www.symantec.com/connect/fr/blogs/trojanjnanabot-trojanaffecting-multiple-platforms>
<http://discussions.apple.com/thread.jspa?threadID=1821061>
<http://www.intego.com/news/trojan-horse-os-x-koobface-a-affects-mac-os-x.asp>
<http://www.macrumors.com/2010/10/27/new-java-based-malware-targets-mac-os-x-but-threat-level-disputed/>

D&D iconD&D updates:
We played our last D&D session on the 2nd of Oct. Everyone but Kevin was able to attend. Kim played Kevin's character (Pyrceval), and Todd played his new character (Crucifer). Here are some of the updates from that meeting. With the conclusion of our 8 August, 2009 meeting, the players have moved into an entirely new phase of the game. Gone are the S.C.R.E.W.O.F.F.S. - Existing now as a group of non-player characters. The player characters are now members of an entirely new group. The H.A.L.L.O.W.ed Knights. This new group of adventurers have struck out from Whillip. In search of glory, fame, and justice. They seek to right the wrongs of this land. To defend the weak, enslaved and oppressed. Striking out at evil and taint; this group of characters vow to make their mark upon the land. Let H.A.L.L.O.W.ed Knights be a name both feared by evil and revered by the good citizens of these realms.

Note from the Campaign Master
As of 20 February, 2010, one of the players (Mark) has taken over the duties of DM. Mark and I have been planning this change for some time. It's something I like to do, when possible. Unfortunately, the opportunity doesn't present itself too often. Once the campaign has been established, and the players familiar with "Rob's World", I like to encourage full participation by sharing the duties of DM. Mark has written the adventure that the characters are currently engaged in, and I will relinquish DM duties while Mark makes all the big decisions. With Mark behind the podium, I'll do my best to enjoy the mystery, and keep Solmar alive. So, Mark and I have switched places. He'll be running the show, and I'll be playing Solmar. What fun! I'm certainly enjoying this change of pace, the opportunity for adventure, and the mystery of Deepwood. - Robert

3rd Edition Campaign:
I updated the date of our next meeting - Our next meeting is 30 October, 2010. This page (The "3eCampagin" page) is the first stop for information on the campaign that I'm currently running. Here you'll find information regarding our next meeting, some notes, and an index of web pages and documents that are important to our campaign. You can also check out the latest group photo.
<http://www.robsworld.org/3ecampaign.html>

The Adventurers journal:
The tale of our adventurers. A series of journal entries from various party members. This document contains details of their encounters. Victory, defeat, desire and glory. Here is the tale of The H.A.L.L.O.W.ed Knights, a group of adventurers who set forth from Whillip, seeking fame, fortune and the defeat of evil in these lands. Here's another journal entry penned by Mutteran - Lee's character. Once again, thanks go out to Lee for his continued support. Be sure to check it out when you get a chance. The party is still on their way to the location of their next challenge. During this particular session we left the party on the verge of an encounter.
<http://www.robsworld.org/ajournal08.html#oct16 2010>

These updates follow our meeting on the 16th of Oct. It's the eighth adventure for our group of heroes. In search of glory, fame, and justice, the H.A.L.L.O.W.ed Knights seek to right the wrongs of this land. To defend the weak, enslaved and oppressed. Striking out at evil and taint, this group of characters vow to make their mark upon the land. Let H.A.L.L.O.W.ed Knights be a name feared by evil and revered by the good citizens of these realms. Departing on the 1st of Mavis, the party has decided to help the citizens of Deepwood in their quest to vanquish a Blue Dragon from their backyard. After picking up supplies, horses, and some information in Westgate, the party has taken to the open road. The road has proven dangerous and long. The party has fought many foes along the way, lost two of their own (Gregor and Jusarian), and recruited two new companions (Pyrceval and Azura) to strengthen their numbers. Continuing their quest, the party has taken a short break from the dusty road. A quick stop in the city of Lheshayl resulted in many changes. Belt learned of an urgent church matter, and hastily resigned as a member of the H.A.L.L.O.W.ed Knights, The party split up some of it's treasure and bid fair travels to Belt. With Belt's departure, the party found itself one man down, but that didn't last long. A mysterious Star Elf named Crucifer has joined the group in their quest to vanquish Deepwood of it's Dragon problem. The last few days (16 - 24 Junta) have been quite monotonous and uneventful, but the 25th brings an unknown threat. Be sure to check back for our next journal entry, as this new challenge is revealed. Sharpen your blades and hitch up your horses - Adventure calls and danger beckons!

You can keep up to date with our adventures by continuing to visit "Rob's World!" for all the latest campaign info. If you're enjoying the story of our adventurers, I encourage you to write me and let us know. Perhaps you've got an idea you'd like to share, some criticism or praise. Either way, it'll be earnestly appreciated.
<http://www.robsworld.org/3ecampaign.html>

Human BarometerMy back is killing me - Report from a Human Barometer:
Recently, I've had some trouble sleeping, and my joints have been killing me. As it persisted over a three day period, I didn't think it was a symptom of my barometric pressure sense. My joints have a tendency to ache whenever there's a low pressure front moving through the area - Seriously! (see my Human Barometer page). In retrospect, I did a little research and discovered a rather interesting correlation. While a stiff and painful back isn't something new to me (I typically can't sleep much more than six hours (or else I wake up with a sore back)), my back pains don't usually correspond to low pressure. This week (24 - 27 Oct) I've noted joint aches in addition to back pain. A double whammy that I didn't appreciate on my birthday. The back and joint pains were worst on the 25th and 26th of October (my birthday was the 26th).

The joint pain and muscle aches were handled with a usual dose of pain killers (I use Aleve for joint aches), but the back ache woke me up after barely four hours sleep. While I knew there was some low pressure in the area (over the period of my joint aches), I didn't realize quite how low, or how strong that low pressure front had become. Looking at news articles and some research papers, one can see that this particular front was quite powerful (see linked pdf report from Penn State University). While Colorado didn't get much precipitation with this event (the mountains got some snow, but the front range escaped with very little rain), the low pressure was considerably strong as it moved through Colorado on it's way to Minnesota and Ontario. The storm picked up precipitation off the gulf and great lakes, spawned some rather ferocious winds, tornados and the storms were characterized as 'historic' in the news. You can read more about it on the web. Just do a google search for "severe weather 26 oct 2010"
<http://nws.met.psu.edu/severe/2010/25Oct2010.pdf>
<http://www.robsworld.org/barometer.html>

MOGMOG Music Network = More Music Discovery:
With the recent changes to eMusic (my favorite place to purchase (through subscription) and download music), I've been looking for a good place to discover music, and consume music. eMusic has great prices, and I hope that the changes coming in November of 2010 (see Oct 17 entry 'Changes to eMusic - Not a good thing' below) don't ruin that. On the other hand, I can't get enough. I find that in between my purchases, I'm looking for music in a lot of places. Digging around in several music blogs and artist web sites. What I need is one place where I can enjoy all the music I want, without the need to hunt and search.

A few days ago, I discovered MOG. MOG is an online music service, a blog network, and a social networking website where users can listen to, read about, and discover music. Music + Blog = MOG. It's been around since 2005, but it only started offering add streaming subscriptions in December of '09. Coincidentally, I recently decided that the "Stream-it but don't Own-it" model isn't such a bad idea. I have music I own (in my iTunes library), and I buy music from a couple of sources (iTunes and eMusic) but I still can't get enough, and the hunt for music (as I've already described) is a bit more work than I'm willing to put up with. The solution? A advertisement free streaming service that centralizes my music discovery desires. It's sort of like Pandora, but it's more customizable. For $4.99 (the plan I chose), I get playlists by artists, by fans, by critics. I can create my own playlists with varying degrees of artist differentiation. I get reviews, and commentary, content I enjoy, and access to more than 9 million tracks (compared to my personal library of appx 14,000). So far I haven't been too disappointed by the selection. Some of my tastes are a bit outside the mainstream (what? they don't have any tracks by 'The Southlands'?, they only have two track by 'Aztec Camera'? and no tracks by 'Santo Gold'?) and I occasionally find that they don't have a particular artist I'm looking for. On the other hand, 9 million tracks ought to provide for plenty of music discovery. Just recently, I was able to listen to the entire XTC album; 'A Coat of Many Cupboards' - A retrospective/compilation, released in 2010, with more than 60 tracks! If I wanted to buy this gem at iTunes, I'd have to shell out $40.00, and I'd only get 50 tracks (out of 62). I'd say that the ability to listen to the tracks when I want is good enough. I don't have to own the actual tracks to enjoy them. $5.00 a month is a small price to pay for that kind of access.

MOG subscribers can play any song from the catalog (over 9 million tracks) on their computer (through their web browser/web streams are 320 kbps mp3 files); on a mobile device (provided you pay $9.99 a month) through MOG's applications for the iPhone, iPod Touch, and Android platform; and on your television/multi-media receiver, through MOG's Roku channel (included with the $4.99 service). MOG also allows users to access aggregated editorial content from thousands of music blogs, user posts, and in-house editors. Pretty awesome. I'm looking forward to this new service.
<http://www.mog.com>
<http://www.emusic.com>
<http://www.itunes.com>
<http://support.mog.com/faqs/mog-service/mog-on-roku>

NetflixNetflix News - Trimming back my plan:
Recently (on the 26th of October), I cut back on my Netflix plan. It was a difficult decision, reducing the number of discs I receive, but Netflix made it easier for me. I've been paying for the 'Four out at a time' plan for quite some time, but I've found my movie watching to be a bit lower now than it was a couple years ago. I used to watch close to 30 movies a month, now I'm down to appx 20 movies a month. I find myself engaged in many more activities these days. I just don't have time to watch 30 movies a month. Combine this change in my viewing habit with the increased availability and variety of online viewing options (Netflix Watch Instantly, Comcast on Demand, the Roku player (with a zillion video channels!)), and my need for four discs just doesn't make much sense anymore. So, I reduced my plan from 'Four out at a time' to 'Two out at a time'. I'll still have 'Watch Instantly' and the availability of online streaming (through various sources) virtually guarantees that I'll never be without a movie to watch. I was paying $23.99 (w/out tax) a month. This change will reduce my cost to $13.99 per month, and free some funds up for other things...

Netflix continues expand and improve their service. Leading the industry with thousands of TV shows and movies on disc (over 130,000 titles (last counted Sep 2010)), Netflix is also the king of streaming video as well (more than 28,000 (last counted Sep 2010). Here's a few of the devices which carry Netflix service: Roku player, iPad, iPhone, the new AppleTV, X-Box 360, The PS3, the Wii, TiVo, a growing selection of Blu-Ray players, home theater systems and internet connected televisions.
<http://www.robsworld.org/netflixplans.png>
<http://www.netflix.com>

Annibirthday - 2010Annibirthday - 2010:
Kim and I celebrated another Annibirthday in October of 2010. As Kim and I were married on my birthday, we celebrate an Annibirthday instead of an Anniversary, or my Birthday. This year we decided on a 'Staycation'. While we stayed at home, we went to more places during our staycation than we did during many standard vacations. The staycation officially kicked off on the 24th of Oct. The official end of our 'Staycation' was 29 October, 2010. Here's a few of the highlights from this year's Annibirthday Staycation:

  • Oct 24: Attended a play at the Denver Center for Performing Arts. We took the light rail from nine mile station to downtown Denver. Saw 'The 39 Steps' by the Denver Center Theatre Company. I really enjoyed the play. I own three copies of the movie, and really like Hitchcock's movie. This play took the very subtle British humor (in the film) and converted it to a more American - Not quite as subtle humor. Making this movie a little funnier made the play fantastic. Afterwards, we watched the movie at home.
  • Oct 25: Officially, we did nothing on the 25th. Well, we did go grocery shopping, but aside from that... Well, as Kim described it - We 'Chillaxed'.
  • Oct 26: We went to the Aurora History Museum. Not too far from our house. The first time we've been there. They had an excellent exhibit about 'Camp Amache'. Americans of Japanese ancestry were imprisoned at the Granada Relocation Center in Granada, Colorado. They were kept under armed guard from 1942-1945. Located 1.7 miles west of Granada, Colorado. That afternoon Jenny (from work) brought me a cake! Wow - Thanks Jen! Later that evening we drove to downtown Denver (and parked in one of those outdoor lots - this one provided an actual receipt - $10.00 for 1.5 hours!) and ate at 'The Broker'. A restaurant we've often meant to try, but never got around to it. The atmosphere was very dark and subdued. Very solemn, quiet, and respectful... Due to the fact that it was my birthday, the restaurant paid for my entree (Sesame Tuna). Despite the comp'd entree, the bill (with a tip) still came to something like $95.00 - That's too expensive. The food wasn't that good, the atmosphere somber, and the service typical.
  • Oct 27: On the 27th we drove to downtown Denver, parked in a 'public parking' garage (only $2.00 - At least the city didn't rip us off the way those independent lots do), and saw the 'King Tut' exhibit at the Denver Art museum. That was pretty awesome. We were there for almost three hours. There was so much to see and read. I wish we could have stayed longer, but my back was killing me. We drove home, took a good long nap (I had only 4 hours sleep the night before). That evening, we drove up to Broomfield for a short visit with Dino and Amy (Dino is a friend of ours from way back - All the way back to Italy in the late 80s/early 90s). We had a short visit (one hour), but a good time. We vowed to get together more often. After our visit, we drove over to Northglenn to get 'Scared Silly'. We went to 'The Asylum' a haunted house (at the Boondocks Fun Center) north of Denver. Unfortunately, it was a typical haunted house. Unimaginative and 'not scary'. Very, very, very dark inside. Lots of screaming. No themed rooms, and they did their best to force us through like cattle. I didn't stop moving once, and the 'actors' actually told us to 'Get a move on'. This place was nothing like the old March of Dimes haunted house (Where I volunteered for three years - '81-'83) on Lime Kiln (and Verlin) road (in De Pere, WI). That haunted house ran for many years (through '95 with various groups organizing and running the show), and each year it was different. The 'House' was an immense old abandoned three story house, and the tour ran through all three stories of the building. There were groups of volunteers who competed to run a room, and the money went to a good cause. Now the haunted house business is purely about money. With multiple venues by the same company, the 'Houses' are prefabricated trailer units, minimum wage employees, high prices and VIP offers. We paid $15.00 for our scare. The best part about the experience? Our memories of standing in line and freezing our butts off while dreading our turn at the door. At least they had a lunatic with a chain saw. This place was supposed to be one of the best 'haunted houses' in America? If you know of a 'good' haunted house, please let me know. Next year we'll try 'The 13th Floor', but it's run by the same people, so I'm not expecting much more. After the haunted house, we were itching for more scare, so we went home and watch Alfred Hitchcock's 'The Birds'.
  • Oct 28: Once again we took the light rail down town for an evening at the theater. This time we took in a performance of Bram Stoker's 'Dracula' at the Denver Center for Performing Arts. This play wasn't a comedy at all. A fantastic dramatic experience, that we'd love to see again. As a matter of fact, I think we need to watch my copy of 'Dracula' (Francis Ford Coppola directing). Despite a poor review in the Denver Post, I thought it was a pretty good play. I prefer the classic 'Bram Stoker' Dracula to anything with 'Twilight' in the title. Vampires are something evil, something to be feared, something dreadful, deadly and despicable. Not some cute, alternative boyfriend, kind of 'goth' trend. I'm glad the play didn't try to make it more 'hip' or attract the teen romance crowd. Hollywood's need to transform itself and continually attract a younger, larger, more enthusiastic audience shouldn't necessarily translate into a translation of traditional classics, and Dracula deserves better.
  • Oct 29: Tonight we capped off our Annibirthday by going out to eat at a new restaurant. Kim picked an Italian restaurant. She knows I love that Italian cooking. We lived in Italy for seven years, and during that time we learned to love that Italian cooking. We've had all kinds of Italian cooking, but really prefer that Mediterranean style cooking. I could go on and on about that style of cooking, but I don't want to boor you. Anyway - The name of the restaurant? Piatti. It's a chain, but certainly doesn't feel like one. It's located in the middle of the Denver/Aurora metropolis, near the Cherry Creek shopping district. The table had bread (Some authentic rough ground-whole grain, Italian style table bread and some dipping oil), as it should - for an authentic Italian experience. We ordered some drinks. I had a margarita (with salt!), and we shared a bottle of (our favorite) San Pellegrino. The appetizer was marinated olives with Marcona almonds & parmesan. We each had a bowl of roasted red pepper soup (with a touch of ground black pepper). For entrees, Kim had butternut squash & mascarpone risotto with grilled scallops & a light dose of aged balsamic vinegar. I had the special; a penne pasta with shrimp, artichoke, diced tomato, basil, and a lemon, garlic and butter sauce. For desert - of course! We had 'Affogato'. Vanilla gelato "drowned" in Espresso with toasted almonds, candied orange and an anise biscotti. The food was amazing. The atmosphere casual, and the price? Average - $86.91. I wish I could have taken a picture, but I left my iPhone in the car (and the valet didn't take it!). I'm sure we'll go back to Piatti.

During the vacation - I took a few photos. Unfortunately, with all those museums, plays and late night dinners, I wasn't able to get very many good pictures, and all I took with me was the iPhone (because I knew these venues wouldn't allow/appreciate my good/big camera). So, some of the photos (in my gallery for this Anniversary) aren't mine. I included them so you'd have a better idea what I'm talking about when I review restaurants, exhibits, plays, etc. Another great Annibirthday - and plenty of photos posted. These photos have also been posted to my MobileMe gallery.
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_39_Steps_(play)>
<https://www.auroragov.org/AuroraGov/Departments/LibraryAndCulturalServices/CulturalServices/HistoryMuseum/index.htm>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Granada_War_Relocation_Center>
<http://www.thebrokerrestaurant.com/>
<http://www.denverartmuseum.org/home>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exhibitions_of_artifacts_from_the_tomb_of_Tutankhamun>
<http://www.getscared.com/>
<http://www.madeyascream.com/applications/webblogmanager/inc_webblogmanager.asp?ParentCategoryID=151>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dracula>
<http://www.denvercenter.org/home.aspx>
<http://www.westword.com/2006-07-13/restaurants/metamorphosis/>
<http://www.piatti.com/>
<http://www.robsworld.org/iphoto/annibirthday2010/index.html>
<http://gallery.me.com/rvaessen#100341>

Software favorites:
Several more releases for one of my favorite software applications. GraphicConverter moves ever forward. As usual, developer has been busy updating this application. Here's another batch of updates for the product that's always getting better. All the updates are free for those who own a license (for the most recent version). If you need a powerhouse converter, editor and browser for your graphics, grab a copy of GraphicConverter - You won't be disappointed.

Graphic ConverterGraphicConverter:
Thorsten Lemke (of Lemkesoft) released an entirely new version of GraphicConverter this month. During the last couple of weeks there have been multiple beta/minor releases. I downloaded versions 7.0.2 (88, 89, 90, 93). GraphicConverter is an image converter and editor. A fantastic piece of shareware that is well worth the price (~$40.00). I use it to convert image formats into web standard formats, to create and edit image maps and other graphics. I've been singing GC's praises for many years now, and I'm not sure what I would do without it. The best part about GC is it's creator. Thorsten Lemke is completely committed to his customer base. Constantly and Continuously responding to customer recommendations and bug reports. GC is a dynamic, evolving, application. Always on the cutting edge, an absolute must in any web developers tool box. At a fraction of PhotoShop's cost, this photo editor puts a huge wrench in your toolbox.
<http://www.lemkesoft.com/content/193/key-features.html>

With these software updates, I've updated my Software Favorites page. It's primarily dedicated to web publishing for the Mac user. Not meant for the professional, It's my hope that home users and hobbyists will find it useful. It's a listing of applications that I find useful in publishing my web pages.
<http://www.robsworld.org/myfavs.html>

Rob's World!Disaster Strikes at "Rob's World!":
Recently (22 - 23 Oct, 2010), "Rob's World!" experienced a disaster. Actually, it was more than "Rob's World!" it was every domain I manage ("Rob's World!" and all the domains that point to it. As well as "Tollgate Crossing" and "SouthEastAurora-NeighborhoodWatch"). Fortunately, the impact was quite limited. The web pages were still accessible, but all my mailing lists stopped working. How many mailing lists? Two at "Rob's World!", with a membership total of 37 subscribers. Three lists at "Tollgate Crossing", with membership of 106 subscribers. Five lists at "SouthEastAurora-NeighborhoodWatch", with 756 subscribers. For a total of 899 subscribers. My mailing lists are an important service to the local community residents and "Rob's World!" visitors. During the brief period that the lists were unavailable I had two inquiries from subscribers. Thanks to one of those inquiries, I was alerted to the outage. I reported the problem to my system administrator immediately, and things were working again within 12 hours. Thankfully the outage didn't last long enough to have any significant impact. Thanks Dale!
<http://robsworld.org/mailman/listinfo>
<http://www.tollgatecrossing.org/mailman/listinfo>
<http://www.southeastaurora-neighborhoodwatch.org/mailman/listinfo>

Neighborhood WatchSoutheast Aurora Neighborhood Watch website:
My odd-ball schedule actually works in my favor for some things. A couple of those things are the community support activities which I enjoy - Volunteering with our local neighborhood watch, maintaining the Southeast Aurora Neighborhood Watch website and mailing lists. Here are some of the changes I made at our Neighborhood Watch website over the last couple days:

* Info: A page of links and information pertinent to the safety and security of our communities. I added a link to EMATT (The 'East Metro Auto Theft Task' force) tip line. If you see/have information about auto theft, please contact EMATT. Thanks to a keen-eyed resident, I was also able to correct an error with the 'Access Aurora' phone number. Thanks for helping me keep our website current and accurate.

If you are a resident of Southeast Aurora, you might want to check out our Southeast Aurora Neighborhood Watch website (Serving the following communities: Tollgate Crossing, Sorrel Ranch, The Wheatlands, Beacon Point, Southshore, Tallyn’s Reach, Saddle Rock - North, Serenity Ridge, Black Stone, Heritage Eagle Bend and Rocking Horse). If you're concerned about the safety and security of our community, you might want to join our group, or subscribe to one of our mailing lists to receive periodic alerts, updates and information.
<http://www.southeastaurora-neighborhoodwatch.org/Welcome.html>

October 22, 2010

We VotedWe voted, did you?
I sure hope so. Kim and I voted early. Because of our work schedules, we voted by absentee ballot. <rave>Colorado made it very easy for us to vote by absentee ballot and we really liked the "Blue Book" booklets they sent us ahead of time. They sent out a couple of booklets containing analysis of all the ballot initiatives. Including the local ones. The booklets are really helpful when it comes to unraveling the opposing commercials and rhetoric you hear on the news. The booklets include all the facts, plus some pro and con points of view. With the help of the booklet, I found answers to most of my questions, and had a place to start when doing my own research. Now that's government working for me!</rave>
<http://www.arapahoevotes.com/>

No more Java?The end of Java - on Mac OS X:
Recently, Apple has signaled the all but certain end of Java development by the Mac OS development/support team. In a recent release of Java for OS X (10.6 Update 3), Apple stated:

"As of the release of Java for Mac OS X 10.6 Update 3, the Java runtime ported by Apple and that ships with Mac OS X is deprecated. Developers should not rely on the Apple-supplied Java runtime being present in future versions of Mac OS X. ~ The Java runtime shipping in Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, and Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard, will continue to be supported and maintained through the standard support cycles of those products."

Following that announcement, Steve Jobs (purportedly) responded to an email (from Scott Fraser, CTO of Portico Systems) regarding the future of Java on Mac OS X. In that email (Dated 21, Oct), Steve Jobs (purportedly) said:

"Sun (now Oracle) supplies Java for all other platforms. They have their own release schedules, which are almost always different than ours, so the Java we ship is always a version behind. This may not be the best way to do it."

This sure sounds like Apple's no longer committed to in-house development of Java on the Mac OS platform. Currently Java apps will not run on iOS devices (more technically, Apps built with Java are not officially accepted for inclusion in the App store). While it's true that Sun (now Oracle) does build and support Java for some platforms, it is not true that they supply Java for 'All other platforms'. Many software/computer developers/companies insist on building Java for their platforms. It allows for greater control and integration with their particular operating system(s). In the past, Apple was a rather small segment of the computer segment, and Sun (now Oracle) may not have built a Mac specific implementation. Or, Apple may have 'insisted' on building/developing Java for it's OS. Sun (now Oracle) does/has specifically built Java for the Windows, Solaris (the Sun OS) and Linux.

One further development. In Apple's developers guidelines for the upcoming Mac OS 'App Store', one can find a rather convincing requirement:

"Apps that use deprecated or optionally installed technologies (e.g., Java, Rosetta) will be rejected
2.25"

So, with the release of OS 10.7 (Apple's next version of OS X), Apple will no longer be developing/building a Java runtime environment for Mac OS. This doesn't necessarily mean Java won't run on future versions of OS X. What it does mean is this. Either Oracle will have to build/update Java for the Mac OS, or someone else will. Will Oracle release Java updates specifically for the Mac? We shall see. If Oracle won't support the Mac OS (with a runtime environment built specifically for the Mac OS), perhaps some other group will step up and build OS X releases for the developer/user community. Hopefully Apple would open source it's existing development efforts (for Java runtime builds on Mac). If they don't, further development would be greatly hampered by the need to 'catch up' to the current state of Java on the Mac. If no one continues development/updates of Java for Mac OS, it (Java on the Mac) may become hopelessly riddled with security flaws and vulnerabilities. Considering the amount of patching and updates currently required to keep Java secure (on the Mac), Java on the Mac would likely become useless (dangerous to use) rather quickly.

This move (dropping in-house development of Java) will allow Apple to move some programmers/personnel on to other projects. It will also alleviate some of Apple's responsibility for Java based security vulnerabilities. Considering the recent announcements regarding a Mac OS X trojan (built using Java), this move may be a good thing, or a bad thing... It also allows Apple to emphasize native application development for their platform. A move they seem to be highly focused on of late.

Would the typical Mac user notice the 'death of Java' on their Mac? Maybe. If they have apps that depend on Java, they'll continue to run under the current runtime (Apple will continue development/support through 10.6). If they download new Java apps (under OS 10.7), Java apps may or may not run. If security vulnerabilities are left unpatched, users might notice the Java problems (lack of direct Apple support for Java) in a really big way - Who will they blame when the Java on their Mac leaves them vulnerable to some root kit or malicious code? Oracle or Apple? Just like Apple's rejection of Flash on iOS devices, this move certainly continues to make development of applications for Mac OS more difficult. By eliminating effective cross-platform development options, Apple continues to force developers into an ultimatum position - Build for Mac or Build for others - You really won't be able to build for both simultaneously. Will Oracle step up and produce a runtime environment for Mac OS? We shall see... Stand by for OS 10.7!
<http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/10/21/apple_threatens_to_kill_java_on_the_mac/> <http://developer.apple.com/library/mac/#releasenotes/Java/JavaSnowLeopardUpdate3LeopardUpdate8RN/NewandNoteworthy/NewandNoteworthy.html>
<http://www.flickr.com/photos/frasers/5104179782/>
<http://pastie.org/pastes/1236378>
<http://www.osnews.com/story/23954/Java_Trojan_Attempts_to_Attack_Mac_OS_X_Fails>

Apple UpdatesApple announcements/updates - Special Event, Oct, 2010:
Apple held a 'Special Event' on the 20th of October, 2010. This 'Back to the Mac' event took place (by invitation) at the company's Cupertino, California headquarters. Steve Jobs presented the keynote, and various other Apple employees covered several announcements and updates. Just like the last few events, this one was broadcast live on the web. Hopefully, they didn't have any glitches with their web-cast. Last time (a September, 2010 Special Event) the stream went down during the broadcast.

The event kicked off with a 'State of the Mac' briefing by COO Tim Cook. The Mac (Apple's computers) made up appx 33% of Apple's revenue. If it were a standalone company - it would be number 110 on the Fortune500. The Mac remains #1 in Consumer Reports (over the last decade). #1 for customer satisfaction, customer support and reliability. Pretty awesome numbers. Just after the 'State of the Mac' briefing, Steve asked everyone to silence their phones.

iLife '11Next up was an iLife '11 announcement. The last time the suite was updated was 2009, but Apple has updated a few of the Apps in the interim. This new version of the creativity suite brings updates to three of the applications (iPhoto, iMovie, and Garageband). No updates (in the new suite) from iDVD and iWeb. Different speakers covered the various updates.

* Senior VP, Phil Schiller recapped all the changes coming to iPhoto (Full Screen working/browsing/editing - with floating tool palettes); Lot's of new slideshow templates; New 'Smart' slideshows using locations; iPhoto now syncs/shares photos in both directions - to or from sync'd Flickr, Facebook (including comments from Facebook) or MobileMe galleries; New email right inside iPhoto (no need to leave iPhoto); updated book publishing (made it smarter - uses ratings, grouped photos (dates and locations)); New letter press cards (the embossed cards are pretty cool).

* Following iPhoto was an iMovie update - Presented by Randy Ubillos, the new update brings lots of audio updates - Allowing quick and easy changes; Also introduced some new audio effects; One Step effects bring special effects such as slow-mo instant replay and flash and hold; Built in people-finder capabilities using iPhoto's 'Faces' functionality; A new feature adds an awesome 'Movie Trailers' (in 24 fps) capability (with several themes); Movie sharing is updated to include MobileMe, YouTube, Facebook, Vimeo, CNN iReport, and Podcast Producer.

* After iPhoto, we got a sneak peak at updates coming to Apple's 'Garage Band' application. While I don't use Garage Band, I can't imagine any musician not being thrilled about all the great capabilities present in this application. This update - Presented by Xander Soren, brought some great new features: Flex-time (which allows you to tweak the timing on individual notes/tracks); Groove Matching (which syncs all the tracks to the rhythm of one master/groove track); new guitar amps and effects; new piano and guitar lessons; and a new feature called 'How did I play? (Real-time play along with pre-recorded training tracks (piano and guitar). Garage band highlights the mistakes you make in note and timing. Keeping score along the way (and a history over time), Garage Band turns this training session into a game where your high-score improves your capabilities).

iLife '11 will now be free on every new Mac (it used to be free on iMac's only), updates are only $49.00 ($79.00 for the Family pack), and the software is available now.

Facetime betaiLife isn't the only software getting an update in the months to come. Apple also announced the availability of 'FaceTime' video conferencing for the Mac. Starting Oct 20th, FaceTime is now available on any Mac (running OS 10.6.4 or greater), iPhone 4, or a iPod Touch. The beta release is available now (as of Oct 20th). You can now enjoy FaceTime calling between any of the devices running FaceTime. I'm not sure why they haven't integrated it into iChat. It doesn't make much sense to have two different voice conference/voice calling apps on the Mac. Maybe a future upgrade will integrate FaceTime into the iChat application. I installed the beta application on my Mac, but I immediately ran into one difficulty. While it requires an 'AppleID' to register the application (so others can contact you through centralized server based registry (or so I'm guessing)), it will not allow you to use an email address that is reserved for MobileMe use. I've already got an AppleID, registered to my 'mac.com' address. It wouldn't let me use that existing AppleID; and I tried registering a new AppleID using my 'me.com' address. It wouldn't let me use that either. I had to create an entirely new AppleID, using a non 'MobileMe' email address.

LionOne last software announcement for this Special Event. Apple's latest revision of it's OS X operating system. The 8th OS X version (OS 10.7) will be called 'Lion'. The philosophy of 'Back to the Mac' points to the future of OS X. As the iOS adds functionality and innovations to Apple's portable devices (iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad), those new features are now coming full circle from an operating system that spun off OS X. Some of those features will be integrated into the Mac OS. Steve Jobs presented some of the key features in this newest Mac OS.

* Multi-Touch gestures have made the iOS devices easy to navigate and operate - Your finger is an awesome instrument for interface manipulation. Why limit your input to the mouse's pointer when the Multi-Touch gestures can turn you into the pointing device? Apple's done a lot of research on the touch interface, and they're convinced that the 'touch screen' for a desktop user is a no-go. The vertical surface it's too hard to use. Too much strain on the arm and hand. Touch interfaces want to be horizontal. That's why Apple's perfected the track-pad. I've already got Apple's Magic Trackpad (MTP) for my MacPro, and I have to admit that it's a great input device (Don't even think about getting that 'Magic Mouse'; that thing's an ergonomic disaster. Just ask Craig Federighi (VP of Engineering for Mac OS X), or watch Apple's Lion Preview), the only problems I've noted are it's lack of instant focus and lack of speed. Unlike the screen of an iOS device, a click on the MTP doesn't instantly equate to a click on the desktop. You must maneuver the input to place the cursor on top of an icon/desktop object. The MTP is also a bit slow - compared to my TrackMan Wheel mouse (by Logitech). While I enjoy the MTP's flexibility, ergonomic design, expanded capabilities, and enhanced feature set, I still find myself using the TrackMan Wheel mouse for games - where reaction time is crucial.

* The 'App Store' on the iPhone (iPod Touch and iPad) has revolutionized the application purchase experience for users and developers alike. Ensuring more stable applications, eliminating marketing demands for many small software developers, establishing a standardized application acquisition environment, and putting the complicated e-commerce segment squarely in Apple's court. We know the 'App Store' model works. If it didn't work, people wouldn't have purchased more than 7 billion apps! The 'App Store' is now coming to the Mac OS. It won't be the only way to get apps on a Mac, but Apple thinks that it'll be the best way to discover and purchase apps. For many users (typical users), this new App Store concept (The interface will have four main sections: Featured, Top Charts, Categories, Updates) will make the process of software purchase (One purchase of an app will license its use on any of your Macs), download, installation and update an extremely simple proposition.

* Another ported feature from iOS is the App Home screen. It's really easy to get from one app to another by swiping (there's that Multi-Touch gesture) right or left to access screens containing various apps. This new application launching capability (Home Screens for Apps aka Launchpad) will allow users to create folders of apps or organize the Home Screens to meet their personal configuration preferences. Navigating through your apps will soon become far easier and faster with this new launch pad capability.

* Every iOS device runs it's apps in full screen mode. Eliminating distractions, and taking full advantage of the available display. This full screen capability already exists in some Mac OS apps, but Lion will bring that capability to many more apps.

* Something else that iOS devices do? They auto-save. Applications are constantly saving your data. You don't have to select 'File -> Save' every time you want to quit or switch apps. Apple's venerable "AppleWorks" has had this capability for many, many, years, but oddly, the capability didn't exist for the vast majority of applications. Lion will bring this feature 'Back to the Mac' in a big way (will every app have automatic auto-save feature? Wouldn't that be awesome? No more lost data when an application crashes or you forget to save something).

* Another feature on the iOS; something that goes hand in hand with the auto-save feature? An auto-resume feature. When you launch an app on an iOS device, it starts up in the state you left it. Re-loading your document or save state, so you can resume your work without worrying about where you saved the file, or what it was called. This feature is currently available - provided developers build it into their applications. The new Lion capability would likely make it the default, integrating it into the OS.

* Finally, some new integration in the Mac desktop. Currently the Mac OS offers four ways to manage and navigate your applications - Expose' (A way to 'explode' the desktop view - revealing all the applications/windows on your current desktop); Dashboard (A protected desktop for running Widgets. Accessible at a single key stroke); Spaces (virtualized desktops allowing you to configure multiple work-spaces for different purposes); and now, the Full Screen mode (for applications running in Full Screen). While each of these navigation / configuration capabilities are great on their own, they're all accessed separately. Making desktop navigation just a little bit daunting and confusing. Mac OS 10.7 combines and unifies all these capabilities into one configuration management tool called 'Mission Control'. A way to view everything running on your Mac (I've got 28 apps running right now - not counting 12 Dashboard Widgets), and instantly navigate to anywhere on your Mac.

Following Steve's introduction of all these new features (some of the key features, not every new feature), VP of Engineering for Mac OS X - Craig Federighi, gave a demonstration of all these new features.

Sure there's more to this OS X update, but this is all we know for now. Apple will unveil more as we get closer to the release date - Summer 2011. The Mac App Store will be open for business in 90 days (Jan '11). Developers may submit apps as early as Nov, 2010.

MacBook AirIn addition to the announcement of Apple's new iLife suite, and the Lion OS, there were also some new hardware announcements. As Steve said, the Mac is responsible for 1/3 of Apple's revenue. With the Mac being so important, Apple continues to update the Mac line of computers. During this Special Event, Apple introduced 'One More Thing'. Two new MacBook Air laptops - The 'Future of Notebooks'. The new portable computers are extremely light, compact and powerful. Bringing some of the iOS device innovations to the Mac line - "What would happen if a MacBook and an iPad hooked up?". These new MacBook's will feature: Instant on; Improved battery life (wireless web 7hrs (with improved/more stringent tests)); Amazing (30 day) standby time; Solid State storage (removed from SSD casing, the flash memory is integrated directly onto the motherboard (you won't be upgrading the memory/storage on this device)); No optical or hard drives (no CD/DVD drive? I'm not still not convinced on this one); Thinner (0.68" at thickest point, tapering to 0.11" at the keyboard edge), lighter (2.9lbs), stronger (Uni-body aluminum construction), more mobile. Two different models. Both have full size keyboard and Trackpad, Front facing camera, NVIDIA GeForce 320m graphics, 802.11a/b/g/n wi-fi, Bluetooth 2.1 +EDR, stereo speakers. Featuring Mac OS 10.6 and the new iLife '11. One with a 13.3" display (1440x900 pixels), one with 11.6" display (1366x768 pixels).

A truly amazing feat of miniaturization, but the Core 2 Duo processors seem a bit underpowered (1.86GHz on 13.3" - upgrade to 2.13GHz / 1.4GHz on 11.6" - upgrade to 1.6GHz), and the storage somewhat anemic. Starting at 128GB for the 13.3" (upgrade to 256GB) and 64GB for the 11.6" (upgrade to 128GB). Prices are likewise smaller. Reduced from previous generations of the MacBook Air, the new models are priced (base models) at $999.00/$1,199.00 and $1,299.00/$1,599.00. Available Now!

That's a lot of Apple announcements, and I'm looking forward to these new software applications (the new iLife '11 creativity suite and Max OS 10.7). Too bad I can't afford that new MacBook Air, that thing really looks awesome. I'm currently saving up for an iPad, but Kim will need a new MacBook by 2012.
<http://events.apple.com.edgesuite.net/1010qwoeiuryfg/event/index.html>
<http://www.apple.com/ilife/>
<http://www.apple.com/macosx/lion/>
<http://www.apple.com/macbookair/>

Software favorites:
Two more releases for one of my favorite software applications. GraphicConverter moves ever forward. As usual, developer has been busy updating this application. Here's a few more updates for the product that's always getting better. All the updates are free for those who own a license (for the most recent version). If you need a powerhouse converter, editor and browser for your graphics, grab a copy of GraphicConverter - You won't be disappointed. In addition to the regular GraphicConverter updates, I also downloaded updates for two other favorites. Transmit stays fresh, and DVDPedia updates to stay on top of changes at the IMDB web site.

Graphic ConverterGraphicConverter:
Thorsten Lemke (of Lemkesoft) released an entirely new version of GraphicConverter this month. During the last couple of weeks there have been multiple beta/minor releases. I downloaded versions 7.0.1 (84 and 85). GraphicConverter is an image converter and editor. A fantastic piece of shareware that is well worth the price (~$40.00). I use it to convert image formats into web standard formats, to create and edit image maps and other graphics. I've been singing GC's praises for many years now, and I'm not sure what I would do without it. The best part about GC is it's creator. Thorsten Lemke is completely committed to his customer base. Constantly and Continuously responding to customer recommendations and bug reports. GC is a dynamic, evolving, application. Always on the cutting edge, an absolute must in any web developers tool box. At a fraction of PhotoShop's cost, this photo editor puts a huge wrench in your toolbox.
<http://www.lemkesoft.com/content/193/key-features.html>

TransmitTransmit:
An FTP tool that does it all. Anyone who publishes web pages eventually needs a way to upload their pages to a web site. I've found that stand alone FTP tools are the best for this task. Transmit has a clean and easy to use interface, and some really nifty features, like the ability to resume a transfer that's been interrupted, advanced site synchronization capabilities (with simulation mode and reporting capabilities), iDisk and Amazon S3 integration, drag-to-dock sending, creation / use of transfer droplets, column views, quick navigation side-bar, multi-connection transfers, built in compression, a built in text editor, remote file editing using local editors, and secure transfer (in various different flavors) capabilities. Check out the Panic.com Release Notes for all the changes made (by version) to Transmit.
<http://www.panic.com/transmit/index.html>

DVDPediaDVDPedia:
DVDPedia is a great little application for cataloging and displaying your movie collection, and I'm running version 4.6.3. It's list of features is impressive, and it keeps getting better with every update. The database is capable of generating statistics, you can keep track of multiple collections, you can easily add titles by typing the name of the movie or you can scan the barcode (using your iSight camera or a barcode reader) right off the movie box (it then searches the internet, and displays choices). It has customizable HTML export capabilities, a borrowed feature with address book integration, the ability to play movie in full screen mode, and many more features which make an awesome addition to your software library. I use it to generate HTML listings of my movies and movie reviews. This latest version (4.6.2) tweaks the app to stay on top of changes at the IMDB.com website. Below are links to some of the pages I created using this software.
<http://www.robsworld.org/iphonemoviecollection/index.html>
<http://www.robsworld.org/mymovies/index.html>
<http://www.robsworld.org/reviews.html>
<http://www.bruji.com/dvdpedia/>

With these software updates, I've updated my Software Favorites page. It's primarily dedicated to web publishing for the Mac user. Not meant for the professional, It's my hope that home users and hobbyists will find it useful. It's a listing of applications that I find useful in publishing my web pages.
<http://www.robsworld.org/myfavs.html>

NetflixNetflix News - Wii & PS3 now disc-free:
<rave>According to an official posting from Netflix, the Wii and PS3 platforms are now Disc-Free. As of 18 Oct, 2010, both platforms will be able to stream Netflix Watch Instantly titles without the need to insert a special 'Streaming Disc'. Greg Peters, VP of product development posted the announcement on the Netflix blog early Monday (the 18th of Oct). Many Netflix members have been waiting for this news, and now it's official. Subscribers with the PS3 and Wii platforms may now download a Netflix application for their gaming console. The free application will enable streaming of movies and TV shows without the need for that 'Streaming Disc'. The new applications will allow subscribers to view their Netflix queue, start and stop shows and search for titles. Combined with earlier announcements (HD audio and Video on the PS3), Netflix subscribers now have two more reasons to celebrate. Once you've downloaded the new application, you can do what you want with the 'Streaming Disc'. I've heard it makes a good drink coaster :-)

Netflix continues expand and improve their service. Leading the industry with thousands of TV shows and movies on disc (over 130,000 titles (last counted Sep 2010)), Netflix is also the king of streaming video as well (more than 28,000 (last counted Sep 2010). Here's a few of the devices which carry Netflix service: Roku player, iPad, iPhone, the new AppleTV, X-Box 360, The PS3, the Wii, TiVo, a growing selection of Blu-Ray players, home theater systems and internet connected televisions.</rave>
<http://blog.netflix.com/2010/10/wii-and-ps3-to-be-disc-free.html>

No SpamPersistent spammers!
October is National Cyber Security Awareness month, so it really shouldn't surprise you if I take a minute to talk about spam, phishing, and scammers. <rant>Spammers! You just can't escape from this scourge of the internet era. This month (over the last month), I've noticed one particular spam message that's really been persistent. Perhaps you've seen it too. It's a particularly dangerous phishing attempt and the spammers sending it are persistent. As a matter of fact, they're so persistent that I've received 48 copies of this message (in various different forms) this month.

Here's what that phishing attempt looks like:

From: Rene Dudley <notification5315@eftps.gov>
Subject: Federal Tax Payment Batch Has Been Rejected.
Date: October 25, 2010 05:28:32 MDT
To: Robert Vaessen <robert@example.org>

Notification: Your Federal Tax Payment has been rejected
The problem is that system doesn't process your company ID on holidays
and we movied your tax payment batch to awaiting list.
Status of your Tax Payment is Under Review.

To get more details about your company status and tax payment batch file, go to
http://eftps.gov/

Also forward information to your accountant adviser.

WARNING!

You are using an Official United States Government System, which may be used only for authorized purposes.
Unauthorized modification of any information stored on this system may result in criminal prosecution.
The Government may monitor and audit the usage of this system, and all persons are hereby notified that
the use of this system constitutes consent to such monitoring and auditing. Unauthorized attempts to
upload information and/or change information on this web site are strictly prohibited and are subject to
prosecution under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1986 and Title 18 U.S.C. Sec. 1001 and 1030.

The spammer is trying to get people to go to a series of continually changing websites. I won't post the website address(es) here, but these changing (because they get shut-down, and have to relocate) web addresses were always disguised as a legitimate website: <http://eftps.gov/R21> or <http://eftps.gov/>. On it's face, it looks like a legitimate email from a .gov domain. It's filled with confusing information, just enough to get you clicking. Don't do it, this message is clearly a phishing attempt. The web page(s) it links to has a legitimate looking form, but it's a trap. If you fill it out, you'll make the spammer really happy. It even disguises the URL so that it appears to be a legitimate .gov website - Wow! that's pretty fancy. Don't hand over your personal or financial info to anyone you don't know via email. Please keep in mind that the IRS will never ask for your information via email. If you think the IRS is trying to contact you, call them on the phone.

The IRS knows about the scam, and here's what they had to say about it:

 

Current scams and phishing sites posing as the IRS

 
 

Aug. 20, 2010:
There is a fraud risk you need to be aware of. It is related to the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System.

The IRS recently became aware of a fraudulent scheme targeting EFTPS users, the scheme uses an e-mail that claims your tax payment was rejected and directs you to a website for additional information. The website contains malware that will attempt to infect your computer.
If you receive a message claiming to be from the IRS or EFTPS, please:

  1. Do not reply to the sender, access links on the site or submit any information to them.
  2. Forward the message as-is immediately to us at phishing@irs.gov.
  3. How to report and identify phishing, e-mail scams and bogus IRS websites.
  4. If you receive a suspicious e-mail or discover a website posing as the IRS, please forward the e-mail or URL information to the IRS at phishing@irs.gov.
  5. EFTPS is a tax payment system provided free by the U.S. Department of Treasury. Pay federal taxes electronically via the Internet or phone 24/7. Visit EFTPS to enroll.
 
  Remember
The IRS does not initiate taxpayer communications through e-mail.
 

Don't get fooled by those spammers. Email from someone you don't know, and it's got an attachment? Don't open it, it's probably a trojan. Oh how I hate spammers!</rant>
<http://www.symantec.com/security_response/writeup.jsp?docid=2009-052907-2436-99>
<http://www.irs.gov/privacy/article/0,,id=226755,00.html>
<http://www.robsworld.org/index2.html#fightingspam>

More Free Music in October:
Here's a list of some of the music I recently acquired. Where do I get all this stuff? I find a lot of free (actually free) music by visiting several of the new music web sites (Pandora, 3hive.com, musicalfamilytree.org) and several other music blogs (Analog Giant, Brooklyn Vegan, Fluxblog, Gorilla vs. Bear, etc) out there, and listening to a few different music podcasts (iTunes new music tuesdays, discovery download, and indiefeed). Artists want you to hear their music - If you like it, you'll buy it. The major labels want you to pay for their product - letting you hear it for free is contrary to their business model. Well, guess what? I won't buy it unless I can listen to it first. The major labels are killing themselves with their restrictive distribution and dissemination policies. If you like new music, you can do a google search to find your favorite artists web site, a new music web site, or an archive of free music. Free music is available - Legally! Don't believe the major labels propaganda - Not all free music is illegal. You can legally download music for free. I download music from websites, newsgroups (when I already own rights to the music), and a couple of commercial sources (iTunes and eMusic). Here's a listing of some of the music I legally downloaded.

iTunes StarbucksStarbucks gives away free iTunes Tracks:
Kim and I occasionally visit Starbucks to pick up some java juice. While we're there, we grab the most recent Starbucks Pick of the Week card. Starbucks and iTunes have teamed up to reward loyal customers with these handpicked downloads. Just visit your local Starbucks every Tuesday to pick up the latest free Pick of the Week card. Here's one of the free tracks I picked up this month (There was another, but I already had that track: On Main Street - Los Lobos (Part of Tin Can Trust album))
* You Are Not Alone - Mavis Staples: (single) The title track from her most recent album, this is an excellent song. Mavis Staples is an artist I've never heard of before... but wish I had. What a wonderful voice. This single comes from an album produced in collaboration with Wilco's Jeff Tweedy (another artist I'm quite fond of).

iTunes MusicFree Music from iTunes:
Sometimes I purchase music from iTunes, and sometimes I take advantage of their free downloads (check it out on Tuesdays). iTunes is the King of the Hill when it comes to the bigger names, so sometimes I find that I have to pay the higher prices. Here's a bunch of downloads provided free from the iTunes store. A subset/selection from a recent sampler album. Thanks Apple!:
* Austin City Limits 2010 - Music Sampler: (10 songs) Another great giveaway by iTunes. This one is loaded with tracks from a variety of bands. Bands playing the Austin City Limits Music Festival. <rant>The sampler is a subset of a 29 song sampler (which I can no longer find in the iTunes Store - Sometimes that thing can be a bear to use), and downloading these free songs wasn't all that easy. Linking to the 'Sampler Album' in iTunes (when I went to 'purchase' the free download), showed a cost of $32.31 what? That's not free! At the top of the iTunes window, it also said "Enjoy the 10 song sampler featuring artists performing at this year's festival". I wonder how many people clicked on the 'Buy All Songs' button without realizing that they were already downloading the 10 song subset? The Pre-Show playlist that iTunes linked to (while the free songs were automatically downloading) showed 29 songs, but I was only able to download 10 of them for free. Well, free is free, and there's some pretty good stuff on this compilation. Whatever you do, don't dally. Free isn't free forever.

These are some of the items I added to my music collection during this month. Since revamping my music collection back in September of 2005, I've been slowly adding, revising and updating the collection. If you have a comment, question or correction regarding my music collection, please don't hesitate to send me an email. Please keep in mind that my collection isn't for sale, and I'm not interested in giving you any copyrighted materials. I'd rather not go to jail for music piracy. :-)
<http://www.robsworld.org/music.html>
<http://www.robsworld.org/itunesmusic_oct2010.jpg>
<http://www.robsworld.org/itunessamplerdownload.jpg>
<http://www.apple.com/itunesnews/us/>

Tollgate CrossingUpdates to the Tollgate Crossing Website:
My odd-ball schedule actually works in my favor for some things. A couple of those activities are the community support activities which I enjoy - Volunteering with our local neighborhood watch, and supporting our community by maintaining the Tollgate Crossing website and mailing lists. The Tollgate Crossing website is focused on the Tollgate Crossing community, with a few links to the Neighborhood Watch website. Over the last few weeks, I made several updates to the community website:

* Welcome: The website's opener. A page containing an introduction to our community website. Here you'll find all the latest news and announcements. I removed a banner (which links to the SoutheastAurora-NeighborhoodWatch website) for a previous Neighborhood Watch meeting (7 Oct). The next SEANW meeting will be held on 2 Dec, 2010. I added a new banner regarding Holiday Lighting at Tollgate Crossing. Our MD and HOA boards need your input and advice. Please respond to their request for input. I changed the position of some elements on the Welcome page. I updated the date for our next HOA meeting (Nov 9th).
* Events: A detailed listing of upcoming and recurring events in and around Tollgate Crossing. Here is more detailed information regarding some of the events you may have read about on the 'Welcome' page. It's also a place to look for long term/recurring events. I updated the dates for our next HOA (Nov 9th) and Metro District meetings (26 Oct). FYI: This upcoming MD meeting will be our annual budget meeting.
* Info: A page of links, phone numbers, email addresses and other information pertinent to the residents/community of Tollgate Crossing. I updated several contact links/info for the Metro District and it's board members.

  • Metro District Board President: Richard Martinez - email:
  • Metro District Board Secretary/Treasurer: Brian K. Matise - email:
  • Metro District Board members: Send email to the board - email:
I also updated the access Aurora contact number as well as some links and information for code enforcement in Aurora/our community.
* Volunteer: The volunteer page is a place where our community solicits help with various non-profit community projects. I added a request from our MD and HOA board members. We need some volunteers to make sure our holiday decorations are stored properly (after the holidays). If you're interested in volunteering to help out with various activities in our community (not including the Neighborhood Watch), please contact our community's Social Committee Chairperson: T'Lene Gall - email:

If you are a resident of 'Tollgate Crossing' (in Aurora, Colorado), you might want to check out the website. It's loaded with information about our community and you can even sign up for some of the email mailing lists that serve our community.
<http://www.tollgatecrossing.org/Welcome.html>

October 17, 2010

My Volvo XC90Love my Volvo - 60,000 mile maintenance:
<rave>In October of 2004, Kim and I bought a Volvo XC90 (model year 2004). We've been enjoying this magnificent vehicle for more than five years now, and the maintenance costs have been incredibly low - Considering the fact that it's a rather expensive vehicle. We bought ours before Ford lowered the costs and price. We paid a European premium for our XC90.

We got the following packages with our XC90: AWD (Full-time 4WD, of course), Premium (Leather, moon roof, etc), Versatility (3rd row seating, etc), Climate (for cold & nasty weather), 18" wheels, and the back-up indicators. The price was embarrassingly high, but we saved a bunch by getting a 2004 close-out model, and the AAA broker worked some sweet magic on the pricing. The 2004 model actually cost us less with more options (Versatility, 18" wheels, back-up indicators), than the 2005 model would have cost. Buying the vehicle through AAA; with their broker service, was hassle free, easy and quick. I wouldn't buy a car/vehicle any other way.

This month (Oct, 2010), our Volvo went over the 60,000 mile mark, and that meant maintenance. We stopped going to the dealer a while back. They just charge too much. We found a shop we like, trust, and does good work. They always complete the work on time, and they cost way less than the dealer. The 60k service was a doozy. The list of items they checked is far too large to list here. There were also a bunch of things replaced. The most expensive part was the iridium coated spark plugs. The cost for this 60k maintenance? $523.77 (with AAA discount). I can't imagine how much the dealer would have charged us... So, the Volvo is running fine. No unexpected expenses or major repairs. So far, this SUV has been a joy to own, and operate. I hope it lasts us many more years.</rave>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volvo_XC90>

NetflixNetflix News - HD video/audio:
<rave>According to official posts from Sony and Netflix, HD is coming to the PS3. Beginning this week (Monday, Oct 18th, 2010), the PS3 will be the first to feature HD audio and video - without the need for a 'disc'. The PS3 has had Netflix streaming for about a year, but you had to use one of those streaming discs, and you couldn't access the entire streaming library, now the PS3 will be the first kid on the block. First kid on the block to get HD video (1080p) and audio (5.1 Dolby surround sound).

On the 14th of Oct, Netflix announced that they've selected Dolby® Digital Plus to deliver 5.1-channel surround sound for TV shows and movies streamed instantly over the Internet. The PlayStation 3 will be the first consumer electronics device to support 5.1-channel surround sound. Digital surround sound will be added to more devices in the future. Hooray for HD sound!

On the 14th of Oct, Sony (through the official Playstation blog) announced some additional changes to Netflix streaming on the PS3. Starting Monday, October 18the you’ll be able to instantly watch movies and TV shows on your PS3 without an instant streaming disc. That's great, but there's even better news - In addition to eliminating the disc, there's an entirely new user interface/application for Netflix on the PS3. The new interface (a free download) provides a much richer and faster browsing experience. Similar to the Roku interface, the entirely new interface (designed to work with PS3 controllers) will allow users to view their Netflix queue, search the Netflix library, get recommendations, and browse genres. One of the best things about Netflix on the PS3? You don't pay extra for access to online services - unlike the XBox-360!

Netflix continues expand and improve their service. With TV shows and movies, Netflix is the king of streaming video. They're so powerful that Apple's even added Netflix to their Apple TV. Apple added a directly competing service to their Apple TV (Apple rents content through the iTunes store and their Apple TV). Why would Apple do such at thing? Because Netflix has such a huge draw. Apple realizes that the revenue they lose from rentals will be made up for in additional sales of their Apple TV. Here's a few of the devices which carry Netflix service: Roku player, iPad, iPhone, the new AppleTV, X-Box 360, The PS3, the Wii, TiVo, a growing selection of Blu-Ray players, home theater systems and internet connected televisions.</rave>
<http://blog.us.playstation.com/2010/10/14/netflixps3/>
<http://netflix.mediaroom.com/index.php?s=43&item=372>

Elgato video captureAnother new gadget - Another new project:
I've been thinking about it for several years, and now I'm finally going ahead with it. A while back (Jan - May of 2007) I digitized my entire cassette collection. and ever since then, I've contemplated a similar project. Converting my VHS library to digital. A bit more ambitious than that music conversion project, this project would require the purchase of some hardware, and a rather hefty hard drive. My VHS library currently sits on a shelf, quietly growing older, decaying, disintegrating. Those VHS tapes weren't designed to last forever, and they aren't getting any younger. Buying DVD copies of every VHS movie could prove costly, so this project should save me considerable money.

Back to the project requirements. I've had the hard drive in place for sometime now. It's a 1TB seagate NAS drive attached to my router, and I've been using it to store and serve music, photos and video for some time now. This 1TB drive should prove adequate for storage of my digitized video collection. It's media server capabilities will also prove beneficial when I want to view those movies from my various network attached devices (like my Apple TV). The second component for this project was something capable of digitizing and encoding my video collection. Well, that component arrived in the mail on Wednesday (13 Oct, 2010). I purchased an 'Elgato Video Capture' device from Amazon for $80.00. I hope to use this little piece of hardware to digitize my rapidly aging VHS collection. Now all I need is a little luck, a good dose of patience, and a lot of time. I'll keep you appraised of progress as the project moves forward.
<http://www.robsworld.org/whatsnew/wn2007/wn2007_jan.html#atodconversion>

D&D iconD&D updates:
We played our last D&D session on the 2nd of Oct. Everyone but Kevin was able to attend. Kim played Kevin's character (Pyrceval), and Todd played his new character (Crucifer). Here are some of the updates from that meeting. With the conclusion of our 8 August, 2009 meeting, the players have moved into an entirely new phase of the game. Gone are the S.C.R.E.W.O.F.F.S. - Existing now as a group of non-player characters. The player characters are now members of an entirely new group. The H.A.L.L.O.W.ed Knights. This new group of adventurers have struck out from Whillip. In search of glory, fame, and justice. They seek to right the wrongs of this land. To defend the weak, enslaved and oppressed. Striking out at evil and taint; this group of characters vow to make their mark upon the land. Let H.A.L.L.O.W.ed Knights be a name both feared by evil and revered by the good citizens of these realms.

Note from the Campaign Master
As of 20 February, 2010, one of the players (Mark) has taken over the duties of DM. Mark and I have been planning this change for some time. It's something I like to do, when possible. Unfortunately, the opportunity doesn't present itself too often. Once the campaign has been established, and the players familiar with "Rob's World", I like to encourage full participation by sharing the duties of DM. Mark has written the adventure that the characters are currently engaged in, and I will relinquish DM duties while Mark makes all the big decisions. With Mark behind the podium, I'll do my best to enjoy the mystery, and keep Solmar alive. So, Mark and I have switched places. He'll be running the show, and I'll be playing Solmar. What fun! I'm certainly enjoying this change of pace, the opportunity for adventure, and the mystery of Deepwood. - Robert

3rd Edition Campaign:
I updated the date of our next meeting - Our next meeting (not counting tonight's meeting - 16 Oct, 2010) is 30 October, 2010. I also updated some of the annotation beneath that small picture of our group. I changed the annotation for Todd, now that he's playing Crucifer. This page (The "3eCampagin" page) is the first stop for information on the campaign that I'm currently running. Here you'll find information regarding our next meeting, some notes, and an index of web pages and documents that are important to our campaign. You can also check out the latest group photo.
<http://www.robsworld.org/3ecampaign.html>

Journal Index:
I finally got around to updating this journal index. I updated the entry for the party's 8th adventure, and I updated the banner graphic at the top of the page. The tale of our adventurers. The Journal page is an index of the party's encounters, adventures and journeys in "Rob's World" - A 3rd edition D&D campaign world. Someone or somebody thought it'd be a good idea to write it all down. Just in case we might need it for some reason. Plus, I thought it might entertain you. So anyway, here it is.
<http://www.robsworld.org/ajournal.html>

The Adventurers journal:
The tale of our adventurers. A series of journal entries from various party members. This document contains details of their encounters. Victory, defeat, desire and glory. Here is the tale of The H.A.L.L.O.W.ed Knights, a group of adventurers who set forth from Whillip, seeking fame, fortune and the defeat of evil in these lands. Here's another journal entry penned by Mutteran - Lee's character. Once again, thanks go out to Lee for his continued support. Be sure to check it out when you get a chance. The party is still on their way to the location of their next challenge. During this particular session, Belt left the party, and a new character joined the H.A.L.L.O.W.ed Knights. Todd's new character (Crucifer) was finally introduced. I also updated links to Belt; changing the entries so they point to his new page.
<http://www.robsworld.org/ajournal08.html#oct02 2010>

Where Now?:
With the party out on the road, on their way to their next adventure, they're bound to learn about some new places. As the party well knows, being out on the road can be an adventure all it's own. With the conclusion of our 2 Oct meeting, I updated the entry for The Skycruiser Palisade, and added entries for three other 'locations':The Skyship Artarius, the 'nation' of Sildeyuir, and the Yuirwood forest. "Where Now?" is a listing of various places the party has visited or researched.
<http://www.robsworld.org/wherenow.html>

Who's Who?:
The meeting on the 2nd of October saw the conclusion of another character transition. Summoned to due duty by his church (Lars had to leave our group), Belt left our group of adventurers. I removed Belt's character entry from the "Who's Who?" page, made a 'Former PCs' entry, and created a stand-alone page for the character. In addition to Belt's departure, we also saw the introduction of Todd's new character. I added Crucifer to the roles of the H.A.L.L.O.W.ed Knights. In addition to these player character updates, I also added NPC entries for the following non-player characters: JFK Enterprises, Veyatar the Kzinti skyship captain, The "Who's Who?" page is a listing of characters, both player characters and non-player characters.
<http://www.robsworld.org/3ewhoswho.html>

Players in our campaign:
Over the last few months, there's been a lot of changes in our player line-up. Micheal and Todd have returned to our group, and they've both started playing new characters. With the introduction of their new characters, I had to make some changes to the character annotations beneath the group photo and the mouse-over tool-tips. A group of crazy characters constitute the players in our campaign. Many players have graced my gaming table over the years, some are old friends, some are new, but in the end - friends are what I call them. The players page contains a photo of our group and a short listing of who we are.
<http://www.robsworld.org/players.html>

Here there be Heroes:
With the recent character updates, I took the time to update the "Hero's Gallery". I updated the entries for Belt, added a new entry for Crucifer, and updated the Azura entry. The Hero's Gallery is a list of characters from my campaign. Past and present, the characters listed represent a fraction of those who have called Rob's World! home. Some of the players are long forgotten, but many of the characters live long in our memory. Who can forget their heroic feats, the daring deeds, and tragic endings? Let's heft our mugs, sing their praises, and salute those hero's of lore!
<http://www.robsworld.org/gallery.html>

These updates follow our meeting on the 2nd of Oct. It's the eighth adventure for our group of heroes. In search of glory, fame, and justice, the H.A.L.L.O.W.ed Knights seek to right the wrongs of this land. To defend the weak, enslaved and oppressed. Striking out at evil and taint, this group of characters vow to make their mark upon the land. Let H.A.L.L.O.W.ed Knights be a name feared by evil and revered by the good citizens of these realms. Departing on the 1st of Mavis, the party has decided to help the citizens of Deepwood in their quest to vanquish a Blue Dragon from their backyard. After picking up supplies, horses, and some information in Westgate, the party has taken to the open road. The road has proven dangerous and long. The party has fought many foes along the way, lost two of their own (Gregor and Jusarian), and recruited two new companions (Pyrceval and Azura) to strengthen their numbers. Continuing their quest, the party has taken a short break from the dusty road. A quick stop in the city of Lheshayl resulted in many changes. Belt learned of an urgent church matter, and hastily resigned as a member of the H.A.L.L.O.W.ed Knights, The party split up some of it's treasure and bid fair travels to Belt. With Belt's departure, the party found itself one man down, but that didn't last long. A mysterious Star Elf named Crucifer has joined the group in their quest to vanquish Deepwood of it's Dragon problem. With today behind them, Tomorrow will surely bring many new challenges to this group of H.A.L.L.O.W.ed Knights - Sharpen your blades and hitch up your horses - Adventure calls and danger beckons!

You can keep up to date with our adventures by continuing to visit "Rob's World!" for all the latest campaign info. If you're enjoying the story of our adventurers, I encourage you to write me and let us know. Perhaps you've got an idea you'd like to share, some criticism or praise. Either way, it'll be earnestly appreciated.
<http://www.robsworld.org/3ecampaign.html>

eMusicChanges to eMusic - Not a good thing:
<rant>Recently (11 Oct, 2010), I received an email from eMusic. The letter announced joyfully that eMusic was about to make some major changes. They're adding 250,000 tracks from BMG! - and they're raising their prices... What! I don't give a crap about more mainstream music from BMG/Sony, what I do care about. A consistent price, quality and selection. While this addition of Sony/BMG may result in the addition of many new members (looking for a cheaper alternative for 'mainstream' music), it's likely to upset many of the old-school eMusic members - like me! I joined eMusic many years ago. Not because they had lower prices (although that helped influence my decision). I joined because they had plenty of independent and hard to find artists in their store/line-up. The addition of these new BMG titles also comes with new pricing - That's right 'new' pricing. The same changes forced onto Apple's iTunes store are now a part of the eMusic store. Gone is the 'credit' based system, replaced with a per track pricing. Each month, my 'subscription' will renew (discarding any remaining money/credits from the previous month) and I'll have to purchase individual tracks or albums using the new pricing scheme. The new pricing scheme?: Individual tracks will be priced between $0.49 and $1.29. Albums will cost somewhere between $5.19 - $8.99. I'm sure that the 'deal' pricing will disappear, and that's a shame. Just this month, I downloaded 22 tracks for the 'price' of 12. Will eMusic continue to offer this type of savings? I seriously doubt it.

This new pricing model is nearly identical to Apple's pricing structure. Apparently Sony/BMG controls all music pricing! Try to find a store that doesn't bend to the all mighty Sony/BMG music giant. They've got the lock on pricing. Apple, Amazon, and now eMusic. The artists, independent labels, and distribution networks have no say whatsoever. Sony's in charge now. Now that they control all the legitimate digital outlets, they can easily raise the price... Is that coming next?

Why does this pricing scheme suck? Well, I'm paying for a subscription service (was?), but now the pricing will be based on a per item price. So, what happens when I don't spend all my credits/cash? It disappears - that's what! Poof, magically, mystically. Sorry, no tracks available for $0.29 or $0.39 or $0.05. You didn't really need that money, did you? Roll over? What's that? Apparently, eMusic doesn't care about the fact that their subscribers are going to be throwing money away every month! Where's the digital money going? Who knows, eMusic isn't addressing (publicly) this question. The other problem with this new pricing model? One of my main reasons for using eMusic is 'music discovery'. New tracks will now be priced at the high end of this pricing scheme. That will kill my music discovery efforts. So much for downloading new stuff. I'll have to stick to stuff that's two or more years old if I don't want to pay $1.29 per track.

In all fairness, these changes don't surprise me. eMusic has changed ownership many times over the last few years, and with these ownership changes come changes to their service. As their owners search for new ways to make money, they've lost focus on their customers (in my opinion). It seems to me that these changes are designed to satisfy the profit motive, the owners, creditors and investment bankers, not the customer. While these changes will make emusic more competitive as a business, it won't make me happier. I don't want or need an iTunes clone. As eMusic moves ever closer (in pricing and content) to the iTunes model, I move further away from my desire to continue service with them. The full effect of these changes won't be known until November, when the new changes take effect. That's when I'll have to make my decision. Will I remain with eMusic, or is it time to switch to some other service?</rant> I've been eyeing the recently revised MOG subscription service. It's music discovery potential looks really promising.
<http://reviews.cnet.com/8301-12519_7-20019399-49.html>
<http://www.robsworld.org/letterfromemusic_2010.jpg>
<http://www.robsworld.org/emusicchanges.png>
<http://www.robsworld.org/music.html>
<http://www.emusic.com/>
<http://mog.com/>

Software favorites:
Four more releases for one of my favorite software applications. GraphicConverter moves ever forward. As usual, developer has been busy updating this application. Here's another update for the product that's always getting better. All the updates are free for those who own a license (for the most recent version). If you need a powerhouse converter, editor and browser for your graphics, grab a copy of GraphicConverter - You won't be disappointed.

Graphic ConverterGraphicConverter:
Thorsten Lemke (of Lemkesoft) released an entirely new version of GraphicConverter this month. During the last couple of weeks there have been multiple beta/minor releases. I downloaded versions 7.0.1 (78, 80, 82, 83). GraphicConverter is an image converter and editor. A fantastic piece of shareware that is well worth the price (~$40.00). I use it to convert image formats into web standard formats, to create and edit image maps and other graphics. I've been singing GC's praises for many years now, and I'm not sure what I would do without it. The best part about GC is it's creator. Thorsten Lemke is completely committed to his customer base. Constantly and Continuously responding to customer recommendations and bug reports. GC is a dynamic, evolving, application. Always on the cutting edge, an absolute must in any web developers tool box. At a fraction of PhotoShop's cost, this photo editor puts a huge wrench in your toolbox.
<http://www.lemkesoft.com/content/193/key-features.html>

With these software updates, I've updated my Software Favorites page. It's primarily dedicated to web publishing for the Mac user. Not meant for the professional, It's my hope that home users and hobbyists will find it useful. It's a listing of applications that I find useful in publishing my web pages.
<http://www.robsworld.org/myfavs.html>

Yahoo! ProfilesYahoo! Profiles = Spam Magnet:
<rant>FaceBook isn't the only one trying to 'Socialize' their 'subscriber' base. Making things more 'social' for their members seems to be the top priority of many web portals/websites these days. In a scramble to make their users data more 'social', more 'accessible', and more 'friendly', Yahoo! has screwed something up. Granted, I don't use Yahoo! very often, so my 'Signal to Noise' ratio may be a bit higher than those who use Yahoo! as a part of their 'Social plan'.

Unfortunately for me, Yahoo's attempt to make my user data more accessible has resulted in one thing, and one thing only - More Spam! Supposedly, these changes were supposed to make it easier for my friends and family to get in touch with me, to 'Socialize' with me. Making Yahoo! indispensable to my 'social' needs. Instead it's exposed my personal data to strangers, and allowed spammers to connect with me. Over the last few months, I've received something like five email messages from complete strangers who want to be my 'Friend'. How do they know me? They don't. How were they able to send me an 'invitation' request? Through Yahoo! Yahoo thinks that these spammers are my 'Friends'. The individuals who sent me these email messages have completely generic Yahoo profiles, and I don't recognize their names. Unfortunately, I allowed one of them to contact me. The result? I now receive daily spam from this individual.

Great! Yahoo has finally discovered a way to get my attention. Before now I simply ignored Yahoo! It wasn't 'Part of my life' and that's the way I liked it. Now it's earned my endearing disdain. After the 'spamming' began, I had to go in and try to turn off all my Yahoo contact info. I have no idea whether or not I succeeded. Their privacy controls are mystifying. I hope I don't get any more spam or 'invitation' messages. I don't want to totally disable my Yahoo membership, but I sure wish these 'social' websites would knock it off. If I want to share my info with others, I'll do it on my terms. Now I have to worry about 'managing' my privacy settings on yet another website. Since Yahoo! can't figure out which of their members are spammers, I had to completely disable the 'contact' settings. No one may contact me through Yahoo! So much for Yahoo's hope that I might use Yahoo! as a social web site.

Yahoo! is a popular choice for spammers wanting to host their ads on a 'trustworthy' domain. They create Yahoo! groups or profiles, post their ad copy to the profile page or as a message to the group, and then send out spam containing the relevant URLs. Because the URLs contain the 'yahoo.com' domain name, they're difficult to filter with traditional anti-spam techniques and many people trust the 'Yahoo!' name. Just because the email contains a Yahoo! link or email address, doesn't mean it's legit. I wonder what Yahoo! is doing about this problem?</rant>
<http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/igoogle_and_yahoo_profile_updates_shock.php>
<http://spamnation.info/blog/archives/2009/07/yahoo-vs-dot-cn.html>
<http://www.robsworld.org/yahooprofiles_spam.png>

MobileMeChanges to MobileMe webpages:
Recently (on October 8th, 2010), I received an email from Apple, informing me that there are more changes coming to MobileMe. In a final move to complete the rebranding of Apple's .Mac service - Now known/rebranded as MobileMe. Over a year ago, Apple retired the .Mac HomePage application for publishing new .Mac webpages, but they allowed previously published pages to remain viewable on the web. On November 8th, 2010, they will discontinue online viewing of photos, movies, and files shared using .Mac HomePage.

They're not going to delete any photos, movies, or files published using HomePage (or hosted through the .Mac 'Sites' folder). These files will remain resident on your MobileMe iDisk (in the Movies, Pictures, Sites or Public folders), but visitors to a site published using the HomePage editor or hosted (regardless of editor/creation method) in the .Mac 'Sites' folder will no longer be visible on the web. Apple now 'recommends' that users (MobileMe subscribers/members) use the MobileMe Gallery to share photos and movies on the web. You 'should' use iWeb (Apple's webpage creation application) to publish and host websites on/with Apple's MobileMe service. MobileMe members who have published web pages (to the 'Web' folder in/on your iDisk) using iWeb will not be affected by this change.

They did away with the web-based 'HomePage' editing/creation tool, and now they're discontinuing the 'viewing/display' of files hosted in the iDisk's 'Sites' folder. That's where the iTools and .Mac web services placed webpages. As a result of these changes, I had to re-create and re-post the files. I moved them from hosting in the 'Sites' folder - where the URL was: <http://homepage.mac.com/rvaessen/> - to hosting in the 'Web' folder. I used iWeb in order to re-create/re-post/host my old iTools, .Mac, HomePage. It's now an official MobileMe webpage. Change happens. You either roll with the punches or you get rolled.

The 'new' webpage isn't a complete clone of the old .Mac HomePage. I changed the look a bit, but kept most of the elements from that old webpage. The 'old' web page will still be visible for some time - until 8 November, 2010. After that it's history. With Apple's announcement, I've made a pre-emptive change. The new web page is available now, just in case you'd like to check it out. So, what can one find on my .Mac/MobileMe page? Links to my favorite Desktop Photos, a link to my Music Collection, my Movie Collection, and my MobileMe gallery. Mostly, its a place where I keep some of my collections. Things I might need access to when I'm away from home, but near a computer.
<http://web.me.com/rvaessen/Robs_World/RobsWorld.html>
<http://www.robsworld.org/mobilemechanges01.png>
<http://www.apple.com/mobileme/>

October 8, 2010

Neighborhood WatchSoutheast Aurora Neighborhood Watch website:
My odd-ball schedule actually works in my favor for some things. A couple of those things are the community support activities which I enjoy - Volunteering with our local neighborhood watch, maintaining the Southeast Aurora Neighborhood Watch website and mailing lists. Here are some of the changes I made at our Neighborhood Watch website over the last couple days:

* Current: A web page dedicated to the most recent news, announcements and information. I removed the banner for our recent Neighborhood Watch meeting. We held our last meeting on the 7th of Oct, at the Fox Ridge Middle School. Meeting in the new location went well. We had a lot more room, and it's more centrally located for the SEA NW area.
* Alert Me: A web page where residents can learn about and link to Aurora's 'Emergency Citizen Notification System'. It's a type of reverse 911 mechanism. Thanks to an eagle eyed residents, I updated some of the links on the web page.
* Events: A listing of upcoming and recurring events in you Southeast Aurora Neighborhood. Events sponsored by or relevant to our Neighborhood Watch. I removed the info regarding our recent Neighborhood Watch meeting. We held our last meeting on the 7th of Oct, at the Fox Ridge Middle School. Meeting in the new location went well. We had a lot more room, and it's more centrally located for the SEA NW area. I also update the info for our upcoming NW meetings (upcoming meetings will be held at Fox Ridge Middle School).
* Info: A page of links and information pertinent to the safety and security of our communities. I added a link to the Aurora Police Department's online crime reporting form.

If you are a resident of Southeast Aurora, you might want to check out our Southeast Aurora Neighborhood Watch website (Serving the following communities: Tollgate Crossing, Sorrel Ranch, The Wheatlands, Beacon Point, Southshore, Tallyn’s Reach, Saddle Rock - North, Serenity Ridge, Black Stone, Heritage Eagle Bend and Rocking Horse). If you're concerned about the safety and security of our community, you might want to join our group, or subscribe to one of our mailing lists to receive periodic alerts, updates and information.
<http://www.southeastaurora-neighborhoodwatch.org/Welcome.html>

No SpamDeath to spammers!
October is National Cyber Security Awareness month, so I thought I'd take a minute to talk about spam, phishing, and scammers. <rant>Spammers! You just can't escape from this scourge of the internet era. This month (over the last month), I've noticed a couple of spam messages that concern me. Perhaps you've seen them too. One is a particularly dangerous phishing attempt, and the other contains a virus. The reason I'm mentioning them? Well, with the phishing attempt, I want to make sure people are aware of it. With the other, it's apparent that someone is running a trojan campaign, and it's actually having an impact. I wouldn't be getting this many copies if the trojan wasn't compromising people's computers. Turning them into unwitting, unwilling and unknowing zombies for the spammers.

Here's what that phishing attempt looks like:

From: "EFTPS Tax Payment" <customers@eftps.gov>
Date: October 7, 2010 15:04:01 MDT
To: <robert@example.org>
Subject: SECOND NOTICE: Your EFTPS Tax Payment has been rejected. Report ID: 010376211
Reply-To: spammer@example.org

Your Federal Tax Payment ID: 01037597 has been rejected.
Return Reason Code R21 - The identification number used in the Company Identification Field is not valid.

Please, check the information and refer to Code R21 to get details about your company payment in transaction contacts section:

http://eftps.gov/R21
In other way forward information to your accountant adviser.
EFTPS:
The Electronic Federal Tax Payment System
PLEASE NOTE: Your tax payment is due regardless of EFTPS online
availability. In case of an emergency, you can always make your tax
payment by calling the EFTPS.

I've received seven copies (slight variations) in the last 24 hours, and that's not a good thing. The spammer is trying to get people to go to a series of continually changing websites. I won't post the website address(es) here, but these changing (because they get shut-down, and have to relocate) web addresses were always disguised as a legitimate website: <http://eftps.gov/R21>. On it's face, it looks like a legitimate email from a .gov domain. It's filled with confusing information, just enough to get you clicking. Don't do it, this message is clearly a phishing attempt. The web page(s) it links to has a legitimate looking form, but it's a trap. If you fill it out, you'll make the spammer really happy. Don't hand over your personal or financial info to anyone you don't know via email. Please keep in mind that the IRS will never ask for your information via email. If you think the IRS is trying to contact you, call them on the phone.

The other email, came in a variety of forms. contained an attachment. The subject varies from one email to another, but there are similar components: USPS Delivery Problem NR149147, FedEx Tracking NR26495538, UPS Services. Get your parcel NR96308, USPS Delivery Problem NR8818519, USPS Delivery Problem NR434946176. The body of the email contains an image with text similar to the following (the body/content is always a graphic image to bypass spam filtering).

USPS Delivery Problem

These email messages contain an attachment. According to the email, the attached zip file contains a 'Shipment Label', which you're supposed to print out and take to the post office. Aside from all the poor grammar in this message, think about this... How does the post office know your email address? The attachment is actually a trojan/virus. It may or may not be disguised as something other than an .exe file. The 'bredolab' trojan affects computers running Windows operating system. The trojan is associated with a 'botnet' (network of compromised computers used to send spam, trojans, and DDOS attacks) - It connects to a remote server, reports its status and downloads files which it then executes on the new host.

Don't get fooled by those spammers. Email from someone you don't know, and it's got an attachment? Don't open it, it's probably a trojan. Oh how I hate spammers!</rant>
<http://www.symantec.com/security_response/writeup.jsp?docid=2009-052907-2436-99>
<http://www.robsworld.org/index2.html#fightingspam>

Software favorites:
Three more releases for some of my favorite software applications. The GIMP - GNU Image Manipulation Program has been updated once again. This X11/Unix port is constantly undergoing revision; thanks to the strong community of supporting programmers, users and testers. In addition to this X11/Unix application update, I also downloaded a brand new version (the single user upgrade cost me $25.95) and one update, for one of my favorite software applications. GraphicConverter moves ever forward. As usual, developer has been busy updating this application. Here's another update for the product that's always getting better. All the updates are free for those who own a license. If you need a powerhouse converter, editor and browser for your graphics, grab a copy of GraphicConverter - You won't be disappointed.

Graphic ConverterGraphicConverter:
Thorsten Lemke (of Lemkesoft) an entirely new version (and one update) of GraphicConverter over the past week (yes that's a new icon). This week I purchased and downloaded version 7.0 and 7.0.1. GraphicConverter is an image converter and editor. A fantastic piece of shareware that is well worth the price (~$40.00). I use it to convert image formats into web standard formats, to create and edit image maps and other graphics. I've been singing GC's praises for many years now, and I'm not sure what I would do without it. The best part about GC is it's creator. Thorsten Lemke is completely committed to his customer base. Constantly and Continuously responding to customer recommendations and bug reports. GC is a dynamic, evolving, application. Always on the cutting edge, an absolute must in any web developers tool box. At a fraction of PhotoShop's cost, this photo editor puts a huge wrench in your toolbox.
<http://www.lemkesoft.com/content/193/key-features.html>

TransmitThe GIMP:
I run version 2.6.11 on my Mac

GIMP is an acronym for GNU Image Manipulation Program. It is a freely distributed program for such tasks as photo retouching, image composition and image authoring. Written and developed under X11 for the Unix platform, I'm running a version ported to Mac OS X (runs under X11). This software application is the equivalent of PhotoShop for free! There's very little you can't do with this full feature graphic authoring software suite. It's got all the bells and whistles: Full suite of painting tools, Sub-pixel sampling, Gradient editor and blend tool, Custom brushes and patterns, Full alpha channel support, Layers and channels, Multiple Undo/Redo, Editable text layers, Transformation tools, Selection tools, Advanced path tool, Transformable paths and selections, Advanced scripting capabilities, Support for Photo-Shop plugins, and several more features. I've been using the GIMP for some years now, and I'm continually impressed by it's rich features and powerful rendering capabilities. Here are just a few of the graphics and titles I've created using the GIMP: Slice of a pseudo oil painting, adventuringgroup.png, dndbooks.png, vifsi.png

If you'd like to try out some of the GIMP's text effects, you can check out this web page that will let you create enhanced graphics using some of the GIMP's capabilities.
<http://sourceforge.net/projects/gimponosx>

With these software updates, I've updated my Software Favorites page. It's primarily dedicated to web publishing for the Mac user. Not meant for the professional, It's my hope that home users and hobbyists will find it useful. It's a listing of applications that I find useful in publishing my web pages.
<http://www.robsworld.org/myfavs.html>

Airport ExtremeHow to instruct someone to build an invisible house while your eyes are closed and your hands are tied:
<rant>Perhaps you've never had to troubleshoot computer problems over the phone. Perhaps you've never had to explain or teach a highly technical subject to a complete novice. Perhaps you've got the patience of a saint. Recently (in Sep, of 2010) I convinced my Father in law to spend some money - No easy feat. I convinced him to purchase a Roku Player for his living room. The digital set-top box I rave about would make a great addition to his meager entertainment selection. Of course, getting a Roku Player up and running in his living room would necessitate some changes to the computer network in his home. Ted hasn't really got a computer 'network' in his home. He's got internet via cable, and that's it. Straight from the cable modem into his computer.

My solution to his 'problem'? Well, we'll simply add a wireless router to your set-up, and connect the Roku wirelessly. Less messy than running cables to and fro. "Simply" Yeah, is anything every so simple? Getting the wireless network up and running is proving to be a bit of a challenge. First of all, I should have taken care of this issue before we left De Pere. We were only there for four days, and I spent a large part of that time troubleshooting, updating and fixing various computer and electronic troubles. By the time I got around to the 'Roku' project, it was far too late in our vacation. Ted ordered all the necessary components, and we flew back to Denver.

We waited a few weeks before all the parts (well, most of the parts) arrived. Eventually, our schedules coincided to such an extent that it was time. Time to try and tackle that daunting chore I described in the header of this posting. I'd equate this task to something similar. It's difficult at best, to set up a wireless network in your own home. I once described it as 'The most difficult chore I have ever undertaken'. Setting up a wireless network in someone else's home, over the phone, is extremely difficult. Our initial round of effort came to a halt rather quickly. Ted was missing a necessary component. No ethernet cable! We had discussed it earlier, but it had slipped his mind. A quick trip to the store and we're back in business (I hope he didn't spend too much on that piece of wire. Some places really can rip you off when you're looking to buy a simple piece of wire).

Round two didn't go nearly as well. Now it was time to set up the Airport Extreme wireless router. I described the process of connecting the router to his network. Where it goes, where the cables go, what gets connected where, whether a reboot is necessary, etc. etc. In order to complete this part of the process, I'd have to do most of the instructing over the phone. Since his computer would be momentarily disconnected from the internet, we wouldn't be able to use video chat, or that fantastic remote control software, where I can reach inside his computer and do the work myself. After a tense ten minutes of telephonic struggle, we emerged victorious. Internet connectivity was restored, and the router was inserted into the network. Now comes the hard part. Configuring the router to generate a wireless network.

I made a bit of mistake in this phase. Not realizing that we had full internet connectivity (in a bridged/pass through mode), I continued the router configuration over the phone. Foregoing the video chat and remote control method. In hindsight that was a bit of a mistake. We went through the various set-up menus as best we could, following the 'default' set-up script. By the time we finished the set-up procedure (thanks to the software wizard), we thought we were ready to throw the switch and fire up the wireless network. That's when disaster struck!

When we restarted the router - to initialize the wireless network - we found the computer (the desktop Mac) unable to connect to the network. That means no internet on the desktop. Oh, wait that's not all. Not only won't the desktop Mac connect to the network, the network won't initialize. The router is still stuck in the initialization configuration. Until the desktop Mac connects, the router refuses to let us change the set up... Wow, that's bad. phenomenally bad! After numerous attempts to get things back on track, we called it a night. I couldn't research the problem, conduct troubleshooting over the phone, and attempt corrective action all at once. So, we disconnected the router. Put things back the way they were and decided to try again on another day.

After that failed first attempt, I turned to the internet. I tried searching Apple's support forums for an answer to this problem, but the odd nature of the problem, and the immense database of topics made it very difficult to find a similar post.

The general issue/idea:
Run a wireless network using Airport Extreme - Connect desktop mac via ethernet and Roku player via wi-fi. Unfortunately, I can't get the desktop mac to connect via ethernet once I've restarted the router in order to initialize the wireless network.

My Father in law has my old computer; It's a PowerMac G5 (Dual 1.8GHz CPUs) running OS 10.5.8), internet via cable (TimeWarner) modem. It does NOT have an Airport or Airport Extreme card installed. The computer works fine, and I don't believe that I 'need' an Airport Card in order to use the Airport Extreme (it's a brand new/refurbished model) in the manner described below.

I would like to use the Airport Extreme to generate/run a wireless network (Do I need an Airport Card in order to generate/run a wireless network? Doesn't the AE actually do that?), connect the desktop Mac to the network via Ethernet (I shouldn't need an Airport Card to do that, should I?) and connect a 'Roku Player (802.11g capable) to the network via wi-fi.

As far as I know, this should be possible.

Basic steps/as I understand them:
A. Connect ethernet from cable modem to AE.
B. Connect ethernet from AE to desktop Mac.
C. Create the wireless network using desktop Mac and Airport Utility.
D. Restart AE to start the wireless network running.
E. Connect Roku to wireless network over wi-fi.

I have no problems with A & B. Once the AE is connected to the desktop Mac, I'm able to get internet via ethernet as it passes through the AE. I can then create a wireless network (step C.) using the Airport Utility (and setup assistant). The problem starts after I've configured the wireless network.

Once I've configured the wireless network, the Airport Utility software prompts me to restart the AE in order to start the wireless network.

As soon as I restart the AE, my desktop Mac tries to connect to the 'wireless' network, even though it's already connected via ethernet. I don't have a wireless card in the Mac, and I don't want to connect the desktop using wi-fi/wireless. It's connected via ethernet, works fine during configuration, and I don't ever anticipate a desire to connect the desktop via wi-fi.

No matter what I do, I can't get the desktop to connect via ethernet. The only network connection option I'm offered is 'Rescan'. O.k. the desktop can't find the wireless network (because it doesn't have a wireless card), and I'm unable to continue with the Airport Utility. I can't make any further changes to the network (the options to manually change the network configuration are not available as the desktop Mac cannot currently talk to the AE - It's still trying to connect wirelessly), and the desktop has no internet connection as it's trying to connect wirelessly.

How can I... Setup/run a wireless network, while keeping the desktop Mac connected via ethernet? I'm perfectly willing to factory reset the AE and start over. Any help would be appreciated. For now I'm "Thwarted by the network".</rant>
<http://discussions.apple.com/thread.jspa?messageID=12380933#12380933>
<http://www.apple.com/airportextreme/>

NetflixNetflix News - Coming soon to the Google TV:
Netflix will soon be appearing on yet another device. In a recent blog posting (Oct, 4th, 2010), Netflix team member Rich Ezekiel (director of partnerships) confirmed the rumors. Netflix will be appearing on the upcoming Google TV. While this doesn't come as too much of a surprise, it does give pause to those who wonder whether anyone can compete with this movie rental giant. Blockbuster recently filed for Chapter 11, and their streaming service is an unknown quantity. I challenge you to name another online video service that lets you watch premium content on your television (no fair naming Blockbuster)... Soon Netflix will be everywhere, but where's the competition? What if you want something else? What's to stop Netflix from raising their price?

Netflix continues to add their service to internet connected devices. With TV shows and movies, Netflix is the king of streaming video. They're so powerful that Apple's even added Netflix to their Apple TV. Apple added a directly competing service to their Apple TV (Apple rents content through the iTunes store and their Apple TV). Why would Apple do such at thing? Because Netflix has such a huge draw. Apple realizes that the revenue they'll lose from rentals will be made up for in additional sales of their Apple TV. Here's a few of the devices they're available on: Roku player, iPad, iPhone, the new AppleTV, X-Box 360, The PS3, the Wii, TiVo, a growing selection of Blu-Ray players, home theater systems and internet connected televisions.
<http://blog.netflix.com/2010/10/netflix-on-google-tv.html>
<http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2010/10/here-comes-google-tv.html>

October 4, 2010

Blurry iconsBlurry icons under Mac OS:
<rant>It's a problem which has been plaguing me (and others) of late. Recently; just this year, going back three months or so, I started to notice the onset of a particular problem plaguing my Mac's desktop. While I love the Mac OS, no operating system is without it's issues, and this is just one of those perplexing problems that seems to bother people in our age of super-computers and sophisticated communications devices. If you're familiar with my battles in the land of network connections, you know I don't give up easily when confronted with a technological challenge. This desktop dilemma is just the latest of those challenges.

A bit more detail - So the problem started occurring a few months back, and it's been getting progressively worse. This problem involves the icons in my Mac's Dock and the Application Switcher panel (invoked when you press command-tab). The Mac OS (In OS X v10.5 and later) uses 512 x 512 pixel images for the dock, application switcher and Finder in general. Each application and document has appropriately sized images embedded in the code for smaller sizes (for various reasons), but the 512 x 512 resource is supposed to be used when displaying icons in the Finder. Unfortunately, the problem plaguing me was slowly beginning to affect all the icons in my dock and application switcher (I hadn't noticed it affecting the Finder in general (finder windows)).

The effect I'm talking about? Instead of the typical, sharp, high-resolution (512 x 512) icons, I was starting to notice some incredibly low resolution icons (32 x 32?) in my dock and application switcher. It's nothing critical. It wasn't causing crashes (in my case), but it certainly was annoying. Being used to these magnificent 512x512 icons, I really didn't appreciate these blurry low-res icons. When these low-res icons are scaled up to 512 x 512 or 128 x 128 size (with a mouse over or other magnification effect), they appear blurry, out of focus or fuzzy. It's irritating, not at all Mac-like and quite annoying. Not one to let the problem persist, I began my quest to quash these blurry icons.

My first stop was the Apple Forums. While I found plenty of discussion regarding this 'issue', I couldn't find an 'Official' answer - Despite the claims in Apple's Forums, there really doesn't appear to be any 'answer'; a fact noted by several posters. I'm not sure why this problem hasn't been tackled by Apple's software engineers/experts. According to the forums, the problem - which may have been around as early as 2007 (Release of Leopard, Mac OS X 10.5) - seems to affect all models of Mac. It doesn't appear to be a hardware issue, and it's affecting those with Mac OS 10.5 and later (when the 512x512 icons were introduced). While some have reported the issue affecting icons in the Finder (Apple's file browser application), I've only noticed it in my Dock and Application Switcher.

I tried a couple of the remedies suggested in Apple's forums: Logging out/in, restarting the computer, repairing permissions, deleting various .DS_Store files, resetting preferences for the dock, the finder, and various other system level settings. Escalating the research beyond Apple's official forums, I find that the problem is being reported beyond the Apple website(s). It's even been reported on by 'cnet' and various other websites. Still the problem persisted... After reading numerous posts, troubleshooting efforts and observing the effect up close, I began to formulate my own 'solution'. Noting that it only appeared to affect my Dock and Application Switcher (If you're experiencing similar problems in the Finder, my 'fix' may not help you), I reasoned that the computer was looking in the wrong place (resource path) for the appropriate image resources. For some reason, it was displaying the lowest level of image resolution. Once it started displaying the lower resolution image, it wouldn't revert with a standard reboot, permissions repair, etc. It needed some serious resetting in order to make it access the appropriate resource(s).

Here's how I 'fixed' things: Open a Finder window. Select your Home Folder (folder/icon with the House badge/image), then open your Library folder. Navigate to the Preference folder. Locate and move the following files to the trash: 'com.apple.dock.plist' and 'com.apple.dock.db' (I believe you might not need to delete this later file). Once you've deleted the preference files, you should restart your Mac. Your Mac will create new preferences for the dock. Deleting the db file will delete all your dock settings, so you'll probably want to create a back-up, just in case (as with all troubleshooting, creating a backup/backing-up your system is always a good idea). While this action seems to have corrected the problem (for me), your mileage may vary. According to some reports, this fix may be temporary. I implemented this fix back on the 15th of August, and I didn't have any problems until the 14th of Sep. Once again, the blurry icons are back. This time I didn't attempt a fix (as listed here), I simply rebooted and repaired permissions. While that initially cleared things up, I've once again noticed (as of 3 Oct, 2010) the effect. The strange thing about this problem? It doesn't affect every icon, but once it affects an icon, that icon continues to exhibit the blurring, even after the application is quit and relaunched. It doesn't affect all the icons at once, seeming to strike at random. As far as I can tell, Apple hasn't corrected this problem - Yet.</rant>
<http://developer.apple.com/mac/library/documentation/UserExperience/Conceptual/AppleHIGuidelines/XHIGIcons/XHIGIcons.html>
<http://discussions.apple.com/thread.jspa?threadID=2132399>
<http://reviews.cnet.com/8301-13727_7-10402811-263.html>

Software favorites:
One more release for one of my favorite software applications. The GIMP - GNU Image Manipulation Program has been updated once again. This X11/Unix port is constantly undergoing revision; thanks to the strong community of supporting programers, users and testers.

TransmitThe GIMP:
I run version 2.6.10p1 on my Mac

GIMP is an acronym for GNU Image Manipulation Program. It is a freely distributed program for such tasks as photo retouching, image composition and image authoring. Written and developed under X11 for the Unix platform, I'm running a version ported to Mac OS X (runs under X11). This software application is the equivalent of PhotoShop for free! There's very little you can't do with this full feature graphic authoring software suite. It's got all the bells and whistles: Full suite of painting tools, Sub-pixel sampling, Gradient editor and blend tool, Custom brushes and patterns, Full alpha channel support, Layers and channels, Multiple Undo/Redo, Editable text layers, Transformation tools, Selection tools, Advanced path tool, Transformable paths and selections, Advanced scripting capabilities, Support for Photo-Shop plugins, and several more features. I've been using the GIMP for some years now, and I'm continually impressed by it's rich features and powerful rendering capabilities. Here are just a few of the graphics and titles I've created using the GIMP: Slice of a pseudo oil painting, adventuringgroup.png, dndbooks.png, vifsi.png

If you'd like to try out some of the GIMP's text effects, you can check out this web page that will let you create enhanced graphics using some of the GIMP's capabilities.
<http://sourceforge.net/projects/gimponosx>

With this software update, I've updated my Software Favorites page. It's primarily dedicated to web publishing for the Mac user. Not meant for the professional, It's my hope that home users and hobbyists will find it useful. It's a listing of applications that I find useful in publishing my web pages.
<http://www.robsworld.org/myfavs.html>

Roku HD-XRRockin' Roku News:
<rave>I've been a Roku owner since August of 2008. I purchased and set up my first Roku player back in August of 2008, and I've been loving it ever since. What's a Roku player? Well, I'm glad you asked. If you like movies, if you're a Netflix freak like me, it's the ultimate movie delivery system. It's a movie watcher's Nirvana. A Roku player is a little black box (5" x 5" x 2") with cables and a remote. You can order directly from the manufacturer or find it available through other online shopping portals.

Wait a second! What's this?
Roku had a new product release. But wait, not one product - Three! They've released an all new product line-up. Three new Roku Players. Wow! How'd I miss that? On the 22nd of September, Roku, Inc. announced the release of three new Roku players. The line-up now consists of these players: Roku HD (HD-720p), Roku XD (HD-1080p), Roku XD|S (HD-1080p w/USB port, component video and optical audio). The new Rokus are a bit smaller than the previous generation, and they come with some new remotes as well. All the Roku players are Wi-Fi enabled, and now they're all HD capable as well. By November of 2010, the USB 2.0 port (on the new XD|S & previous gen HD-XR) will be capable of media playback (from USB connected drives). Media playback will support the following file formats: mp4 and m4v (video); mp3, aac and m4a (audio); jpg and png (photos). Now we know what the USB port was for!

It took me less than 10 minutes to get the Roku hooked up to the 52" flat-panel in my living room. It didn't take much effort to get the player connected. I didn't even read the printed directions/instructions. I just plugged it in, switched on the TV, and followed the onscreen instructions. The Roku player requires it's own connection to the internet, and you'll really need broadband service to take advantage of this media streaming appliance (You want the HD - Right?!). I connected it to a router switch (in the living room), and that's connected to my router (an Apple TimeCapsule) in the basement. The streaming is working great at this point, and there's a lot of HD formatted material available. Finally; if you want to watch Netflix through the Roku player, you'll need a Netflix account (you'll want a plan that includes unlimited streaming/Watch Instantly). Thankfully, Netflix allows you to register more than one device (not counting browser based streaming) for streaming; I've got three, but this makes me want one more - for the basement. Workouts on the treadmill would be oh-so-much-better with a stream of media to keep my mind off the grueling workout.

With your Roku up and running, you can watch unlimited Netflix movies on your television! But that's not all - The Roku player isn't a one-trick pony. It gives you access to a huge number of streaming services. Audio and video. Pay and free. HD and SD. Here's a small sample of the content available through the Roku player:

  • Pay services:
    • Netflix - According to Wikipedia (last time I checked - Aug 12, 2010), there are 17,000+ titles available. Some titles are even streamed in HD format. The Netflix interface on the Roku player has some awesome features. Of course you can see your 'Watch Instantly' queue, but that's not all. There's also title search and browse by genre capabilities.
    • Amazon video - With over 75,000 titles. The prices are fairly low - New releases for $3.99 or less (as of 13 Aug, 2010). Lower than those on my AppleTV.
    • UFC - If you enjoy the violence of men hitting each other (I'm not a fan), you can catch all the hottest matches with a paid UFC vault subscription.
    • BIGSTAR.tv - Free and premium services. Independent movies channel. Pay services start at $4.99 per month. Includes a plan with explicit/adult films.
    • MLB.TV - Like baseball? You can watch all the games on your TV. All you need is an MLB.TV membership.
    • MP3tunes - Store your iTunes music collection in the cloud. Listen to your music and playlists through your Roku player. Free and pay plans (more storage with $).
    • Drive-In classics - Late night horror and sci-fi. Monster movies you might have seen at the drive-in theater. $3.00 for the entire year.
    • Moonlight Movies - Classic movies from the 30s - 70s. Drama, romance, suspense, comedy - Just about every genre except horror, sci-fi, kung-fu and western.
  • Free Channels:
    • Flixster - Movie previews (including some in HD) and reviews from Rotten Tomatoes - If you don't see the trailer you're looking for, use the search tool.
    • Pandora - Sign up online and create your own customized music channel. Stream the free music channel to your Roku player. Discover some new music today.
    • Roku Newscaster - Check out video from various news sources - CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox, 60 Minutes. Current news and information straight from the studios.
    • RadioTime - Radio stations from all around the world, on demand, in high quality audio format. Over 20,000 live streaming radio stations.
    • Revision3 - Podcasts covering all manner of topics. Tech, gaming and independent episodic internet tv. Tons of content.
    • TwitTV - Podcasts covering a wide variety of current topics. Over 15 daily and weekly shows. Leo Laporte's netcast network on the Roku.
    • Mediafly - Thousands of independent Internet TV programs from every genre. It's a huge portal for internet content.
    • NASA TV - If you're a space junkie, this is the channel for you.

This is just a small list of the channels available through the Roku player. The available channels grow daily, and there's a strong developer community constantly improving, experimenting and pushing the platform to make it the ultimate set-top device. Browsing titles in your instant queue is easy to do with the included remote (as of 22 September, the new Roku's come with a new, enhanced remote. New buttons include: 'Instant-Replay', 'Options' and 'Back' buttons. The best thing about these new Roku players? The prices have all been lowered ($59.99, $79.99 and $99.99 for the top of the line), and now they've got 1080p HD! (on the mid and high-end players).

Watching movies on your Roku is a snap. A simple click of the remote starts the download, and you're watching the movie in seconds. It only downloads a small portion of the movie at first - Just enough to get you going. As you watch the movie it downloads and dumps successive portions of the movie, making for a smooth viewing experience with no long wait times. The playback produces excellent quality (given the fact that I have a high-speed Comcast connection (standard residential internet option in the Aurora, Colorado area)). I haven't experienced any lag, the audio is perfectly synched, and the quality is awesome (especially the HD) for a streaming video connection. As a matter of fact, it's better quality playback than I get with the Comcast pay-per-view option - Awesome!

With my current NetFlix plan (4 out at a time for $23.99 a month), I'm permitted unlimited streaming/watch instant movies. You can even watch more than one movie at a time - If you have more than one Roku player. It's about time someone realized the promise of streaming video at a reasonable cost for the consumer.</rave>
<http://www.roku.com/roku-products>
<http://forums.roku.com/viewtopic.php?f=28&t=32342>
<http://www.netflix.com/NetflixReadyDevices>

eMusicMusic Downloads for October - 2010:
Here's a list of some of the music I recently acquired. Where do I get all this stuff? I find/discover a lot of free (actually free) music by visiting several of the new music web sites (Pandora, 3hive.com, musicalfamilytree.org) and several other music blogs (Analog Giant, Brooklyn Vegan, Fluxblog, Gorilla vs. Bear, etc) out there, and listening to a few different music podcasts. Artists want you to hear their music - If you like it, you'll buy it, or maybe you'll buy some concert tickets. The major labels want you to pay for their product - letting you hear it for free is contrary to their business model. Well, guess what? I won't buy it unless I can listen to it first. The major labels are killing themselves with their restrictive distribution and dissemination policies. If you like new music, you can do a web search to find your favorite artists web site, a new music web site, or an archive of free music. Free music is available - Legally! Don't believe the major labels propaganda - Not all free music is illegal. You can legally download music for free. I download music from websites, newsgroups (when I already own rights to the music), and a couple of commercial sources (iTunes and eMusic). Here's a listing of some of the music I legally downloaded - and in most cases - paid for!

eMusic monthly downloads:
Every month I download 50+ tracks (50 download credits) from eMusic.com. This month (October of 2010) I managed to download 60 tracks (due to their 'download deals'). Unlike some music outlets, eMusic doesn't have any DRM and they don't insert unique track id's into the ID3 tags. Their terms of service are consumer friendly; eMusic allows you to burn as many CDs as you like and copy downloads to an unlimited number of your computers and portable MP3 players, including the iPod and Zune (really?). At less than $.40 a track (I'm paying $19.99 for 50 downloads/month), it's a really good value. iTunes and Amazon still charge more. eMusic offers more music for your money, and the variable bit rate recordings make for exceptionally high quality recordings.
* Pleased To Meet Me [Expanded Edition] - The Replacements: (22 songs) Another favorite from the 80s. Thank you eMusic, for making one of my favorite bands (from the 80s) available for download. Even better, thanks for permitting a full 22 songs for the price of 12! Now that's value. Here is an album that I've been looking for. I've heard many of the songs on this album, but I never owned a copy, until now.
* Say It Is So - Tim Finn: (11 songs) Tim Finn is one of the Finn Brothers. Original members of the band 'Split Enz'. A favorite from the 80s. Now I'm tracking down the artists from that era. Here's a great album with light weight pop songs. The vaguely folkish feel of these melodies is a refreshing change from the overproduced big studio blowouts. I'm really enjoying this album. I'm glad I caught up with Tim Flinn.
* A Parallax I - James Husband: (12 songs) eMusic makes a lot of free stuff available to it's subscribers, and here's one example of an artist that I discovered by listening to one of those free music compilations. James Husband (aka James Huggins III) was/is a member of the bands 'Of Montreal', 'Great Lakes' and plays with various other bands. Here's his first commercially released solo album. It's a relaxed pop album which feels a lot like 60s or 70s rock.
* Tin Can Trust - Los Lobos: (11 songs) A band I enjoyed (but wouldn't admit), from the 80s. These East LA rockers didn't know it back then, but they've contributed greatly to my/America's appreciation for Roots Rock/Americana and the alt-country movement that I so love. Still going strong after all these years, Los Lobos has been performing and releasing albums since the 70s! I'm just now discovering/rediscovering their fantastic American Chicano sound.
* Blister EP - Modern English: (4 songs) A one hit wonder (with 'I Melt With You') from the 80s. Here's an EP from the reformed band. After several 'Stops and Starts', the band is back together with four of the original members. Unfortunately, the production on this EP isn't all that good. I hope the album they're pulled from is better.

Free eMusic sampler downloads:
Here's some more free music I downloaded recently. eMusic provides plenty of free tracks (to it's members) throughout the year, and I certainly take advantage of the free stuff:
* BIGSOUND 2010 - Various Artists: (18 songs) BIGSOUND is an Australian music industry summit and showcase. Here's a talent showcase (produced by Q Music), chock full of aspiring Australian artists. Various artists all sporting fresh new alternative/punk sounds. I may not keep all of them, but I'm sure that some of them will lead me to download (and pay) some new band I wouldn't have heard of otherwise.
* Now Hear This! The Independent Music Award Winners 2010 - Various Artists: (49 songs) A mega huge download. 49 tracks for free. All genres, all free, all for me. Rock, Pop, Jazz, Blues, Country, R&B, Alternative and some you can't define. The Independent Music Awards are an independently operated promotional group, accepting nominations from all over the world. They compile the best of the submissions to produce this compilations. Winning artists gain promotional work/efforts to promote/sell their music.
* Projekt: afar - Various Artists: (10 songs) A label (Projekt/Iris) sampler. The artists/songs on this sampler fall into a category sometimes called 'Darkwave'; as in 'Dark' 'New-Wave'. A genre/category of New Wave with dark, introspective or melancholy lyrics. Gothic, Emo, ethereal. Some good songs, I'm still exploring the cuts.

These are some of the items I added to my music collection during this month. Since revamping my music collection back in September of 2005, I've been slowly adding, revising and updating the collection. If you have a comment, question or correction regarding my music collection, please don't hesitate to send me an email. Please keep in mind that my collection isn't for sale, and I'm not interested in giving you any copyrighted materials. I'd rather not go to jail for music piracy. :-)
<http://www.robsworld.org/music.html>
<http://www.emusic.com/>