April 30, 2013

D&D iconD&D updates:
The updates below cover two meetings - March 30 and April 13th, 2013. With several player changes, a business trip (by me) and the typical issues of summer-time, I've fallen behind on D&D updates and other website updates. As our group of new players (everyone is new except Micheal, Kim and I) settles in, I expect that you will notice some marked changes in the characters personalities and journal entries. The party departed Whillip long ago, and several chapters of this latest adventure have already been written. Our heroes completed all their administrative tasks and chores, and decided upon their next adventure. After accepting a charge to quest for a lost tome of legendary power, the party was teleported across the world to Kester; a small mountain town on the edge of a vast wasteland. After talking with their sponsor, they set off to start this new adventure. After trekking south along an old trade route, the party entered the town of Parlonis. Here they sought more clues about the nature of the Dry Steppes, it's inhabitants, and the fabled city of 'Lingice-Enz'. Departing the frontier town, the party struck out into the desert. Here they encountered odd magical effects, ancient ruins, dangerous monsters, a crazy Gnome and the challenges of a deadly tainted realm. After nearly two weeks in this ruined land, the party discovered the ruins of Lingice-Enz. Countless battles ensue as the party probes the depths of this strange sewer complex. Filled with crawling, slithering, flitting and skulking creatures, the sewers are alive with many creatures. While most are benign, and strive only to survive in this harsh environment, some are intent on making meals of the party. The predators in this environment have evolved to resist magic and standard attack forms; making for very deadly opponents. As the party limps from encounter to encounter, they search for the book, for clues, for some way to bring this quest to a speedy end. Ambushed, abducted and imprisoned in a strange workshop, the party easily secured their freedom, but found the 'workshop' to be a very dangerous place to rest. After the death of Allurean and the departure of Chartruz, they left the workshop. While exploring a hidden complex of interconnected rooms, the party came upon a group of stranded travelers. Healing one of them brought upon a deadly encounter with an enemy of old. Glan Sarin - Once a bane to the party now discovered in search of an ancient codex. Glan Sarin presented the party with an ultimatum, then attacked when they failed to provide a satisfactory answer. Will the party find the tome known as "Eivobrin's Incanabula"; or will they become another footnote labeled 'A group of adventurers sought the book, but never completed their quest'? Stay tuned for the exciting and continuing adventures of the H.A.L.L.O.W.ed Knights.

3rd Edition Campaign:
I updated the date of our next meeting - Our next meeting will take place on the 3rd of August, 2013. The "3eCampaign" 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 (it's way out of date, but I can't update it quite yet). FYI: We're still looking for one additional player to join our campaign. If you think you've got what it takes to be a 'Hallowed Knight' send me an email.
<http://www.robsworld.org/3ecampaign.html>

FTP Server & Mailing list for the "Rob's World! Campaign:
Back in April of 2013, I found that I needed to update some components of our D&D campaign. Two components that most of you don't see are used to help our group communicate, collaborate and share files. An FTP service and a mailing list. Both of these components were based upon the "3E" - as in 3rd Edition - prefix. 3E was the third edition of the D&D game (more like the 3rd edition of 'Advanced' D&D - the Advanced part was dropped in 2000). We're playing the 3.5 version (there is a version 4, but many - including myself, consider it inferior to the 3rd edition), but I've been using the "3E" prefix in many of my online postings as well as an FTP server and a Mailman mailing list that I run for our campaign. The problem which precipitated my dropping the "3E" prefix? Well, as it so happens, the "3E" preface looks a lot like the HTML encoded entity for a greater than symbol: '3e' = '>' Many HTML aware applications read the "3E" prefix as an encoded entity. The results are unpredictable, but frequently result in an inability to properly display or read the string. Throw in an opening angle bracket "<" before the "3E", and you've got a combination that can be interpreted as "< >". These 'Angle Brackets' are often used to enclose URLs of various types (email and web addresses). Yeah - The "3E" prefix is really messing things up. As a result, I dropped the "3E" prefix from my FTP server and the mailing list (formerly noted as the '3ecampaign' mailing list). Dropping the "3E" prefix should help eliminate some of the problems players encountered when attempting to connect to the FTP server (to share files), or when I embedded certain mailing list email addresses into campaign documents and online postings.
<http://robsworld.org/mailman/listinfo/dndcampaign_robsworld.org>
<http://www.robsworld.org/dndcampaign/>

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. The journal entries I recently posted come from the Dungeon Master (i.e. Me). I've had a hard time convincing players to keep a journal entry or simple notes that could be transcribed into a rudimentary journal entry. As a result, I've had to take some time out of the game in order to keep some notes of my own. I've posted updates from two meetings, but I'm nowhere caught up. Thankfully I have some additional notes to edit and post, but it will probably take some time for me to get caught up. The party has been exploring the sewers beneath the ruins of Lingice-Enz for some time now. Recently, they discovered a hidden workshop filled with all manner of strange creatures and objects. After the death of Allurean and the departure of her familiar, the party decided to leave this dangerous workshop and continue their adventure, looking for the famed 'Incanabula' and a way out of this hidden complex. While exploring this complex of rooms the party ended up discovering some cocoon encased members of another adventuring group. After releasing those other characters, they ended up in a vicious battle that cost the lives of three adventurers! Check out the details in the party's journal entries.
<http://www.robsworld.org/ajournal09.html#mar30_2013>
<http://www.robsworld.org/ajournal09.html#apr13_2013>

Monsters encountered:
Down in the Dungeon! Welcome to the Sewers of Oblivion. During our most recent gaming sessions, the party entered a phase of the campaign where they've delved deep into an entirely new environment. Here they are discovering new varieties of creatures. Some intent on just getting by; some intent on making a meal out of our heroes. As a result, we've seen plenty of updates to the 'Monsters Known' page. Some of those creatures include: Fiendish Dragon Hounds; Sewer Basidironds; Flame Fiends and various other sewer dwellers. The monsters page is a listing of monsters that the party has encountered, read about, or heard of.
<http://www.robsworld.org/monsters.html>

Who's Who?
Recent abrupt changes in the composition of our players has brought about numerous changes in the player character lineup. This large player turnover necessarily creates a change in the player characters. I've been forced to find ways to introduce, retire and eliminate large numbers of player characters over the last few months. As a result of all these changes, I've updated several entries on the the "Who's Who?" page.

  • During the last couple of sessions, the party encountered a few unusual 'non-player' characters. These people were all found living, lounging and lamenting their fate within a hidden bunker of sort. A series of interconnected rooms surrounded by a catacomb of narrow passageways roamed by dangerous creatures. These individuals were:
    • Winston Churchill - A distinguished, well-mannered gentleman; who seemed a bit confused.
    • Thusadra Margus - Thusadra is a beautiful female Elf from the Kingdom of Palisonya.
    • Varnus Chodarun - Varnus appears as a short, stout, elderly gentleman with a peculiar dweomer.
    • Szeck Namataz. - Szeck is a short man (a Human) in his late 30s with a scruffy beard.

Eventually the party uncovered the mystery of these individuals; discovered why they were living in this strange sealed catacomb of rooms. Be sure to read the updates to find out who they really are, and why they were living in that hidden complex.

  • While exploring these interconnected rooms, the party has uncovered indications that a man known as Glan Sarin might be involved in their quest for the famed book - Eivobrin's Incanabula. Members of this party have a history with this individual, and now it appears as if he might be onto their trail. What dire role does Glan Sarin play in the party's quest?
  • After a massive, epic, deadly battle; I updated the following player character entries:
    • Updated the group entry for a party of adventurers known as 'Nothing but Trouble'
    • Updated the party listing for the 'H.A.L.L.O.W.ed Knights'
    • Updated Enola's character entry - Fang; Enola's animal companion (a Viper) died during a great battle.
    • Moved the 'Talrath' entry to the 'former party members' category
    • Created a memorial page for Solmar the Warforged Paladin. Yes, Solmar died in valiant combat!
    • Created a stand-alone page for Imago. Imago is 'missing in action' after an epic battle with Glan Sarin.
    • Created a memorial page for Mortimer the Human Cleric of Tempus - Of course he died in battle!

The "Who's Who?" page is a listing of characters, both player characters and non-player characters.
<http://www.robsworld.org/3ewhoswho.html>
<http://www.robsworld.org/mortimer.html>
<http://www.robsworld.org/solmar.html>
<http://www.robsworld.org/imago.html>

Players in our campaign:
Over the last few months (Jan - Apr) we've seen at least six players announce their departures from our campaign:

  • Lee - Formerly playing Mortimer, left in January of 2013
  • Todd - Formerly playing Allurean, left in January. He indicated that he needed a break from D&D and might be back at some later date.
  • In February Sean O' - Formerly playing Imago left the campaign.
  • Nathan - Briefly played Talrath, until he left in February after attending one meeting!
  • Mark - Formerly playing Solmar, left in March.
  • Dareus - Briefly played Ryx (and Sul), until he left in March. Dareus played in our campaign for two months.

With four vacancies to fill in three months, I've done my best to recruit some new players - The Game Must Go On - As I write this (in July of 2013), I've filled all those vacancies, and I'm still looking for one more player. That seventh chair has been vacant for some time, but I would really like to fill it as a buffer against missing players and the inevitable departure. Keeping the campaign fully staffed is a full time endeavor. I've got one candidate from amongst my coworkers and I hope his interest was earnest. If that doesn't work, I'll have to go back to the aggressive promotion that pulled in thirteen candidates and four permanent additions since January of 2013. 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 changes to several characters, I took the time to update the "Hero's Gallery". I updated or created gallery entries for the following characters:

  • Updated gallery entry for Imago - Played by Sean O' from 2011 - 2013
  • Updated the gallery entry for Solmar - Played by Mark from 2006 - 2013.
  • Updated the gallery entry for Mortimer - Played by Lee from 2011 - 2013.
  • Created gallery entry for Rascal - Played by Shane.
  • Created gallery entry for Leif - Played by Floyd.
  • Created a gallery entry for Talrath - Played briefly by Nathan.
  • Created Ryx's gallery entry - Played by Dareus for two months.
  • Updated the gallery entry for Arachnid, one of the party's enemies.
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 meetings on March 30 and April 13th, 2013. You can keep up to date with our adventures by continuing to visit "Rob's World!" for all the latest campaign info. I'm trying to keep these documents up to date for the benefit of our current players, former players and lurkers of all sorts. 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://robsworld.org/mailman/listinfo/dndcampaign_robsworld.org>
<http://www.robsworld.org/3ecampaign.html>

Eating out in DenverOut to eat in Denver:
Occasionally, Kim and I take the opportunity to eat out at one of the finer restaurants in the Denver area. They're not always five star places, but we're not that kind of people. During April, Kim and I enjoyed more than one 'Date Night' at one of our favorite restaurants. We lived in Northern Japan for three years (1998 - 2001), and during that time we came to love Japanese (and Korean) food. Like Mediterranean food there's a focus on fresh seafood (something I love), lots of rice, vinegar (I love all those pickled dishes) and a healthy respect for vegetables - Lots of unusual (for Westerners) vegetables. This weekend (26 Apr, 2013) we found a new favorite. Too bad it's so far away - appx 40 minutes away from our house (The Denver metropolis is large, this is appx half way across the metropolis).

Domo (at Colfax and Osage in Denver) features traditional (not westernized) Japanese country style cuisine. The food was far better than we had ever expected. The building totally throws you for a loop. Housed in a nondescript industrial warehouse, there's no way you would expect one of the best Japanese restaurants in the U.S.* to be housed within. What I didn't know at the time - Housed in the same building is Aikido Nippon Kan, a Japanese country museum, and a traditional Japanese garden, making Domo a unique dining experience. We definitely have to go back. Having lived in Japan for three years, we were lucky enough to experience the traditional Japanese cuisine - When we ventured far enough from the base (I was in the Air Force for 20 years). Occasionally, we would find a spot that was far enough away to not be influenced by the western style cooking. Our visit to Domo was much like that rare occasion in Japan. Here in Denver, we had some of the most authentic Japanese cooking we've ever had. It was so good, I thought I was dreaming. The decor was straight out of a Japanese country Inn. We've been to a few ski-resorts/country Inns in Japan, and the decor at Domo's puts many of them to shame. We sat patiently waiting for our food for almost twenty minutes, but we were totally immersed in the atmosphere and decor the whole time. I ordered a chicken yakisoba dish and Kim ordered a ramen dish. Her meal came with a mini-donburi set and we shared. So filling, so fulfilling, so good. The food was so very, very good. Not going back would be a crime.
* According to Zagat's Restaurant Survey Guide, one of the most prestigious restaurant guides in the United States. Domo Restaurant was chosen by Zagats in their 2001 guide as being the 5th top Japanese restaurant in the United States. It was also selected #1 in the United States for Décor!
<http://domorestaurant.com>

Eating out in DenverOut to eat in Greenwood Village:
Occasionally, Kim and I take the opportunity to eat out at one of the fine restaurants in the Denver area. They're not always five star places, but we're not that kind of people. During April, Kim and I enjoyed a 'Date Night' at one of our favorite restaurants. We lived in southern (Puglia region) Italy for seven years (during the 80s), and during that time we came to love Mediterranean food. Italian, Greek, Turkish, North African. Different flavors of the Mediterranean cuisine. Fresh seafood, lots of olive oil, plenty of herbs and spices, plus a healthy respect for vegetables. As I said, we went out to eat at one of our favorite restaurants.

Sahara (at Dayton St. and E. Arapahoe Rd. in Greenwood Village) features Mediterranean, North African and Middle Eastern cuisine; food that Kim and I love. Back in 2006, we went looking for a place that served that sort of food; luckily, we picked the right place. We were looking for a different restaurant when we came upon Sahara's. I'd read a favorable review about the place, so we figured we'd give it a try... Last night (the 25th of Feb, 2013) we paid Sahara a repeat visit; we went out to eat - to celebrate the end of my two year employee probation period - Hooray! The food was amazing! we've been here before, but I always purchased the 'Sahara'; which is basically a sampler platter. This time I ventured off the 'Favorites' part of the menu. I ordered a 'Shrimp Kabob'. The food was outstanding and the service excellent. Especially the humus and saffron rice. Soft drinks (x2), Arayes (Lebanese/Jordanian - Spiced mincemeat-filled oven-baked flat bread sandwiches), Spicy Chicken, Shrimp Kabob, Baklava w/walnuts, and a jar of Sicilian Olives (to go). Thanks to a AAA member deal, we saved $15 on the meal. With the $15 discount (not counting the tip - which was generous - and tax) we paid $40.50. That's very cheap considering the typical cost of a night out (for 2 people) in the Denver/Aurora area (Typical cost in $$ range (my experience) = $30 each). You can get dinner for less in the Denver/Aurora area, but you'll have a hard time finding food this good! The only thing this restaurant could possibly do better is decor. We'll be back again!
<http://www.sahararestaurant.net/>

Robert VaessenSelf Update / New Job:
Back in April of 2011, I gave my 'Self' an update. In April of 2011 I left Northrop Grumman for a new employer. Today (April 25th, 2013) is the two year anniversary of my new job. I just completed a two year probationary period, and it sure feels good to be off probation (not the kind you're on when you get out of prison). Now that I'm vested I no longer fear unwarranted dismissal, reprisals or bullying supervisors. While I love my job, my two year probation sometimes felt like I was in a prison. A supervisor made my life quite miserable, but I know better now. I have a new supervisor now, work in a different department and I'm no longer fooled by the lies I was fed. I've learned a lot in those two years. Most of all, I learned that it's sometimes difficult to tell who your friends are.

Part of that two year probation was very painful. I was ostracized, marginalized, abused and made to feel useless. It was by far the worst employment experience I have ever endured. I've dealt with that ordeal in more than one way, and hopefully I can put all of it behind me. It's a shame that I wasn't allowed to do my job to the best of my ability, and I was basically forced out of the department (luckily I was able to volunteer for an opportunity in another department that took me away from the abusive situation and work environment that I was trapped in) but that period is over now, and my new supervisor actually appreciates what I have to say; sees the value of my ideas, and empowers me to exceed everyone's expectations.

With the end of this two year probation, I am now protected from much of the abuse and uncertainty that led me to this new job. While employed as a Defense Contractor, I was always worried about the 'end of the contract'. Defense Contractors are employed only so long as the contract holds out. As soon as the expiration period approaches, the employers and employees stop caring about the work so much as they worry about their next pay check. There are a very few (approximately 10% - 50%) who are lucky enough to be retained even if the company doesn't pick up the next contract. If you're lucky, already under paid, and your company wins the follow-on contract, there's a few things you can look forward to. Since the federal contracting business always awards the follow-on contract to the lowest bidder (in my experience), you'll likely feel the pinch in more than one way.

These defense contractor companies are usually for-profit giants (with thousands of employees) that must show an ever increasing profit for their shareholders. That means they're willing to squeeze their own employees in order to eke out more profits. Here's a few ways they do that:

  • Reduce the number of overtime hours you're authorized
  • Reduce the amount of overtime pay you get (when you work overtime)
  • Reduce the amount you get for working nights and holidays (shift differential)
  • Reduce the number of holidays you get (not every federal holiday counts as a holiday to these corporations)
  • Reduce the number of vacation days you get (some come with the contract, some are paid directly by the company)
  • Cut back on the matching amount that they pay into your pension (in my case they completely stopped any matching funds).
  • Cut back on the amount they contribute towards your medical coverage (a very expensive proposition for employer and employee alike)
  • Eliminate benefits (no more legal benefits, no more reduced price copies of Office)
  • Reduce the percentage of people they promote each year
  • Reduce the amount of money they give you when you get a raise (is it more or less than an annual cost of living increase?)
  • Increase the number of people you compete against for promotions (a bigger pay-pool means a reduced likelihood that you will get a pay raise / It's far more difficult for employees to see comparisons of their work vs the work of those who got a raise)
  • Make you compete against people that don't do the same job as you.
  • Move you to a different position. One you're not really qualified to do.
  • Make you re-compete for your current position. That's right. You're already an employee, but you need to apply for your own job, fill out a resume, do an interview, and hope that you're able to keep your job.
  • Finally, they sometimes implement 'across-the-board' pay cuts!

The two year probation period that I endured seems trivial compared to the hell that defense contractors must suffer through every three or four years. I have many friends who've ended up with no job because the company they worked for didn't get the follow-on contract. I have many friends with excellent skills and work ethic who are crushed by the world of Defense Contracting. Like me, they come from the military - Where honor, integrity and hard work get you recognized, promoted and retained. In the world of Defense Contracting, these values are meaningless. All they really care about is whether you have a security clearance, and did you apply for one of their low paying positions (the positions they hope to staff to fulfill another 'lowest bidder' contract). I honestly hope that these friends are able to find a job with some other company, as there are a few out there who actually value their employees more than their bottom line. At the same time, I'm glad that I managed to find a way out of that hell. The end of probation means I'm vested - a career man. I no longer have to worry about so many of those problems I encountered as a Defense Contractor. The security and protections of this employment makes it much easier for me to do my best. I'm working hard at my new job, doing my best, and loving my new job. I actually got a pay raise when I switched jobs - Something unimaginable for most Defense Contractors; but then again, I was hired into one of those 'lowest bidder' contracts when I was a Defense Contractor.

I really am glad that I made it. Twenty years in the military was no easy street, but the six years as a Defense Contractor were not what I expected and only served to illustrate how difficult the employment market can be in America. Even in a field with extremely high demand, and a pool of limited employees, the employers still hold the upper hand. The highly technical skills that I learned while in the military have finally resulted in a job commensurate with my knowledge, skills and experience.

Regarding my employment status - Yeah, I left my Job with NG back in 2011. The government was changing some things with regard to the type of personnel (contractor, civilian, military) who performed some of the work, and I used that change as an opportunity to make a change of my own. My departure from NG was voluntary; no bridges burned, no acrimonious accusations or bad feelings at all. I liked the people I worked with, and feel that they genuinely cared about the other employees. On the other hand, I could see where my employment was headed, I saw the corporate policies behind the decisions which hurt the employees, and I really didn't like what I saw. I ended up switching employers. I found a new job, I'm not unemployed, but I prefer to keep certain parts of my employment private. The new job comes with better pay (much better!), better hours (no more shift work!), better benefits (excellent health insurance (including separate sick leave), better retirement plan, better vacation hours, etc), more responsibility (and authority) and plenty of possibility for advancement. No further details regarding the new job will be posted here (or elsewhere). One really needs to be careful with their personal information. The scammers, spammers and thieves are destroying the lives and identities of hundreds of people every day, and I don't want to be their next victim. The world already knows way more about me than it needs to.
<http://www.robsworld.org/self.html>

Tollgate CrossingUpdates to the Tollgate Crossing website:
I participate in some community focused events, but haven't found the time to serve on any boards, so I do what I can to help the people who live in my neighborhood. Volunteering with our local neighborhood watch, and supporting our community by maintaining the Tollgate Crossing website, mailing lists and online bulletin boards. The Tollgate Crossing website is focused on the Tollgate Crossing community, with a few links to the Neighborhood Watch website. I recently made a few updates to our 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 rearranged the banners a bit - It's something I do to indicate a change (updates) in the content.
    • Updated the announcements regarding the next HOA and Metro District meetings. Our next HOA meeting is 15 May, 2013. Our next Metro District meeting will be held on the 28th of May, 2013.
  • 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.
    • Updated the announcements regarding the next HOA and MD meetings. Our next HOA meeting is 15 May, 2013. Our next Metro District meeting will be held 28 May, 2013.
  • Info: A page of links, phone numbers, email addresses and other information pertinent to the residents/community of Tollgate Crossing.
    • I renamed the paragraph which indicates recent meeting minutes. It used to indicate minutes from the Metro District meetings. Now it includes minutes from the Metro District and HOA meetings.
    • I updated links to, and posted updated Meeting Minutes from HOA meetings. Added meeting minutes from the following dates: 2012-04-24 (regular meeting), 2012-05-08 (regular meeting), 2012-06-20 (regular meeting), 2012-08-15 (regular meeting), 2012-10-17 (regular meeting), 2012-11-13 (regular meeting), 2013-01-16 (regular meeting), 2013-02-20 (regular meeting). Meeting minutes from the current month aren't released until the board approves them; during the month that follows. As a result, my posting of meeting minutes are always a month or more behind. If you'd like to read meeting minutes from further back (further back than those available on the website), please let me know.
    • I recently added a new section to the info page. The new section contains various forms and documents that residents may find useful. This week I added several additional HOA documents provided by the HOA management. I also added a few HOA and Metro District documents that I have.

If you are a resident of 'Tollgate Crossing' (in Aurora, Colorado), you might want to check out the website, mailing lists or bulletin boards. They're loaded with information about our community, provide multiple venues for communications, community interaction and interactive ways to stay connected in Tollgate Crossing. If you'd like to help out by being a moderator, provide feedback, or help me with my coding efforts, please let me know. I'm open to your suggestions.
<http://www.tollgatecrossing.org/Welcome.html>

Software favorites:
Another batch of updates for my favorite Graphics editor. GraphicConverter moves ever forward. As usual, developer has been busy updating this application. 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) completed work on several updates over the past couple weeks. I recently saw/downloaded the following updates: 8.6 (b1198), 8.6 (b1200). 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 I would do without it. The best part about GC is it's author. 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. The full release version: 8.6 (b1200) finally introduces layers proper to the toolkit; putting GraphicConverter on an ever closer footing with the likes of PhotoShop at a fraction of the price. A priceless application with all the bells and whistles of the top end editors.
<http://www.lemkesoft.de/en/products/graphic-converter/overview-of-new-features-and-versions/>
<http://www.lemkesoft.de/en/products/graphic-converter/key-features/>
<http://www.lemkesoft.org/files/graphicconverter/notes/1200.html>

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>

Colorado WeatherEven More Ice and Snow:
It's officially spring now, but old man Winter has given up the ghost quite yet, and Colorado's Crazy Weather continues. We recently (on the 23rd of April, 2013) survived another one of those crazy weather fronts as it moved through our area (the Front Range of Colorado) - It's headed east, so you may see it soon. The morning hours brought plenty of snow and wind as, we made our way to work. The weather was already nasty as we headed in. Before we even left our place of work had already decided on a 3-4 hour delay. So - If you normally show up at 0600MDT, you're authorized a delay of 3 or 4 hours. Unfortunately, the way this works is great if you're a federal employee. You get admin leave for the three or four hours that you stay at home before coming in to work - which I really don't think was necessary (in this case). If you're a defense contractor, you don't get any such consideration. The government recently told the defense contractors that they may not charge the government for this type of delay (one of the cost cutting measures under sequestration - a cost cutting measure the government should have implemented years ago). As a result, the defense contractors don't get any type of authorized delay. If they don't show up for their normal eight hours of work they don't get paid. While the federal government is willing to allow a delay for safety's sake, the defense contractors are not. Kim and I showed up at our normal time - 0600MDT. By the time the snow stopped falling and blowing, our corner of Colorado got about 3" of snow, and there really wasn't any reason to delay arrival.

Thank goodness for the precipitation - Our state is still in a drought and we can use all we can get. All the snow was gone by the end of the next day. This freeze thaw cycle really doesn't seem all that odd if you've lived through the last few years of crazy Colorado weather. So, the crazy weather swings have become the new normal. Stay tuned for more crazy weather in the days ahead.

Neighborhood WatchSoutheast Aurora Neighborhood Watch website:
I participate in some community focused events, but haven't found the time to serve on any boards, so I do what I can to help the people who live in my neighborhood. Volunteering with our local neighborhood watch, maintaining the Southeast Aurora Neighborhood Watch website and mailing lists. The South East Aurora Neighborhood Watch serves the residents of South East Aurora by providing information and close ties with the local Police Department in order to help keep the residents safe and neighborhoods crime free. Over the last couple of weeks I took some time to update some of the web pages.

  • Welcome: The website's opener. A page containing an introduction to the Neighborhood Watch program and it's volunteers.
    • News Flash - I recently added/created community specific mailing lists for the following South East Aurora communities: Sorrel Ranch and Blackstone. If you're a resident of one of these communities, you may wish to sign up for your community specific mailing lists. See our eMail_lists page for more details regarding these new mailing lists.
  • Current: A web page dedicated to the most recent news, announcements and information.
    • News Flash - I recently added another community specific mailing list for the following community: Blackstone. If you're a resident of Blackstone, you may wish to sign up for your community specific mailing lists. See our eMail_lists page for more details regarding this new mailing list. Posted an announcement banner about the new list.
  • eMail_lists: A listing of all the email lists that I run for the South East Aurora Neighborhood Watch. Residents of numerous South East Aurora communities may subscribe to many of these mailing lists in order to stay informed, alerted and up to date on issues that affect the safety and security of residents.
    • I added links and descriptions the descriptions for the following new Neighborhood Watch mailing lists: The 'sorrelranchalerts' mailing list for the Sorrel Ranch community - Area Coordinator: Matt Morroni; The 'blackstonealerts' mailing list for the Black Stone community - Area Coordinator: Dan Kerber.
    • I added a link to a pdf document which provides details regarding our website and the SEANW mailing lists. This handout can be used by Area Coordinators and Block Captains as an aid when explaining the website and mailing lists to community residents.
  • Info: A page of links and information pertinent to the safety and security of communities in Southeast Aurora, Colorado.
    • I updated the links and contact info for a new Area Coordinator: Black Stone - Coordinator: Dan Kerber. I added this new AC to the web page, set him up with special community email addresses and configured a mailing list for the Black Stone community.
    • I updated the link and information for the Tollgate Crossing community's mailing list.

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, Wheatlands, Beacon Point, Southshore, Tallyn’s Reach, Saddle Rock - North, Serenity Ridge, Black Stone and Heritage Eagle Bend). If you're concerned about the safety and security of your 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>

Screw the VeteransWe have to cut the budget - I know, let's screw the Veterans:
Yes, health care costs are rising. They rise every day. The costs to consumers continue to rise, the profits of these 'For Profit' health insurance corporations (HMOs) companies rise. The ability to afford care drops, and the number of uninsured Americans rises. The amount of medical bankruptcies increase and the cost to everyone else goes up. Some claim that these relationships are quite complicated, but if you ask me, they're rather easy to see. It's the 'For Profit' industry that's killing American's, forcing us into bankruptcy, and enriching a few (HMO CEOs, share holders, and the few American's who can afford stock in these companies) at the expense of the masses.

I claim that this relationship is sicker than the patients it 'treats'. Patients, Doctors, and the 'For Profit' industry of HMOs and Hospitals. Patients want to be well. Doctors want to make you well, and corporations (HMOs and for profit hospitals) want to extract as much profit as possible from the patient. How can a Doctor effectively treat you when he is beholden to the forces that pay him based upon how much money they can extract from you? A Doctor is clearly placed in an ethical position of moral crisis when he sees that you can be effectively treated with an inexpensive option, while the corporation that he's beholden to demands that he/she always use a more expensive and less effective treatment. Hospitals track the doctors, to see who's generating revenue - Hospitals and the HMOs don't give a damn about the patients, and how they feel. Whether they're cured, properly treated, satisfied with the care they've received. If a doctor fails to generate sufficient revenue, he/she's out, and likely black-balled.

Those who favor this 'For Profit' model argue that this is the American way of doing things. Just like other 'basic needs' are sold on the open market, Hospitals and HMOs should be allowed to compete against each other and set their prices according to the customers ability to pay. If you can't afford the steak dinner, you can always opt for the Mac & Cheese. If you can't afford the high priced glass of wine, you can always opt for the plastic cup of water. If you can't pay for cardiological surgery, you can always opt for the pills and a prayer. This model applied to health care is not ethical. You can survive just fine on the Mac & Cheese with water. Getting by with corrective heart surgery is a death warrant. Why should any hospital or HMO be allowed to send you packing when you need heart surgery to live another year? If you don't think that this is actually happening, you should do a bit more research (see the links below). In the meantime, the executives at these HMOs make bonuses in the 10s of Millions of dollars.

The amount that Americans spend on health care has skyrocketed from ~$75b in 1980 to ~$500b today (2013). At this rate, we'll be spending $0.40 of every dollar on health care. Our incomes aren't keeping up with the pace of health care costs. It's not that basic, essential care is increasing in cost, it's the never ending 'for profit' greed that's driving these increases. Inflation of health care costs is outpacing overall inflation by at least 2 to 1 over the last five years, and the rate is even more extreme if you average over twenty years. Most Americans meekly ask for a debate on the issue of health care costs. In 2010, we managed to pass the 'Affordable Care Act' (aka 'Obama Care'), but forces are at work to destroy that compromised legislation. The 'right' hates it because President Obama sponsored it. The health care industry hates it, because it seeks to control their ability to make profits, corporations hate it because it means that they won't be free to cover employees in any way that they see fit. I doubt that it will last beyond 2020, the year it's supposed to enter full effectiveness.

In the meantime, our government struggles with the rising costs of health care. When it comes to the federal budget (just like the budget of any corporation), the cost of health care is eating up an ever growing percentage. Some argue that our current budgetary woes (under sequestration) can be corrected by 'fixing' our health care costs. Eliminating medicare, medicaid, and medical insurance provided to retired military members. Congressional members and Defense officials have recently taken aim at military family members and retirees in order to lessen the impact of budget woes. There have been numerous rises and recommended rises to the cost of Tri-Care (Military Retiree health care) and prescription drug co-pays for military family members and retirees alike. Government officials have already reduced the number of military retirees eligible to use Tri-Care prime (the most cost-effective (for retirees) medical coverage for retirees and their families), now they're targeting other medical benefits that have been promised, provided and often attacked by critics of our military. There are some in congress and the general public at large, who think that Retirees no longer deserve these benefits. They're under the impression that military members should only receive 'benefits' while they're in the military.

Approximately 1% of Americans have served in the U.S. Military, and approximately 20% of that number have retired after 20+ years in the military (like me). That means that very few Americans, and even fewer government representatives have served in the military much less stayed long enough to earn a 20 year retirement. Members of Congress and the House of Representatives get their benefits (for life) after they serve a single four year term! Yet they're the ones calling for cuts to military retirement and medical benefits. It's an outrage and anyone who has served already agrees with me. What we need to do is convince these leaders that reneging on our veterans and military would be a very bad idea. In the 90s, congress reduced military retiree pay by 20%, and the result was a huge drop in retention numbers. The military couldn't reach their retention goals, and the number of people in the military dropped far below readiness levels.

Now they're at it again (congress/representatives), and this time they've got plenty of 'Think Tanks' (conservative think tanks - funded by corporations and partisan groups) telling them that the 'only way' to fix the current budget crisis is cuts to 'social programs' and 'veterans benefits'. They want to cut medicare, medicaid, social security, food stamps, housing assistance, and the one benefit with the least support (less than 1% have served in the military); military benefits. What about the tax breaks that corporations enjoy? That's not even mentioned. What about the subsidies paid out to the oil corporations and agriculture corporations? Oh no, we can't cut those! How about cutting expenditures like the 'Energy Policy Act of 2005' - It paid out $15 million to oil, gas and coal industries in 2005. Do they really need government handouts? Aren't they the same industries that record record profits year after year? What about the overseas aid paid to other countries? No mention of cutting that, what about cutting the export-import bank? Let me guess, you never heard about that? Do you think you'll hear about it on the news? Fat chance!

The fight has begun, and this time the fat cats in congress are willing to push the issue; to 'fight' for budget reductions. They point their finger at the DoD, and claim it has to cut waste, benefits and excess expenditures, but they won't allow cuts in any of the programs that benefit the wealthiest 'people' in America - The Corporations. Don't tell me you didn't know that 'Corporations are people'? The next time you find a ballot in your hand, think long and hard about the motives behind our representatives. Which 'people' are they serving. Are they serving us the 'living' people of America? Or, are they serving the 'Corporations' - The PACs and SuperPacs that put billions of dollars in their re-election coffers? If you don't think that corporations can vote, think again. How much influence does a $1,033,204.00 contribution (paid by Goldman Sachs to the McCain campaign in 2012) get you? Who does your government representative really listen to? The 'corporate' person who donates over a million ($1,013,402.00 contributed by Bank of America to the McCain campaign in 2012) dollars, or the 'ordinary voter' who doesn't contribute a dime because his minimum wage job doesn't afford him any money for a 'political contributions' category in his budget?

Wake up America, vote with your conscience and some full knowledge of who really matters to the politicians. Stop electing the same people who keep making decisions based upon the desires of their biggest contributors. FYI: The opinions expressed in this article are my personal opinions. They do not represent the views or opinions of my employer, and they do not represent a recommended course of action or intent to take any type of action.
<http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/09/business/health-care-and-pursuit-of-profit-make-a-poor-mix.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0>
<http://thinkbynumbers.org/government-spending/corporate-welfare/corporate-welfare-statistics-vs-social-welfare-statistics/>
<http://www.concordcoalition.org/tabulation/federal-budgets-health-care-problem-isnt-quite-what-everyone-thinks-it>
<http://www.theindustryradar.com/index.cfm?account=radar&page=Healthplan_Executive_Compensation>
<http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-05-21/health-care-costs-rise-faster-than-u-s-inflation-rate.html>
<http://www.military.com/benefits/2013/04/19/beneficiary-rx-co-pays-would-climb-for-a-decade.html>
<http://www.healthinsurance.org/blog/2013/06/17/its-not-health-insurance-its-bankruptcy-insurance/>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patient_Protection_and_Affordable_Care_Act>
<http://www.skyhidailynews.com/article/20110824/NEWS/110829987>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Health_insurance_in_the_United_States>
<http://usmilitary.about.com/cs/generalpay/a/retirementpay.htm>
<http://www.scu.edu/ethics/publications/iie/v1n4/healthy.html>
<http://www.opensecrets.org/pres12/contriball.php>
<http://strikedebt.org/medicaldebtreport/>
<http://www.progress.org/corpw30.htm>
<http://healthcareprovider.info/forprofit/>

Mac OS XMac OS X updates:
Over the last couple of days (Apr 16-17, 2013), Apple released several updates designed to make you Mac OS X experience better. While you may not need all these updates, or you might have already updated some of this software. Here's more evidence that Apple doesn't sleep. Keeping the operating system up to date is a never ending job. Apple's doing their best to keep the software up to date. Can you imagine how disappointed you would be if you bought a new printer, brought it home, unpacked it, connected it to your network, installed the software, and tried to print your masterpiece; only to find that this brand new printer wasn't compatible with your OS?! I know it's happened to me, and it's probably happened to many of you as well. So here's Apple, hard at work trying their best to make sure you never have to experience that feeling again. Here's a few of the software components they updated recently:

  • HP Printer Drivers v.2.14 for OS X - Download includes the latest HP printing and scanning software for OS X Mountain Lion, OS X Lion and Mac OS X v10.6 Snow Leopard.
  • Safari 5.1.9 for Snow Leopard - Safari 5.1.9 allows users to enable the Java plug-in for Safari on a website-by-website basis.
  • Epson Printer Drivers v2.14 for OS X - This update installs the latest software for your EPSON printer or scanner.
  • Canon Laser Printer Drivers v2.0 for OS X - This update installs the latest software for your Canon Laser printer or scanner.
  • iPhoto 9.4.3 - iPhoto 9.4.3 is an update for iPhoto 9.
    • Photos can now be deleted from My Photo Stream by dragging to the Trash.
    • Photos can now be exported from Photo Stream using the Export command in the File menu
    • RAW images manually imported from My Photo Stream are now editable
    • Fixes a bug that could cause manually-rotated photos to appear unrotated when shared to Photo Stream
    • Addresses an issue that could cause iPhoto to quit unexpectedly while syncing to Facebook
    • Resolves an issue that could cause calendar text to appear at the wrong font size, resulting in order cancellation
    • Fixes an issue that could cause books to have an incorrect number of pages after rearranging two-page spreads
    • Includes stability improvements
  • Digital Camera RAW Compatibility Update 4.05 - This update adds RAW image compatibility for additional cameras to Aperture 3 and iPhoto '11.

Sometimes it's a chore to keep up to date on all the new improved software that Apple's putting out the door. Fortunately, they care enough to keep that software up to date with bug fixes, security patches, new features and new drivers. They even spend some time updating the older software, and previous operating systems.
<http://www.apple.com/macosx/whats-new/features.html>
<http://www.apple.com/macosx/whats-new/>
<http://support.apple.com/kb/DL907>
<http://support.apple.com/kb/DL1569>
<http://support.apple.com/kb/DL1398>
<http://support.apple.com/kb/DL1648>
<http://support.apple.com/kb/DL1650>
<http://support.apple.com/kb/DL1629>

April 21, 2013

Colorado WeatherRainy Days at last?
It's officially spring, and now we finally have some proof that winter has ended. The first rain of the year brings with it a sense of the normal. Hopefully we'll get more precipitation than these brief showers brought. The rain moved in on a Saturday afternoon and kept falling all night. By morning it had transformed into the dreaded form of snow. In all that time I don't think we accumulated more than a half inch of precipitation. Thank goodness for the precipitation - Our state is still in a drought and we can use all we can get. But does it really have to be snow? I'm so sick and tired of the snow! All the snow was gone by the end of day, and everyone is looking forward to an actual spring thaw any day now...

Java for Mac OS XYet Another Java update for Mac OS X:
No you're not imagining it, here's another Java update for OS X. As proven over and over - As the Mac OS becomes more popular, more threats will emerge; more vulnerabilities discovered; more flaws uncovered. No Operating System is bulletproof or perfect. How much is over cautiousness and how much is genuine response to real threats? Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference. It seems that we can't go a week without the revelations of another security threat, another diabolical hole in the internet's security or our personal privacy. Nefarious individuals with malicious intent will create Trojans and exploit code flaws in order to infect and compromise the computers of those who own Macs. This week Apple once again responded to several bug fixes issued by Oracle (owners of Java).

Even after Apple just released a recent Java update, Apple is taking additional measures in order to disable the Java web app used by various browsers on Macs with older versions of Java. Due to multiple security issues in Java 6 (update 43 and earlier) and Java 7 (update 17 and earlier), Apple has updated a web plug-in blocking mechanism which disables version of Java older than Java 6 (update 45) and Java 7 (update 21).

The most recent version of Mac OS X (code named Mountain Lion) included a new security feature called 'Gatekeeper'. Gatekeeper introduced a two pronged approach to tightly control software distribution on the Mac platform. With Gatekeeper in place, users have three options for software downloads. One method only allows downloads from the Mac App Store. A second option restricts downloads to software containing the digital signature (issued by Apple) of an approved software developer. The third option allows users to download software from any source. Users can enable, disable and manage these settings as they choose. With Gatekeeper installed, Apple can disable malicious software remotely (provided it came from the Mac App Store, or contained a signature/certificate issued by Apple); possibly preventing the spread of Trojans.

To help limit exposure to potential Java web app vulnerabilities, Apple recommends that you follow this best practice: Only enable Java in your web browser when you need to run a Java web app. Confine your web browser to the websites that need the Java web app. Do not open any other websites while accessing the Java web app. When you are done using the Java enabled website, disable the Java web plug-in. See Apple's instructions on 'How to disable the Java web plug-in in Safari'.

You can read all about Apple's upgrades, bug fixes, security updates, and more by following the links I've provided below. As usual, disabling Java (which Apple may discontinue altogether - if malicious coders keep targeting its vulnerabilities) will prevent a lot of problems, while eliminating a possible infection vector on your Mac.
<http://www.oracle.com/technetwork/java/javase/releasenotes-136954.html>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OS_X_Mountain_Lion>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gatekeeper_(OS_X)>
<http://support.apple.com/kb/HT5660>
<http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1222>

Colorado WeatherMore Ice and Snow:
It's officially spring now, but Colorado's Crazy Weather continues. We recently (on the 17th of April, 2013) survived another one of those crazy weather fronts as it moved through our area (the Front Range of Colorado) - It's headed east, so you may see it soon. The morning hours As the wind whipped up, we made our way to work. The weather was already nasty as we headed in. Some sleet and snow were spitting down; making driving quite treacherous. While we were at work it continued snowing, and the temperatures continued to drop. The sun melted some of the snow, but it was definitely accumulating, and the wind was getting worse. We got some accumulation at work; approximately 2 inches. The wind was pretty bad, creating for poor driving conditions all day long. Some reports of traffic accidents trickled through the building. Eventually the powers that be decided to close the facility and we were released at 1400. Since we came in at 0600, we'd already worked most of the day. We left work at our usual time, and we made our way home around 1500mdt. We watched the last of the storm as it died out in the evening. I estimate that we accumulated 2 inches where Kim and I live. What was left of the snow & ice stuck around as the temps continued to drop into the teens during the evening. Thank goodness for the precipitation - Our state is still in a drought and we can use all we can get. All the snow was gone by the end of the next day. This freeze thaw cycle really doesn't seem all that odd if you've lived through the last few years of crazy Colorado weather. So, the crazy weather swings have become the new normal. Stay tuned for more crazy weather in the days ahead.

Software favorites:
Another batch of updates to one of my favorite software applications. GraphicConverter moves ever forward. As usual, developer has been busy updating this application. over the last few weeks, Thorsten released several 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 GC update, a recent Apple Security Advisory brought me a new version of Safari - My favorite browser on the Mac.

Graphic ConverterGraphicConverter:
Thorsten Lemke (of Lemkesoft) completed work on a few more beta releases over the last week or so. I recently saw/downloaded the following updates: 8.6 (b1191), 8.6 (b1194). 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 I would do without it. The best part about GC is it's author. 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.de/en/products/graphic-converter/overview-of-new-features-and-versions/>

SafariSafari:
Apple's default web browser for OS X (also available for Windows!), is way ahead of the pack. Apple's browser contains a plethora of incredibly powerful features, and this release moves the browser forward for everyone (there's even a Windows version! - Microsoft stops developing IE for Mac, and Apple makes a Windows version of Safari?). I'm currently running Version 6.0.4 (8536.29.13)

Battle of the browsers. Internet Explorer vs FireFox. Those are your choices right? Wrong! Think different! Think Mac! A fast but full featured browser, which performs like a pro. The full release version is a powerful workhorse - Featuring tabbed browsing, URL snap-back, a powerful but elegant bookmark implementation (with built-in import capability), Google, Yahoo and Bing search integration, built-in pop-up blocker, multiple standards (HTML 4.01, HTML 5, XML, XPath, XSLT, XHTML, DOM, CSS, CSS3, ECMA Script, Proxy Support, SSL, TLS, JavaScript, Java, plus QuickTime, Flash and Shockwave plug-ins), Top sites - A visual representation of your top visited sites. Cover Flow - A fantastic new way to visualize your bookmarks. Safari Reader mode - banish all those annoying sidebars and adds. Expanded support for HTML 5 and the new JavaScript Nitro Engine implementation - Makes Safari the fastest in the pack.

Some of the newest features (under the 6.0 release) include: The Reading List - A way to store URLs for later (now it even includes offline reading; downloading entire web pages and all resources); A unified URL and search field (finally); Coverflow tab views that let you quickly (with the flick of a finger) scroll through your tabs and visually locate the tab/content you're looking for; iCloud synchronized tabs make your tabs available across all your Apple devices; Built-in sharing - If you're running Mountain Lion, you've now got access to numerous built in sharing options across many apps including Safari; Improved performance - If your Mac has multiple cores (My desktop Mac has 8 (16 virtual)), then Safari's 'Nitro JavaScript' leverages those cores and performs at blazing fast speeds; implementation of a 'Do Not Track' privacy standard; Support for interactive web apps and several enhanced developer features at Apple's website; Finally - If you're a Chinese user, you'll find a lot of improvements catering to the most populous nation on earth.

By the way, Safari is fully compliant (it was the first Browser to meet that bench mark) with the advanced Acid 3.0 test. So, if you're concerned about standards and compliance, you've nothing to worry about. Develop your web site using the Safari webkit and you won't have to worry about rendering problems or sticky browser compatibility issues. Check out the website for more info. Safari is just one more reason to Switch! It's won a place as my default browser, give it a chance and it'll soon be yours. This particular update (6.0.4) has no new features, just security fixes and updates.
<https://developer.apple.com/technologies/safari/whats-new.html>
<https://developer.apple.com/technologies/safari/>
<http://www.webstandards.org/action/acid3>
<http://www.apple.com/safari/features.html>
<http://support.apple.com/kb/HT5701>
<http://www.apple.com/html5/>
<http://www.apple.com/safari/>

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>

Java for Mac OS XAnother Java update for Mac OS X:
As proven over and over - As the Mac OS becomes more popular, more threats will emerge; more vulnerabilities discovered; more flaws uncovered. No Operating System is bulletproof or perfect. How much is over cautiousness and how much is genuine response to real threats? Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference. It seems that we can't go a week without the revelations of another security threat, another diabolical hole in the internet's security or our personal privacy. Nefarious individuals with malicious intent will create Trojans and exploit code flaws in order to infect and compromise the computers of those who own Macs. This week Apple once again responded to several bug fixes issued by Oracle (owners of Java).

Apple released 'Java for OS X 2013-003 and Mac OS X v10.6 Update 15' in order to address multiple vulnerabilities in Java 1.6 on Mac OS X v10.6.8, OS X Server v10.6.8, OS X Lion v10.7 or later, OS X Lion Server v10.7 or later and OS X Mountain Lion v10.8 or later. The most serious of these vulnerabilities would allow untrusted Java applets to execute code outside the Java sandbox. Simply visiting an infected web page (with Java active) could result in the execution of code with privileges equal to that of the current user. Another reason why you shouldn't run your OS as a user with Admin permissions (The makers of SugarSync should read this and understand why they shouldn't force Mac users to run an Admin account just to use the SugarSync Disc mounting capability). These issues were addressed by a Java update, so Apple had to push out this Security Advisory in order to let everyone know that they need to update their Java... Again.

The most recent version of Mac OS X (code named Mountain Lion) included a new security feature called 'Gatekeeper'. Gatekeeper introduced a two pronged approach to tightly control software distribution on the Mac platform. With Gatekeeper in place, users have three options for software downloads. One method only allows downloads from the Mac App Store. A second option restricts downloads to software containing the digital signature (issued by Apple) of an approved software developer. The third option allows users to download software from any source. Users can enable, disable and manage these settings as they choose. With Gatekeeper installed, Apple can disable malicious software remotely (provided it came from the Mac App Store, or contained a signature/certificate issued by Apple); possibly preventing the spread of Trojans.

To help limit exposure to potential Java web app vulnerabilities, Apple recommends that you follow this best practice: Only enable Java in your web browser when you need to run a Java web app. Confine your web browser to the websites that need the Java web app. Do not open any other websites while accessing the Java web app. When you are done using the Java enabled website, disable the Java web plug-in. See Apple's instructions on 'How to disable the Java web plug-in in Safari'.

You can read all about Apple's upgrades, bug fixes, security updates, and more by following the links I've provided below. As usual, disabling Java (which Apple may discontinue altogether - if malicious coders keep targeting its vulnerabilities) will prevent a lot of problems, while eliminating a possible infection vector on your Mac.
<http://www.oracle.com/technetwork/java/javase/releasenotes-136954.html>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OS_X_Mountain_Lion>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gatekeeper_(OS_X)>
<http://support.apple.com/kb/HT5734>
<http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1222>

Colorado WeatherIs it really Spring?
It's officially spring now; but… Colorado's Crazy Weather continues. We recently survived another one of those crazy weather fronts as it moved through our area - It's headed east, so you may see it soon. Another day to make preposterous predictions - as the News is prone to do - According to the weather forecasts and the rumors that spread along with them; we were supposed to get anything from 1" to 12" of snow in our area! As the wind whipped up, we made our way to work on the 15th of April, 2013. The weather was already nasty as we headed in. Snow was coming down, but it wasn't all that bad. While we were at work it continued snowing, but the temperatures were well above freezing, so it melted as it hit the ground. We got some accumulation at work - approximately 2 inches. The snow stopped around 1300, and I left work at 1600. By that time the sun was out and most of the snow was gone. The storm had passed and the temps went from the mid 30s (early morning) to the high 20s by 1700mdt. As night closed in most of the snow was melted and the temps continued to drop. In the morning the snow was gone, but we had to contend with patches of ice on the roads. We might have accumulated 2 inches where Kim and I live, but Reunion (a community to the north of us (appx 30 minutes north) got close to 8 inches. Thank goodness for the precipitation - Our state is still in a drought and we can use all we can get. Most of the snow was gone by the end of the next day. This freeze thaw cycle really doesn't seem all that odd if you've lived through the last few years of crazy Colorado weather. So, the crazy weather swings have become the new normal. Stay tuned for more crazy weather in the days ahead.

April 14, 2013

Software favorites:
Another batch of beta updates for my favorite Graphics editor. GraphicConverter moves ever forward. As usual, developer has been busy updating this application. 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) completed work on several updates over the past couple weeks. I recently saw/downloaded the following updates: 8.6 (b1183), 8.6 (b1187). 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 I would do without it. The best part about GC is it's author. 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/162/new-functions-and-versions.html>

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>

Neighborhood WatchSoutheast Aurora Neighborhood Watch website:
I participate in some community focused events, but haven't found the time to serve on any boards, so I do what I can to help the people who live in my neighborhood. Volunteering with our local neighborhood watch, maintaining the Southeast Aurora Neighborhood Watch website and mailing lists. The South East Aurora Neighborhood Watch serves the residents of South East Aurora by providing information and close ties with the local Police Department in order to help keep the residents safe and neighborhoods crime free. Over the last couple of weeks I took some time to update some of the web pages.

  • Welcome: The website's opener. A page containing an introduction to the Neighborhood Watch program and it's volunteers.
    • I updated the banners and links announcing the next Neighborhood Watch meeting. The next meeting is scheduled for June 6th. This upcoming meeting will feature a potluck, so bring your favorite dish and we'll all enjoy a feast while we talk about crime prevention in our neighborhood.
    • News Flash - I recently added/created community specific mailing lists for the following South East Aurora communities: Southshore, Sorrel Ranch and Blackstone. If you're a resident of one of these communities, you may wish to sign up for your community specific mailing lists. See our eMail_lists page for more details regarding these new mailing lists.
  • Current: A web page dedicated to the most recent news, announcements and information.
    • I updated announcements for the next Neighborhood Watch meeting. Our next NW meeting is scheduled for June 6th at the Fox Ridge Middle School.
    • Removed news flash regarding the 'Serenityridge-Alerts' mailing list. I added that mailing list a long time ago, and it still hasn't got very many members.
    • News Flash - I recently added/created two more community specific mailing lists for the following communities: Sorrel Ranch and Blackstone. If you're a resident of one of these communities, you may wish to sign up for your community specific mailing lists. See our eMail_lists page for more details regarding these new mailing lists.
  • Events: A listing of upcoming and recurring events in you Southeast Aurora Neighborhood. Events sponsored by or relevant to our Neighborhood Watch.
    • I updated announcements for the next Neighborhood Watch meeting. The next meeting was scheduled for May 2nd, but due to scheduling issues, we've had to cancel that meeting. Recently our leadership has scheduled the next meeting for the 6th of June, 2013, so mark your calendar now. Be sure to bring a dish, as this meeting will feature a potluck for all NW members and residents who attend.
  • Info: A page of links and information pertinent to the safety and security of communities in Southeast Aurora, Colorado.
    • I updated the links and contact info for our Southshore Area Coordinator. We now have new Area Coordinators for three additional communities: Southshore - Coordinator: Bill McFarland; Sorrel Ranch - Coordinator: Matt Morroni; Black Stone - Coordinator: Dan Kerber. I added all these new ACs to the web page, set them up with special community email addresses and configured mailing lists for their communities.

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, Wheatlands, Beacon Point, Southshore, Tallyn’s Reach, Saddle Rock - North, Serenity Ridge, Black Stone and Heritage Eagle Bend). If you're concerned about the safety and security of your 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>

Crazy Colorado WeatherCrazy Colorado Weather:
It's officially spring now; but… Colorado's Crazy Weather continues. From the freezer to the frying pan and back again. Another one of those crazy weather fronts moved through our area - It's headed east, so you may see it soon. The temperatures this week swung wildly from blazing hot (for this time of year), to refrigerator frosty in the span of a couple days. On Monday (the 8th of Apr, 2013) the day started out cold in the 20s, and we started out the day with a 3 hour work delay. It wasn't even snowing. The forecast called for 6-10 inches of snow, and the media hyped it up like a frisky poodle. Eventually the temps got all the way up into the 70s! When night came, the temps dropped and the sky starting to look a little nasty. The snow started falling, and a small amount fell and melted before we had any accumulation. The accumulation amounted to no more than an inch or so in our area of the Front Range. By the morning of the 9th the temps had fallen all the way to 15 degrees! (The average was 29 for the low). The snow started falling again, and this time the temps didn't get up to the 70s. There wasn't any wind in the morning, but it got worse as the day went on. The snow kept falling and the wind started howling. Kim and I went in to work at our normal time (we arrived 15 minutes late (0615mdt). I was authorized a delay (i.e. the government would pay for it), but I had a lot of work to get done. As a defense contractor she'd have to pay for her own delay. By 0930 the base was closed, and the Mission Director declared our work facility closed at appx 1000mdt. The snow was still coming down, and the wind was howling pretty bad, so we packed it up and went home. By the evening of the 9th the temps had fallen to 11 degrees. By the morning of the 10th the temperature had plunged to a very chilly 6 degrees Fahrenheit. By the end of the week the temps were back up into the mid 60s. Yup - In the span of two days we went from the seventies to well below freezing! All the snow was gone by the end of the week. This freeze thaw cycle really doesn't seem all that odd if you've lived through the last few years of crazy Colorado weather. So, the crazy weather swings have become the new normal. Stay tuned for more crazy weather in the days ahead.

Tollgate CrossingUpdates to the Tollgate Crossing website:
I participate in some community focused events, but haven't found the time to serve on any boards, so I do what I can to help the people who live in my neighborhood. Volunteering with our local neighborhood watch, and supporting our community by maintaining the Tollgate Crossing website, mailing lists and online bulletin boards. The Tollgate Crossing website is focused on the Tollgate Crossing community, with a few links to the Neighborhood Watch website. I recently made a few updates to our 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 rearranged the banners a bit - It's something I do to indicate a change (updates) in the content.
    • Updated the announcements regarding the next HOA and Metro District meetings. Our next HOA meeting is 17 Apr, 2013. Our next Metro District meeting will be held on the 23rd of Apr, 2013.
    • I added a banner for the upcoming community garage sales. Our community is having two garage sales this year. The first garage sale is May 3rd and 4th, and the second is set for Aug 2nd and 3rd. If you miss the first one, you'll still have time to sell some stuff later in the year.
    • I added a banner for 'Dumpster Disposal Days' - Our community is making a large dumpster available on the 18th and 19th of May. Residents can use this dumpster to get rid of large items. Things that won't fit in the typical trash bin.
  • 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.
    • Updated the announcements regarding the next HOA and MD meetings. Our next HOA meeting is17 Apr, 2013. Our next Metro District meeting will be held 23 Apr, 2013.
    • Posted information about the upcoming garage sales. This year we're having two community wide garage sales. May 3-4 and Aug 2-3, 2013.
    • Posted information about 'Dumpster Disposal Days'. A large dumpster will be available for residents from 18-19 May, 2013.
  • Info: A page of links, phone numbers, email addresses and other information pertinent to the residents/community of Tollgate Crossing.
    • I updated the HOA board members listing.
    • I updated a Neighborhood Watch link. The link to our mailing list (for the SEANW) was incorrect.
    • I added Susan Ellis (including her email address) as the contact for Covenant Enforcement.
    • I updated links to, and posted updated Meeting Minutes from Metro District meetings. Added meeting minutes from the following date: 2013-01-22 (regular meeting), 2013-02-26 (special meeting), 2013-03-11 (regular meeting). Meeting minutes from the current month aren't released until the board approves them; during the month that follows. As a result, my posting of meeting minutes are always a month or more behind. If you'd like to read meeting minutes from further back (further back than those available on the website), please let me know.
    • I added a new section to the info page. The new section will contain various forms and documents that residents may find useful. The first form is a copy of the Design Review Committee form (the section will/includes a section for HOA approved forms).

If you are a resident of 'Tollgate Crossing' (in Aurora, Colorado), you might want to check out the website, mailing lists or bulletin boards. They're loaded with information about our community, provide multiple venues for communications, community interaction and interactive ways to stay connected in Tollgate Crossing. If you'd like to help out by being a moderator, provide feedback, or help me with my coding efforts, please let me know. I'm open to your suggestions.
<http://www.tollgatecrossing.org/Welcome.html>

April 07, 2013

Omni MagazineOmni Magazine:
The best magazine ever published - Omni magazine was published by the producers of Penthouse (the Porn/Adult soft-core magazine) between 1978 and 1995 (an online version persisted until 1998). Edited by Frank Kendik, Ben Bova, and others. I started buying (begging my parents to buy) Omni as soon as it came out. I was a geek back then, and remain so to this day. The magazine contained an amazing mixture of geeky goodness. I was smitten by science and here was a magazine written for the masses that inspired, intrigued and energized my curious young mind. My friend Pat and I read cover to cover every issue we got our hands on. The articles, interviews and fiction were outstanding. Containing a mix of science fact, fiction, fantasy and the paranormal, Omni was more about stimulating your mind than rigid discipline or unquestioning dogma. Interviews with luminaries like Freeman Dyson, Alvin Toffler and many others.

The fiction pieces contained short stories by the likes of William Gibson, Robert A. Heinlien, Harlan Ellison, Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, George R. R. Martin, William S. Burroughs, Stephen King and others. Artwork by greats such as H. R. Giger, Robert McCall, and many others. As I mentioned earlier, the magazine was published by the makers of Penthouse (Bob Guccione and his wife Kathy Keeton), and as a result some of the artwork was a bit racy, so I sometimes had problems convincing my parents to let me read the magazine. I made sure that I always pointed out the science fact articles when asked what I was reading. Thankfully the objections of the 'Moral Majority' weren't strong enough to get the magazine listed as 'adult' in stores, and eventually the school library even carried the magazine.

Recently (Mar of 2013), a friend (Thanks Troy) let me know that the entire run of Omni (in paper form) was available online at the 'Internet Archive'. Holy Crap! I didn't waste much time. After seven plus days of 'Torrent' downloads, I set to work assembling my own personal collection. As I joined the Air Force in 1984, I missed many of the original copies. Now I had them all collected in one place. It took me several days, but I managed to download, unarchive, and reassemble the component JPEGs into PDF versions of the original magazines. The scan quality is pretty poor, but they're still readable and that's good enough for me. I plan to read every issue cover to cover. It may take some time but I'm sure I'll discover and rediscover a trove of stimulating information between the covers of the greatest magazine ever published. I'm only missing one issue; the February issue from 1984 is missing from the archive (as of 29 Apr 2013). I'll check back occasionally; hopefully they'll locate a good copy to complete the collection. If you haven't
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omni_(magazine)>
<http://archive.org/details/omni-magazine>

Music CollectionDropbox Hacked?
Back in July of 2012, rumors circulated that Dropbox had been hacked. I've been a Dropbox user since May of 2012, and I didn't suffer any unusual Dropbox related spam back in 2012, so I figured it must have been a limited incident. However, a recent incident makes me think that this 'limited' incident might have been something more extensive.

On the 1st of March, 2013, I reported some spam to SpamCop and KnujOn. The spam in question was sent to a special email address that I created solely for the purposes of registering with/and receiving email from Dropbox.com. Since creating my Dropbox account in May of 2012, the only email received at that specific email address has come from Dropbox. I didn't send any email using this particular email address and I didn't share the email address with anyone else. It came as something of a surprise that my 'Dropbox' email address should be used by a Spammer. Has Dropbox had it's accounts database hacked? Has Dropbox shared my email address with someone who has sold my email address to a spammer? In either case, I'm one of the few victims who knows who was responsible for the loss of my personal data. Given the email address I used with Dropbox, it's highly probable that the source of this leak is limited to the one company that I shared my email address with (namely Dropbox). Back in 2012, the possibility of a data-breach moved Dropbox to offer 'two-factor' authentication, and many people (including me) now use the two-factor authentication to validate password changes, connection of new apps and new devices. Last year, the cloud storage provider did acknowledge that one of its employees had the password to his account stolen, and that a document containing user email addresses stolen from the account was used to spam several users.

In this instance, Dropbox said it hasn't been able to detect anything out of the ordinary. "At this time, we have not seen anything to suggest this is a new issue, but remain vigilant given the recent wave of security incidents at other tech companies," a Dropbox team member wrote in one of its forums. It is possible that the original spammer has sold the email addresses obtained in 2012, and a new spammer is using these addresses in fresh spam campaign. Luckily, I manage my own email servers, and I quickly deactivated the email address in question. I had to change my 'Dropbox' email address, but that's a small price to pay in order to avert the coming onslaught that would surely follow. If my new Dropbox address is also compromised, I'll have no choice but to discontinue all use of Dropbox for the sake of my file transfer security. I hope Dropbox hasn't allowed hackers to access their accounts database. There are a lot of businesses that depend on the security of their Dropbox accounts.

Update: I wrote to Dropbox administrators concerning the apparent leak of my email address back at the end of March, 2013. I received a reply via email on the 4th of April, 2013. Reid from Dropbox wrote: "We've been looking into these spam reports and take them seriously. Back in July we reported that certain user email addresses had leaked and some users had received spam as a result. At this time, we have not seen anything to suggest this is a new issue, but remain vigilant given the recent wave of security incidents at other tech companies. Please let me know if there is anything else I can do for you." So, I got the same response as the individuals in the Dropbox forum. That doesn't instill much confidence in me. They've got a 'pat' answer for the 'Dropbox' spammed me problem. Admittedly, I haven't received any additional spam at the email address in question, but then again; I turned off that address, so it's impossible to get any email at that address. I hope that Dropbox truly knows how and where the data breach occurred.
<http://www.pcworld.com/article/260176/dropbox_blames_employee_account_breach_for_spam_attack.html?tk=rel_news>
<http://www.macworld.com.au/news/dropbox-says-no-evidence-of-hack-in-investigation-of-spam-64663/>
<http://www.macworld.com.au/news/dropbox-may-suffer-a-spam-hangover-from-its-data-breach-88428/>
<https://forums.dropbox.com/topic.php?id=97303&page=4#post-531171>
<http://www.robsworld.org/dropboxhacked.png>
<http://www.robsworld.org/dropboxspam.pdf>

Wacky winterIt's Official - We're in a drought:
Despite the fact that it took forever for winter weather conditions to end (we still had snow into the first weeks of April, 2013), we didn't get much snow (outside the mountains), and the temperatures (in my opinion) seemed warmer than usual. Despite the fact that we had 'snow days' at the end of March and into April of 2013, we still had way too little precipitation this year. According to the National Climatic Data Center, NOAA scientists completed their November, 2012 Global Climate Report and according to that report - The globally averaged temperature for November 2012 marked the fifth warmest November since record keeping began in 1880. It also marked the 36th consecutive November and 333rd consecutive month with a global temperature above the 20th century average. The last below-average November temperature was November 1976 and the last below-average temperature for any month was February 1985. Hot isn't the only problem - Dry as a bone makes it worse. As of Dec 18, 2012, Colorado is suffering from a state-wide drought. Ranging from Moderate (lowest drought condition) to Exceptional (highest drought condition), it looks like we're going to need a lot more precipitation if we're going to recover from the hot dry drought of 2012.

As of April 3rd it's official. The city of Aurora released a press statement declaring a Stage 1 drought. On the 5th of April I received a letter in the mail with the same information. Watering is only allowed two days a week, and the days you can water are based on your address. According to the city you shouldn't start watering until mid May! What? O.k. if that's only a recommendation then I plan to ignore it. I'm going to start watering (twice a week) as soon as I get the sprinklers turned on. At this rate it may be a while. The restrictions are due to expire at the end of September. Aurora, like most of the communities along the front range, relies primarily on snowmelt for drinking water; and this year it's been much lower than usual. According to our Ward VI representative (Bob Broom) our reservoirs are down to half the level we'd like them at. I'm not sure what sort of measurement that is, but it seems to be lower than acceptable. I wish someone could come up with a lawn that needs less water and doesn't need to be cut as frequently. Monsanto can create corn that's drought resistant, high yielding, resistant to herbicides, insects an fungus; but we're stuck with water sucking Kentucky Bluegrass.
<http://www.drought.gov/drought/content/products-current-drought-and-monitoring-drought-indicators/us-drought-monitor>
<https://www.auroragov.org/LivingHere/Water/Conservation/WateringRestrictions/index.htm>
<http://www.drought.gov/drought/area/co>
<http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu>
<http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov>

Software favorites:
More updates to my favorite software applications. This time it's just one update, to one of my favorite applications. BBEdit has been a favorite for a long time. After a short absence, a price change brought it back into my favorites category, and I've been using it for a variety of text based jobs since. I sure do like it's find and replace features.

BBEditBBEdit:
This gem was missing from my 'Favs' page for some time. I removed it back in May of 2007. I had decided that Dreamweaver met all my needs. Things have changed. Due to problems with Adobe products (in general), I've decided it's time to bring BBEdit back into the fold. I purchased a new version of BBEdit in October of 2011 (through the Mac 'App Store'). At a discounted introductory price of ~$40; one thing has changed - They've lowered the price to a more manageable target. The full version (through the App Store/and their online store) is only ~$50.00. That's a lot better than their historical pricing of more than $100.00 for the full version. Other notable changes (made to comply with App Store requirements). Command line capability is not included in the version purchased through the App Store (You can download and add that capability outside the App Store). Additionally, the ability to save changes to files that you don't own has been removed from the App Store version. Advanced users can also work around this limitation. In my opinion, the minor changes are well worth the more than 100 new features coupled with the amazing drop in price!

BBEdit is a high-performance HTML and text editor for the Macintosh, and I'm running version 10.5.2 It's designed and crafted for the editing, searching, transformation, and manipulation of text and code (several different flavors of code/languages). BBEdit provides a vast array of general-purpose features which are useful for a wide variety of tasks, and includes many special purpose features which have been specifically developed in response to the needs of Web authors and software developers. It's an absolute must for any HTML author, code developers and hardcore Mac enthusiasts. My needs for BBEdit no longer revolve around HTML editing. While I still use BBEdit for some of my HTML coding, I primarily use it for plaintext editing. It's ability to search, find, compare, replace text and handle documents is simply unparalleled. The 10.5 update is a significant (let's just call it 'Huge') update which includes support for Macs with high-res 'Retina' displays, several new features and numerous fixes for reported problems. The 10.5.3 update is a minor update, released to fix customer reported issues.
<http://www.barebones.com/support/bbedit/arch_bbedit1053.html>
<http://www.barebones.com/support/bbedit/updates.html>
<http://www.barebones.com/products/bbedit/>

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>

Music CollectionApril's Audio Acquisitions:
Here's a list of some of the music I recently acquired. Where do I get all this stuff? Well, I used to 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. Used to... Now? Now (As of Oct of 2010) I subscribe to an online music streaming service called MOG, and I've recently (as of Sep 2011) started using eMusic 'Radio' stations for music discovery. Combined together, these two services provide full-play access to more than 33 million tracks! (16m on MOG (as of Sep, 2012), 17m on eMusic (as of Jan 2013)) Two fantastic ways to discover music, and no need for illegal downloads or pirated tracks. I occasionally use a few of the other methods (music blogs and podcasts), but MOG now serves as my Primary Music Discovery source.

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 or listen to all sorts of music for free (Have you heard of Pandora, Audiolizer, Presto, Jango or GrooveShark?). I download most of my music from a couple of commercial sources (eMusic and iTunes), but I occasionally download tracks (legally) from various websites, newsgroups and blogs in order to satisfy my craving for music.

Here's a listing of some of the music I legally downloaded - and paid for!

eMusic monthly downloads:
Every month I download ~50 tracks from eMusic.com. This month (Apr of 2013) I downloaded 276 tracks at the low cost of $27.82 (eMusic gave me a $5.00 bonus (due to problems noted by some customers) this month). I'm paying a $19.99 monthly fee, so that makes the tracks even cheaper (~$0.07 / track). 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. At less than $.50 a track (I'm currently paying $19.99 for $22.99 worth of downloads per month (Note: As of Feb, 2013, you no longer have to be a member/subscriber to access the site or buy music). eMusic offers a really good value for your download dollar. 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. Since being purchased from VU (Vivendi Universal) Net in 2004, the prices on eMusic have been slowly creeping ever upward, and they're approaching the cost of Amazon tracks. If that happens, I'll probably switch to Amazon for my music acquisition needs.

* Introducing... Ian Dury & The Blockheads (EP) - Ian Dury: (5 songs) A favorite artist from the 80s. Ian Dury was one of those cult acts with a fanatical group of followers. The thick Cockney Accent was appreciated by many (myself included). Hit me with your rhythm stick was a great hit. Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll, unforgettable. Although he managed super-star status in England, America never truly appreciated the rebellious music hall style of Ian Dury. His work was unique, influential and rebellious as a rocker with a buzzcut! Long live Ian Dury.
* Being, Human - Matt Rocker: (10 tracks) Discovered by listening to MOG music recommendations. Rocker is his real name and one can only wonder where his talent came from. The music is pure pop with more energy than a high fructose beverage. The voice and lyrics speak of good old folk tunes and the instrumental tracks are true to his last name. It's a surprising celebration of original music.
* Howl Howl Gaff Gaff - Shout Out Louds: (11 songs) First discovered (via MOG recommendations) back in 2011. Here's a band I gladly color as a favorite. Here's their debut album (from 2005). Unfortunately, it took me far too long to discover the talent hidden here. 60s sound mixed with 80s pop. A Swedish quintet that makes excellent use of musical arrangements. A distinctive sound that launched a favorite band. This album surely shows their talent as a shining example of Scandinavian sub pop.
* Good News for people who love Bad News - Modest Mouse: (16 tracks) How could I have missed an artist this good? My first sampling of Modest Mouse. Another MOG music recommendation. For some reason the name meant hip hop to me? I missed out on their success until this month. Discovering them by way of their best album (according to some sources) may make for a melancholy relationship, but I'll enjoy it while it lasts. Here is the album that crosses over from one sound to another. If only I knew what that meant. Pure summer time music - built for back patio bbqs and crisp cold pilsner brews.
* Spot The Difference - Squeeze: (14 songs) The best of Squeeze, re-recorded by one of my favorite 80s acts. Currently unavailable in the U.S. - I guess I lucked out and found it at an opportune time. Released in 2010, this album contains re-recordings of their very best. Just as good as the originals, and in some ways better. One of my favorite bands from the 80s.

Has eMusic been sold again? The last time I checked, they had been acquired (in 2004) by a private media group. Now I'm hearing additional information that indicates they've merged (aka been acquired) with a digital books/e-reader company called K-NFB (Another private company). This new combined entity will be known as 'Media Arc Inc.'. The new combined entity will offer more than 17 million songs, 40,000 audio books and 600,000 ebooks. Sounds about the same as before, so I doubt there will be much of a change in regards to their service. This merger sounds like a new ownership and distribution deal with no major shake-up in their services or operating posture. In the terms of this 'merger' Adam Klien has agreed to 'move on' from his position as CEO. There's been a lot of changes in eMusic over the years, but I still like to own MP3s. I subscribe to a music streaming service for discovery purposes, but I also believe in the personal library. A collection of music that is intimately matched to my tastes is far superior to the ale carte approach (In my opinion). I'll continue to pay for access to the eMusic collection if they can manage to keep the prices down to the levels they're at now. It's still cheaper than the other purchase options out there. This merger could also signify a coming acquisition by a much larger public company. Only time will tell.
<http://blogs.wsj.com/corporate-intelligence/2013/03/18/end-of-an-era-for-emusic-subscription-music-pioneer/>
<http://www.billboard.com/biz/articles/news/1552494/emusic-merges-with-e-book-distributor-k-nfb-reading>

Free eMusic sampler downloads:
Aside from the extremely economical deals for eMusic monthly downloads, eMusic also features a boatload of free music downloads for it's members. This month I took advantage of that feature, downloading sixty three free tracks, it'll take me a while to listen to all these freebies, but I'm sure to find one or two artists that I like. These free downloads will most likely result in some purchased downloads, thereby benefiting the artists of the tracks. Free doesn't always mean free-loader. It's a net gain for the artist in many respects. I'll find something I like, I'll pay for an album purchase, and I'll likely blog about it, thus inducing additional purchases. These free downloads can result in a positive result for artists, provided they're managed properly, authorized by the artist, and made accessible to a discerning consumer. Here's a bunch of music samplers (and free albums) I downloaded recently:
* Now Hear This! The Independent Music Awards 11th Annual Winners - Various Artists: (59 songs) An immense download. 59 tracks for free (seems to get bigger every year). 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 compilation. Winning artists gain promotional work/efforts to promote/sell their music.
* Hey Girl, Hey - Various Artists: (15 tracks) It's another free sampler from eMusic. This one comes courtesy of Polyvinyl Records. They're very generous when it comes to free offerings and the singular, engaging indie rock they feature is right up my alley. I'm definitely enjoying the tracks from new artists courtesy of Polyvinyl.
* Polyvinyl SXSW 2013 Free Sampler - Various Artists: (12 songs) Polyvinyl records puts it out there. Once again they've released some samples of Polyvinyl talent featured at the 2013 SXSW music festival. Every year they manage to make me wish I had more credits to spend/more money to invest in this awesome label.
* eMusic SXSW 2013 Free Sampler: (35 tracks) It's gone now... Bummer! Thankfully I was able to download it before they pulled this sampler. With 35 tracks covering a huge swath of the SXSW talent pool, it's hard to imagine that I won't find several groovy tracks to whet my appetite. Time to get busy listening to all these awesome offerings.
* ATO Records Fall Sampler 2012 - Various Artists: (12 songs) According To Our records - This label has signed a stable selection of outstanding talent. Check out the Kopecky Family Band and from this sampler there's an awesome track by Jovanatti. Really good stuff.
* Here's To Another 21 Years! Sampler - Various Artists: (12 tracks) Kill Rock Stars has a pretty good lineup of artists and here's a sample to prove that point. I've already sampled some of the artists on this sampler and I'm looking forward to additional discovery.
* Dead Oceans Winter 2013 Sampler - Various Artists: (10 tracks) The opening track of this sampler is a fantastic slow melody that builds upon the lyrics from the song 'Ring of Fire'. The band Phosphorescent does a great job with this slow burning melody and beautiful instrumentals. If all the tracks are this good then I'll find plenty of reasons to explore further.
* Fat Cat Records Winter Sampler 2013 - Various Artists: (11 songs) A label I'm unfamiliar with. The opening track is a noise track with electronic static muted overlapping synths. A pulse-like reverb pulls together a cacophony of odd sounds. This should be interesting.
* Don Giovanni Records Sampler - Various Artists: (11 tracks) An Alt/Punk sampler from another label I've never heard of. The vibe on this sampler is varied, starting with a hard hitting thrash metal ripcord, followed immediately by a shoegazer anthem with acoustic touches. The best thing about this sampler (like all the others)? It's free, and you can't beat that with a stick.
* Sacred Bones Records 2012 - Various Artists: (16 songs) Here's another one of those samplers that was free... Now it's available for $6.99 in the eMusic store. This is one of the best samplers I've picked up in a long time. A five year wrap up of their label, the Sacred Bones brand features a decidedly dark current in all forms. If you like the goth, dark-wave, side of post-punk and electronic, then this sampler is a good place to start some new discoveries.
* Stash Rituals - Mexican Summer/Software Spring 2012 Sampler - Various Artists: (15 tracks) Here's another label celebrating five years in the business. Here you can sample (for free) some of the artists they carry. It's a good collection of artsy, jangly, psychedelic, alternative tracks.
* Windup 15th Anniversary Sampler - Various Artists: (12 songs) Here's a label that's been around a bit longer than the last few, but I have to be honest. I've never hear of them before. After listening to the tracks, I've found a few tracks I liked, but I still haven't found a 5 out of 5. It may take a while to fully absorb all these tracks, but you can't beat the selection. Hold on a second... Stop the World by Aranda - Excellent hard rock! The Other Side by Evanescence is another outstanding track. I didn't know they were on this label. It seems like this label has more than a few artists to celebrate.

UbuntuOne Music Store / 7digital.com downloads:
A new comer in the digital download arena. I learned about this music outlet when I downloaded a free application / service. Ubuntu One is a cloud based storage provider. You get a free 5gb account with a desktop download, and I discovered another benefit to this free offer. They also provide a digital music locker for people on the go. If you purchase music from their music store - 7digital.com, you get a free digital music locker for free. Any music you purchase through their digital downloads store is instantly and always available through their cloud based player. So I gave it a spin. The stores prices are on par with iTunes so they've got a bit of an edge there, but they can't touch the eMusic prices, so I doubt I'll be heading back anytime soon.
* Optica - Shout Out Louds: (12 tracks) One of my favorite bands releases a new album, and it's a doozy. Meaning, it's awesome. This band brings me back to the 80s like no other. It's brand new, but it sounds like 1982. Reminds me of OMD, New Order and the Cure all rolled up in one candy coated celebration of sweet Swedish pop that is the 'Shout Out Louds'.

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://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_online_music_databases#On-demand_streaming_music_services>
<http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/technology/2008/07/emusic-lets-the.html>
<http://www.robsworld.org/music.html>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emusic>

0.5% pay raise - Not!Federal employees denied once again!
No pay raise for you! Once again federal workers are denied a pay raise. Federal workers haven't seen a pay raise since... January of 2010. Are federal workers responsible for the budgetary crisis? No! Is congress to blame? Hell yes! Why is congress continuing to punish federal workers? Does anyone know why? No cost of living raises since January of 2010. Has the cost of living gone up since then? Of course! How much? Well, in the the Denver-Boulder-Greely area (that's where I live), the cost of living has risen 7.5% So, if you must - Not getting any pay raises since 2010, is pretty much the same as a 7.5% pay cut. Thanks congress! Why no pay raises? Well, the President included a modest 0.5% pay raise for all federal workers in the latest Continuing Resolution. Then congress decided (The Senate took the 0.5% out of the CR, and the House passed that cut on to the President) to pull that 0.5% pay raise out of the bill. I guess they figured that federal workers didn't deserve a pay raise. With both the Senate and the House agreeing to freeze our pay yet again, all I can say is - Enjoy it while you can. I'm not voting for any incumbents come this November. Not a single one of them deserve my vote. They got us into this mess, and rather than working together to find any real solutions, they've decided to continue playing politics as usual. They punish federal workers and point their fingers across the aisle.

Thanks congress - They pulled a proposed 0.5% pay raise out of the Continuing Resolution and passed that on to the President. The last time that federal workers got a Cost of Living pay raise was 2010. We've had our pay frozen at 2010 levels. At the same time the cost of living has gone up 6.5% (nationwide average) in that same amount of time. In the Denver-Boulder-Greely area (where I live), the cost of living has risen 7.5% since 2010... Oh, yeah - Don't forget the 2% increase on federal witholdings, the reduction in our matching 401K, and an increase in the costs of our medical coverage. Wow! Stack all that on top and we get at least a 10% reduction in pay. Wait, that's not all! We've got a hiring freeze, attrition in the number of employees, and a furlough axe hanging over our heads - which could add up to as much as an additional 10% pay cut. The buzzwords "Hurry up and wait!" are literally making me sick. Everyone (civilians and defense contractors) in my office is stressed out, looking for jobs, and wondering whether they should jump ship before all the defense sector jobs disappear. At the same time that federal workers are getting battered and deep fried, the for profit corporations are making record profits.
<http://www.govexec.com/oversight/2013/03/senate-approves-2013-spending-bill-keep-government-open/61990/>
<http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/federal-eye/wp/2013/03/19/pay-raise-on-way-out-furloughs-on-way-in/>
<http://www.govexec.com/pay-benefits/2013/03/senate-bill-upholds-pay-freeze/61822/>
<http://www.govexec.com/pay-benefits/2013/03/obama-signs-fed-pay-freeze/62103/>
<http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=119635>