Aug 31, 2013

Garbanzo Mediterranean GrillA chain restaurant with great food?
<rave>A rare occasion indeed. When one finds a chain restaurant where the food is awesome. During August of 2013, Kim and I enjoyed one of those rare finds. A new favorite restaurant. We lived in southern Italy (Province of Puglia) for seven years (during the late 80s/early 90s), and during that time we came to love Mediterranean food. Italian, Greek, Turkish, North African. The different flavors of the Mediterranean cuisine include fresh seafood, plenty of herbs and spices, plus a healthy respect for vegetables. Thankfully, Garbanzo's satisfies our urge to eat Mediterranean style. With several locations in Colorado, we discovered the restaurant during a 'Date Night', saw the 'Mediterranean Grill' label, and haven't been disappointed yet. The ordering process could use some improvement, but the food is amazing. It's a bit like ordering À la carte, but the overhead menu doesn't lend itself to that fact... Thankfully, despite the confusing ordering process, the food is outstanding. We'll be back again, and again...</rave>
<http://www.eatgarbanzo.com>

AppleTV updateMore AppleTV updates:
On the 29th of Aug, 2013, I noticed something new on my AppleTV. Without any fanfare or big announcements, Apple added several new channels: Vevo, Smithsonian channel, two new Disney channels, the Weather channel. The Disney channels require a cable provider code in order to obtain access (Currently available to customers who have cable packages with the following providers: AT&T U-verse, Charter, Comcast, Cox, Midcontinent Communications, Optimum, and Verizon FiOS). The Vevo and Smithsonian additions were accompanied by press announcements by the respective producers. In case you aren't familiar with the Vevo channel; It's a music video outlet. The Smithsonian channel comes as a welcome addition in my opinion, this one channel makes many of the others worth the effort. Thankfully owners of an AppleTV can 'hide' channels that they don't use or care to watch. The weather channel is another welcome addition.

It's a close call, but I now consider the AppleTV to be the superior set top streaming box. Slightly edging out the Roku player, I find the overall AppleTV experience (primarily the user interface) superior to that of the Roku player. If you want variety in choices, chose the Roku over the AppleTV. Having both gives me the best of both worlds. If only Apple would add more channel choices - like Amazon video!
<https://www.apple.com/appletv/whats-on/>
<http://support.apple.com/kb/HT4448>
<http://www.apple.com/appletv/>

Knujon reporting problemA problem with Knujon spam reporting:
I fight spam! - One of the tools I use in order to fight spam is 'KnujOn', a spam reporting service. KnujOn - is 'No Junk' spelled backwards; pronounce it 'New John' if you please. It's an internet security and spam fighting service. Designed to fight spam by tackling it at the the root - by revealing the hosting companies which encourage, permit, and engage in the hosting of spammers and their services. Taking the fight directly to ICANN and other internet authorities. In order to facilitate that purpose, they run an automated spam parsing and reporting tool. Part of that service includes the ability to report spam through a special forwarding email address set up specifically for each subscriber. I joined KnujOn in July of 2012, and the forwarder address worked fine until July of 2013. In July of 2013, I started receiving bounce messages whenever I tried to report spam to the special forwarder address reserved specifically for my use. I also started to receive bounces when I attempted to send email to any address @coldrain.net or @knujon.com...

I was eventually able to contact someone at KnujOn and they conducted some troubleshooting from their end. They seemed convinced that there wasn't anything wrong with the email services or spam reporting processing. So I went back to my email configuration. After some investigating, I eventually figured out what was happening. My email service provider (RocketHost.com) decided to turn on some 'MailScanner' protection (FYI: As of Feb 2014, I no longer use RocketHost for email or web hosting). The mail servers are now scanning outbound email… The outbound servers 'see' my spam reports to KnujOn as spam coming 'From' a domain that they host, and they are either stopping it from going out - and bouncing it back to me with a false 550 User Not Found message, or, the receiving server is reading the 'MailScanner' tags (in the header), deciding not to accept the 'Spam' and throwing up a false 550 User Not Found message.

The reporting address that I was using wasn't the problem. My spam reports are usually sent through SpamCop.net (using my knujon reporting address as an additional reporting address that I've configured), but occasionally I send them manually. My email host (rockethost.com) is trying to fight spam (because they've been tagged as a source of spam - no its not me, but they seemed convinced that it might be), but they're using too big a mallet (in my opinion). The bounce messages I'm was seeing made it look like the receiving servers were rejecting my email (i.e. the KnujOn/Coldrain servers). I believe that rockethost (the outgoing mail server) is blocking certain types of outgoing email, and claiming (falsely) that it's the receiving server that's rejecting the email.

I've tested this theory several times. When I send spam reports to my knujon account using a mail server other than the 'rockethost' servers, the email goes through. When I attempt to report the spam using my 'damnspammers.com' domain (hosted by HostRocket) I get a 550 bounce. The 550 bounce is accompanied by this error report: "A message that you sent could not be delivered to one or more of its recipients. This is a permanent error. The following address(es) failed:" I'm fairly certain that the knujon server was not blocking my reports. I believe that my mail host (for domain damnspammers.com) was blocking the outgoing email, and claiming that the receiving server was blocking my message.

I get the same error when I attempt to forward a spam report to myself. I forwarded (inline) the raw text of a spam message to my mac.com address, from my damnspammers.com email address, and it bounced with a 550 report. I then forwarded the same spam to my special knujon reporting address from my mac.com account. Guess what? It went through with no problems at all.

It seems to me that my mail host (rockethost) has set up some very stringent outgoing checks (for viruses and spam), and they're blocking the ones that they think are spam. Unfortunately, they're using an inappropriate bounce code 550 - which makes it look like the receiving server is refusing to accept delivery.

I submitted a trouble ticket with the rockethost.com admins, but it took them an entire week before they were able to understand what the problem was. When they finally figured out what was happening they created a 'whitelist' rule for mail coming from my domain(s). They were blocking all the spam reporting email that I was trying to send. Just another reason why I have to ditch this hosting provider.
<http://www.robsworld.org/index2.html#fightingspam>
<http://www.robsworld.org/whybother.html>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/KnujOn>
<http://www.damnspammers.com>
<http://www.knujon.com>

Koingo customer service sucksHow not to provide customer service - Koingo support sucks:
MacUpdate is a software updates website and a service used by many Mac users (I have no idea how many use the website on a routine basis, but the introduction of the 'App Store' (in iOS and Mac OS X) must have seriously reduced the number of routine visits). They sell, promote and provide software for sale and download via their website. MacUpdate often sells software at a discounted rate (sometime they sell software in a 'bundle'), and I've purchased a lot of software from them over the years. I don't use their premium update service (to keep my software up to date), but I often use their website to download software updates and purchase promotional offers. Such was the beginning of a software sales fiasco in March of 2013.

I've already written most of the story with regard to this fiasco... See my posting in July of 2013. So I won't go into all the details. What I will provide here is a brief rant... <rant>My take-away from the whole fiasco. As a consumer, I was treated by Koingo, in a manner that left a bitter taste in my mouth. While they (Koingo) may believe and be justified that much of the blame lays with MacUpdate, where do they get off with the way they treated me when I asked for customer support?

I sent a long detailed email to the Koingo Support address. The email included screen captures and a detailed explanation of what I was seeing. The 'automated' reply to my email was: "Hi, Please submit a support ticket here: http://www.koingosw.com/support/createticket.php Best, The automated reply system" That response didn't arrive until a month after I emailed Koingo, and it certainly wasn't the sort of response I was expecting.

Who's at fault? I don't know. All I know is that I no longer trust Koingo, their customer service was abysmal, and their initial response (the only one that counts in this sort of incidence) did nothing to explain or remedy the situation. In the end it's the users who were sorely abused by both ends of this dispute. Hopefully MacUpdate will employ more rigorous administrative practices when they enter into licensing deals. Hopefully Koingo will find more effective ways to respond to these types of disputes. Anyone who received the type of response that I received would immediately and irrevocably come to some rather harmful conclusions. Is it MacUpdate's fault that I've formed my opinion? I don't think so. Koingo's response to this incident did just as much harm as MacUpdate did in giving away a product without explicit permission. Not only did Koingo lose out on potential sales, they also lost several customers and potential customers as a direct result of their response in this matter.</rant>
<http://www.koingosw.com/company/macupdate_fiasco.php>
<http://macheist.com/forums/viewtopic.php?id=24546>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MacUpdate>

Software favorites:
Another batch of updates for my favorite Graphic 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 a few updates over the past week. I recently saw/downloaded the following updates: 8.8 (b1316) and 8.8.1 (b1321). 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 introduced 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>

Tollgate CrossingUpdates to the Tollgate Crossing website:
I participate in some community focused events, but I don't have the time to serve on any of our community boards, so I do what I can to help the neighbors who live in my community. I volunteer with our local neighborhood watch, and support 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 and announcements on the front page - It's something I do to indicate a change (updates) in the content.
    • I removed some information regarding Garage Sales that have come and gone.
    • Updated the dates for our upcoming TGX HOA meeting (Sep 13), Newbridge HOA meeting (Sep 3), and the Metro District meeting (Sep 24).
  • 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.
    • Removed information about the annual Garage Sales.
    • I updated the announcements regarding the next HOA and MD meetings.
  • Info: A page of links, phone numbers, email addresses and other information pertinent to the residents/community of Tollgate Crossing.
    • I added a new paragraph regarding the Newbridge community. Tollgate Crossing Metro District is a residential subdivision that contains more than one developed community. There's the Metro District area, a Habitat for Humanity development and the Newbridge community. The Newbridge community is now under new management, and their HOA has consolidated to cover the former Newbridge development and the Habitat for Humanity homes. As a result of this change, the Newbridge community will now be referred to as Newbridge at Tollgate, there won't be any specific/separate mention of the Habitat for Humanity homes, and 'Tollgate Crossing' will be prefaced to documents/information that was previously labelled as HOA (before Newbridge and the Habitat for Humanity areas had their own HOA).
    • I updated the developer's paint codes for the Tollgate Crossing HOA community.

FYI: My website (the 'Tollgate Crossing' website) is a personal website that I use to keep the residents up to date on all matters regarding our community. I graciously ask for and appreciate the cooperation of the HOA and MD boards in this effort (as neither has/maintains a website where residents can obtain such information). I do not work for the board or the management company. I do my best to serve the community and it's residents; not the MD or HOA board or the management company. 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>

GPGMailStupid websites and VirtualBox:
Most government, municipal and commercial websites are contracted out to developers. Sometimes the requirements to write the webpage are written in such a way that compatibility is not a requirement. In other words, 'Make it work on with browser X' (Internet Explorer). No consideration is made for any other browser or operating system(s). <rant>That's the case with the 'Xcel' energy website. Excel is an energy supply company that services more than 3 million consumers (residential, municipal, commercial and industrial). They service residential customers in Denver and Aurora, CO. If you have an 'outage' in your home/area, they're the ones who service the call, repair the lines, restore the power. Unfortunately, their website is a mess.

In August of 2013, I decided to report a streetlight outage (yup, they're responsible for that too). Finding the proper page was a chore. It was a weekend, so calling their 1-800 was a waste of time... They don't man the 'streetlight' outage number 24/7. That means I had to use their web form in order to report the streetlight outage. I spent the next hour trying to get that web form to work with my Mac OS. I tried every browser I had: Safari (Apple's web browser), Firefox, Opera, Chrome, even Netscape Navigator - I'm surprised that browser is still available. None of them worked. Some threw up errors, others simply failed to function at all. Upon viewing the code for the page I didn't see any glaring problems, but I did see JavaScript looking for IE versions... Great. If this webpage is looking for IE, that's probably going to cause a problem. At this point the typical consumer/residential customer has completely given up.

I don't give up easily. I changed my browser's 'User Agent' settings so that it reports itself as IE (tried various different versions). That didn't help either. Apparently the JavaScript isn't respecting the 'User Agent' settings. It must be looking elsewhere to determine browser type/version or it's just not playing that game at all. Now I need to get a copy of IE for my Mac. Well, that might be a little bit of a problem. Microsoft stopped producing a Mac version of IE back in 2003 and that version (5.2.3) will not run on Mac OS X versions beyond 10.6.8. I'm running 10.9, so a different solution must be found.

After a brief search on the 'Googles'. I found a potential candidate. Oracle (who purchase Sun) makes a Java based emulator, that allows you to run 'Windows' on a variety of platforms, including the Mac. The Java emulator - Called 'VirtualBox' is capable of running a large number of 'guest' operating systems including but not limited to Windows (NT 4.0, 2000, XP, Server 2003, Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8), DOS/Windows 3.x). I downloaded and installed the VirtualBox on my Mac. In short order (took approximately 15 minutes) I was up and running Windows 7 on my Mac. That version of Windows 7 also comes with several options/version of Internet Explorer. Thankfully, the emulated Windows desktop also had access to my internet connection. I fired up the IE browser (version 11), navigated to the 'Streetlight' outage reporting web page, and submitted my outage report.

So, despite the fact that Xcel doesn't give a damn about Mac users, I was eventually able to report the streetlight outage. Xcel - You suck!</rant> <rave>Thank you Oracle and Microsoft for making an emulator that works on the Mac and a free evaluation version of Windows so I could 'evaluate' Xcel's sucky website.</rave> I don't like running emulators or Java on my Mac (for various reasons), but sometimes you haven't got a choice. I think I'll leave that emulator on my Mac for the time being. You never know when your going to be forced to use IE. It's happened before, it'll probably happen again.
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_Explorer_for_Mac>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xcel_Energy>
<https://www.xcelenergy.com>
<https://www.virtualbox.org>

GPGMailEncryption and digital signatures on my Mac:
In the past spammers used to routinely target my digital identity by forging messages to look like they came from me (I used to get a lot of spammers shut down, back in the early days of the war against spammers). I don't spend as much time fighting spammers and scammers as I used to, but I've learned a lot about protecting my identity. One way I do that is by using pgp signed messages (whenever possible) with my email correspondence. Thankfully, there's an open source, free and reliable way to make that happen. There's a group of software developers who devote their time and effort in development of a product called 'GPGTools' (for the Mac) it's a series of applications which enable digital signatures and encryption inside the Mac OS X environment. One of the primary components of that suite of tools is GPGMail.

GPGMail is an open source plugin for Apple's Mail application. It provides the functionality to sign, verify, encrypt and decrypt messages/documents (including email messages) using the OpenPGP standard. The GPGTools package (all the Mac GPG tools in one download) contains the GPGMail plugin (version 2.0.3). I use this software in conjunction with with Apple's Mail.app for encryption, decryption, and message authentication. If you would like to correspond in secret, please take note of my Public Keys.

Why do I use digital signatures or encryption? Well, I don't use the encryption very often, but I have been known to exchange encrypted email containing passwords or private information (banking and medical information). I use pgp signatures quite often, as a way of ensuring message authenticity. I'm tired of spammers pretending to be me; even my web hosting company has 'accused' me of being a spammer. Rather than doing any sort of investigating, they found it more convenient to simply assume that the person in the From: line of an email was the spammer. By using these signatures (which uses the message content (upon signing) and a private key to create a signature which can be verified by using my public key) I can assure recipients that the message(s) they received were actually sent be me, and it hasn't been tampered with in transit. In addition to my self published keys, my public keys are also available on various keyservers.

One of the best parts of this software? The developers! They're fantastic. Whenever I have a problem or question, they're eager and willing to help with a patch, troubleshooting or detailed instructions. The project/developers aren't working for a profit, they do it because they believe in the open availability of secure email.
<http://www.gpgtools.org/gpgmail/index.html>
<http://www.robsworld.org/encryption.html>
<http://www.robsworld.org/feedback.html>
<http://www.gpgtools.org/macgpg2.html>
<http://www.gpgtools.org/projects.html>
<http://www.gpgtools.org/>

Aug 17, 2013

iTunesiTunes updated to version 11.0.5:
Recently (August 16th, 2013), Apple updated iTunes to version 11.0.5. This release was noted as a 'small update'. A fix for playback and iCloud issues. As is sometimes the case with Apple's software releases, the official update notes were extremely vague: "corrects an issue with iTunes in the Cloud, where some purchases may download or play unexpected items." Downloading the update won't restore the missing 'Cover Flow' view, and I'm not sure whether it will make things better or worse. I think I'll wait a few more days before I download it. This is really starting to piss me off. My confidence is waning, and release notes that consist of one sentence don't help the matter. Come on Apple get your act together!
<http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1222>
<http://support.apple.com/kb/DL1614>
<http://www.apple.com/itunes/>

Quatermass and the PitQuatermass and the Pit:
An amazing movie that I've been searching for. I finally found a copy! I saw this movie many, many, many moons ago. When I was a wee tike, sneaking upstairs in the dead of night. I would quietly head for the living room in order to watch TV late at night - After my parents had gone to sleep. Watching the late night scary movies was NOT permitted! My delicate mind might become unhinged if I watched too much of the late night creature features on late night TV. The show I most watched/remember was 'T.J. and The ANT' on WLUK (Channel 11). The show aired from 1977-1982, featuring Doug Heim as "T.J." (Television Jockey). The 12:10am timeslot (on Friday nights) was quite late, but I would often set my alarm in order to watch the Creature Features that aired on T.J. & The Ant. My best friends and I would often watch the shows at the same time, and then discuss them afterwards.

One particular show I watched on the late night Chiller Theater was something called 'Quatermass and the Pit' - The American title was 'Five Million Years to Earth'. This particular movie was burned into my memory - Filled with eerie music, dark sets, chilling sound effects and a five million year old alien space ship, there's no way I could ever forget this Hammer Films classic. I searched for this movie for many years - Checking the shelves of independent video rentals, only to be disappointed. With the advent of eBay and Amazon, I've finally located a copy of this late night thriller. Thanks to Amazon, I was finally able to locate a copy of my own. For $15.99, I can encamp in the living room with a blanket drapped around my shoulders and a bowl of popcorn to enjoy that classic sci-fi horror flick. I give this movie a 5 out of 5!
<http://milwaukeehorrorhosts.com/All_Night_Theatre.html>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quatermass_and_the_Pit_(film)>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creature_Features>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WLUK-TV>

Airport Router IssuesAirport Issues:
Like millions of others, I usually download the software updates issued by the company that made my computer - In this case it's an Apple Software Update that I'm writing about - It's usually a good idea. The software updates are designed to correct problems, fix issues, patch security flaws, etc. It's recommended in order to keep things running smoothly. Right? Well, in this case, I'm terrified of the update. Lately (see Airport Issues, Jul 2013), I've been experiencing some serious problems with my Airport utility and Time Machine back-ups. The more recent versions of Apple's Airport Utility have been so unstable that I've had to 'fall back' to a previous version. According to the update notes:

This update (Version 7.6.4) is available for all Apple 802.11n Wi-Fi base stations including AirPort Express, AirPort Extreme, and AirPort Time Capsule. It contains fixes that:

Resolve an issue that may cause AirPort Time Capsule to report that the backup disk is in use
Resolve an issue that may cause an IPv6 Tunnel error
Resolve an issue that may intermittently cause a loss in Wi-Fi connectivity with iOS devices
Note: This firmware update is for all 802.11n AirPort base stations.

While the updates seem to address issues I've been experiencing, I think that I will hold off with any updates until I've had a chance to read a few reviews of the update. I'm not sure whether this update will make things better - or Worse! I've got the base station working right now, and the amount of problems I had getting to this place were considerable. Apple needs to deliver a stable product that customers can rely upon. This particular issue only illustrates that no one (Apple and Me) is perfect. I think Apple needs a better pool of beta testers and I need to heed my own advice more frequently. I'm currently running the Airport Utility with version 6.2 software, while I wait for a few reviews/reports from the field.
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AirPort_Time_Capsule>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AirPort_Express>
<http://www.apple.com/support/timemachine/>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AirPort_Utility>
<http://www.apple.com/support/airport/>
<http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1218>
<http://support.apple.com/kb/HT5920>

Mt Fuji Sushi & HibachiGoing away luncheon for Charles:
Occasionally, I get the chance to attend a luncheon going-away party. Unfortunately it's always a bitter-sweet celebration. In this case, we held a going-away luncheon for one of the workers in our office. A group of approximately twelve coworkers took some time off work in order to wish Charles a good by. Charles is being 'let go' by the US Navy. He's always been a hard worker and a great guy, so I'm a bit disappointed that the Navy doesn't want to let him stay in the military - He's not grossly overweight, he hasn't committed any court marshall offenses, and his level of work is quite high. It's too bad that they don't realize what they're losing. Charles isn't the first military member that's been discharged for less than compelling reasons. Charles isn't too upset with the Navy's decision, he's planning to make the best of the situation by taking advantage of his educational benefits. We'll miss Charles at work, and I'm sure it'll take a while before we find someone who works as hard as he did.

With Charles going away we scheduled a luncheon at one of my favorite places to eat (his choice). Mt. Fuji Sushi & Hibachi - Is the best restaurant (as far as I can tell) in the Southlands Mall. Each Mt. Fuji Sushi & Hibachi restaurant is independently owned and operated. Apparently there's more than one, but this is the only one I've ever been to. Kim and I have eaten at this restaurant before, and it's one of our favorites - Our favorite Sushi place. We were stationed in Japan from 1998-2001, and we developed a taste for Japanese cuisine. We really enjoy the wonderful tastes the delicate textures, and the wonderful appearance of this perfect food. We've tried quite a few sushi restaurants in the Denver/Aurora area, and we're really glad that there is such a variety. During the luncheon, we enjoyed the communal lunch time option of the Hibachi table. Catching pieces of food in our mouths like Seals is always a laugh. We had some good food and a good time saying good bye to one of our good friends. Good luck Charles I hope you enjoy your studies and find a good job afterwards. We'll miss you at work.
<http://mtfujisushihibachi.com>

D&D iconD&D updates:
Like all D&D campaigns, our campaign has gains and loses. Over the last few months (Jan - Apr) we've seen at least six players announce their departures from our campaign. After dealing with all those changes, I still had one vacancy I was trying to fill. Keeping the campaign fully staffed is a full time endeavor. I've got one candidate from amongst my coworkers and I hope his interest is earnest. If that doesn't work, I'll have to go back to the aggressive promotion campaign that pulled in thirteen candidates and five permanent additions since January of 2013. As of August that candidate didn't pan out, and I've had to restart my aggressive search for a new player. In a period of one week (since the 10th of Aug, 2013) I had ten respondents to that 'player call'. Hopefully one of these new candidates will be able to dedicate the necessary time to join our campaign.

On the 17th of August I finally found that 7th player for our campaign - Hopefully we'll keep this core group for some years. 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 (updated in Apr, 2014) and a short listing of who we are.
<http://www.robsworld.org/players.html>

Eating out in DenverOut to eat in Denver:
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 February, 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, 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.

Yanni's - A greek restaurant/taverna located in The Landmark at DTC (a small boutique mall right of I-25). You may have a bit of trouble finding the new place (The GPS in Kim's car couldn't find it the first time we drove to their 'new' location (new since 2009)), so be sure to get good directions. This location features security patrolled parking, shopping in an outdoor boutique mall, and a nearby comedy club. As for the food; well, it's amazing, and the atmosphere matches. We've been here (at the old and new locations) at least a dozen times, and the food and service are always top notch. If you like Greek food, if you like Mediterranean cuisine, if you like good service, try Yanni's - You won't be disappointed.
<http://yannisatthelandmark.com/>

Software favorites:
Another batch of updates for my favorite Graphic 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 a few updates over the past week. I recently saw/downloaded the following updates: 8.8 (b1307), 8.8 (b1310). 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>

Wilkerson PassWilkerson Pass - Road Trip:
What a great day for a road trip. Warm temps, clear skies, and gas prices have dropped a bit recently. This weekend Kim and decided to take a little day trip. Here are photos from that recent outing (on the 11th of Aug, 2013). We took a short drive out to Wilkerson Pass, Colorado. Wilkerson Pass is (elevation 9,504 ft) located appx 50 miles west of Colorado Springs, CO (along U.S. Highway 24). Pikes Peak of the Front Range is located to the east, and the Collegiate peaks of the Sawatch Range are located to the west, just beyond South Park (a region of Park County in Colorado).

We embarked on this day trip in order to get some photos of an aspen stand for a big photo/painting project that I'm working on. I managed to get a lot of photos and we had a good time on this short day trip (left home around 0900 - returned by 1600). You can check out the photos at my Gallery Page, or see some of the finished photos below.
<http://robsworld.org/galleryphotos/index.php/Wilkerson-Pass---2013>
<http://www.robsworld.org/wilkersonpass4.png>
<http://www.robsworld.org/aspengrove2.png>

No SpamSpam entirely in the Subject Line:
Stupid Spammer Trick number #201 - Placing the entire spam message in the Subject line. As most spam scanners check the message body, this particular spammer got a brilliant idea - Put the entire spam message in the Subject line. Yes - All the text of the spam message, the entire content, crammed into the subject line of the email message. As you can imagine, for a human this was quite easy to spot.

As I mentioned, this presents a problem for most email scanners; the kind that look for spam in the body of the message. In this particular case, the body of the message is completely empty, and that triggered an action after I received the email. I filter my email to flag all 'blank' message.

Spam in subject lineThe fact that there was no text in the message body usually indicates a precursor to a spam campaign. It usually indicates that a spammer is checking email addresses to weed out the bounces. A blank message is usually ignored by humans and mail scanners alike.

In this case, I saw a flag in my 'blank' messages folder and immediately noticed that the spammer had actually used the Subject line as a way to deliver the spam message. Quite clever.

I then attempted to report this piece of fresh spam to SpamCop, my go to reporting service. I copied the 'raw-source' of the message, and pasted it into the SpamCop submission form. When I clicked enter, I didn't get the response I was hoping for.

Instead of the typical parsing report, I received a disappointing result. "No body text provided, check format of submission. Spam must have body text." What? Since when?, and Apparently Not! Here the spammer had outwitted SpamCop's reporting mechanism. While many ISPs use SpamCop to bulk report (without a human looking at the parsing result), here's an example of spam that could easily slip past the SpamCop parsers for weeks without being noticed. This is bad news for anyone fighting spam!

I compensated for the problem by manually adding the text (from the subject line) to the body of the message - SpamCop frowns upon (officially prohibits) this type of tampering with the raw-source, but this was the only way I could get the message parsed for reporting. I included the following information in the submitted message: "This body text injected by recipient to force reporting of spam (through spamcop reporting service) where the entire spam message is contained in the Subject line." That action resulted in the message being parsed for spam sources. I then reported the spam to various responsible parties.

If it happens again I'll let the SpamCop administrators about the issue - Clearly Spam messages don't have to contain 'Body Text'. Damn those spammers!
<http://www.robsworld.org/index2.html#fightingspam>
<http://www.robsworld.org/spaminsubjectline1.png>
<http://www.robsworld.org/spaminsubjectline2.png>
<http://www.robsworld.org/spaminsubjectline3.png>
<http://www.spamcop.net>

Aug 10, 2013

DangerRob's World! outage:
Recently (10 August, 2013), Rob's World! and all the other websites I manage (vaessen.name, vaessen.net, vaessen.ws, tollgatecrossing.org, southeastaurora-neighborhoodwatch.org, damnspammers.org) went offline. An unexpected, unannounced and unreported outage. The server that hosts all my domains (a shared server) went offline for approximately three hours. I was working on the website when I noticed the outage. I was getting ready for work and checked my email as I always do. I couldn't connect to the "Rob's World!" email servers, so I checked the websites as well. All my web pages/services were off line.

Investigating this issue soon revealed the full extent of the problem. None of my web pages/sites would load; I couldn't receive or send email; and all my mailing lists were offline as well (that affects more than a thousand residents in Aurora, Colorado (subscribers to the Neighborhood Watch mailing lists that I manage/maintain) I checked connectivity using a couple of different services (different DNS gateways) just to make sure it wasn't a problem with my ISP/DNS resolution. After confirming that the web sites were unreachable, I attempted to call 'Host Rocket' customer service. Unfortunately, no one answered the phone. It just kept ringing… That kind of made me realize that they might be working on correcting a problem, or talking to someone else.

I found their support portal (webpage) available, so I submitted a trouble ticket. Thankfully, someone saw my report. Thankfully someone worked on the problem. …That didn't take to long. I let them work on the problem for approximately four hours. When I finally came back to the computer - After dinner, I found out that all the services were offline for approximately three hours. That's twice this year (so far). Due to the fact that they've had some significant outage this years (at least 12 hours affecting my services alone), they've decided to extend my contract for another month.
<http://www.webhostingjungle.com/hostrocket/index.shtml>
<http://www.hostrocket.com/support.html>
<http://www.hostrocket.com>

Home repairsHome Improvements:
This week I strapped on my handyman belt - I'm not a handyman - and attempted some minor repair work. I'm not really the carpenter, mechanic, plumber, electrician, tradesman my father thought I might be. I do most of my work with a keyboard not a skill saw. Years ago, I bought myself one of those old-fashioned push reel mowers. You know the kind, the ones where the blades rotate around a horizontal axis. The cylinder type. We used to have one when I was a kid, I like the sound it makes (very little), I like the work out I get when using it, and I like the cut I get when the blades are sharp. The only problem is the blades go dull, and a hand powered device with dull blades makes for a bad cut and a tough workout.

After using that mower for a few years, the blades got pretty dull. Eventually it wouldn't cut much of anything so I set it aside and bought something else. You might be thinking... 'wait a second, why didn't you just get the blades sharpened?' Well, I tried that. I did a little calling around (called three different shops) to some shops that work on small engines, two of them said they could sharpen the blades. One of them had just got a new machine to sharpen the blades. 'Great!' I said; then came the disappointing news. How much to sharpen the blades, and how long will it take? Well, it'll cost $100.00 to get the blades sharpened and you'll have to leave it here, we'll have it done in about two weeks. What! What the! Are you F'ing kidding me?

At the time it was possible (and it still is) to buy a brand new reel mower for less than $100.00, and I wasn't about to wait two weeks for the sharpening even if I did agree to pay $100.00. The other place wanted about $85.00! That was seven years ago... As I said, I ended up buying a different mower. What a crock of crap that is. You can get the reel mowers from Amazon for cheap, but a hardware / home improvement store wouldn't even carry them. So I ended up buying a corded electric mower. Not a bad choice given the size (extra-small) of my new yard. Many years later (fast forward to today), and I'm finally about to do something about that situation. Yeah, it's been bugging me...

I finally got tired of looking at that reel mower in the back corner of the garage. It's finally time to fix it or get rid of it. I'd hate to throw it away - such a fine American product (Yes, it's an American made product, from the 'American Lawn Mower company' of Richmond, Indianna). I couldn't force myself to discard this lawn mower. I wanted to fix it, and I would! To hell with those bastards at the repair shop! I'm not paying One Hundred F'ing dollars to sharpen a set of blades. I'll do it myself. How? I've tried the rather obvious method of holding a file to the steel as I manually spin the blades. That wasn't very effective.

Off to the internet - Isn't the internet awesome!? Of course it is. I did some research on the internet - After a few minutes I discovered what I was looking for. 'Grinding Compound' - Suggested Applications: Seat valves, sharpen reel type lawn mowers. Amazon sells a 'Sharpening Kit' for ~$13.00 but you don't really need the whole kit. The primary ingredient is the grinding compound. After watching a YouTube video (Yup - The internet is awesome!) and reading the instructions that came with the grinding compound, I was well equipped to get the job done right.

This was my first time sharpening the blades (using the proper equipment and procedure), so it took some time and effort. After an hour or so, my reel mower was 'snickity-snak' sharp as a tack - Or something like that... Afterwards I cleaned up with my power washer. Total cost to me? Not counting labor; I spent approximately $5.30 for the grinding compound. That's a hell of a lot cheaper than the $100.00 and two week wait - Now to mow that lawn.
<http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000HBM80M/ref=oh_details_o03_s02_i01?ie=UTF8&psc=1>
<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=10yy2vajWLM>

Amazon PrimeOut to Eat in Greenwood Village:
<rave>Occasionally, Kim and I take the opportunity to eat out at one of the fine restaurants in the Denver/Aurora area. They're not always five star places, but we're not that kind of people. During July, Kim and I enjoyed lunch at one of our favorite restaurants. We've been to the Great Northern Tavern on several occasions, and never had a bad experience. The atmosphere is outstanding. It's quiet, calm and service is superb. The ceilings don't have that bare industrial warehouse look, and as a result you can hear yourself talking when you stop for a bite to eat. The warm, inviting interior is cozy, rustic and elegant all at the same time. The staff is very courteous and the menu outstanding.

On this particular outing, we met up with a friend of ours (from West Virginia / Maryland / Texas). Dale was in town for a few days, so we met up at the Great Northern for, drinks, food and some conversation. For entrees we had Bison Ribeye, a Burger and Trout - All prepared perfectly and consumed with gusto. As usual, the appetizers at the Great Northern were awesome (those white cheddar cheese curds are amazing). We enjoyed our music while we enjoyed the live entertainment. A local artist named Branden Sipes.

Live Performance:
Something I almost never ever do, but it's awesome when the opportunity arises. A live performance is an experience I don't often take the time to appreciate so here's a treat I had to note, something to write about.

* That Side of Me - Branden Sipes: (10) Bought this CD - Yes an actual CD. I haven't bought one of those in a lonnnng time. Branden Sipes is a Colorado native. A singer-songwriter and guitarist, currently performing in/around Colorado venues. This album clearly demonstrates Branden's vocals and skill at the acoustic format.

Another great meal from the Great Northern. It's a great place to eat, drink, have a conversation, and listen to some live music! Did I happen to mention how Awesome those cheese curd appetizers are!? For the two of us (I had a Bloody Mary as a drink), the meal with drinks and hearty tip came to approximately $60.00. We'll be back.</rave>
<http://www.gntavern.com>

Xfinity ComcastSequestration - Political Paralysis in America and a self imposed recession:
<rant>If you're an American (Citizen of the United States) and you haven't at least heard of Sequestration you must be living under a rock. Perhaps you're independently wealthy (like the 1%) and don't give a damn what happens to the rest of the wage slaves in America? Perhaps you're a Senator or Representative, and your pay and benefits are protected from the effects of sequestration? Perhaps you're the CEO of a large corporation, and you see this as a happy day; the final blow to the middle class, and end to unions and worker oriented labor. An end to middle income wages? If on the other hand, you happen to be a federal worker, a middle income American, an unemployed worker, a student, a retiree, a teacher, a cop, a fireman, a wage earner; you're on the front line of sequestration imposed depression.

At this point, I'm going to assume that you know what the basics of sequestration are. If you don't, please educate yourself. Help America rise above the propaganda of the press and pundits. The politicians responsible for this fiscal crisis know exactly what they're doing. They're intentionally inducing this crisis so that they can point their fingers at their political opponents and say 'They did it, it's their fault!'. 'I didn't cut your pay check, I didn't cut your medicare, I didn't cut your social security, I didn't cut your health care for infants, I didn't cut the headstart program - it was them!, I didn't cut the [name your politically sensitive/federal program here]'... Since no one in congress was strong enough, brave enough or courageous enough to come up with some specific cuts, they're all going to stand back and point fingers as these unmanaged, unprogrammed, automatic cuts take place.

Will sequestration happen? Well, it's a little late to ask that question. The automatic budget sequestration of 2013 has already begun. No one stopped it (the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (which resulted in a tax increase (eliminated a payroll taxation cut) for everyone I know) delayed it for two months) and the sequestration measures went into effect on the 1st of March, 2013. The federal government is now mandated to cut appx $1.1 Trillion dollars over the 2013-2021 period. $85.4 billion will be cut (from Defense only) during fiscal year 2013. There are several round of billion dollar cuts scheduled to take effect at various times throughout the time period noted above. These cuts are automatic and very little can be done to 'reprogram' these cuts to minimize impact upon critical programs or personnel. These cuts slash across all departments of the federal government. This year (2013) it's only affecting the Department of Defense, but that's not the limit. Additional cuts will affect every department of the government. Every program including social security, education, defense, etc. Discretionary and mandatory spending will be cut.

The latest 'fact' - and getting those has been quite difficult - I will not be furloughed. A recent announcement by DoD leadership has laid out many of the Furlough/Sequestration facts. DoD employees working in a couple of key areas (areas protected by DoD fund reprogramming or by law) will not be cut. There are only two types of funding that won't be affected, and I'm employed in one of the programs who's funding has been protected. I really don't know how they managed to do it, but DoD financial managers have moved the funding around in such a way that personnel programs in two specific/key areas have been protected from furloughs - So I'm safe. Unfortunately, not everyone is spared. The latest 'rumor' is that several others in the government will be/in 'fact' have been notified that they will be furloughed. The latest rumor is 6 days (reduced from 22 to 11, from 11 to 6) without pay (in fiscal year 2013). So, now that the waiting is over, DoD has begun notifying personnel that they will be furloughed.

So how would you feel if you worked hard day in and day out. Then, at the end of the year the boss told you that you did great. But, we're not going to give you any kind of pay raise. The board of directors has decided that you aren't going to get a pay raise. Oh yeah, that same board has also dictated that all the workers will have to take pay cuts. Oh, just in case you were wondering, congress (all elected, appointed and active duty military members) is exempt from any pay cuts. So, I see congress unwilling to suffer any pay cuts; and the stock market is realizing gains? That's confusing... Why are deficits; caused by ineffective legislators (unwilling to close tax loop holes or cut ineffective budgetary items) and the greed of the wealthy allowed to continue, while the working class once again has to carry the burden of their ineffective governance? So get ready America - Buckle down and bend over! Double down on your anti-anxiety medication; Sequestration is here to stay! Let your elected leaders know how you feel about the sequestration.</rant>

My Opinion: The article/blog posting above (on my website: http://www.robsworld.org) contains reported facts, observations, and some of my personal opinion(s). It does not represent any official government position, and it is not meant to imply a suggested course of action, or advocacy of any specific action(s). These are my personal opinions, and the last time I checked I was still entitled to have those. If you have your own opinions on the matter of 'Sequestration' that's great. You may disagree with my personal opinion(s), and you may email me regarding 'Sequestration' and/or my opinions, but please don't bother telling me that my personal opinions are 'wrong', because opinions can't be 'wrong'. (Note: The unclassified FurloughMemo.pdf document (linked above and below) was originally released by/posted on the defense.gov website. Reported to my personal website for convenience archival purposes. Used here iaw 'Fair Use' Copyright provisions.) My 'Rant' Article/editorial/commentary is Copyright: Robert L. Vaessen (2013)
<http://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/pay-leave/furlough-guidance/guidance-for-administrative-furloughs.pdf>
<http://www.stripes.com/news/dod-civilian-furloughs-planned-what-it-means-for-you-1.208813>
<http://capitalgainsandgames.com/blog/stan-collender/2597/yes-cr-can-be-used-stop-sequester>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_fiscal_cliff#Effects_of_sequestration>
<http://www.colorado.gov/cs/Satellite/DOLA-Main/CBON/1251594680280>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Taxpayer_Relief_Act_of_2012>
<http://act.secondtonone.org/6059/stop-sequestration/>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Budget_sequestration>
<http://www.bls.gov/data/inflation_calculator.htm>
<http://www.robsworld.org/FurloughMemo.pdf>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Furlough>

Software favorites:
Another batch of updates for my favorite Graphic 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 a few updates over the past week. I recently saw/downloaded the following updates: 8.7.2 (b1293), 8.8 (b1302). 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>

Panasonic AG-2570Who needs a VCR?
In this age of digital media - Everything seems to be digitized, online, downloadable. There's no need for Blu-ray, DVDs or even CDs; let alone audio or video casettes. It's getting quite difficult to watch those old VHS tapes on that 'physical' shelve in the basement. I'm in the middle of a VHS to digital conversion project and found myself in need of a VHS player. The one which should live in my living room is sitting on my office desk (so I can use it to digitize those VHS tapes). The other VHS player was in the bedroom. Unfortunately, I went to watch a movie (in the bedroom) and found that old player/recorder (an S-V7) kaput! The power supply was shot. The unit wouldn't power on. It's an old device, and I decided to see if I could find a replacement. Rather than another Sansui model (marginal quality), I decided to buy a more reliable and feature rich device. Searching online for VCRs resulted in some rather disappointing choices for consumers. Nothing I found online was built to the specs of some old Panasonic models. I've got a lot of experience with the old Panasonic models, so I decided to go that route. After a bit of searching, I located the model I wanted - A six head, Panasonic AG-2570 S-VHS/VHS VCR. Back in the day, this baby was a professional grade recorder. It's still selling in the $300.00 price range (on 'Professional Video' websites), but I really didn't want to pay that much for a VCR that I might use twice a year...

Off to eBay we go. After a short search on eBay, I located the VCR I was looking for. A used model available for the low, low price of $23.44. With shipping, the unit cost me $37.18. After I got it home, I installed it in the bedroom and checked it out. Everything worked fine. No problems noted. Sansui S-V7 replaced with a (used) professional grade device. FYI: As of 2011, Panasonic no longer manufactures VCRs. This technology is officially dead. Only nostalgia and converters (like myself) are keeping it around for a few more years. As soon as I complete my VHS conversion project I'll box up all those old VHS tapes and put them in storage. When was the last time you watched a movie on VHS?
<http://www.robsworld.org/whatsnew/wn2010/wn2010_oct.html#vhsconversionproject>
<http://service.us.panasonic.com/OPERMANPDF/AG2570.PDF>
<http://panasonic.net/history/corporate/products/inp1977_1.html>
<http://www.videointerchange.com/video-history.htm#S-VHS>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S-VHS>

PrintfolioApp-a-Palooza - Belight's Printfolio Bundle:
I'm always on the lookout for good digital design deals, and this one's a doozy! I'm a fan of Belight - A company that makes some excellent design applications for the Mac. I've already got a few, and one of them has made its way to my Favorites page (Art Text 2). Recently, I came (Belight sent me an email) across a deal I couldn't resist. I could five of Belight's digital design applications for the Low low price of $19.99 - Five Apps: Swift Publisher ($29.95), Business Card Composer ($34.95), Disc Cover ($34.95), Labels & Addresses ($49.95) and Image Tricks Pro ($9.95), at the cost of one application! These apps typically go for ~$90.00 as a bundle, or ~$160.00 separately. A deal like this doesn't come along very often.

As I mentioned, I already had a few of the apps (Image Tricks Lite and Labels & Addresses). I've used Image Tricks Lite quite often, but wished I had the pro version. Used Labels & Addresses a few times, and use the Art Text 2 application quite frequently. The apps by Belight are easy to use, powerful and packed full of features. I slapped down my $20.00 with no hesitation. Purchasing this bundle came with a slew of questions - So I wrote the customer support address. In less than 24 hours I had concise, precise and accurate answers to all my questions. I was even able to convert my iTunes store version of Art Text 2 into a native application with no questions or problems. I prefer to purchase directly from the developer in many instances - One of them being; when the customer support is superior; as is the case with Belight.

My comments to the Belight support representative (after a two day exchange of demanding/complex technical support - to make sure I didn't botch the installation and conversion of several Belight apps):

Thanks again for all your help. Belight remains an excellent company with delightful products and top notch support (Unlike some competitors - Such as Koingo Software). I will continue to purchase Belight software; regardless of the venue that I purchase your apps through (bundled, app store, or stand alone). The one consistent ingredient that Belight gets right is 'Customer Support' That one ingredient is by far the most important component in this 'App Store' era of $1 price tags and plentiful solutions to all our software needs.

Thank you for your excellent attitude, support commitment and well designed products.

As you can imagine, my advice - If you're at all serious about digital design (even if your an amateur like me), don't let this sort of deal slip by. If you're offered the opportunity to purchase this bundle at this discount; Do it! You'll certainly be happy with the purchase.
<http://www.belightsoft.com/products/labelsaddresses/overview.php>
<http://www.belightsoft.com/products/swiftpublisher/overview.php>
<http://www.belightsoft.com/products/imagetricks/overview.php>
<http://www.belightsoft.com/products/composer/overview.php>
<http://www.belightsoft.com/products/disccover/overview.php>
<http://www.belightsoft.com/products/printfolio/overview.php>

iCloud StorageiCloud Storage - Reduced:
When Apple discontinued MobileMe and stood up iCloud services (a sad day that saw a reduction in services and features), they held out a olive branch to former MobileMe subscribers - Storage. Apple announced the end of MobileMe and creation of iCloud on the 6th of June, 2011. They announced that MobileMe would be discontinued after June 30th, 2012. Those who already had a MobileMe account would have their MobileMe service extended (at no cost) until the launch of iCloud. MobileMe members also received a bump up in iCloud storage - To accomodate those who had paid for more than the iCloud base storage amount of 5GB. Everyone with a MobileMe account got bumped up to 25GB (With the default storage of 5GB, that meant that most MobileMe members ended up with 25GB of iCloud storage. If that wasn't enough, you could buy more). This complimentary upgrade was put in place so that MobileMe users with a lot of data could migrate to iCloud without worrying about the default storage being insufficient for their migrated data.

The MobileMe migration is slated to last from the 6th of June, 2011, until September 30th, 2013. According to Apple's recent announcement (received by me on the 2nd of August, 2013), that complimentary storage upgrade will end on the 30th of September, 2013.

Dear Robert L. Vaessen,
As a thank you for being a former MobileMe member, you received a 20 GB complimentary storage upgrade when you moved to iCloud. Your upgrade expires on September 30, 2013.
When it expires, your iCloud storage will be automatically adjusted to the free 5 GB plan. You are currently using 3.85 GB of storage.
For more information, see this article.
The iCloud Team

The announcement of the discontinuation didn't really affect me. I had already reduced the amount of data I was storing in my iCloud account. We all knew that this additional storage wouldn't last forever. The default iCloud storage amount was 5GB, and I wasn't about to pay for more. The plans were helplessly out of pace with the reality of desktop storage. I could buy a hard drive with more capacity for a ridiculously low price when compared to iCloud storage. Sure, iCloud storage was competitive with competing 'cloud' storage services, but here's the problem. If cloud storage is going to work at all, it's going to have to drop it's cost per GB. Storage in the cloud is awesome but too expensive. Storage on the desktop is cheap but doesn't offer the convenience, portability and accessibility afforded by cloud storage. The solution - Well, if cloud storage models don't find a way to reduce their costs per GB, cloud storage will have to move to the desktop...

If you haven't found a way to reduce your iCloud storage; and you're still living on that complimentary upgrade, you'll find the plans going forward are quite expensive. Take my advice and scale back your cloud storage. If Apple doesn't eventually drop it's price per GB, the market will offer you a far more reasonable option. Apple's solution for additional storage isn't an option you want to live with.
<http://www.robsworld.org/icloudstorageretracted.png>
<http://support.apple.com/kb/HT5527>

Music CollectionAugust's Aural Avalanche:
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 35 million tracks! (16m on MOG (as of Sep, 2012), >19m on eMusic (as of Aug 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 (Aug of 2013) I downloaded 90 tracks (from eMusic) at the low cost of $23.26. I'm paying a $19.99 monthly fee, so that makes the tracks even cheaper (~$0.22 / 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.

* Separates - 999: (11) No longer available on eMusic :-( I was lucky enough to download two albums from this 80s band before all their material disappeared from eMusic. Named after England's emergency phone number, 999 is a punk rock/new wave band from the 70s-00s. Their lineup has changed little over the years, and they performed live well into the 2000s. The band charted a few times, but I still remember them from the 80s when they hit their high water mark. They broke up and reunited a few times. Definitely one of the influences in my musical tastes. Notable for the vocals and music that you can pogo to!
* Everything you thought was wrong today - Slobberbone: (12) Another band that's disappeared from eMusic - What's going on here? eMusic used to be great for alternative and independent music, now the only thing they seem to care about are the chart leaders. That's crap! We need more variety and less over-produced pop crap. Here's another band I discovered via MOG. This one features rock with country flavor, americana spirit and bluegrass soul.
* We Are...The League - Anti-nowhere League: (19) Yet another band that's vanished from the listings in eMusic - Holly Crap! All my favorite bands are disappearing from eMusic. I guess I'll have to switch over to 'Madonna' - NOT! Anti-Nowhere League is another hard-hitting hardcore Punk band from the 80s. Another English band with working class angst baked into the lyrics, and a healthy dose of antiestablishmentarianism in its attitude. The kind of band that makes you want to 'Riot in the Streets!'
* Ritual - White Lies: (10) Finally, one of the albums I purchased is still available on eMusic. Of course it's new. It's only their second album. This group was discovered (by me) while listening to MOG recommendations. Moody, dark, post-punk. I really liked some of the songs that soar above the typical clamor of post punk bands. Reminds me of Interpol, Editors, Hard-Fi.

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:
* eMusic Hidden Treasures 2013 Free Sampler - Various Artists: (38) Holy smokers! That's a lot of music - Quite a download. 38 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. Of course this sampler, compiled by eMusic, is no longer available - anywhere. They put it together, threw it out there, and now it's gone. Hopefully I'll find some gems in here. Something that will lead me to a purchase and discovery of a great talent.

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://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MOG_(online_music)>
<http://www.robsworld.org/music.html>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emusic>