February 28, 2013

MOGMOG acquired by Beats audio:
It's been a while since I wrote about MOG, but recent news spurs me to action. MOG is an online music service, a blog network, and a social networking website where users can listen to, read about, and discover music. Music + Blog = MOG. I've been enjoying MOG music service since October of 2010. <rave>In my opinion, it's an excellent streaming music service. Offering a huge variety (16 million+ songs as of Sep, 2012) of songs, I'm seldom disappointed by the variety. Given the fact that it started out featuring independent artists, it still has an excellent selection of my kind of music. It's available for free or pay. The service is available on numerous devices. I can access the MOG music service using a Mac specific app on my desktop computer, on my Squeezebox (a portable streaming device), or any of my Roku's scattered about the house. The only thing I don't pay for is the download capability for iPhone use. That's $9.99 a month, but I'm fine with the add free service for $4.99.</rave>

So what's the news? In July of 2012 (I missed that!), Beats Electronics, LLC (Founded by hip-hop producer Andre "Dr. Dre" Young and Interscope-Geffen-A&M Records chairman Jimmy Iovine) bought MOG for $14 million. Beats bought MOG's music collection, but not it's blog and advertising network. The MOG Music Network (blog and advertising network) was sold to the radio and online media company Townsquare Media (in August of 2012) for a rumored amount of $10 million. So MOG has been sold; divided into two parts, this could spell the end for MOG. For now the service continues, with Beats continuing to maintain and operate the music service. I've noted that the price of tracks has risen since the acquisition. I wasn't aware of the sale at the time, but now it seems apparent that they had to raise the cost per track to offset operating costs. They've also opened up the service by offering per track pricing to non-members. In my opinion that was a smart move, I just wish they would have done that earlier. It might have prevented the sale (which split MOG into two separate entities) and stopped the price creep I've witnessed over the past three years. Hopefully these two separate pieces can continue as a single service. Beats Electronics, LLC (the company that bought the rights to the MOG music library and licensing deals) has HTC (the phone maker) as it's majority share holder, and there's been reports that HTC is working on a "truly end-to-end music experience" for owner of its phones and other mobile devices. I wouldn't be surprised if MOG's music was used to fuel this new HTC phone based music service, and that's good news. It means that the MOG music service may survive this odd break-up.

MOG subscribers can play any song from the catalog (over 16 million tracks) on their computer (through their web browser or a Java powered desktop application). The music streams are 320 kbps mp3 files (very high quality (for an MP3)); on a mobile device (provided you pay $9.99 a month) through MOG's applications for the iPhone, iPod Touch, and Android platform; on your television/multi-media receiver, through MOG's Roku channel (included with the $4.99 service). MOG also allows users to access aggregated editorial content from thousands of music blogs, user posts, and in-house editors. Awesome!
<http://www.musicweek.com/news/read/remaining-half-of-mog-music-network-sells-to-townsquare-media-group/051510>
<https://mogsupport.zendesk.com/entries/22005906-How-many-total-tracks-are-available-at-MOG->
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MOG_(online_music)>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beats_Electronics>
<https://mogsupport.zendesk.com/home>
<http://www.mog.com>

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

Graphic ConverterGraphicConverter:
Thorsten Lemke (of Lemkesoft) completed work on a slew of beta releases over the last week or so. I recently saw/downloaded the following update: 8.5.3 (b1152). 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>

Frozen FurnaceFrozen Furnace Woes:
Recently (26 Feb, 2013), Kim and I came home to a cold house. The temperature outside was 24°F and falling, a gentle snow was blanketing the town, and our furnace (Carrier 58MCA - 4-Way multipoise fixed-capacity direct-vent condensing gas furnace) wasn't working at all. We came home from work and I remarked: "Wow, I'm surprised that you let it get so cold in here." Kim asked what I was talking about. "Well, it's far cooler in here than you normally allow." She'd been home for an hour already, but hadn't noticed the slight chill I'd detected. With a blanket around her she simply muttered something about it never being warm in the house. I moved into the living room, and took a look at the thermostat. "That's odd" I said, as I examined the readings. 'It's supposed to be 75 degrees in the house, but the temperature reads a measly 71 degrees.' (or something like that). Kim said "What!?", and took a look at the thermostat while I headed for the basement.

A few minutes later that bad news had sunken in. We called a furnace repair place before it got too late, and I fired up our 'second' furnace. Thankfully we have two furnaces (one for the basement) and the furnace repair place had sent someone to take a look at our errant unit. We chose a place we'd used before, but it wasn't our usual repair place. They'd stop servicing our area (lost their area representative). So we chose an outfit called 'Applewood plumbing heating and electric'. Their technician arrived around 6pm, and immediately set to work diagnosing the problem. After approximately an hour, the bad news was delivered. We needed a new 'logic board' - Yes it's the most expensive component in the furnace (according to the technician). He didn't have the necessary part, but he could get it tomorrow and install it for... approximately $1,300.00 dollars! Wow! - I had no idea that a logic board could cost that much. Kim and I went to bed, and dreamt about the arctic circle. Even with the basement furnace running our house was still chilly. I think the temp stayed around 62 degrees all night. I didn't want to turn it up too high. That furnace wasn't designed to heat the whole house; so we toughed it out for the rest of the night.

I waited for a call at work. The call came in around 0930. I met the furnace repair man at 1015. Repairs took less than two hours but the cost was more than originally estimated. Parts and labor totaled (with a AAA discount) $1,362.00! The technician was courteous, professional and willing to tell me what he was doing. All the while he was doing the work I had a nagging feeling that I was getting taken. <rant>A few days later, that nagging feeling was making me lose sleep, so I decided to do a little investigating. I dug up the work order... My fears were getting worse. The work order didn't itemize the costs. There was no break down for parts and labor. That's not good. Cryptically encoded on the work order was the part number: HK42FZ013. I did a bit of searching. Guess what I found? The price was way, way, way lower than I'd estimated. I found prices ranging from $80.00 to $218.00 (for the part). That means I paid approximately $1,144.00 for labor! (appx three hours of labor = $381.00 / hour). The service was great, but $381.00 per hour is way too much for labor. Next time I'll buy the part myself. I won't be using this company again - Applewood plumbing heating & electric screwed me over with a price that isn't in line with reality.</rant> The only good news to this story? The new part corrected the problem and we've got heat again.
<http://denver.citysearch.com/profile/45291755/denver_co/applewood_plumbing_heating_cooling_electric.html>

Bluetooth TransmitterGOgroove BlueSense TRM - Bluetooth Transmitter:
Recently (21 Feb, 2013), I purchased a wireless stereo headset (The LG Tone™ HBS-700). Along with that stereo headset, I also bought a bluetooth transmitter. A GOgroove BlueSense TRM. It's a wireless A2DP bluetooth transmitter. Designed for use with devices that do not have a bluetooth transmit capability. This device can be connected to an audio device (such as a stereo, radio, tape player, television, etc). Once the transmitter is powered on it will stream the audio via bluetooth. Any device capable of receiving/pairing with a bluetooth transmission source can then receive the streaming audio. While this all sounds a bit complicated, it's all part of my master plan. The transmitter comes with a recharger cable. With a 10 hour battery lifetime, I probably won't need to recharge it after every use.

I purchased this cell phone accessory for use in the basement (primarily). I plan to use this transmitter in conjunction with the recent purchase of a wireless stereo headset (The LG Tone™ HBS-700). I'll use them when I'm on the treadmill. That treadmill. in the basement makes a lot of noise, and I have to turn the stereo/receiver way up in order to hear the TV when I'm watching a movie or podcast (and using the treadmill.). Sometimes I turn it up so loud that I wake Kim up, and that's not good! This transmitter pairs with various devices via Bluetooth. The low profile headset fits easily around my neck, stays out of the way, doesn't fall off when I'm walking on the treadmill., and it doesn't require storage every time I take it off. The transmitter and headsets pair easily and the audio quality is fairly good (with some minor dropouts (less than a second at a time)). With the headsets and transmitter paired I can turn off the stereo's (Kenwood 105VR) speakers and still enjoy my movie while I work that treadmill. A perfect solution to a noisy situation.
<http://www.accessorypower.com/gogroove-bluesense-trm-wireless-a2dp-bluetooth-transmitter-p-2319.html>
<http://www.kenwoodusa.com/UserFiles/File/UnitedStates/Home/Manuals/105vr.pdf>
<http://www.robsworld.org/lghbs700.png>

Big Snow StormIt's still Winter:
Another big snow storm hit the Aurora area on the 24th of Feb, 2013. As usual, the news played it up. They predicted a massive event. They started out by predicting 4 to 8 inches; then 6 to 12 inches; the last prediction I heard (by the weather gurus on prime time TV) was 8 to 16 inches of snow in our area! Wow - It sure sounded like it was going to be a heavy duty event. As usual, the snow didn't live up to it's hype. Once again the weather forecaster was right 8-16 inches puts our 10" in the predicted range. A 4" range changed to a 6" range and finally an 8" range. Why do predictions get less specific as the event gets closer?

The snow fell all day long. I sat in my office typing away and watching the nasty weather accumulate in our back yard. For a while there the visibility was nearly zero. The wind was blowing quite violently, and I didn't dare go out to run the snow blower. We waited all day, and it never relented. At the end of the day, we accumulated approximately 10" in our part of Aurora. On the next day (a Monday), our work was delayed by up to three hours. Kim and I showed up for work an hour later than usual. On Wednesday (the 26th) we got another 2" of snow. Once again our employers (we work for different companies in the same building) announced a delay. This time they authorized a four hour delay! We came in an hour later than normal.

All this snow isn't such a bad thing. Colorado can definitely use the moisture. Our summer/previous year was quite dry, and the mountains are certainly acquiring a nice coating this winter. It's good news for Colorado. I just hope we don't get more than we can handle. Unfortunately, due to the timing of the storms during this week (and my work schedule), I had to wait until the end of the week before I could clear the snow.

Shoveling all that snow is a lot easier when I listen to some podcasts. My favorite? The No Agenda podcast with Adam Curry (Crackpot) and John C. Dvorak (Buzzkill). "In the morning!" Good thing I've got a warm coat (down filled), a good shovel and a working snow blower. This time I broke out the snow blower to clear away that week long accumulation of snow. It took me about 1.5 hours to clear the driveway and sidewalks.
<http://www.noagendashow.com>

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 20 Mar, 2013. Our next Metro District meeting will be held on the 26th of Feb, 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 meeting. Our next HOA meeting is 20 Mar, 2013. Our next Metro District meeting will be held 26 Feb, 2013.
  • Info: A page of links, phone numbers, email addresses and other information pertinent to the residents/community of Tollgate Crossing.
    • I updated information regarding the membership of the HOA board and email links to those members.
    • I updated links to, and posted updated Meeting Minutes from Metro District meetings. Added meeting minutes from the following date: 2012-11-27 (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.

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>

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 will be held on 2 May, 2013. The announcement links to our Current and Events pages.
  • Current: A web page dedicated to the most recent news, announcements and information.
    • I updated announcements for the next Neighborhood Watch meeting. Our next meeting will be held on the 2nd of May, 2013. This meeting will take place at the usual place (Fox Ridge Middle School).
    • I removed the holiday safety tips.
    • I removed the monthly NW newsletter banner and links. Now that our PAR has taken over the responsibilities for the newsletter it comes out weekly, and that's far too often for me to keep up with. If you'd like to receive the weekly NW newsletter please sign up for our 'neighborhoodwatch' mailing list.
    • I removed the poster announcing the CAP training. That event took place in February of 2013.
  • 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 will be held on the 2nd of May, 2013 (at our usual location of Fox Ridge Middle School). When additional information becomes available I'll update the Current and Events pages to reflect the updated information.

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>

February 24, 2013

Independent VoterI pledge allegiance:
Recently (23 Feb, 2013), I changed my political party affiliation to 'Unaffiliated' - I no longer believe that the Republican or Democrat parties are willing to serve the best interests of our nation or myself. I will no longer chose candidates based on party affiliation. The 'big two' have done enough damage to our nation, it's time for real change. A large number of people just don't see the parties as representing them and I'm one of those abused voters. Campaign promises are one thing, but outright lies have forced me to re-think my allegiances. I used to pledge my allegiance to a party, now I pledge my allegiance to sanity, our nation and the constitution. I'm sick and tired of parties and politicians who think they know better than our Constitution, feel they're endowed with a mandate to change our social fabric, to dictate policy and exercise executive privilege outside the legal framework of our laws.

I'm not sure why others aren't unaffiliated. I know some Republicans who are disgusted with their own party and tired of the fact that the Tea Party seems to dominate. I think there are some people who were raised Republican but lean Democrat because the Republicans have moved so far to the right. They're not willing to commit to a party that has been so thoroughly vilified for years. I don't like the fact that the two parties have decided that its better to oppose each other than compromise to help America. They're more concerned with their party image than the massive problems facing our nation. They're more willing to listen to extremist views and campaign contributors than they are to the learned scientists, common citizens and scholars of our nation. They see the opposite party as enemies - citizens registered to the opposite party are regarded with disdain. They'd rather poison the political landscape than cooperate with the enemy.

From this point on, I will vote for individuals and issues, not parties and platforms.
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Independent_(voter)>

Java for Mac OS XYet Another Java update for Mac OS X:
As predicted - As the Mac OS becomes more popular, more threats will emerge. 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. Over the last week Apple quickly responded to a few zero-day exploits by releasing another update to deal with Java vulnerabilities. This particular update is applicable to Macs running OS 10.6 (Snow Leopard), OS 10.7 (Lion) and OS 10.8 (Mountain Lion).

The most recent Mac OS X update (code named Mountain Lion) included a new security feature called 'Gatekeeper'. 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.

Multiple vulnerabilities exist in Java 1.6.0_37, (the version running on most installations of OS X 10.6/Snow Leopard), the most serious of these vulnerabilities may allow an untrusted Java applet to execute arbitrary code outside the Java sandbox. Visiting a web page containing a maliciously crafted untrusted Java applet may lead to arbitrary code execution with the privileges of the current user. These issues are addressed by updating to Java version 1.6.0_41. More information is available via the Java website at <http://www.oracle.com/technetwork/java/javase/releasenotes-136954.html> On systems that have not already installed Java for Mac OS X 10.6 update 9 or later, this Java update will configure web browsers to "Not" automatically run Java applets. Java applets may be re-enabled by clicking the region labeled "Inactive plug-in" on a web page. If no applets have been run for an extended period of time, the Java web plug-in will deactivate.

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/HT5651>
<http://support.apple.com/kb/HT5666>
<http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1222>

iTunesiTunes updated to version 11.0.2:
Recently (Nov 30th, 2012), Apple updated iTunes to version 11.0. This update was touted as a major update. It certainly shook up the interface. As a matter of fact, the interface update was the major update. The biggest change? The CoverFlow interface is gone! Why? I loved that CoverFlow interface. It was form and function. Not only did it look good (showing off your cover art collection); it was also functional. I was able to locate albums easily by scrolling through the covers. I can recognize visual patterns quicker than I can read. So, without typing (just swiping my finger), I could very quickly locate an album and start the music. Now I'll have to remember the 'Name' of the album or 'Artist' when I'm looking for my favorite artist. After the major update on the 30th of November, Apple released a minor update (iTunes 11.0.1) in December of 2012.

The 11.0.1 update addressed an issue where new purchases in iCloud didn't appear in your library if iTunes Match was turned on. It also made iTunes more responsive when searching a large library, fixed a problem where the AirPlay button didn't appear as expected, and added the ability to display duplicate items within your library. As usual, that update also included other important stability and performance improvements. The latest update (iTunes 11.0.2) was delivered on the 22nd of Feb, 2013. This particular update adds a new Composers view for music (great news for fans of classical music), improves responsiveness when syncing playlists with a large number of songs, and fixes an issue where purchases may not show up in your iTunes library (again!). Like most iTunes updates, this update also includes other stability and performance improvements.
<http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1222>
<http://support.apple.com/kb/DL1614>
<http://www.apple.com/itunes/>

LogoistNew Software for Graphic Design:
Recently (in Jan of 2013), I purchased the 'Logoist' as another replacement to a piece of software I used for several years. This new software does everything that the Logo Creator did; plus, it works under the newest Mac Operating System (OS 10.8 / as of Feb 2013). I've been using it for a few months now, and I'm very happy with it's performance. It's a great application for creating Titles, Logos, Buttons and graphic for my web pages. I've even added it to my Software Favorites page. It's still competing with 'Art Text 2', but competition is a good thing. As long as these two compete to be my 'Logo Creator' replacement, I'll be assured a well stocked chest of graphic design tools. I've even put together a web page containing a few examples of the titles and logos I've created using 'Logoist'. I may add more as time goes on. For now this is just a simple showcase to illustrate it's capabilities. If you'd like to see more samples, you may find the developers website provides more and 'better' examples.
<http://www.syniumsoftware.com/logoist/>

iOS 6.1.2iOS 6.1.2 released:
Apple's iOS 6.1 was released on the 28th of January, the changes listed in Apple's download announcement are quite slim, but it's a bigger update than one would expect for so few updates. A few days later (on the 11th of Feb, 2013) Apple released iOS 6.1.1, followed soon after by iOS 6.1.2. (on the 19th of Feb, 2013). According to Apple, the iOS 6.1.1 update was supposed to fix an issue that could impact cellular performance and reliability for the iPhone 4S (the model I'm using). The iOS 6.1.2 update was then released in order to fix an Exchange calendar bug that could result in increased network activity and reduced battery life. I never noticed either of these issues, but it's better to be safe than sorry. By the time you read this (unless you're a time traveler on the wrong track), you should be able to download the iOS 6.1.x updates for all your iDevices.
<http://support.apple.com/kb/DL1624>
<http://support.apple.com/kb/DL1631>
<http://support.apple.com/kb/DL1639>
<http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1222>

Human BarometerLG Tone™ HBS-700 stereo headsets:
Recently (21 Feb, 2013), I purchased a wireless stereo headset. The LG Tone™ HBS-700 is an around the neck headset with rechargeable batteries that last appx 10 hours (while listening to music or talking on the phone). I purchased this cell phone accessory for use in the basement (primarily). I plan to use them when I'm on the treadmill. That treadmill. in the basement makes a lot of noise, and I have to turn the stereo/receiver way up in order to hear the TV when I'm watching a movie or podcast (and using the treadmill.). Sometimes I turn it up so loud that I wake Kim up, and that's not good! This headset pairs with various devices via Bluetooth. In addition to use in the basement, I also use it with my iPhone. I hate holding a phone to my head, and this headset will keep my hands free while I'm having a conversation. That's a must when you're driving, biking, typing on the computer or simply trying to fix a cup of coffee. The low profile headset fits easily around your neck, stays out of the way, doesn't fall off when I'm walking on the treadmill., and it doesn't require you to store it every time you take it off. With noise reduction and echo cancellation, the phone calls are clear and easy to understand. All the controls are built in, easy to reach and simple to operate. The HBS-700 isn't the newest version of LG's stereo headsets, but it has much better range than the HBS-730. The reviews on Amazon are quite good, and the older model means a cheaper price ($45.99 (15 Feb, 2013)) than retail ($69.99).
<http://www.robsworld.org/lghbs700.png>

February 17, 2013

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... Have you been 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 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. Study after study after study has shown that a government must spend (even to the point of deficit) in order to stimulate economic recovery. For some reason, there are millions of Americans who reject the proven knowledge of economic stimulus for the nay-sayer rhetoric of conservation during recession. If the government stops spending money, cuts programs, reduces contracts, stops paying contractors; who will hire new or more workers? Why would a company that makes suspended trays for communications cables hire more workers when the government cuts back on building contracts? Why would a company that makes asphalt hire new workers when the orders for their product are cut by 75%? Why would the local barber shop hire a third barber when the number of workers at the local military base is reduced? Why would an oil company open a new refinery when the nearby airport cuts departures and arrivals by 10% (due to a lack of Air Traffic Control workers and prolonged waits during security processing)? Who actually thinks that 'Unemployment stimulates the economy'? Spending money stimulates the economy - Not unemployment! Unfortunately, some American's believe the media's hyper-reactive distortion of the truth - Rather than actually quoting a person who says that 'spending an unemployment check stimulates the economy', they twist the truth into 'So and so said', 'Unemployment Stimulates the Economy' because that's more sensational, that'll sell more advertising dollars, that'll get people to watch their 'talk show' (we have very few news outlets in America - most are day time talk shows in disguise). It will definitely make people believe that our political leaders are completely clueless. They're not, it's the public (yes - you heard me) who's clueless. If you believe the lies that the press spews, you're just as much to blame as the gossip they spout without conducting any form of investigation, fact checking or editorial control.

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. The other day (second week of February, 2013) I was reading some comments on a forum regarding the coming sequestration. The article discussed a recent Senate hearing where senators questioned military leaders regarding their 'Failure' to plan for the coming sequestration cuts. One of the forum participants actually bought into the circus of this Senate hearing, he called out the military leaders saying 'The military deserves what it gets, the cuts are needed, and this is just another example of the military getting caught with their pants down. They deserve what's coming.'

The forum respondents presumptions, his buy in, the Senate's accusations and the entire hearing itself; are all ridiculous - I'm a low level government civilian and I could easily plan for this 'sequestration'. Step 1: List every program that the DoD has (except active duty military pay). Step 2: Cut the budget of every program by 10%. How much planning does that take? The automatic cuts cannot be controlled by the DoD. Congress has mandated that every program be cut by 10%. There's no way to mitigate any impact when the DoD cannot pick and chose which programs to cut completely, and which programs to fully fund. There's no way to reduce the impact on active duty forces or missions that are currently being funded. They will 'All' be cut by at least 10%. There's no sense talking about which programs should be eliminated to spare others (as many were discussing/proposing on the forum). No one in the DoD can spare any program. Congress has mandated 10% across the board cuts on every single program. Will this have an impact? Absolutely! Is there really any way to 'Plan' for this? No! When the time comes, the DoD will simply cut 10% from every program, including my pay, the procurement budget for gasoline, bullets, armor, medical supplies, CSAR radios, maintenance depot supplies, you name it. If there's a line item budget for it, it gets cut by at least 10% (the exceptions? military pay, VA benefits, military PCS funds, federal judges and a few others, like the pay of Senators and Congressional representatives). Who's fault is this? (the failure to plan for the coming cuts imposed by sequestration?) Congress is totally trying to shift the blame to DoD. Do they really think we're all that stupid? DoD didn't create this 'sequestration' disaster, and DoD doesn't have any way to control or mitigate it's impact.

Will sequestration happen? That's a damn good question - Odds say 'Yes'. I certainly hope not. Will it put us back into recession? Absolutely! Will it help reduce our deficit? Probably, but the amount of lost revenue from taxes (due to layoffs, furloughs and cancelled federal contracts) might actually make the deficit worse! It's certainly going to hurt every sector of our economy - Unless you're selling cynicism, doom, gloom or disdain for our elected leaders. That's going to skyrocket! FYI: After 22 days of furlough, the government must begin to actually lay off employees under RIF (Reduction In Force) procedures. What might stop the sequestration? That's a good question. Let's see: Congress/the Senate actually doing their jobs (figure those odds), a military coup (probably better odds than politicians working together to prevent the sequester), a Continuing Resolution to continue funding at current levels (i.e. just kicking the problem down the road). The weakness and uncertainty of our elected leaders is clear and distressing. Even if we avert the sequester, this whole fiasco could result in another downgrading in our credit rating. What can we do? Buckle down and bend over! Double down on your anti-anxiety medication. Let your elected leaders know how you feel about the sequestration.</rant>

My Opinion: The article above 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 thereof. These are my personal opinions, and 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'.
<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://act.secondtonone.org/6059/stop-sequestration/>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Budget_sequestration>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Furlough>

Xfinity ComcastXfinity/Comcast finally blocking port 25:
I recently (12 Feb, 2013) received an email from Comcast/Xfinity; that email announced that Comcast/Xfinity (whatever they're calling themselves this month) has finally decided to block TCP port 25 for outgoing SMTP email. When SMTP (Simple Mail Transport Protocol) was originally released it was designed to use TCP (Transport Control Protocol) port 25 for sending email. The original implementation of SMTP (on port 25) had no provision for user authentication. Permission to send email was regulated by the users location/IP address. If the IP address was one controlled by the email server/ISP then the sender was permitted to send the email. Later, a method of authentication called POP before SMTP was used. In that model a user had to check for incoming email; using authentication credentials, before they were permitted to send any email via port 25. Unfortunately, spammers have found numerous ways to defeat these authentication techniques, and zombified (computers controlled by spammers) computers can abuse port 25 with impunity. As a result, many institutions and ISPs block the transmission of email using port 25. Most offer alternate ports which require authentication and/or encrypt message traffic as it is sent. After years of advice and recommendations, Comcast/Xfinity has finally agreed to heed the advice of numerous organizations by blocking access to port 25.

Who recommended that organizations stop using port 25? The M3AAWG (the Messaging, Malware and Mobile Anti-Abuse Working Group (M3AAWG)), a large industry organization that works to minimize abuse on the Internet. Amongst its members are such companies as Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, AOL, Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon, as well as many other communications companies such as Vodafone, Telefonica and France Telecom. M3AAWG published a paper back in 2005 recommending active management of port 25. The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) has also issued advice in the form of a number of Request for Comment (RFCs) that recommend the use of ports other than port 25 for the sending of email. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), also recommends that port 25 be blocked by ISPs. Finally, the ITU also recommends blocking port 25 in their document named "ITU Botnet Mitigation Toolkit." This can be found here.

What to use instead? Comcast is now promoting/mandating the use of Port 465 (or 587 (which has fewer safeguards) under specific circumstances) to send email from a desktop client (MUA/Mail User Agent). Port 465 requires authentication for the sending of each message, and it uses SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) to encrypt the entire session as the email is sent from the users computer to the ISP's email server(s). These measures should help Comcast prevent infected computers and other devices connected to the XFINITY® services from being able to freely transmit spam and malware. Configuring my Mac's Mail.app to use port 465 was quite easy, but the instructions were far more complex than they needed to be.
<http://corporate.comcast.com/comcast-voices/taking-steps-to-prevent-unintentional-network-abuse>
<http://customer.comcast.com/help-and-support/internet/email-port-25-no-longer-supported>
<http://corporate.comcast.com/comcast-voices/updated-management-of-smtp-port-25>
<http://www.robsworld.org/blockport25.png>
<http://networkmanagement.comcast.net>

Software favorites:
More updates to a bunch of my favorite software applications. Transmit is an FTP tool that does it all, and this update brings several bug fixes along with a new favorites syncing capability. Along with the Transmit update there's also some updates to my favorite cataloging applications, an update to one of my favorite graphic design applications and a powerful HTML editing application. A slew of updates for web page designers using the Mac platform.

TransmitTransmit:
An FTP tool that does it all. Anyone who publishes web pages eventually needs a way to upload their pages to a web site. I've found that stand alone FTP tools are the best for this task. Transmit (updated to version 4.3, 4.3.1 and 4.3.2 on the 12th -14th of Feb, 2013) has a clean and easy to use interface, and some really nifty features, like the ability to resume a transfer that's been interrupted, advanced site synchronization capabilities (with simulation mode and reporting capabilities), Amazon S3 integration, Sync your favorites using Dropbox, drag-to-dock sending, creation / use of transfer droplets, column views, quick navigation side-bar, multi-connection transfers, built in compression, a built in text editor, remote file editing using local editors, and secure transfer (in various different flavors) capabilities. Check out the Panic.com Release Notes for all the changes made (by version) to Transmit.
<http://www.panic.com/transmit/index.html>

Art Text 2Art Text 2:
Running version 2.4.3 (451) - Art Text is a Mac OS X application for creating high quality textual graphics, headings, logos, icons, web site elements and buttons. Thanks to multi layer support creating complex graphics is no sweat. This software allows you to create great looking title graphics for print or the web. Create catchy headings and other text graphics. Generate attractive buttons and cool titles to make your web site look stylish and professional. Various logos and icons can be easily created to enrich your brochures, flyers and postcards. I've put together a page with a few samples (my own designs). If you'd like to see more samples, you may find the developers website provides more and 'better' examples.
<http://www.belightsoft.com/products/arttext/overview.php>

DVDPediaDVDPedia:
DVDPedia is a great little application for cataloging and displaying your movie collection, and I'm running version 5.1.4. It's list of features is impressive, and it keeps getting better with every update. The database is capable of generating statistics, you can keep track of multiple collections, you can easily add titles by typing the name of the movie or you can scan the barcode (using your iSight camera or a barcode reader) right off the movie box (it then searches the internet, and displays choices). It has customizable HTML export capabilities, a 'borrowed' feature with address book integration, the ability to play movies in full screen mode, and many more features which make an awesome addition to your software library. I use DVDpedia to generate HTML listings of my movies and movie reviews.

The 5.0 upgrade was a paid upgrade/new version of the software (The new version only runs on Intel architecture machines and it requires Leopard or better as an OS). This version has been over a year in the making with lots of changes big and small to make the programs even better. What's new? Lots of new search sites including Wikipedia, Freebase and Doghouse, the Pedias' own media server built by and for Pedia users. New custom fields for broader cataloging options: TV series for DVDpedia, comics for Bookpedia and board games for Gamepedia (I may have to buy a copy now) as well as new custom fields including dedicated date fields, check boxes and multi-value fields. A 10-star rating system with half-stars; click twice on a star to make it a half. Swipe gestures for the CoverFlow and Add/Edit window to move back and forth as well as pinch-to-zoom in the Grid view. A new filter feature for the Details view and Statistics to quickly find entries with that same value. And much, much more… Below are links to some of the pages I created using this software.
<http://www.robsworld.org/iphonemoviecollection/index.html>
<http://www.robsworld.org/mymovies/index.html>
<http://www.robsworld.org/reviews.html>
<http://www.bruji.com/version5.html>
<http://www.bruji.com/dvdpedia/>
<http://doghouse.bruji.com/>

CDPediaCDPedia:
CDPedia is a great little application for cataloging and displaying your music collection, and I'm running version 5.1.4. It's list of features is impressive, and it keeps getting better with every update. The database is capable of generating statistics, you can keep track of multiple collections, you can easily add titles by typing the name of the artist, album, or track. You can scan the barcode (using your iSight camera or a barcode reader) right off a jewel case (it then searches the internet, and displays choices), or you can import lists of music from iTunes. It has customizable HTML export capabilities, a 'borrowed' feature with address book integration, and many more features which make an awesome addition to your software library. I use CDPedia to generate HTML listings of my music.

The 5.0 upgrade was a paid upgrade/new version of the software (The new version only runs on Intel architecture machines and it requires Leopard or better as an OS). This version has been over a year in the making with lots of changes big and small to make the programs even better. What's new? Lots of new search sites including Wikipedia, Freebase and Doghouse, the Pedias' own media server built by and for Pedia users. New custom fields for broader cataloging options: TV series for DVDpedia, comics for Bookpedia and board games for Gamepedia (I may have to buy a copy now) as well as new custom fields including dedicated date fields, check boxes and multi-value fields. A 10-star rating system with half-stars; click twice on a star to make it a half. Swipe gestures for the CoverFlow and Add/Edit window to move back and forth as well as pinch-to-zoom in the Grid view. A new filter feature for the Details view and Statistics to quickly find entries with that same value. And much, much more… Below are links to some of the pages I created using this software.
<http://www.robsworld.org/iphonemusiccollection/index.html>
<http://www.robsworld.org/mymusic/index.html>
<http://www.bruji.com/version5.html>
<http://www.bruji.com/cdpedia/>
<http://doghouse.bruji.com/>

BookPediaBookpedia:
Bookpedia is a great little application for cataloging and displaying your book collection(s), and I'm running version 5.1.4. It's list of features is impressive, and it keeps getting better with every update. The database is capable of generating statistics, you can keep track of multiple collections, you can easily add titles by typing the name of the author, book, or isbn number. You can scan the barcode (using your iSight camera or a barcode reader) right off the book cover (the application searches the internet, and displays choices). It has customizable HTML export capabilities, a borrowed feature with address book integration, and many more features which make an awesome addition to your software library. I use Bookpedia to generate an HTML listing of my favorite books.

The 5.0 upgrade was a paid upgrade/new version of the software (The new version only runs on Intel architecture machines and it requires Leopard or better as an OS). This version has been over a year in the making with lots of changes big and small to make the programs even better. What's new? Lots of new search sites including Wikipedia, Freebase and Doghouse, the Pedias' own media server built by and for Pedia users. New custom fields for broader cataloging options: TV series for DVDpedia, comics for Bookpedia and board games for Gamepedia (I may have to buy a copy now) as well as new custom fields including dedicated date fields, check boxes and multi-value fields. A 10-star rating system with half-stars; click twice on a star to make it a half. Swipe gestures for the CoverFlow and Add/Edit window to move back and forth as well as pinch-to-zoom in the Grid view. A new filter feature for the Details view and Statistics to quickly find entries with that same value. And much, much more… Below is a link to a page I created using this software.
<http://www.robsworld.org/books.html>
<http://www.bruji.com/version5.html>
<http://www.bruji.com/bookpedia/>
<http://doghouse.bruji.com/>

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 10.5.2 update is a minor update, released to fix reported issues.
<http://www.barebones.com/support/bbedit/arch_bbedit1052.html>
<http://www.barebones.com/support/bbedit/updates.html>
<http://www.barebones.com/products/bbedit/>

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

February 10, 2013

Human BarometerCold and Crappy - Joints are aching:
On the 6th of February, I was aching. My joints have a tendency to ache whenever there's a low pressure front moving through the area - Seriously! (see my Human Barometer page). With aching toes, calves and wrists, I asked Kim what the weatherman had to say. She indicated that we were supposed to get rain and or snow on 8th of February and more on the 9th. "That's more than a day away", I remarked - "I think we're in for it sooner than that." Sure enough - When I woke up on Thursday morning (the 7th), I took another dose of pain killers and we headed in to work. While we were at work the weather got worse and worse. The sky got dark and nasty and eventually the snow started coming down. It was a bit unexpected, or at least the local weatherman thought so. We didn't get much snow (Less than an inch) but the freezing rain before the snow made for slow going on the way home. We didn't get any snow on Saturday (not here anyway), and according to the news, the mountains got most of the snow - as they always do. Along with the low pressure came low temperatures. The cold front lingered Thursday through Saturday and the temperatures stayed low all week. I've had this pain (in my joints) for many many years, I just wish I had a better Barometer so I could take some pain killers before the pain arrived.
<http://www.robsworld.org/barometer.html>

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 February, Kim and I enjoyed lunch at one of our favorite restaurants. We've been to the Great Northern Tavern on a few occasions. Not nearly often enough. 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 discovered something new. Cheese Curds - (made from Ellsworth Creamery white cheddar curds) Being from Wisconsin, we've been eating cheese curds since we were able to eat. A staple in the cheese head state, you wouldn't be surprised to learn that cheese curds are standard fare in every bar and most restaurants. Usually fried, but occasionally chilled, these golden nuggets are one of the delicacies that Wisconsin offers all visitors. If you get them while they're fresh they'll squeak when you eat 'em. If the squeak wears off, a short trip to the microwave will usually bring it back. Thankfully fresh cheese curds can be had (in Wisconsin) at many local dairies and nearby grocery stores.

On this particular trip to the Great Northern, we decided to try an appetizer. Hidden among the short list of appetizers was something we didn't expect to see. Cheese Curds! With a lack of any significant dairy industry, we were actually surprised to find cheese curds on the menu. We've had our share of poorly prepared squeaky cheese and decided with some trepidation to give the Great Northern's appetizer a go (even if Colorado isn't Wisconsin). After a few minutes wait the appetizers made their way to our table. We were pleasantly surprised to find that they hadn't breaded these babies before they dunked them in the fryer. A light tempura batter makes for a better coating than the regular corn meal coating or bread crumb kind. Those two only absorb too much grease in my opinion. The lightly battered white cheddar curds were cooked just right (not fried too long). Served with a sriracha aiola dipping sauce, Kim and I were very pleased with this appetizer, it made our whole meal better and brought us back home for a short time.</rave>
<http://whatscookingamerica.net/History/CheeseCurds.htm>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cheese_curds>
<http://www.ellsworthcheesecurds.com>
<http://www.gntavern.com>

Amazon PrimeAmazon Prime:
<rave>I finally did it, I broke down and signed up for Amazon Prime. If you're not already a member, you may be asking "What is Amazon Prime?" Well, it's a bunch of things. The most important thing (in my opinion) is free two-day shipping for eligible purchases. Yes, free two day shipping - As my Father in Law likes to say, nothing is Free, so the free is built in to the price of everyone's purchase. You can unlock the free by signing up for an Amazon Prime membership, while the rest of the 'consumers' suffer with the 3 - 5 business day shipping times (or longer). If you're like most American's you want your stuff now! You don't want to wait 3 - 5 days. Not only do you want it now, sometimes you want it yesterday ($4.00 get's you next day delivery). The only thing keeping American retail stores alive is the power of Now! Another feature of the Amazon Prime? Videos - On demand/instant videos. Amazon's instant videos come in two flavors, the kind you pay for. You can rent (Most titles $4.00) or purchase (Most titles $15.00) the videos, or - and here's the power of Prime, you can watch videos for Free! While it's difficult to get firm numbers, I was able to detect a few consistent numbers for the Amazon video selection. As of Feb, 2013, it looks like the Amazon Video library has ~180,000 titles, with ~33,000 free Amazon Prime videos. While that's not as many as Netflix, it's definitely a respectable number, and the price ~$70.00/year is competitive. You can watch the Amazon Prime videos on several different devices. I have six devices (not counting web browsers on a computer) capable of playing the free videos. Two day shipping and free videos isn't the limit to the Prime goodness. Amazon Prime members in the U.S. who own a Kindle (Amazon's eBook/eInk readers) can access the "Kindle Owners' Lending Library", a collection of thousands of books (~5,000 titles to choose from) to borrow for free; including more than 100 current and former NYT best sellers. You can borrow one book a month, with no due date... I don't own a Kindle, yet, so I guess I'll just have to stick with the other benefits for now. So - Amazon Prime membership gets you three benefits: Two day shipping on eligible items (plus one day shipping for $4.00), access to the Amazon Prime video selection (~33,000 titles), access to the Kindle Owners' lending library. In addition to all these goodies, you can share the two day shipping benefit with other family members, even if they've got a separate Amazon account.

I remember Amazon in the beginning (~1998). What started as a way to buy books soon exploded into something much larger - Music then Movies, then electronics, and the list goes on. Fast forward to 2013 - Amazon is the 1,000 pound gorilla of retail on the internet. An Amazon Prime membership plugs an intravenous of Amazon goods directly into your home. The speakers, blue-tooth transmitters, DVDs, Wireless headsets, ink cartridges, clock radios, shoes, laser pointers, batteries, etc! I may never leave the house again (JK). Imagine how indispensable this service must be for people living in rural parts of the U.S. Pretty much anything you can imagine is available via Amazon, and the prices are unbelievably low. With a Prime account delivery is super fast and FREE! No tax, no shipping, and two day deliver - Why bother with retail?</rave>
<http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html/ref=lp_mem_help?ie=UTF8&nodeId=200757120>
<http://lifehacker.com/5769303/how-amazon-prime-streaming-video-stacks-up-against-netflix>
<http://www.amazon.com/gp/video/ontv/devices>

Java for Mac OS XYet Another Java update for Mac OS X:
As predicted - As the Mac OS becomes more popular, more threats will emerge. 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. Over the last week Apple quickly responded to a few zero-day exploits by releasing another update to deal with Java vulnerabilities. This particular update is only applicable to Macs running OS 10.6 (Snow Leopard).

The most recent Mac OS X update (code named Mountain Lion) included a new security feature called 'Gatekeeper'. 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.

Multiple vulnerabilities exist in Java 1.6.0_37, (the version running on most installations of OS X 10.6/Snow Leopard, the most serious of these vulnerabilities may allow an untrusted Java applet to execute arbitrary code outside the Java sandbox. Visiting a web page containing a maliciously crafted untrusted Java applet may lead to arbitrary code execution with the privileges of the current user. These issues are addressed by updating to Java version 1.6.0_39. More information is available via the Java website at <http://www.oracle.com/technetwork/java/javase/releasenotes-136954.html> On systems that have not already installed Java for Mac OS X 10.6 update 9 or later, this Java update will configure web browsers to "Not" automatically run Java applets. Java applets may be re-enabled by clicking the region labeled "Inactive plug-in" on a web page. If no applets have been run for an extended period of time, the Java web plug-in will deactivate.

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)>
<https://support.apple.com/kb/HT5241>
<http://support.apple.com/kb/DL1573>
<http://support.apple.com/kb/HT5575>
<http://support.apple.com/kb/HT5647>
<http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1222>

Facebook SuedFacebook vs Consumers - but who's the winner?
On the 1st of Feb, 2013, I received an email from < >. Like many people, I initially thought that this was spam. A couple of things made me suspect it might be real. The email was addressed to the email address that I've associated with Facebook. Not a typical yahoo.com or hotmail.com address, not an @facebook assigned email address; it's a special email address that I created just for facebook. I doubt that any spammer could easily guess the email address, and Facebook is an unlikely source to leak my email address to a spammer. The grammar was impeccable; no spelling or grammar errors punctuated the elegant legalese of the lengthy pronouncement. I did a little more research. I examined the full header/raw source of the message. The links and email addresses in the message were not obfuscated or re-directed, they all pointed to the same websites and email addresses that they purported to, and none of them ended in .ru, .by, .cn or .pl domains. As a final check I ran the message through a SpamCop filter to check for other indications of abuse. The message came up clean, so I fired up my browser and checked out the links.

As it turns out, the email definitely isn't part of a scam. It's legit. Someone (Angel Fraley, Paul Wang, Susan Mainzer, and others) actually sued Facebook for using their likeness or identities in sponsored ads without their permission (ref: Fraley, et al. v. Facebook, Inc., et al., Case No. CV-11-01726 RS). If you've used Facebook significantly over the past few years, you may have seen these ads, they looked something like this...

Facebook Sponsored Story

These 'Sponsored Story' ads used the names (and sometimes photos) of Facebook users without the user's consent. Typically the ads would feature people you knew when that person clicked a 'Like' icon. And so a lawsuit was born! Facebook announced that they were going to start doing this back in 2011, but they didn't get permission from users before they started doing it. It's another example of the 'Opt-Out' mentality, and how it doesn't work. Facebook said you couldn't 'Opt-Out' at all; aside from not 'Liking' anything, when people's faces started showing up as sponsors of ads that they didn't approve of, and minor's started showing up in ads, the lawsuits started flying. Eventually (in California), many of those lawsuits became a large class action lawsuit.

In December of 2012, Facebook and the plaintiffs agreed to settle the lawsuit. The judge in that case objected to the settlement and it had to be renegotiated. Eventually Facebook and the plaintiffs came up with a new plan, and the judge gave it a tentative o.k. That's when the email messages were sent out. In the revised proposal, the lawyers came to an agreement where the users (Approximately 168 million users in the U.S.) could receive up to $10.00 each; provided they submit a claim form. However, the maximum amount to be paid is $20 million. Before you get all giddy about your $10.00, know this...

Will the lawyers be paid? Of course, class counsel is requesting $7.5 million for attorney fees and up to $282,566.49 for costs. So that reduces the pay out to ~$12,217,434.00. What about the plaintiffs? Are they getting $10.00 or more than that? Susan Mainzer, James Duval, and W.T., a minor, by and through Russell Tait, will request a service award of up to $12,500 (each) for their services as class representatives and their efforts in bringing the Action. So now the $20 million is down to ~$12,179,934.00. O.k Split that among the ~168 million Facebook users in the U.S. (provided they all submit a claim) and you get ~$0.07 each! According to the settlement, if the number of claims made renders it economically infeasible to pay any money to Authorized Claimants, the entire Net Settlement Fund will be distributed to (a select group of) not-for-profit organizations, instead of to Authorized Claimants. 'Economically infeasible' - One can only speculate what that means. Let's say it's $1.00 after postage and handling of $0.50. If ~8.1 million Facebook users file claims then no one gets any money (provided my $1.50 number is 'economically feasible')

In the mean time, you've got until May 2nd, 2013 to 'Submit a claim form', 'Exclude Yourself' or 'Object'. What if you do nothing? You will not receive a payment, even if the Court orders payment to Class Members. You will also be giving up your right to bring your own lawsuit related to the claims in the Action. You may be eligible to receive the non-monetary benefits of the Settlement, if the Settlement is finally approved. Since I don't feel that I've been 'wronged' in any way, I'm going to 'Exclude' myself. Maybe this will help someone who was wronged...

I have decided not to participate in the class action settlement referred to on this website (the "Settlement") and have chosen, instead, to be excluded from the Class of plaintiffs in that class action. I confirm that I have received notice of the proposed Settlement in this lawsuit, I have decided to be excluded from the Class, and I have decided not to participate in the proposed Settlement. By excluding myself from the Settlement, I understand that I am not entitled to receive any individual benefit from the Settlement. This also means that if the settlement does not go through, or there's a different lawsuit then I'm eligible for any additional/new lawsuits...

The consequences for Facebook? Well, it's a mixed bag, but I'd say Facebook might actually win in the long run. If this settlement goes through, it's likely (in my opinion) that many people will submit a claim form. I would estimate a number somewhere around 10% of the ~168 million people. That's ~16 million people. If the ~12,179,934.00 is divided by 16 million, each claimant would receive ~$0.76. In my opinion that's an economically infeasible number. So, the money (after the lawyers and plaintiffs get paid) will go to the non-profits named in the settlement. If the money goes to non-profits, Facebook can write it off as a 'donation'. In the long run the amount of money they'll lose is extremely small, and the amount of publicity generated is huge. When I went to search for news on the subject I found thousands of links. In my opinion, Facebook will benefit more from this lawsuit than they'll lose in legal fees and penalties.

The lawyers win, the plaintiffs (four of them) get a measly $12,500.00 each, we get nothing, the charities get a big chunk - They can thank Facebook later. Facebook wins because any advertisement is good advertisement, and they couldn't possibly have paid an add firm enough money to generate all this free advertisement (and yes I realize that I'm contributing to that free advertisement). If you could live forever, would you eventually become rich and powerful? Would you eventually become corrupt? Would you care about the minions with limited life spans and limited access to money? I think that I would probably see them as 'cash receptacles'. I'd squeeze them to release their reserves of cash, then discard their lifeless husks as I calculate my ever increasing profits. Wow, good thing I'm not a corporation!
<http://www.robsworld.org/facebookclassactionemail.png>
<http://www.robsworld.org/facebooksponsoredstory.png>
<http://www.fraleyfacebooksettlement.com>

Music CollectionMusic Downloads for February of 2013:
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.

Note: News about eMusic.com. As of February, 2013, you don't need to be a monthly subscriber to purchase the awesome tracks available on eMusic.com. A' La Carte downloads are a little more expensive than subscriber/membership prices, but they're still cheaper than iTunes. Now anyone can profit from the immense collection of tunes available at eMusic.com.

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 (Feb of 2013) I downloaded 49 tracks at the low cost of $22.74. I'm paying a $19.99 monthly fee, so that makes the tracks even cheaper (~$0.41 / 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). 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.

* Grown Backward - David Byrne: (15 tracks) Leaving the Talking Heads behind in 1991, This is David Byrne's fifth release after the official end of the Talking Heads. This album contains an amazing array of acoustic instruments, several guest performers, and the signature Byrnes' vocal style. It's mellow, moody, melodic and soothing.
* Modern Art - The Very Best of John Foxx - John Foxx: (18 tracks) If you've never heard John Foxx before, you might think he's Gary Numan. So similar are the lyrics and instrumentals. This 80s act was almost always overshadowed by Gary Numan. With one exception 'Dancing like a Gun' which sound much more like Ultravox than it did like John Foxx. Why did he sound like Ultravox? Because John Foxx was the original vocalist of Ultravox. John Foxx recorded three albums with Ultravox (Utravox!, Ha! Ha! Ha!, and Systems Of Romance). Gary Numan actually arrived on the scene after John Foxx, both artists made music from the 70s - 2000s. Discovered by listening to MOG recommendations, I'm enjoying this blast from the past.
* Look Sharp! - Joe Jackson: (13 tracks) One of my favorite bands from the 80s. I'd completely forgotten how good his early work was. After listening to the less than enthusiastic 'Big World!', I turned to MOG to remind me of his most excellent albums from the late 70s and early 80s. Thank you MOG, the recommendation was spot on, and I know I'll be adding more of his catalog to my collection.
* Second Television - Mission Of Burma: (2 track single) Two songs (Second Television and Dust Devil) from a favorite band. Here is the slightly psychedelic band 'Mission of Burma'. This vintage 80s post punk band has returned in 2012 with some awesome releases. Hopefully an album will follow.
* Where are we now? - David Bowie: (single) A single release from David Bowie's upcoming album 'The Next Day'. This release is a slow, dry, melody. It's acoustic, outstanding and personal. The voice of David Bowie is the most powerful instrument in the arrangement and I like it. I'm looking forward to the release of his next album

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>

Software favorites:
More updates to one of my favorite software application. GraphicConverter moves ever forward. As usual, developer has been busy updating this application. over the last week or so, Thorsten released a handful of updates for the product that's always getting better. All the updates are free for those who own a license (for the most recent version). If you need a powerhouse converter, editor and browser for your graphics, grab a copy of GraphicConverter - You won't be disappointed.

Graphic ConverterGraphicConverter:
Thorsten Lemke (of Lemkesoft) completed work on a slew of beta releases over the last week or so. I recently saw/downloaded the following updates: 8.5.3 (b1138), 8.5.3 (b1139), 8.5.3 (b1141). 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>