Jul 31, 2013

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 updated the information for the upcoming Garage Sales.
    • Updated the dates for our upcoming HOA meeting (August 21st) and Metro District meeting (August 27th).
  • 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 HOA elections meeting. Don Stedman and Liz Beerman were elected to fill vacancies on the HOA board.
    • I updated the announcements regarding the next HOA and MD meetings. Our next HOA meeting is Aug 21st, 2013. The next MD meeting, Aug 27th, 2013.
  • Info: A page of links, phone numbers, email addresses and other information pertinent to the residents/community of Tollgate Crossing.
    • Updated the HOA board member information. Removed Judy Van Meter and Sharon Hazel-Griggs from the HOA board members listing. Added Don Stedman and Liz Beerman.
    • I updated the email forwarder used (it's posted on the Info page) in order to contact the HOA board members.

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>

Xcel websiteXcel Energy website - Big fat fail:
<rant>Any company as large as Xcel Energy (FY2011 Revenue of $10.5billion) should have the financial resources to hire adequate website design. Websites are a very important part of any company's public relations. Websites are the equivalent of the secretary at your front desk. The right secretary can create an atmosphere of trust, efficiency and engagement. The wrong secretary can easily convey an attitude of distrust, insincerity and incompetence. Any company that interfaces directly with the public should take care to make sure that their web pages are accurate, functional and accessible. Failing in this matter will only mean lost sales, a lack of trust and an image problem that can't be easily repaired. Unfortunately, as I discovered in April of 2013, Xcel's webpage for reporting street light outages (in Colorado) is a total fail (for Apple OSX/iOS users).

At the end of July, 2013, I noticed that the light at the end of my block was out, so I thought I'd report the outage to Xcel. They're responsible for maintaining the street lights in my neighborhood. At first I tried the phone number, but that's only good during weekday working hours. I'm not afraid of the internet, so I thought I'd give their website a try... What a mistake that was. After nearly an hour of trouble shooting, I realized my goal was nearly impossible - Why? Because I'm using a Mac. Yup, that's right, their website is constructed using code that ONLY works with Internet Explorer. Well, guess what. There is no Internet Explorer for Mac. Microsoft stopped making a Mac version back in 2005. After examining the code on the web page, it became apparent that proprietary (Active X) code was being used, and no amount of 'spoofing' would help. I could tell my browser (I tried several different browsers - Safari, Chrome, Firefox, Netscape, iCab, Opera) to lie - telling the website it was dealing with an Internet Explorer browser - but that still wouldn't help, as the ActiveX components would render the code useless to everything other than an IE browser.

In order to use the webpage (to report a streetlight outage) I had to download and install a Java powered version of Windows to run in a sandbox on my Mac. The Java Virtual Machine I ended up downloading ran Windows with a more recent version of Internet Explorer (Version 9). I first had to download and install the latest version of Java onto my Mac (Apple doesn't recommend that you use Java on a Mac); then I had to download and install a free version of a Java Virtual Machine. Before I installed any of these components, I did a lot of searching and reading. Apple doesn't recommend that you install Java, or enable Active X. The code is Oracle and/or Microsoft Proprietary, and it's got a fair share of security issues. Now - Even Apple's code has security issues, but Apple can't control the patching of code that someone else controls. Apple's distrust or unwillingness to 'support' or 'endorse' a competing product (a logical business decision which involves support costs and brand competition) is being played by Apple as a security decision In truth its a business decision. Apple, Oracle, Microsoft; these competitors all make and support their own code. Each has its own series of security issues. Each would prefer that you use their code over the code of their competitors - They might give you all kinds of reasons why their code is 'better' than their competitors - In the end its a business decision This article isn't about the code being used; it's about Xcel's web development and support. In the end, I installed the Java/Oracle products in order to run IE on my Mac. I only run this code in order to use websites that are crafted using proprietary code, code that doesn't otherwise run on a Mac.

It took me four hours to fill out the Streetlight Outage report - For that, Xcel gets an F- on their website design and support. I emailed them about their crappy code. They responded by saying that they would pass my comments on to the website development team. I later read online that their website development team only supports Internet Explorer versions 7-9. Nice... Xcel has hired a team that's locked into a proprietary technology (the team probably made that decision based upon salary, skill and billable hours in their contract). How crappy is that? Xcel - You suck. Hire a team that tests for browser compatibility across platforms (i.e. support you customers who use Apple computers/software), and code for the browser variants, so customers can actually use your webpages. As for me, next time I'll just wait until business hours if I want to report a streetlight outage. FYI: This incident only increases my distrust and dislike of Xcel as a corporation - They don't care about me (their customer). It's quite evident that they (as is typical for big corporations) only care about the profit margin. Good website design and support isn't cheap, but apparently Xcel doesn't really care that much about their customer support, so poor website design is something we (their customers) will just have to put up with.</rant>
<http://www.oracle.com/technetwork/server-storage/virtualbox/downloads/index.html?ssSourceSiteId=otnjp>
<http://www1.xcelenergy.com/ODL/default2.asp?Loc=S&State=CO>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_Explorer_for_Mac>
<http://www.java.com/en/download/index.jsp>
<http://toastytech.com/evil/onlyie.html>
<http://www.xcelenergy.com>

Union StationPostcard of Union Station:
Union Station in Denver is a historic landmark. Kim and I have seen it, we've visited it, I've taken lots of photos of it. Recently (see Kim's birthday entry below), we walked past Union Station while it was under construction. The city (Denver) has been engaged in a huge project (a mixed public/private consortium) to add a new transportation hub (busses, light rail, the mallride, a new metroride, amtrak, b-cycle and a future commuter rail), a new 112 room hotel, and several vendor spaces (restaurants and shops). Bidding on the immense project began in 2002, the station was closed to the public in 2012, and the project is due to be completed in 2014.

As we walked past Union Station (on our way to a Rockies game), I realized that this view might make a great photo. Despite the deterrent of a chain link fence, I was able to get a bunch of pictures, over and through the fence. After we got home I went through the photos and found one really good shot. I cropped the shot, did some initial editing in iPhoto, then exported it for some additional editing. After I was all done, I had a fantastic (so says me) bookmark/postcard. Click the link to get a better look at the photo. I hope you like it. It's mine (copyright me/I took the photo and did all the editing), but you can print it and use it (at no profit) as a bookmark if you like it.
<http://www.robsworld.org/unionstation4.png>
<http://www.denverunionstation.org>
<http://unionstationindenver.com>

ComcastComcast problem corrected - by Comcast!
One of those companies that we all hate but love? I love the fact that "when it's working it's awesome" I like my high speed internet; and due to the fact of their monopoly in my community (as the largest internet provider in America), I can get high speed internet - Hooray!? If it wasn't for the fact that they have a monopoly, I might have to put up with... With what? Would it really be worse if they didn't have a monopoly? Not likely - but they put the cable in the ground, so no one else should be allowed to! That's the American way, right? Anyway; "when it's working it's awesome". I love my internet provider - All hail Comcast the might emperor! No - That's not what this entry is about. Although their customer service sucks, Sucks, SUCKS. They're technical service is sometimes adequate; as is the case for a recent issue.

I've was having problems with channels 18 & 247 (local news channels), and I couldn't figure out what was causing the problem, so I called Comcast. Oh how I dreaded that... I was sure they were going to force me to go through a whole useless series of diagnostic steps over the phone. That's the way the phone call started out, but I wasn't going to put up with it. After approximately 15 minutes of me saying 'I already tried that', I finally got fed up and said: "This isn't helping, I want you to send a technician out here to figure out what the problem is." They actually ceased their useless telephone diagnostic and scheduled an appointment. The fateful day came, and guess what? They never showed up... I had taken time off of work, and they didn't show up... They called, and said they couldn't make it. The technician apologized and explained that he was the only technician available, and he was still working on another job. Great - So much for my time and money. The technician said that he would do his best to come by this weekend in order to work on my problem. Uh huh, sure... I set up a Sunday appointment. Sunday came - Guess what? The technician called... and said he was running late, but he'd be by as soon as he finished the job he was working.

The technician eventually showed up - Twenty minutes after the scheduled window. He came by, spent ten minutes troubleshooting, and discovered the problem. My 'surge protector'. Yes, the cheap power strip surge protector. I was passing the Cable Coax through the surge protector, but it was actually interfering with the signals on the coax... I've heard of these being a problem, I just didn't think it was true. After disconnecting the coax from the surge protector, everything was working fine. He replaced the cable (after discovering the power strip problem) and finished up - checked a few other cable connections just to make sure everything else was o.k. - in less than a half hour.

Of course after he left, I fully expected Comcast billing to charge me for the service call. Because, you know, the problem was 'my equipment' - Guess what didn't happen? They didn't charge me... Maybe the technician marked no charge... Remember the fact that they were supposed to show up on Friday? Yeah, I didn't forget, and thankfully they didn't try to charge me for the service call. Another love hate story about Comcast. I can't stand their customer service, but then their underpaid technicians always remind me that some of them actually give a damn. I hate Comcast, I love the underpaid employees who work the weekends and still care about the customer. I wish they'd pay their employees more.
<http://customer.comcast.com/contact-us/>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comcast>
<http://comcastsucks.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). While I'm still fighting spammers and scammers, I don't spend as much time doing that 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 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) version 2013.05.20, contains the following software (w/versions numbers): MacGPG2 (version 2.0.19); GPGMail plugin (version 2 b505); GPG Keychain Access v1.0; GPG Services v1.8; and GPG Preferences v0.9.2. 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. 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/>

D&D BooksD&D Books - For the Campaign:
I recently (24 Jul, 2013) purchased another rule book for the game with the most rules - Dungeons & Dragons. WotC released a supplement to version 3.5 of their venerated game (D&D). This release was actually printed (First printing - July 2013) after the game (version 3.5) was officially discontinued (4th edition of the game was released in June of 2008). This particular rule book is bound and printed in a style similar to the 'reprints'. This 'Premium' rule book (the Magic Item Compendium) is a compilation of magic items from various D&D sources - Twenty (v3.5) sources in all. While this particular book retails for $49.95, I've been able to pick them up for less through Amazon.com (~ $35.00). I'd like to thank WotC for finally waking up and realizing that they don't need to completely abandon an old line when they release a new version of the game. FYI: They also released reprints of many 1st and 2nd Edition books.

The 3.5 Edition Premium Magic Item Compendium collects the most popular magic items from the D&D game and presents them in one easy-to-reference tome. This premium reprint also features an attractive new cover and includes errata. With the purchase of this new book, I've updated my 'D&D Books' page. Hopefully they'll keep selling these premium rule books and reprints. Hopefully they'll continue to support the 3.5 version of the game?! Wouldn't that be awesome.
<https://www.wizards.com/dnd/Product.aspx?x=dnd/products/dndacc/35magic>
<http://www.robsworld.org/dndbooks.html>

Kim's BDay vacation - 2012Kim's Birthday Vacation - 2013:
Happy Birthday to Kim! Kim celebrated another birthday on the 25th of July. Don't worry Kim, I won't tell anyone how 'old' you are. :-) Besides, you'll always be younger than me. This year we celebrated Kim's birthday with a 'StayCation'. We had a Wisconsin Vacation in May and June of this year, so we decided to stick around home base this month. That and an uncertain fiscal future (with the 'sequestration' disaster looming over our heads). We didn't leave the area but we did enjoy the long weekend - We left work early on the 24th, and took a couple of days off in order to make it extra long (24 - 28 July, 2013). Here's a time line and a brief recap of what we did, saw, and ate during Kim's Birthday Vacation:

  • Day 1 (24 Jul 2012):
    • The day before Kim's birthday - We left work early, and went out to eat at Ruby Tuesday's for lunch. Yeah it's a chain, and there isn't much special about the restaurant, but they've got good comfort food, and the price is right.
    • When we got home I checked the mail, and Kim got a few birthday cards from our family.
    • That evening we went out to eat at a new restaurant. The only place in the whole Denver/Aurora area (as far as I know) where you can get your hands on Blue Crabs. Wow! It seems like it might actually be my birthday as Blue Crabs are my favorite! The Crawling Crab serves seafood in an Asian Cajun style. Seafood boil with spicy Vietnamese seasoning. There are a bunch of Asian Cajun style restaurants in this part of Denver, and the flavors are unmistakable. Vietnamese spices bring the heat to New Orleans style seafood dishes. It's so good. We will definitely be back.
  • Day 2 (25 Jul 2012):
    • Kim's birthday! Hooray for Kim!
    • We didn't do much today. In the evening we went out to eat again. This time we went to a steak joint, definitely Kim's idea. I'm not big on steak, but Kim loves a good steak, and it's her birthday so we went to a place called the Cool River Cafe. It's upscale, but the atmosphere was a little too formal for us. It was very bright outside, yet the inside was very dark... Oddly dark - Can't see your food dark. So dark that my camera insisted on a flash when I took some photos (Hey - It's Kim's birthday, I wanted a record of the occasion) Kim's steak was excellent. My salmon? Horrid. The best part about the Cool River Cafe? The amazing discount they gave when I showed them my military ID (Check out the photos!). After we paid the bill (with a generous tip), we got out of there as quick as we could - Before they changed their minds on that discount!
  • Day 3 (26 Jul 2012):
    • Today we went to a company picnic. It's summer time, and our leadership set the venue at a nearby park (Great Plains Park). It's large enough to accommodate the large group, and located in an area near the place where we work. The food (a mix of catered and potluck) was good and we had a good time visiting with all the people from work.
    • After the picnic, we actually went home and 'recharged our batteries'. Afterwards we felt refreshed and decided to take a short trip (a very short trip) over to the County Fair. We had a good time at the fair. We need to go more often (once a year). We live less than a mile away so there's no excuse for not attending more often. Ate some fair fare, rode on the Ferris wheel. Listened to some live music, watched the mutton bustin' event.
    • In the evening, we parked our lawn chairs at the end of a dead end road (on the western edge of our community) and watched the fair's fireworks. Outstanding. Missed the 4th of July fireworks, but definitely made up for it with this event.
  • Day 4 (27 Jul 2012):
    • One of our annual favorites - Rockies vs Brewers baseball game.
    • We took the light rail - always a pleasant experience.
    • Ate some hotdogs, drank some beer, got a little sun, got a little rain (not much on us; thanks to the club level seats)
    • Since we're from Wisconsin, the game is always a win, no matter who wins. This time around the score was Brewers 7 - Rockies 5, Hooray for the Brewers!
    • Thus concludes Kim's birthday vacation, 2013.

It took me quite some time to get all my photos online. I had to sort through more than 300 photos taken over four three days. Spent some time on the production: edit, crop, rotate adjust contrast, brightness, etc. It took a while but they're online now. I posted all the photos to my website (feel free to login and leave some comments) and mirrored the photos on my FaceBook page. I hope you enjoy the photos. Wow! What a Vacation - Kim and I had another awesome Colorado vacation.
<https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Crawling-Crab/134589409950470>
<http://robsworld.org/galleryphotos/index.php/Kim-s-Birthday---2013>
<http://www.coolrivercafe.com/home.php?c=1>
<https://apps.auroragov.org/opsrs/?PID=4>
<http://www.arapahoecountyfair.com>
<https://www.rubytuesday.com>

Jul 23, 2013

Software favorites:
More updates to some of my favorite software applications. 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. In addition to the GC update, an update to BBEdit was also released.

Graphic ConverterGraphicConverter:
Thorsten Lemke (of Lemkesoft) completed work on a few updates over the last week. I recently saw/downloaded the following updates: 8.7.2 (b1284). 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) introduced layers proper to the toolkit; putting GraphicConverter on an ever closer footing with the likes of PhotoShop at a fraction of the price. An easy to use 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>

BBEditBBEdit:
BBEdit is a high-performance HTML and text editor for the Macintosh OS, and I'm running version 10.5.5 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 10.5.5 was a minor update, released to fix a small number of customer reported issues.
<http://www.barebones.com/support/bbedit/arch_bbedit1055.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>

Eating out in DenverOut to Eat at the Southlands Mall:
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 June of 2013, Kim and I enjoyed a 'Date Night' at one of our favorite restaurants: Mt. Fuji Sushi & Hibachi - It's 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 we've ever been to. We've 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. Try finding a decent sushi restaurant in De Pere, Wisconsin! (our home town). This gem is a just over a mile from our front door.
<http://mtfujisushihibachi.com>

AT&T LockerAT&T Locker Storage:
I've been evaluating cloud storage (and a user of cloud storage) since Apple decided to do away with the iDisk (as part of their decommissioning of MobileMe services). I started looking for a replacement (by evaluating Microsoft's SkyDrive) as early as Sep of 2011, but I didn't stop there. In May of 2012, I seriously ramped up my evaluation efforts when I discovered a service called SME (Storage Made Easy - A cloud storage aggregator and management service/application) - and I'm currently using/evaluating 15 different cloud storage services, totaling more than 100gb of storage - All of it free! The only service I've paid for (a one time fee) is the SME aggregator service/application.

<rant>I recently evaluated/started using one that's free to me (not everyone), but I'd rather not use it at all. My cellular carrier is AT&T, and they're offering free 'cloud' based storage to their customers - Provided you go out and find out about it on your own. There doesn't appear to be any user notification at all. Certainly no advertisement or media campaign to inform their customers.

So what do you get? If you manage to find the secret hidden offer. I only discovered it because I read a CNet article. Apparently a 'normal' AT&T customer gets 5gb. However, if you're a 'Mobile Share' 'Value Customer' you get 50gb of storage... What the? Who's a 'mobile share value customer'? I have no idea whether that's me, but I was able to get the 50gb of storage... Later, I found out that any AT&T customer can get the 50gb of storage, provided they follow the arcane instructions available through AT&T's cryptic webpage.

How easy was it? Certainly not as easy as their web page makes it seem. According to their web page, it's a two step process:

Step 1: Open the AT&T locker app or download it from your phone's app store. O.k. That's definitely more than one step. You can't exactly open the app if you don't already have it. So after downloading, installing, and launching the app, you need to authenticate. Oh year, that's one step... Hold on a second. After trying all the steps I found out that I needed an 'account' before I could use the app. Back to the web, do a few searches, find out where to login, how to set up an account. Sign up for an account, wait for the confirmation email, confirm. Now I can launch the app.

Step 2: After logging in (which step was that part of? This one or step 1? Perhaps its a separate step?) select Account Settings, My Plan, Upgrade plan. What? That's one step? Looks like three, and then there's that 'Upgrade plan' part - I don't want to upgrade my plan. Are they going to charge me more? Hesitantly, I go ahead, and find the option to increase my storage from 5gb to 50gb. Why couldn't they just give their users 50gb to begin with?

Other problems: No Mac OS native application for the desktop. If you want to upload, download, delete or manage any of the files you store in their locker, you'll have to use a webpage, or the mobile app. There's no synchronization process - Something every other cloud storage app/service offers. Then there's the easy-upload feature. I enabled the easy-upload feature, but it didn't do anything. I couldn't figure out what its supposed to upload, or how to get it working properly.

In the end, the difficulty of setup (sign-up and activations), lack of desktop syncing and poor functionality or documentation, this is one cloud storage service you'll want to avoid. It may be free, but so is a kick in the A55, and you don't really want that either.</rant>
<http://www.att.com/shop/apps/att-locker.html>
<http://www.cnet.com/news/get-50gb-of-at-t-locker-cloud-storage-for-free/>

FlickerFlickers in my backyard:
I've seen them (a pair of birds) around my back yard, but I never thought there could be that many of them. This afternoon (20 Jul, 2013) I spotted four Northern/Red-shafted flickers in my backyard. That mated pair I spotted a few years back must have managed to produce some offspring. I was alerted to their presence by their pecking. Just like any other woodpecker. This time I noticed one of them pecking at one of the red granite boulders in my back yard. What a wonderful bird; with orange wings (on the underside) and black and white spotted breast. I wish they would have stayed long enough for me to get my camera - I tried; grabbed the camera and headed for the back door, but by the time I got outside they were on their way to the next feeder on their route. Spotting that group of flickers made my day.
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northern_Flicker>

MalwareRansomware now targeting Mac OS X:
Ransomware is a special type of internet danger. Malware which holds your computer or computer content ransom. Once it infects your computer, a demand is presented - The demand is typically money (a non-traceable money-pack) in exchange for a 'key' that unlocks your computer or its content. Someone with an infected computer may have their hard drive encrypted, allowing access to web pages and email. All the other files on a person's computer might be encrypted and the ransom must be paid within a given amount of time. If the ransom isn't paid, the infected user's computer files are erased. For years, PC users have lived under the threat of ransomware. Only strong anti-virus applications and careful browsing could prevent the infection. The cost to get your files unlocked sits in the hundred dollar range. Not so much that you simply can't afford it, but enough to make you weigh your options. How important are all those photos of your children? How much damage could a hacker cause if he/she sold your financial information?

Now that the number of Mac OS enabled desktops is growing, some enterprising hacker has found a way to port the current batch of PC vectors (a Trojan is the typical source) to work under Mac OS X. ...Or so the media reports would have you believe. The truth of the matter? There is no actual trojan infection. It's simply an obnoxious browser pop-up. It claims that your computer is infected. It's not actually infected, but many users might think that they've fallen victim to a trojan infection. The affected web sites are targeting the Safari web browser used by Mac OS users. When it sees a Mac OS browser (reported to affect Chrome and Safari), it throws up a 'Ransomware' announcement using Java Script (something that many Mac OS X users have disabled (to enhance security)).

The warning is a 'FBI' message worded with something similar to: "You have been viewing or distributing prohibited Pornographic content. To unlock your computer and to avoid other legal consequences, you are obligated to pay a release fee of $300." Your browser may be blocked from quitting, and a pop-up warns you that leaving the page will result in criminal investigation. As if the FBI were extorting money from you... Obviously it's not the FBI trying to extort money - as that would be illegal, and the FBI certainly wouldn't need to extort ordinary internet users if they really wanted to extort money from someone... (Tongue in cheek/Just kidding/sort of...) Anyway the whole scam is sure to catch many users unaware. They may succumb to this sophisticated phishing attack. Someone might just go out and buy a MoneyPak in order to pay the ransom. Hopefully that won't be you, or anyone I know.

Apple and other 'anti-virus' vendors have released 'fixes' to prevent this pop-up from 'infecting' Mac users. By the time you read this, the bogus threat will have been eliminated.
<http://blog.malwarebytes.org/fraud-scam/2013/07/fbi-ransomware-now-targeting-apples-mac-os-x-users/>
<https://www.comparitech.com/antivirus/guides/how-to-prevent-and-remove-ransomware/>
<http://www.thesafemac.com/fbi-ransomware-virus-rampant/>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ransomware>

Apple Developers

Apple Developers website hacked?:

On the 18th of July, 2013, I received an email from Apple. Apparently, someone tried to hack into the Apple Developers website. The email was sent to everyone who has a 'developers' account with Apple. In the email, Apple revealed that their website was breached by hackers (not all 'hackers' are malicious - A hacker, under most definitions is simply someone who pokes about at the underlying code of the internet, a computer program or an operating system, in order to discover information, reveal vulnerabilities or learn about the code that he/she is examining). According to Apple's email:

Apple Developer Website Update

Last Thursday, an intruder attempted to secure personal information of our registered developers from our developer website. Sensitive personal information was encrypted and cannot be accessed, however, we have not been able to rule out the possibility that some developers' names, mailing addresses, and/or email addresses may have been accessed. In the spirit of transparency, we want to inform you of the issue. We took the site down immediately on Thursday and have been working around the clock since then.

In order to prevent a security threat like this from happening again, we're completely overhauling our developer systems, updating our server software, and rebuilding our entire database. We apologize for the significant inconvenience that our downtime has caused you and we expect to have the developer website up again soon.

Part of Apple's announcement is making developers question Apple - "updating our server software, and rebuilding our entire database." Some speculate that this statement implies that the database is/was vulnerable in some way. When I checked on the 23rd of July, the website was still down. What's to fear? Hackers that succeed in penetrating the developer data might be able to access the app store code or some application signing credentials, allowing them to infect the app store or iOS apps with malicious code. An attacker with this sort of inside information might be able to seriously damage Apple's technological edge and financial standing.
<http://www.macworld.com/article/2044865/apple-explains-extended-developer-portal-outage.html>
<http://www.robsworld.org/appledeveloperwebsite.png>

TelephoneU.S. Telephone Service is a gigantic joke:
<rant>I've had residential telephone service (through the standard telecom industry) for many years (since returning to the U.S. in 1992). It's always been expensive, and now that we've got the internet and cellular services, the traditional residential service seems to have outlived its usefulness. Yes - It works, but the cost for value has certainly declined over the years. I've got cellular service that I pay more than $100 a month for (for two people, plus unlimited data, plus unlimited texting). On top of the cellular, I'm still paying appx $85.00 a month for residential phone service. It's unlimited long distance (but not local?) calling in the continental US (plus Canada). So, what's the worst part of residential phone service? Telemarketers! You would think that being signed up for the 'Do Not Call' list would limit the amount of telemarketers you get calls from - Not so! Residential phone service (even if you're on the 'Do Not Call' list) is just an invitation to receive illegal telemarketing calls. 90% of the phone calls that I receive at my residential number are either wrong numbers or telemarketers. Of that 90%, 80% are telemarketers and 20% are wrong numbers. Of the telemarketer calls, I'd say 75% are illegal telemarketer calls - Yes they're actually illegal. Not in compliance with the FTC's rules for telemarketers. I would estimate that I actually report a dozen or so telemarketers each year, and that's less than a tenth of the illegal calls that I actually receive.

Let's talk about Wednesday (the 17th of Jul, 2013). I received three calls in a row. With less than an hour between each call, the number of survey phone calls is getting to be ridiculous. I had no prior business relationship with the company placing the calls, and they wanted to solicit my opinion on the product being sold by company 'X', As 'surveys' are permitted by the FTC, they skirt the law by putting your name on a list and selling it to company 'X'. You'll get ads later - In the mail or on the web. They're using 'surveys' to build direct market mailing lists. It's a sham. What's the point of prohibiting marketing phone calls when 'surveys' are permitted. The number of loopholes in the 'Do Not Call' registry rules are so large you can drive a truck through them. That's why I get so many 'survey' phone calls. Call it a survey and it's exempt. The cost of residential service is another problem. I'm really fed up with the $85.00 per month for a service that nickels and dimes me for every feature; just so telemarketers can get a hold of me.

I'm definitely going to ditch the residential phone, I just need to figure out my strategy for getting off the phone company scam. I've got my home alarm on the residential phone line, and I love the convenience of a home phone. I've got phones in four rooms (Office, Guest room, Living room, Kitchen) and I prefer them to my cellular when I'm at home. I also like the fact that I've got four different residential phone numbers (distinctive ring), but one of the numbers gets nothing but wrong numbers (a day care published my number as their phone number). For now, I'm paying the phone company so that telemarketers can call me. I need to figure out an appropriate exit strategy.<rant>
<http://www.hellowallet.com/blog/should-you-cancel-your-land-line-to-save-money/>
<http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0108-national-do-not-call-registry#calls>
<https://www.donotcall.gov>

Jul 14, 2013

D&D iconD&D updates:
The updates below covers ten meetings! - April 27th, May 11th, May 25th, June 8th, June 22nd, July 6th, July 20th, August 3rd, August 17th, August 31st, 2013 (Yes, some of these dates exceed the date of this posting - Time travel baby!). With several player changes, a business trip (by me) and the typical issues of summer-time, I've fallen way, way, way, behind on D&D updates and other website updates. As our group of new players (everyone is new except Micheal, Kim and I) settles in, I expect that you will notice some marked changes in the characters, their personalities and the journal entries. The party departed Whillip long ago, and several chapters of this latest adventure have already been written. Our heroes completed all their administrative tasks and chores, and decided upon their next adventure. After accepting a charge to quest for a lost tome of legendary power, the party was teleported across the world to Kester; a small mountain town on the edge of a vast wasteland. After talking with their sponsor, they set off to start this new adventure. After trekking south along an old trade route, the party entered the town of Parlonis. Here they sought more clues about the nature of the Dry Steppes, it's inhabitants, and the fabled city of 'Lingice-Enz'. Departing the frontier town, the party struck out into the desert. Here they encountered odd magical effects, ancient ruins, dangerous monsters, a crazy Gnome and the challenges of a deadly tainted realm. After nearly two weeks in this ruined land, the party discovered the ruins of Lingice-Enz. Countless battles ensue as the party probes the depths of this strange sewer complex. Filled with crawling, slithering, flitting and skulking creatures, the sewers are alive with many creatures. While most are benign, and strive only to survive in this harsh environment, some are intent on making meals of the party. The predators in this environment have evolved to resist magic and standard attack forms; making for very deadly opponents. As the party limps from encounter to encounter, they search for the book, for clues, for some way to bring this quest to a speedy end. Ambushed, abducted and imprisoned in a strange workshop, the party easily secured their freedom, but found the 'workshop' to be a very dangerous place to rest. After the death of Allurean and the departure of Chartruz, they left the workshop. While exploring a hidden complex of interconnected rooms, the party came upon a group of stranded travelers. Healing one of them brought upon a deadly encounter with an enemy of old. Glan Sarin - Once a bane to the party now discovered in search of an ancient codex - The same book that the party is looking for! Glan Sarin presented the party with an ultimatum, then attacked when they failed to provide a satisfactory answer. Will the party find the tome known as "Eivobrin's Incanabula"; or will they become another footnote labeled 'A group of adventurers sought the book, but never completed their quest'? Stay tuned for the exciting and continuing adventures of the H.A.L.L.O.W.ed Knights.

3rd Edition Campaign:
I updated the date of our next meeting - Our next meeting will take place on the 12th of April, 2014 (Yes, this date is far in the future; but I'm posting this entry from the future... sort of). The "3eCampaign" page is the first stop for information on the campaign that I'm currently running. Here you'll find information regarding our next meeting, some notes, and an index of web pages and documents that are important to our campaign. You can also check out the latest group photo (I've finally updated it to reflect our current core group - It's another posting from the future). FYI: We're still looking for one additional player to join our campaign. If you think you've got what it takes to be a 'Hallowed Knight' (or a member of 'Nothing but Trouble') send me an email.
<http://www.robsworld.org/3ecampaign.html>

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

The Adventurers journal:
The tale of our adventurers. A series of journal entries from various party members. This document contains details of their encounters. Victory, defeat, desire and glory. Here is the tale of The H.A.L.L.O.W.ed Knights, a group of adventurers who set forth from Whillip, seeking fame, fortune and the defeat of evil in these lands. The journal entries I recently posted come from the Dungeon Master (i.e. Me). I've had a hard time convincing players to keep a journal entry or simple notes that could be transcribed into a rudimentary journal entry. As a result, I've had to take some time out of the game in order to keep some notes of my own. I've posted updates from two meetings, but I'm nowhere caught up. Thankfully I have some additional notes to edit and post, but it will probably take some time for me to get caught up. The party has been exploring the sewers beneath the ruins of Lingice-Enz for some time now. Recently, they discovered a hidden workshop filled with all manner of strange creatures and objects. After the death of Allurean and the departure of her familiar, the party decided to leave this dangerous workshop and continue their adventure, looking for the famed 'Incanabula' and a way out of this hidden complex. While exploring this complex of rooms the party ended up discovering some cocoon encased members of another adventuring group. After releasing those other characters, they ended up in a vicious battle that cost the lives of three adventurers! Check out the details in the party's journal entries - I finally got around to posting an enormous back-log of journal entries (some of them any way).
<http://www.robsworld.org/ajournal09.html#mar30_2013>
<http://www.robsworld.org/ajournal09.html#apr13_2013>
<http://www.robsworld.org/ajournal09.html#apr27_2013>
<http://www.robsworld.org/ajournal09.html#may11_2013>
<http://www.robsworld.org/ajournal09.html#jun08_2013>
<http://www.robsworld.org/ajournal09.html#jun22_2013>
<http://www.robsworld.org/ajournal09.html#jul06_2013>
<http://www.robsworld.org/ajournal09.html#jul20_2013>
<http://www.robsworld.org/ajournal09.html#aug03_2013>
<http://www.robsworld.org/ajournal09.html#aug17_2013>
<http://www.robsworld.org/ajournal09.html#aug31_2013>
(Yes some of these journal entries are dated after the date of this posting. It's another artifact of me trying to catch up after nearly a year of delay/procrastination, call it what you will.)

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

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

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

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

  • While exploring these interconnected rooms, the party has uncovered indications that a man known as Glan Sarin might be involved in their quest for the famed book - Eivobrin's Incanabula. Members of this party have a history with this individual, and now it appears as if he might be onto their trail. What dire role does Glan Sarin play in the party's quest?
  • After a massive, epic, deadly battle; I updated the following player character entries:
    • Updated the group entry for a party of adventurers known as 'Nothing but Trouble'
    • Updated the party listing for the 'H.A.L.L.O.W.ed Knights'
    • Updated Enola's character entry - Fang; Enola's animal companion (a Viper) died during a great battle.
    • Moved the 'Talrath' entry to the 'former party members' category. He didn't last long enough to warrant his own page.
    • Created a memorial page for Solmar the Warforged Paladin. Yes, Solmar died in valiant combat!
    • Created a stand-alone page for Imago. Imago is 'missing in action' after an epic battle with Glan Sarin.
    • Created a memorial page for Mortimer the Human Cleric of Tempus - Of course he died in battle!
  • Additional changes to the player lineup.
    • Introduced additional members of the adventuring group - 'Nothing but Trouble'
      • Introduced Julianne Van Asper - A Human, Female Fighter with a bit of an attitude.
      • Introduced and retired (unfortunately he died) Ryx the Wild Elve Ranger. His companion Sul lives on. Created a separate character page for Ryx, and moved his character entry to the 'former party members' category.
      • Introduced Scott the Half-Orc (make that Half-Human) cleric of Tempus.
      • Introduced Ditty the Sorcerer and his pseudodragon familiar, Rex.
      • Updated Leif the cleric of Tempus.
      • Updated the entry for Rascal the Halfling spellthief.
    • Other changes to the character lineup.
      • Updated the entry for Arachnid a long-time NPC associate.

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

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

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

With four vacancies to fill in three months, I've done my best to recruit some new players - The Game Must Go On - As I write this (in April of 2014), I've filled all those vacancies, and I'm still looking for one more player (there's another player leaving next month). 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. 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>

Here there be Heroes:
With the recent changes to several characters, I took the time to update the "Hero's Gallery". I updated or created gallery entries for the following characters:

  • Updated gallery entry for Imago - Played by Sean O' from 2011 - 2013
  • Updated the gallery entry for Solmar - Played by Mark from 2006 - 2013.
  • Updated the gallery entry for Mortimer - Played by Lee from 2011 - 2013.
  • Created gallery entry for Rascal - Played by Shane.
  • Created gallery entry for Leif - Played by Floyd.
  • Created a gallery entry for Talrath - Played briefly by Nathan.
  • Created Ryx's gallery entry - Played by Dareus for two months.
  • Updated the gallery entry for Arachnid, a long-time NPC associate. Now an enemy? He's 'seeking' Mortimer.
  • Created a gallery entry for Scott - Played by Dave.
  • Created a gallery entry for Ditty & Rex - Played by Monte.
  • Created gallery entry for Julianne Van Asper - Played by Alexis.
The Hero's Gallery is a list of characters from my campaign. Past and present, the characters listed represent a fraction of those who have called Rob's World! home. Some of the players are long forgotten, but many of the characters live long in our memory. Who can forget their heroic feats, the daring deeds, and tragic endings? Let's heft our mugs, sing their praises, and salute those hero's of lore!
<http://www.robsworld.org/gallery.html>

These updates follow our meetings from March through August of 2013. You can keep up to date with our adventures by continuing to visit "Rob's World!" for all the latest campaign info. I'm trying to keep these documents up to date for the benefit of our current players, former players and lurkers of all sorts. If you're enjoying the story of our adventurers, I encourage you to write me and let us know. Perhaps you've got an idea you'd like to share, some criticism or praise. Either way, it'll be earnestly appreciated.
<http://robsworld.org/mailman/listinfo/dndcampaign_robsworld.org>
<http://www.robsworld.org/3ecampaign.html>

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 and announcements on the front page - It's something I do to indicate a change (updates) in the content.
  • Info: A page of links, phone numbers, email addresses and other information pertinent to the residents/community of Tollgate Crossing.
    • I updated the exterior paint codes document that I make available for residents of Tollgate Crossing (with help from the HOA management).
    • Posted a watering schedule for 2013. This document details when residents are permitted to water their lawns (based upon municipal guidelines).

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/Info_files/wateringrestrictions2013.pdf>
<http://www.tollgatecrossing.org/Info_files/paintcodes.pdf>
<http://www.tollgatecrossing.org/Welcome.html>

Macupdate FiascoMacUpdate and Koingo in a tiff, users left in the lurch:
(FYI: While the date here indicates that I made this entry in July, the entry was actually posted in October of 2013. I've been behind in my blog postings and this particular blog posting contains events that happened after the initial July blog entry. I decided to include later events to provide greater context. Hopefully this will make for a more comprehensive blog posting (regarding this particular event/incident)).
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.

In March of this year, MacUpdate offered a 'Free' software bundle to millions of Mac owners/users (myself included). This 'Free' software bundle contained the following software applications: Backblaze (backup software), Grappler (capture audio/video from webpages), Photo Batch (process image files), Video Rotate (rotate video files), Color Strokes (colorize photos), MacCleanse (cache cleaner), Data Guardian (password keeper), SnapNDrag (desktop video capture), LightFrame (photo borders) - The comments (in parenthesis) were added by me. MacUpdate's first Free applications bundle contained a mixed bag of applications. Some were/are useful (to me), others are one trick ponies and marginally useful. Two of the applications (MacCleanse and Data Guardian) were made by/sold by Koingo software. I found them marginally useful and I registered them. I was using MacCleanse to remove certain files from my Mac. I was evaluating Data Guardian to see whether it would serve me as a password storage application.

As I mentioned, I downloaded this 'Free' software bundle, registered all the software, and was in the middle of using and evaluating the applications when Koingo issued 'Updates' to the MacCleanse and Data Guardian applications. I had been using the applications for nearly four months when this update appeared. After I updated the applications, the software indicated that I needed to purchase a new copy of the application? Hunh? After the software update (an automated update) I found the software asking me to 'Upgrade' for $9.95. Both applications had the same 'Update'. An update that disabled my software so that I no longer had a valid license. The applications wouldn't run, but I could 'Upgrade' the applications for $9.95. So much for the 'Free' software I downloaded back in March of 2013.

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 wasn't the sort of response I was expecting. This rather unfortunate incident moved me to comment in the MacUpdate forums, where I wrote:

"I am joining the 'Never again' camp with this company. I am another user who has purchased this companies apps (Data Guadian and MacCleanse) through a 'MacUpdate' promotional bundle. When they updated the apps my copies indicated that I needed to purchase a new copy of the app (a couple of months after my initial purchase).

I tried contacting the developer. I did not use aggressive, confrontational, rude or otherwise abusive language. I have received no responses to my email messages.

It's one thing to make a policy decision, and not provide support, but this company goes the extra step (in my case) of not responding at all. They haven't answered any of the email I've sent. They won't even respond with an email message indicating their 'policy' with regard to support for a MacUpdate bundled product.

They entered into a bundled app promotional deal with MacUpdate, not with me. If they have a dispute with MacUpdate, why should that dispute extend to me, the end user?

This type of treatment (on the part of the developer) does one thing and one thing only - It guarantees that I (the customer) no longer trust this company. I won't be buying any more of their products, and I will recommend that friends, colleagues and family not purchase their products.

In an 'App Store' universe of plentiful applications and $1 price tags, the one true product that stands out is 'Customer Support'. If this company continues to botch this crucial ingredient, they won't last much longer. "

Needless to say, I was a bit upset that Koingo had decided to 'revoke' my license (Granted I never paid a penny for the software) without notice, and replace my functioning software with an 'Upgrade' notice/offer. While Koingo's response to my private email was kurt, informal, and non-responsive, they did reply in the MacUpdate forum:

"MacUpdate never had permission to giveaway copies of Data Guardian 3 or MacCleanse 3. There was no agreement in place, no authorization given from administration at Koingo - nothing. We've gone the extra mile and offered people discount pricing on the products, but we're not about to giveaway copies of apps they did not have permission to do so for."

While MacUpdate controlled that forum, Koingo attempted to control the bad feelings (expressed in numerous forum postings), by repeating the same line over an over again. 'MacUpdate didn't have authorization to distribute our software...' MacUpdate even went so far as to stick a disclaimer on most of Koingo's software download pages (at the MacUpdate website): "MacUpdate does not recommend apps from Koingo Software. Instead, you may want to consider these alternatives:" This move clearly shows that MacUpdate doesn't 'like' Koingo software. Koingo posted a blog posting of their own (on their website), in order to counter everything posted on the MacUpdate web forums. In their blog posting, they indicated that MacUpdate reportedly pursued unofficial channels (someone who wasn't a Koingo employee/Someone not authorized to enter into any sort of software licensing deal) in order to exploit a developer's registration system and giveaway nearly 55,000 copies of its software.

Who's at fault? I don't know. All I know is that I no longer trust Koingo, and I'll think twice when I download applications from MacUpdate. 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.
<https://www.macupdate.com/members/profile/Koingo-Software>
<http://www.koingosw.com/company/macupdate_fiasco.php>
<http://macheist.com/forums/viewtopic.php?id=24546>
<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vnItxnZHNaE>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MacUpdate>

Airport Router IssuesAirport update fixes issues with 6.3 release:
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 writting 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, the software update made things worse. On/about 8 July, 2013, I downloaded and installed the 'Airport Utility 6.3' update. The update was recommended to fix numerous issues with the 6.2 software. Like a good Apple-Boy, I downloaded the update and immediately installed it.

Unfortunately, that particular update caused me (and many others) a lot of problems. I ended up 'downgrading' the software to an early version. Thankfully, I was able to download and install/run the previous version. I've been waiting for another update to fix the problems introduced by the 6.3 release. Well, this week (on/about 13 Jul, 2013) Apple released another update to the Airport Utility software. This update fixes issues with the software on 802.11n and 802.11ac enabled Macs. Update 6.3.1 corrects a problem that prevented Airport devices from appearing in the Airport Utility. Installing this update (for Mac's running OS X 10.7.5 or later) corrected the problem for me and many other users. Hopefully Apple's next update won't cause any additional problems. With this update, Apple also released update 1.3.1 for iOS; which fixes the same problem on the iOS version of the Airport Utility software.
<https://discussions.apple.com/message/22222266#22222266>
<http://support.apple.com/downloads/#airport%20utility>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AirPort_Utility>
<http://support.apple.com/kb/DL1664>

Home ImprovementsMore Home Improvements:
This week we had a few contractors out at our house. It's nice enough outside to allow for home improvements, and we're getting things done around the house. I'm not the best at handyman 'stuff' so we sometimes need the help of professionals, but I don't easily allow myself to be hoodwinked or boondoggled, so those contractors better watch their step and know their stuff. This week we had a few repairs lined up and getting the work done isn't always cheap, so I always do my research. Wasting money sucks - Especially when you've got no one to blame but yourself.

The first 'repair/improvement' was some exterior painting: By July of 2013, it had been more than eight years since the developer built our house (the home was finished in 2004, and we moved in during March of 2005). Considering the fact the builder used a low grade of paint on the exterior of our home, I'm surprised the paint job lasted as long as it did. Our home has survived some grueling Colorado weather: Blistering heat, high-speed scouring winds (I'm on an outer edge of our community and the outer edge of Aurora), hundreds of thunderstorms, a fair share of hail storms and even a tornado (which damaged our shingles). It was finally time to our house painted… We took our time, did some research and got five bids before we decided on a local company to paint the house (ViVax Pro). The painters finished painting our house this week (second week of July, 2013), and we're very happy with the results. For our large ranch style home (~2,900 sqft, with 10' ceilings) the price was competitive (we had five bids on the paint job), the quality excellent, and the warranty quite good (seven years). Hopefully this paint job will last us ten years. With Kwal Ambassador paints and two coats on everything (three on the trim), that might not be a bad estimate. Here's a link to a few photos taken just after the painters finished.

The second 'repair/improvement' was some trimming: Plants grow, and sometimes they can get a bit unrully. Occassionally they need to be trimmed back. Every couple years or so, we hire Davey Tree to trim our trees (I get someone else to do the shrubs). They do an excellent job on keeping the trees under control. I don't want the trees blocking the visibility around the front of our house. I don't want the trees reaching over into our neighbors yard. I don't want the branches growing out over the sidewalk (where people walk), so you need to keep the trees trimmed. It's been two years since we trimmed them last, and they sure have grown a lot in the last couple of years. You can see the results of the tree trimming in the photos of our exterior painting.

The third 'repair/improvement' was power washing: In the past (since we moved into this new house (in 2005)) we used to hire someone to power wash the exterior of our house, our garage, our driveway, and wash our windows. This year we decided to ditch the company that did that work for us. Over the last couple of years, they've become unresponsive to our requests for power washing. They wouldn't return our calls, had to reschedule our appointment numerous times, and usually damaged our screens when they did the window washing. Last year (2012) was the worst, so we decided to do it ourselves.

In 2013 I bought a power washer for our house, it's another one of those 'home owner' tools that I've never owned before, but I definitely wanted one. I was tired of paying someone to power wash the house, garage and driveway every year. Paying for power washing (which included windows inside and out) usually cost us in excess of $300.00. In 2012, we didn't get our house power washed. I was planning to purchase a power washer... Well, it took a while but I eventually found and purchased a model that I was happy with (Homelite 2700psi 2.3gpm model #UT80522D). I bought the power washer from Home Depot in May of 2013 for $239.00 (originally $279.00 on sale for $269, already assembled (a returned unit) for $239.00). The fact that it was on sale, and further reduced made my experience better. No assembly required! (the previous customer couldn't figure out how to use it). It took me approximately 30 minutes to get it gassed and ready to go. I made a half-hearted attempt at reading the instructions. Reading all the instructions would likely have taken 1.5 hours. It took approximately 3.5 hours to empty out the garage (with Kim's help - Thanks Kim!), power wash the garage (twice with water, once with detergent) and the driveway (once over with water only). Next time it'll take less time, and I'll have a better idea what I'm doing. The garage smells and looks way better after the power washing. I'm very happy with the performance and results.
<http://robsworld.org/galleryphotos/index.php/Exterior-Painting---2013>
<http://robsworld.org/galleryphotos/index.php/Power-Washing---2013>
<http://www.robsworld.org/homelitepowerwasher.png>
<http://www.vivaxpropainting.com>
<http://comex-paint.com/kwal/>

Java for Mac OS XYet Another 'Critical' Java update for Mac OS X:
No you're not imagining it, there's another update for Java on Mac OS X. This update was announced by 'Oracle' the 'stewards' of Java (Java was originally created and controlled by James Gosling and Sun Microsystems. They finalized the process of making it open source in 2007. In 2009-2010 Oracle acquired Sun Microsystems. They now describe themselves as the 'stewards' of Java). The Java installation under Mac OS X includes a Java 'Control Panel'. This control panel includes some 'update' functionality. This update functionality feeds off Oracle information. While Apple stopped it's own development of Java (for the Mac OS environment), they still provide some updates, so does Oracle... This makes for some very confusing updates. Just last month, Apple released a Java update. Now (in July of 2013), Java's releasing an update outside Apple's security update channels.

This time around, something new happened when I attempted to update my Java installation. As the update notification arrived by way of the Java Control Panel, that's also the mechanism one should use in order to update the software... Should. As I found out, the update functionality built into the Java control panel no longer works. I'm not sure what broke it or when it stopped working, but I can't update Java using the 'Update Now' button in the Java Control Panel. In order to update from Java 7 update 21 to Java 7 update 25, I had to go to the Java downloads website, manually download the update, and manually run the update package. The automatic update mechanism no longer works. Clicking on the 'Update Now' button had no effect whatsoever. No error message, no pop-up, no update. Great - I wonder if it's just me, or are millions of other Mac OS users affected? So, Apple stops doing their own Java development, and now you can't use the automated software update mechanism (in the Java Control Panel) to update your installation of Java. That's not good. Thankfully, it still alerts you to available updates and tells you what version of Java you're running.

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

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

You can read all about Apple's upgrades, bug fixes, security updates, and more by following the links I've provided below. As usual, disabling Java (which Apple may discontinue altogether - if malicious coders keep targeting its vulnerabilities) will prevent a lot of problems, while eliminating a possible infection vector on your Mac.
<http://www.oracle.com/technetwork/java/javase/7u25-relnotes-1955741.html>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Java_(programming_language)>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OS_X_Mountain_Lion>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gatekeeper_(OS_X)>
<http://support.apple.com/kb/HT5797>
<http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1222>

Software favorites:
More updates to some of my favorite software applications. 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. In addition to the GC update, a new graphic design application was also updated.

Graphic ConverterGraphicConverter:
Thorsten Lemke (of Lemkesoft) completed work on several updates over the last week. I recently saw/downloaded the following updates: 8.7.2 (b1276), 8.7.2 (b1279), 8.7.2 (b1280). 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>

TransmitLogoist:
Logoist (updated to version 1.2.3 this week) is a Mac OS X application for creating high quality textual graphics, headings, logos, icons, web site elements and buttons. Thanks to its multi-layer support (just like Photo Shop and other high end layout applications), creating complex graphics is no sweat. This software allows you to create awsesome 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.syniumsoftware.com/logoist/>

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

Airport Router IssuesAirport Issues vex this Vaessen:
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 writting 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, the software update made things worse. On/about 8 July, 2013, I downloaded and installed the 'Airport Utility 6.3' update. The update was recommended to fix numerous issues with the 6.2 software. Like a good Apple-Boy, I downloaded the update and immediately installed it.

Immediately after 'updating' my Airport Utility, I found the software incapable of displaying the status on my Airport Time Capsule or Airport Express routers. I own an Airport Time Capsule (1TB capacity 2nd gen, model MB765LL/A); it's an Airport Extreme router mated to a hard drive for Time Machine backups. It's a bit old (purchased in May of 2009), but it shouldn't be old enough that the hardware needs to be replaced. I'd done something against my own recommendations. I recommend that a person always search the internet to see if there's any issues with an 'update' before they install any updates. Unfortunately, like most people. I don't always heed my own best instincts/advice.

Over the next 24 hours (7-8 July, 2013) I tried numerous things to get the application working properly. I rebooted the computer numerous times, repaired permissions, cleaned out some cache files, disconnected and reconnected the routers from my network, re-booted the routers, etc, etc. After approximately 24 hours the software was working properly... I had no idea what I had done, but it started working again. I hate it when that happens - The software just started working... It worked fine for a while; for approximately 24 hours. A day later I found the software was no longer showing the status of my routers (my Airport Time Capsule or my Airport Express). With a few searches (on the internet), I confirmed the worst of my fears, the software was the issue.

Thankfully, I found a few links that allowed me to download an old version of the Airport Utility software. I downloaded version 5.6 - A version available before a major redesign of the interface. The old software worked fine. It even had a few features that have since disappeared (disappeared after the redesign). I was also able to download and install the previous software version (the 6.2 version). The changes introduced by the 6.3 update weren't all that critical, and I prefer software that works to software that doesn't work! This particular episode 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 another 'update'.
<https://discussions.apple.com/message/22222266#22222266>
<http://support.apple.com/downloads/#airport%20utility>
<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://support.apple.com/kb/HT1998>
<http://support.apple.com/kb/SP508>

Jul 07, 2013

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 and announcements on the front page - It's something I do to indicate a change (updates) in the content.
  • Events: A detailed listing of upcoming and recurring events in and around Tollgate Crossing. Here is more detailed information regarding some of the events you may have read about on the 'Welcome' page. It's also a place to look for long term/recurring events.
    • I updated all the Tollgate Crossing HOA and Metro District (MD) contact information. The company who manages our HOA and MD recently changed its domain name/email services to 'claconnect.com' from 'cliftonlarsonallen.com'. I'm not sure if the old domain/email addresses @cliftonlarsonallen.com still work (and will continue to work) - They probably do/will, but it's better to be safe than sorry - So I went ahead and changed all the addresses on my Events.html page.
  • Info: A page of links, phone numbers, email addresses and other information pertinent to the residents/community of Tollgate Crossing.
    • I updated all the Tollgate Crossing HOA and Metro District (MD) contact information. The company who manages our HOA and MD recently changed its domain name/email services to 'claconnect.com' from 'cliftonlarsonallen.com'. I'm not sure if the old domain/email addresses @cliftonlarsonallen.com still work (and will continue to work) - They probably do/will, but it's better to be safe than sorry - So I went ahead and changed all the addresses on my Events.html page.

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://tollgatecrossing.org/bulletinboard/viewtopic.php?f=15&t=119>
<http://www.tollgatecrossing.org/Welcome.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 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 tried a few new items from the menu. I've never had their BLTA (Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato and Avocado) sandwich, and Kim's never had the Chicken sandwich. The BLTA was amazing! The smoky three-pepper bacon was sliced thick and cooked over an open flame. In addition to your usual BLT, add some avocado, a spicy mayonnaise and serve it on a Vienna bread. Oh my, I'm getting hungry just writing this! It really was good. Kim's Chicken sandwich was made with pulled herb rotisserie chicken. The sun-dried tomato aioli and dill havarti cheese and herbed foccacia were so good (Kim allowed me a small taste); I know I'll have to get my own serving next time we're there. As an appetizer to these outstanding entrees, we chose the portobello & tomato flatbread - Another excellent choice. Balsamic portobellos with a boursin cheese spread. The appetizers at the Great Northern are so good! Another great meal from the Great Northern. For the two of us (I had a Bloody Mary as a drink), the meal with drinks and hearty tip came to approximately $50.00. We'll be back.</rave>
<http://www.gntavern.com>

Clip-Art by: Miguel Sevilla-Callejo / msevilla00Geocaching in my Community:
I just got back from an outdoor activity that I'm thoroughly enjoying. Geocaching! I was introduced to this engaging activity (part hiking, part puzzle solving) by my friend Dale Marshall, and I'm definitely hooked. In early June of 2013, I solved a wicked four waypoint puzzle while Kim and I were on vacation (in De Pere, Wisconsin). Since then I've been on a couple more 'geocaching outings'. On my most recent outing, I scored a big fat 'Fail!' I had three geocaches on my list, and I failed to complete any of the searches. On the first, I searched for more than two hours in my efforts to locate the cache - I saw and picked up several pieces of mulch, but I couldn't find a cache anywhere. I hope a lawn mower didn't eat it. The second cache proved a bit more bothersome. I crawled around in the rocks for twenty minutes. Got stung by a wasp (three times!) and never found the cache. I logged both caches ('as I couldn't find them), and moved on to the third cache. When I saw that it was in the vicinity of some heavy duty brush (raspberry bushes) and possibly beyond a 'No Trespassing' sign, I decided that I'd had enough. Two caches I couldn't find, some wasp stings I'll have to contend with for several days, and a cache stashed beyond a 'No Trespassing' sign.

I guess I'm done for the time being - I'll be back looking for that second cache sometime before the ground is covered with snow. After logging my visits, the owner of the second cache (the one where I got stung) updated the log to indicate that the cache was missing. The last time this cache was 'found' was November of 2012. This particular outing wasn't all that strenuous, but geocaching can be if you don't take your time or you pick a cache with difficult terrain rating. If you're not from this area (Colorado is a high-altitude state), or you're as old as me (am I really that old?) - this activity can be a bit strenuous. Luckily there's the puzzle part. When you're near a cache you slow down and get a brain work-out. Loads of fun.
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geocaching>
<http://www.geocaching.com>

Google DriveGoogle Ups the Cloud storage ante:
I've been evaluating cloud storage (and a user of cloud storage) since Apple decided to do away with the iDisk (as part of their decommissioning of MobileMe services). I started looking for a replacement (by evaluating Microsoft's SkyDrive) as early as Sep of 2011, but I didn't stop there. In May of 2012, I seriously ramped up my evaluation efforts when I discovered a service called SME (Storage Made Easy - A cloud storage aggregator and management service/application) - and I'm currently using/evaluating 15 different cloud storage services, totaling more than 150gb of storage - All of it free! The only service I've paid for (a one time fee) is the SME aggregator service/application.

<rave>The 'Google Drive' is one of the cloud storage services that I'm evaluating. I like it for it's 'Google Docs' (which supports a very large (for an online application suite) number of file formats) and its integration with other Google products/services. When the 'Google Docs' first fired up (as an online/web-based service), it came with 1GB of free storage. I remember briefly evaluating Google Docs (back in 2009) when it came with 1GB of free storage. I thought to myself: "That's nice, but 1GB isn't enough to make online document creation a solution for any application". Upon integration with/the debut of 'Google Drive' as a service, the storage was bumped up to 5GB (for free). The integration of Google Docs into Google Drive made perfect sense, but they really couldn't cut the Google Drive back to 1GB, so they settled on 5GB for the basic free storage level (Apr of 2012). That's when I started evaluating Google Drive as a cloud storage option. When Google made it's Gmail storage 15GB (in May of 2013), it quickly followed suit by making the Google Drive storage 15GB as well. That puts the Google Drive near the top when it comes to free cloud storage. If you're one of the lucky few who qualified, you might have a 25GB SkyDrive account (free storage), there's also AT&T's generous - but very clunky Storage Locker, which provides up to 50GB of free storage. Unfortunately, you can only get that amount of storage for a limited time, if you've got an AT&T phone plan (non plan-holders can get 5GB for free), and you can manage to figure out how to access or use that 50GB Storage Locker; and that's not an easy chore. The typical user doesn't know about it (the upgrade to 50GB), and likely can't or won't bother to jump through the hoops necessary to use it.

I certainly appreciate the bump in storage that Google is providing, and this move clearly makes it a serious contender when it comes to small or home office/business user (I'm a bit of a tech-head, just outside the typical home user range). Thanks for raising the bar Google! As a matter of fact, there's already one company willing to pick up the gauntlet and match Google's move. Barracuda, makers of the 'Copy.com' cloud storage solution, have increased their free storage to 15GB. If you're interested in cloud storage, I definitely recommend that you go out and get your free 15GB Google Drive account now - I upgraded my account just recently. The online productivity tools and sharing capabilities make this offer a sure winner.</rave>
<http://reviews.cnet.com/8301-19512_7-57594103-233/get-50gb-of-at-t-locker-cloud-storage-for-free/>
<http://news.cnet.com/8301-1023_3-57584080-93/google-drive-triples-free-storage-to-15gb/>
<http://www.robsworld.org/whatsnew/wn2012/wn2012_may.html>
<http://www.robsworld.org/whatsnew/wn2011/wn2011_sep.html>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Storage_Made_Easy>
<http://www.robsworld.org/googledrive15gb.png>
<http://www.att.com/shop/apps/att-locker.html>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cloud_storage>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_Drive>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_docs>
<http://www.google.com/drive/about.html>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MobileMe>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skydrive>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IDisk>
<https://www.copy.com/about/pr>
<https://www1.copy.com/home/>
<https://drive.google.com/>

iWork in the iCloudiWork in the iCloud:
<rave>Apple's been hard at work on a new version of iWork. The new version lives in the iCloud. That's right, iWork - Apple's productivity suite; which consists of three applications: Pages (a page layout/wordprocessing application), Numbers (a spreadsheet application) and Keynote (a presentation application) - now lives in the cloud. A recent Beta program revealed the move in July of 2013. These applications used to be desktop and iPhone based, now they're browser based (the desktop and mobile versions are still available - but I predict that the stand-alone (non-browser based) versions will be free in the future, and might even disappear completely). Now you can access the iWorks productivity tools on any platform and any* computer (provided the browser (Safari 6.0.3 or >, Chrome 27.0.1 or >, IE 9.0.8 or >) used can handle advanced HTML 5 coding). If you've got an iCloud account - Which is Free! - you can run iWork. Yes, the future of iWork seems to be browser based, in the cloud, and free! It's quite a development, and I for one welcome it. This move really puts Apple's productivity suite in the hands of everyone. No longer do you need to pay for or install stand alone applications on your desktop (although I prefer them for their stability and resource management); now you can create, edit, store and share iWork documents using a web browser. No more complaining that Apple's productivity formats are inaccessible. Not only are Apple's productivity tools more available than the Windows equivalent (which you must pay big bucks for), iWork is also compatible with the Windows productivity format. That's right - Pages can open, edit, save, and share Word formatted documents. Numbers can open, edit, save, and share Excel formatted documents. Keynote can open, edit, save, and share PowerPoint formatted documents. So if you prefer the Windows formats, iWork (stand-alone or cloud-based) has you covered. In addition to Apple's format and Windows formats, the iWork tools also offer other compatible formats like .pdf and .csv.

All you need - To get your productivity started is an iCloud account. You can sign up for a free iCloud account (if you don't already have one) from an iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Mac, Apple TV or Windows PC (running Windows 7 or 8)*. Once you've got a free iCloud account, visit the iCloud beta web page and you'll see the new version of iWork. It's available for anyone to use. No software to download (you don't need to download the desktop or iOS iWork applications), no license to purchase, no monthly fee to use the software. This is an amazing move! It truly makes Mac the premier productivity platform. Not only are the apps free, they're unbound by platform, accessible anywhere and cross-compatible with Microsoft. Updates can occur on the server side, so you won't need to update your applications separately. New features can be added without the need to put new products on shelves or download new versions. The security updates can happen automatically. This move will certainly put a lot of pressure on Microsoft. They're still selling boxed products with big price tags, and they've recently decided to go down the 'subscription' route - where productivity apps will cost you a monthly fee just to get work done. Smooth move MicroSoft. I've always been opposed to that model (re: Microsoft and Adobe both making the move to a pay per use model for productivity apps), and now Apple is crushing it with free productivity apps, free online storage (up to 5GB), free sharing and cross-platform compatibility. Thank you Apple - Thanks for thinking about me (the typical user). Thanks for not charging me more money, thanks for making it free, thanks for making it simple, thanks for making it compatible. Thanks!</rave>
<http://www.apple.com/iwork/compatibility/>
<http://www.apple.com/iwork-for-icloud/>
<http://www.apple.com/iwork/numbers/>
<http://www.apple.com/icloud/features/>
<http://www.apple.com/iwork/keynote/>
<http://support.apple.com/kb/HT4759>
<http://www.apple.com/iwork/pages/>
<http://www.apple.com/icloud/setup/>
<http://www.apple.com/icloud/>
<http://www.apple.com/iwork/>
<https://beta.icloud.com>

Software favorites:
More updates to some of my favorite software applications. 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. In addition to the GC update, Transmit - a top notch file transfer tool has also been updated.

Graphic ConverterGraphicConverter:
Thorsten Lemke (of Lemkesoft) completed work on several updates over the last week. I recently saw/downloaded the following updates: 8.7.1 (b1268), 8.7.1 (b1270), 8.7.1 (b1273), 8.7.1 (b1274). 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>

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 4.4.1 on the 2nd of July, 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.

This particular update solves several sticky bugs - Potential crash when using Transmit Disk on a non-admin account (happened to me every time I tried to mount a Transmit Disk). Addressed a Growl support issue. Corrected a problem that kept NFS shares from showing up in the volume browser (another issue I've encountered). Improved the DockSend capability. Improved some Retina compatibility. issues (for users with the awesome new MacBook Pros).
<http://www.panic.com/transmit/index.html>

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

Software UpdateSecurity Update 2013-003:
On the 2nd of July, 2013, Apple released another security update for the following Operating Systems: Mac OS X 10.6.8, Mac OS X Server 10.6.8, OS X Lion v10.7.5, OS X Lion Server v10.7.5, OS X Mountain Lion v10.8.4. Apple isn't resting on it's laurels when there's work to be done. Here we see several bug fixes designed to make the experience a better one. As with any OS; once it's out in the wild, the users discover a pile of problems that those engineers never imagined or saw in testing, and hackers find flaws with the inner workings of the OS.

  • A patch that corrects a buffer overflow (through improved bounds checking) which could occur while handling Sorenson encoded movie files.
  • A patch that corrects a buffer overflow (through improved bounds checking) which could occur while handling H.264 encoded movie files.
  • A patch that corrects a buffer underflow (through improved bounds checking) which could occur while handling 'mvhd' atoms.

This particular update is recommended for several Mac OS users and includes features and fixes that improve the stability, compatibility, and security of QuickTime on your Mac. Three updates, all patches to patch problems and vulnerabilities in QuickTime.
<http://www.apple.com/macosx/whats-new/features.html>
<http://www.apple.com/macosx/whats-new/>
<http://support.apple.com/kb/HT5806>
<http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1222>

Music CollectionJuly's Music Downloads:
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 (July of 2013) I downloaded 82 tracks (from eMusic) at the low cost of $32.77 (that $10.00 credit from last month sure helped out). I'm paying a $19.99 monthly fee, so that makes the tracks even cheaper (~$0.24 / 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.

* Stepping Out of Line, The Anthology - Au Pairs: (37) A favorite band from the 80s. Unfortunately, I could never find their stuff in the record store (Yes, I was raised in an era where music was purchased in physical stores. Those physical stores had physical goods called 'albums', 'records' and 'tapes' that one had to purchase in order to listen to music). Now - Many years later, finding digital downloads of this post-punk phenomenon is much easier. Unfortunately, the band wasn't long-lived, so there aren't many albums (two). Fortunately, eMusic carrier 'the Anthology'; a collection of thirty seven Au Pairs tunes. The Anthology easily contains the best of their work, and once again I can relive the 80s using a digital download - All hail the internet revolution!
* Guilty as Charged 2009 - Cock Sparrer: (15) Part of a British subculture in the Punk/Rock arena - Cock Sparrer is one of the bands categorized as Oi! Rockin' pub rock with a social edge. Here's a band you can lift a mug to. They had a rocky start in the late 70s, broke up, and reformed after a resurgence in the Oi! subculture. By the mid 80s they were back in pubs and studios. The reunion was short lived and the late 80s saw another break-up. A '92 reunion gig brought the group back together. This reunion lasted longer than anticipated, and the band lives on with a new album (this one), compilations and a string of tours during the 90s and 2000s. Like many punk bands of the 80s, their impossible to put down. Discovered by listening to MOG recommendations.
* The Next Day - David Bowie: (14) Here's a late release of David Bowie. Released in February of 2013, here's Bowie doing Bowie - All the different Bowie styles. A collection of new material! The first new release in 10 years (Reality released 2003). This secret album was released with very little warning. Recorded as Bowie turns 66 years old. This 24th album is a gem, and Bowie's age only seems to improve his sense of music, timing and production. After a ten year hiatus, there's no mistaking Bowie's signature on this come-back album. Here Bowie is all over the charts, doing self-referential material in new songs that take you back to various periods of his career.
* The Undertones - The Undertones: (16) Re-Discovered by listening to MOG recommendations. Like many of the 80s bands I've re-discovered, I stumbled upon this one when a MOG recommendation led me to a band I used to listen to but didn't own. An excellent debut album. Formed in the wake of founders like The Kinks, The Clash, The Buzzcocks and The Sex Pistols, here was a more sedate version. A more Pop version of punk for the masses. 'Teenage Kicks', 'Male Model', '(She's A) Runaround' and 'Girls Don't Like It' are standouts. Once again MOG and eMusic manage to take me back to the musical memories of my 80s upbringing.

Artists Website:
I download music from plenty of websites (not counting commercial websites). The websites of the artists, the artists label, music festival websites, music review sites, etc, etc. Much of it is free, but sometimes you have to go to an Artist's website (not eMusic, iTunes, Amazon.com, etc) in order to download or purchase specific music. Some independent artists, or artists who've become disenfranchised by the music industry make their music available through dedicated portals. This means you have to hunt for the rare or choice cuts.
* Avalanche - Echo and the Bunnymen: (8) This particular purchase came in the form of a digital download from an exclusive outlet. I was moved to make this purchase because the music was released by my favorite band - Echo and The Bunnymen. Available at 'bunnymen.com' the EP is only available exclusively through the 'bunnymen.com' web portal. I paid £5.99 for the digital download. After the currency conversion fee (via PayPal) the EP (with 8 songs) download cost me $9.46. The songs on this EP aren't all 'new', but some are (according to my research): Avalanche; Baseball Bill (Sgt Fuzz Remix). Previously released: Hang On to a Dream (Tim Hardin cover); All My Colours (Zimbo); Silver; Angels and Devils; It's All Over Now, Baby Blue (Bob Dylan cover from Uncut Magazine 'various artists' compilation / 2002); Baseball Bill. It's good to know that I can find new Echo and the Bunnymen recordings, but this EP only contains one new song.

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>