Jun 30, 2013

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'. One with Kim - A two hour hike around our community; and the most recent cache hunt was a solo session. Kim couldn't make it, so I decided to make it a little more challenging. I pulled the bike out of the garage, geared up and headed off for three nearby hides. They weren't all that far away, but some false starts and difficulties reading GPS on the go made for a rather arduous outing. Three more geocaches within 1.5 miles of my house. This time they were all quite difficult to find (I'm a newbie), but I managed to conquer the caches in an afternoon of biking, hiking, and brain wracking puzzle plumbing enjoyment. Our home sits at 5,903ft and I made most of my finds at slightly higher elevations (5,993ft - Byapost; 6,020ft - ULTAmate cache; 6,020ft - Buba Jo Memorial). I calculate that I traveled appx 5.5 miles on the bike, another mile on foot, and spent a total of four hours hunting for these caches. I realize I'm quite green at this activity, and I've got a lot more to learn. After discussing the finds with my friend Dale, I learned that some were classic geocaching tactics. I also decided to buy a special iPhone mount for my mountain bike. That way I'll have an easier time reading the GPS while I'm biking. This particular was quite a strenuous outing (for me). If you're not from this area - 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. I posted a few of these finds on my Facebook and Twitter feed.
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geocaching>
<http://www.geocaching.com>

Tollgate CrossingUpdates to the Tollgate Crossing website:
I participate in some community focused events, but haven't found the time to serve on any boards, so I do what I can to help the people who live in my neighborhood. Volunteering with our local neighborhood watch, and supporting our community by maintaining the Tollgate Crossing website, mailing lists and online bulletin boards. The Tollgate Crossing website is focused on the Tollgate Crossing community, with a few links to the Neighborhood Watch website. I recently made a few updates to our community website:

  • Welcome: The website's opener. A page containing an introduction to our community website. Here you'll find all the latest news and announcements.
    • I rearranged the banners on the front page - It's something I do to indicate a change (updates) in the content.
    • Updated the announcements regarding the next HOA (17 July) and Metro District (23 July) meetings.
    • Added an image of the pool to the Welcome page. It's something I do each year - as the pool is ready for the annual opening.
    • I added a banner about 'Rabbit Proofing' your back yard (see below), and links to a discussion on the Community bulletin board.
  • Events: A detailed listing of upcoming and recurring events in and around Tollgate Crossing. Here is more detailed information regarding some of the events you may have read about on the 'Welcome' page. It's also a place to look for long term/recurring events.
    • Updated the announcements regarding the next HOA and MD meetings. Our next HOA meeting is 17 Jul, 2013. The next MD meeting, 23 Jul, 2013.
    • Updated info regarding the community Garage Sale (next dates are 2-3 Aug).
    • I added an announcement about our Annual HOA meeting (on 17 July, 2013). This is the annual meeting of the members/residents. We're supposed to elect new board members as well as vote upon any changes to the covenants. Provided we get a quorum of the community to show up.
  • Info: A page of links, phone numbers, email addresses and other information pertinent to the residents/community of Tollgate Crossing.
    • I posted some meeting minutes from recent HOA and Metro District meetings. Posted the 2013-02-20_revised.pdf (HOA meeting minutes), 2013-05-15_regular.pdf (HOA meeting minutes), 2013-05-28_regular.pdf (MD meeting minutes) and removed two documents: 2012-05-08_regular.pdf (HOA minutes), 2012-08-04_special.pdf (MD minutes).

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>

NestRabbit proofing your back yard - Not so fast!
Yes, I live in a community that has an HOA. That HOA is expected to enforce our CCRs (Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions) as well as create new ones and revise them when necessary. I'm glad I moved into a community with an HOA. I want my community to have a uniform, inviting and well kept appearance. Unfortunately - A new CCR seems poised to ruin the look of our community. The CCRs are designed to maintain our community's look and character. To keep the junk cars out of our yards, to prevent people from painting their house hot pink, to keep our yards green and our property values high. This isn't always an easy thing to do, everyone always thinks that they should be able to do what they want, but sometimes their better judgement can result in lower property values for the rest of us. Keeping the CCRs fair and effective is a balancing act. Unfortunately, sometimes good intentions result in the opposite result - In my opinion that's what's happened recently.

Have you noticed the Rabbit problem in our community? Of course you have; one can't help but look out the window, go for a walk, or drive through our community without seeing these cute, happy little hopping bunnies. The problem isn't seeing them, the problem is the fact that they're not just cute little lawn ornaments. They need to eat in order to 'multiply', and our lawns and gardens are their favorite buffets. Open 24/7, a residential community with penned up dogs, well watered lawns and the occasional back yard garden makes finding food no problem at all.

Rabbits in our community are eating my lawn, devouring the neighbors backyard garden and nibbling on flower beds planted all around the community. What else are rabbits good for? Well, if they're eating everything in your yard, they're probably leaving little rabbit turds behind as a way of saying thanks. It wouldn't be so bad if they were only eating the plants around our yards, but the waste the leave behind causes additional damage to our lawns.

If you walk around our community, you wouldn't need to see the rabbits to know that we've got a big problem. Many yards sport spotted lawns, yellow and brown mixed in with the dark greens of healthy Kentucky blue grass. We're all trying our best to stay in compliance with the CCRs but sometimes that's a bit difficult given the rabbits rampant in our community. I don't have a dog to scare them away, I can't put a fence around my front yard, and now - Now the HOA is insisting that I take down the thin red-line between these pests and my back yard.

That's right - The HOA has introduced a new CCR. A new rule to regulate 'Fencing Materials. I'm not sure when this new policy/guidelines came into effect, but the first reference I could find occurred in the Feb 20th HOA meeting minutes. Tucked into the Financial Matters section (on page 2) was Paragraph C:

Covenenants 1. Review of Covenants Report Ms Ellis reviewed the covenant report with the Board. At the next meeting Ms. Ellis will have some recommendations for staining colors and also will have recommendations for Rabbit fencing.

In the Mar 29th meeting minutes, the discussion continued (see Financial Matters section on pages 2&3):

l. Review of Covenants Report

Ms Ellis reviewed the covenant report with the Board.

• 24446 E. Whitaker Circle — Letter to Property Owners and Meeting Date
• 23644 E. Whitaker Drive — Letter to Property Owner and Meeting Date

Both of these items were addressed in Executive Session.

• Discussion Regarding Rabbit Fence on Wrought Iron Fence

Ms. Ellis Reviewed the available options with the Board. Upon a motion duly made by Director Boyer, Seconded by Director Moore, and upon vote unanimously carried, the Board approved the rabbit fence second option as presented by Ms. Ellis. Those residents that have different fencing will have one year to comply by April 30, 2014.

The Board requested that Mr. Mendisco present the fencing options to the District and ask that the District grant authority to the DRC to allow the fencing based on the adopted HOA standards.

I'm not sure whether the board discussed this matter during our annual meeting (on the 17th of April, 2013), as I had to leave before the meeting ended, and the management company/Board doesn't publish minutes from the annual meeting until the next annual meeting. In reviewing the meeting minutes from May, 2013, there was no mention of Rabbit fences, and the June minutes (as of 30 June, 2013) haven't been published yet.

I noticed the discussion regarding 'Rabbit fencing' on the 12th of June, and I immediately forwarded an email to the HOA manager. I inquired about the new policy/guidelines, requesting additional information. On the 16th of June, I forwarded a lengthier letter to the HOA board and community manager (most of the info below). I asked that my concerns (see below) be discussed at the next HOA meeting (on the 19th of June, 2013). According to one of the board members, the board members received pictures (see below), but they never discussed my concerns (as forwarded on the 16th of June) regarding this new policy/guidelines.

I encourage you/all residents of Tollgate Crossing to review this new policy/guidelines and my comments (see below). Ask yourself the following questions:

  • When was the HOA going to inform us about this new policy?
  • Is this new policy is designed to maintain the look and feel of our community?
  • Do you believe that chicken wire (any fencing materials other than the two options permitted in the policy) constitutes a 'highly visible structure'?
  • Does the use of chicken wire (or a small diameter mesh) to keep Rabbits out of our yards negatively impact on the look and feel of our community?
  • Would you require all residents that currently have chicken wire or other mesh (not the two acceptable types listed in the new policy/guidelines) to tear it down and put up one of the allowed fencing materials?
  • Do you consider a wire mesh, stapled or attached to an in-place fence to be a 'Fence' on it's own?
  • Do you care whether Rabbits are ruining the backyards of Tollgate Residents?
  • Can you see the chicken wire (or other mesh) on your neighbors back fence?
  • Who felt that this new policy was necessary?
  • Why didn't the HOA ask the community if these new guidelines were necessary?
  • Will removing the chicken wire make our community look better, worse or make no noticeable difference?
  • How do you keep rabbits out of your back yard?

If you disagree (or agree) with this new policy/guidelines, I encourage you to write our HOA board: <Email address protected by JavaScript. Please enable JavaScript to contact me.> to let them know how you feel. FYI: I have reported this matter to the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies. I plan to NOT comply with this 'new' covenant rule. If the HOA tries to tell me that I must comply, or dares to fine me, I will take them to court. This is not an 'official' change to our communities covenants. No one in our community voted for this change, and it hasn't been codified in formal changes to our communities covenants. For more info and discussion on this topic, please visit the Tollgate Crossing Bulletin Board
<http://cdn.colorado.gov/cs/Satellite/DORA-DRE/CBON/DORA/1251623736434>
<http://tollgatecrossing.org/bulletinboard/viewtopic.php?f=15&t=119>
<http://www.tollgatecrossing.org/Info_files/2013-02-20_regular.pdf>
<http://www.tollgatecrossing.org/Info_files/2013-03-20_regular.pdf>
<http://www.tollgatecrossing.org/Info_files/perimeterfence.pdf>

NestIt's a Thermostat, it's a Humidistat, it's an AC Controller, it's a Nest:
I've been planning this purchase for some time now... Kim and I have a whole house humidifier built into our furnace, but the controller is downstairs, and it doesn't detect the humidity level, so we have to manually adjust it several times a year. Here in Colorado it's very dry, and that spells bad news for wood floors and your skin. We've got big hickory cabinets and wood flooring in the kitchen and we want them to last, with this extremely dry weather you absolutely must use a humidifier or these wood floors and cabinets will end up cracked and warped as they shrivel up from a lack of moisture. More importantly, your skin really needs the humidity as well. We've lived in apartments and rentals without a humidifier, and the nosebleeds and cracked lips and dry skin are more than a nuisance. We've lived here without a humidifier, and it's downright painful. Just this weekend, I managed to get a Nest controller (2nd generation model) installed.

What's a Nest? you might be asking? Well, it's a smart appliance controller. It controls our furnace (heat), our air conditioning (cooling) and our humidifier (humidity) all from a central location - Or, remotely, using an App on the iPhone (or Android phone). It's a little bit more expensive ($250.00 on Amazon) than your typical controller, but it's a bit more sophisticated as well. Not only can you program it for any time of day, it also reads the weather report for your zip code and adjusts the settings based on local conditions. The Nest is loaded with a variety of sensors. One of those sensors detects motion, so it's able to figure out when you're away, and when you come home early. Let's say it's programmed for 'At Work' settings, but you get home early. The motion sensor will detect your movement and switch the setting to your 'At Home' setting. If you leave home for a weekend getaway, it figures out that your not around, and it'll change the settings to an 'Away' setting to conserve energy. With it's built in humidity sensor you'll never have to manually adjust the humidity sensor based on the time of year or conditions outside. It's even got an ambient light sensor so it knows that the living room is warm because the sun is shining in - It adjusts the temperature to compensate for that hot spot in the afternoon. Finally, the temperature sensors are even tied to the local weather report so it'll know that there's a three day cold snap coming up.

All these sophisticated sensors need occasional software updates, but the Nest doesn't need a phone to dial home, it's got a Wi-Fi connection (2.4GHz range only) for software updates and weather reports. No need to manually update any of that software, as the Nest does that all by itself. With the internet connection you can contact your Nest on a smart phone and fire up the furnace a few minutes before you get home. A Nest in a rental or vacation home can make a big difference if you're off to the Ski Slopes for the weekend. Arriving to a toasty warm home on the Front Range can sure make the winter months a bit less intimidating. After a couple weeks of operating in our home, the Nest had it all figured out. It knew when we left for work, when we got home and when the cleaning lady came by. It's constantly adjusting all those settings (heat, AC, humidity) in order to keep us comfortable and save us money. I'm glad we bought it - Let the Savings begin!

Before I bought the Nest, I did some research to figure out which 'smart controller' was best for our home. The Nest isn't the only controller with the Wi-Fi, app controlled convenience, but it seemed to be the only one that had all the features I was looking for. While the Nest seems pretty easy to install by yourself (per the instructions and videos I watched), I chose to have it professionally installed. Finding a technician capable and willing to tackle our installation (with an aftermarket whole house humidifier attached to the furnace) took a few phone calls, but I finally found someone who would/could tackle the installation. Our concerns about the right amount of power were unfounded, and our Nest didn't 'die' for lack of power within a week. It's been running fine for several weeks and thankfully the need to constantly adjust all those controls has vanished into the distant past.
<http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/tech/products/story/2012-05-06/smart-thermostats/54750056/1>
<http://nest.com/inside-and-out/>

eMusiceMusic dishes out member appreciation bonus:
<rave>Recently (24 June, 2013), eMusic (My music provider of choice) decided to simply hand out some member appreciation bonus bucks. It's been a while since I've received a membership bonus, so I was a bit taken aback by this sudden burst of generosity. Not one to pass up an offer of free music, I quickly scooped up the credits and headed for the 'music store' (the eMusic website). Here's a gist of what the appreciation email said:

"We Hope You Are Enjoying Your Membership. We want to take a moment to tell you how much we appreciate your membership, and we can think of no better way than with a bonus $10 music credit added to your account. This music credit is valid through June 29, 2013. It's our way of saying thanks, and we hope you use it to discover some great new music. Not sure where to start? Check out our New Arrivals or explore our Infinite Explorations—just enter an artist's name, and it will continue to suggest countless related artists worth checking out. Please contact Member Services if you have any questions. Sincerely The eMusic Team"

I've been an eMusic customer/subscriber since May of 2006. During all these years, they've done a few things I haven't been happy with. They've also been very responsive to my questions, problems, recommendations and concerns. They've continued to carry an artist line-up that appeals to me. They've made it easier to download my music. They provide plenty of free downloads each month, and despite their price increases (yes they've increased their prices (or decreased the number of downloads for the same price)), they're still the cheapest game in town. Thanks eMusic - Keep up the good work.</rave>
<http://www.robsworld.org/emusicthanks05.png>
<http://www.robsworld.org/music.html>
<http://www.emusic.com/>

Jun 23, 2013

AppleTV updateAppleTV (2nd & 3rd gen) update:
On Wednesday (19 Jun, 2013), Apple released an AppleTV Software Update (version 5.3). In April of 2012, I bought one of the new (3nd Generation) AppleTVs. It was my third AppleTV, and the first to have absolutely no problems with installation and network integration. I plugged it in, followed the onscreen instructions, and it just started working. Every iteration of this product is a marked improvement over the previous version, and this 3rd generation product tops out with absolutely no problems so far. Since that purchase, I've purchased a second 3rd gen AppleTV. I now have four AppleTVs. I've boxed up that old 1st gen AppleTV, and it awaits an uncertain fate in a cardboard box. Maybe a garage sale will give it a second chance?

This new software update (Apple TV Software Update 5.3) delivers additional content providers - Good, the Apple TV can use more of those. New content providers: HBO GO (provided you're already getting HBO from your cable provider), WatchESPN (includes live sports content from ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPN3, and ESPN Buzzer Beater/Goal Line for those who already receive ESPN's networks as part of their subscription through affiliated providers. Also included with WatchESPN are original shows like E:60, Outside the Lines, SC Featured, Sports Science and others), Sky News (offering live news 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to users in the U.S., U.K. and Ireland. In addition to the live feed, users can catch up on specific stories via the network's on-demand news library), Crunchyroll (a video service for Japanese anime and Asian media), Qello (an on-demand streaming service for high-definition concerts and music documentaries. Free and paid subscriptions are available).

In addition to this new third-party content, this update also delivers iTunes Store improvements. This particular fix addresses an issue where individuals would have to sign in multiple times in our to access and play purchased content.

It's a close call, but I now consider the AppleTV to be the superior set top streaming box. Slightly edging out the Roku player, I find the overall AppleTV experience (primarily the user interface) superior to that of the Roku player. If you want variety in choices, chose the Roku over the AppleTV. Having both gives me the best of both worlds. If only Apple would add more channel choices - like Amazon video!
<http://support.apple.com/kb/HT4448>
<http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1600>
<http://www.apple.com/appletv/>

Software favorites:
Another batch of updates for my favorite Graphic editor. GraphicConverter moves ever forward. As usual, developer has been busy updating this application. All the updates are free for those who own a license (for the most recent version). If you need a powerhouse converter, editor, and browser for your graphics, grab a copy of GraphicConverter - You won't be disappointed.

Graphic ConverterGraphicConverter:
Thorsten Lemke (of Lemkesoft) completed work on a several updates over the past week. I recently saw/downloaded the following updates: 8.7 (b1253), 8.7 (b1254), 8.7.1 (b1256), 8.7.1 (b1258). GraphicConverter is an image converter and editor. A fantastic piece of shareware that is well worth the price (~$40.00). I use it to convert image formats into web standard formats, to create and edit image maps and other graphics. I've been singing GC's praises for many years now, and I'm not sure I would do without it. The best part about GC is it's author. Thorsten Lemke is completely committed to his customer base. Constantly and Continuously responding to customer recommendations and bug reports. GC is a dynamic, evolving, application. Always on the cutting edge, an absolute must in any web developers tool box. At a fraction of PhotoShop's cost, this photo editor puts a huge wrench in your toolbox. The full release version: 8.6 (b1200) finally introduces layers proper to the toolkit; putting GraphicConverter on an ever closer footing with the likes of PhotoShop at a fraction of the price. A priceless application with all the bells and whistles of the top end editors.
<http://www.lemkesoft.de/en/products/graphic-converter/overview-of-new-features-and-versions/>
<http://www.lemkesoft.de/en/products/graphic-converter/key-features/>
<http://www.lemkesoft.org/files/graphicconverter/notes/1200.html>

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

Summer BBQSummertime BBQs - Get the grill ready:
The 20th of June marked the first day of summer, the weather here has certainly got a head start on that season. During the second week of June, we got hit with some very high temps - 96 degrees of the 10th of June and 97 degrees on the 11th. Temperatures during June (up until the 23rd of June, 2013) ranged from the 30s (39 degrees overnight on the 1st of June, 2013) up into the high 90s by the 11th. Temperature swings of 40 degrees aren't uncommon during June. In addition to the highly variable temperatures, we also see a fair share of thunderstorms. With all that stability, we're entering the monsoon season in Colorado. In the southwestern United States, including Colorado, the summer monsoon begins when high pressure along the East Coast sets up a slow-but-steady wind pattern that crosses the Gulf of Mexico then curves northward into the western deserts. Humidity rises and combines with heat and mountains to kick off thunderstorms in many parts of the region. The strength of the monsoon varies each day, and even some seasons are stronger than others so daily thunderstorms are not always a guarantee.

The slow movement of the storms and tremendous amount of rain they contain often combine to create flash flooding conditions in those places where thunderstorms develop. In Colorado the summer monsoon can form any time from late June into the middle of August. The seasonal wind can even pause for a couple of weeks, leading to dry conditions across the state in between periods of daily thundershowers. While this weather pattern is known by many different names, its been officially labelled the North American Monsoon by research meteorologists. The temperatures during the second week of June are usually in the mid to high 70s and we're seeing the mid to high 80s, even as high as the 90s. It looks like its going to be another long hot summer. In addition to this summer weather phenomenon, I also had to go out and gas up the grill. The tank was empty, and Kim wanted to bbq - Did I argue? No! I went and got the grill filled with our favorite flavor of petroleum - Propane! Break out the steaks, it's grillin' time! Welcome to Summer.
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_American_Monsoon>

My XC90Who damaged my Volvo?
Recently (June of 2013), I had to take my Volvo in for some repairs... I had been noticing a problem with the rear wheels. It felt like the breaks were having some issues. I noticed a sound from the rear of the vehicle, but no warning lights came on, my steering seemed unaffected, but the intermittent squeaking/squeeling noise persisted. I kept asking my mechanic(s) to check the brakes. I asked the tire place (a Discount Tires outlet) to check the brakes. They rotate, inflate and replace my tires when I need that done. I asked my mechanic (an independent shop) to check my brakes. They rotate my tires, change my oil, filters, and do general maintenance on my Volvo. Those are the only two shops that work on my Volvo.

On the 18th of June, 2013, I took my Volvo into the garage. The annoying problem (noises from the rear of the vehicle) have gotten worse. I was definitely concerned that something bad was about to happen. The noise had become much louder and I now feel some slippage when rounding corners. I took the Volvo in for a general check-up, and stressed that they should pay close attention to the rear wheels, the brakes, the suspension. Soon after I made my way to work, the garage called. The found the 'problem'. The Volvo had some serious damage to the rear wheel 'hubs'. Both of them needed replacing. The bearings inside both hubs are damaged, and the hubs themselves are a little loose. I authorized the repair work, and wondered whether this was wear or damage.

On the 21st of June, 2013, I stopped by the shop in order to pick up my Volvo. I took the time to examine the rear suspension while I was there. The shop put my vehicle on a lift and we took a look at the rear suspension. The mechanic pointed to some additional damage that they had mentioned during a phone conversation (on the 20th of June). I noticed that the damage showed some symetry, and looked like it might have been caused by an improper 'lift' procedure. The mechanic agreed, and indicated that he hadn't noticed that earlier... I believe that the damage to my rear wheel bearings (which are integrated into the rear wheel hubs) and the suspension stays (John Elway called these parts 'Track Bars') was caused by an improper lift procedure. I believe that someone positioned jacks or lift arms on these suspension components. The weight of the vehicle bearing down on the stays bent these suspension components. This put the rear wheels badly out of alignment. Driving on these mis-aligned wheels then caused the bearing seals to fail.

I've posted some photos that show the damage that a garage did to my Volvo. I can't be certain when or where the damage occurred, but (in my opinion) it probably occurred at one of two places. The garage where I take it for general repairs and maintenance, or the tire shop where I get my tires and have my wheels and tires serviced. Personally, I assign a 30:70 ratio to the probability that the damage occurred at the garage vs tire place (i.e. more probable that the damage occurred at the tire place). I'm 99% certain that the damage did not occur while I was driving the vehicle or at some other place.

The initial repairs (to the hubs) cost me appx $871.00. Unfortunately, I still needed to get the 'suspension stays' repaired. If I didn't fix that, the rear wheels would remain badly out of alignment, and the hubs would eventually need to be replaced. I spoke with my insurance company, and after some explanation, they agreed to cover the repair of the suspension stays. I took the Volvo to an authorized repair place (not my regular mechanic) and waited an entire week before the repairs were completed! The cost for that repair was approximately $300.00. With all these repairs I had to negotiate a settlement with my insurance company. I originally thought the damage was 'wear' or a defect. I didn't call my insurance company before I got the hubs replaced.

After negotiations with my insurance company, I ended up being covered for all the repairs. Based upon photos and testimony (from me and the mechanics involved in the repairs), my insurance company agreed that this damage was caused to my Volvo by someone working at one of the repair places. Because it wasn't a defect or normal wear, the insurance company covered the repairs. My insurance company (USAA) compensated me for the approximately $1,000.00 of repairs. All I paid was a $100.00 deductible. The link below will take you to a gallery of annotated photos showing the damage and my explanation of what happened.
<http://robsworld.org/galleryphotos/index.php/Damage-to-Volvo---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 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 posted an updated DRC (Design Review Committee) architectural review form. The DRC form is something that residents need access to in order to submit approval requests to our DRC. The new form contains a corrected address for our HOA management.
    • Posted the agenda for an upcoming Metro District meeting. Thankfully the HOA and MD management continue to provide me with this information. I appreciate it, and so do the residents of Tollgate Crossing. Without their assistance and cooperation, my Tollgate Crossing website would be a very sad portal for our residents.

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>
<http://www.tollgatecrossing.org/drcform.pdf>

Java for Mac OS XYet Another Java update for Mac OS X:
No you're not imagining it, Apple recently released another Java update for OS X (Apple-SA-2013-06-18-1 Java for OS X 2013-004 and Mac OS X v10.6 update 16). As the Mac OS becomes more popular; more threats will emerge, more vulnerabilities discovered, more flaws uncovered. No Operating System is bulletproof or perfect. How much is over cautiousness and how much is genuine response to real threats? Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference. It seems that we can't go a week without the revelations of another security threat, another diabolical hole in the internet's security or our personal privacy. Nefarious individuals with malicious intent will create Trojans and exploit code flaws in order to infect and compromise the computers of those who own Macs. This week Apple once again responded to several bug fixes issued by Oracle (owners of Java).

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

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

You can read all about Apple's upgrades, bug fixes, security updates, and more by following the links I've provided below. As usual, disabling Java (which Apple may discontinue altogether - if malicious coders keep targeting its vulnerabilities) will prevent a lot of problems, while eliminating a possible infection vector on your Mac.
<http://www.oracle.com/technetwork/java/javase/releasenotes-136954.html>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OS_X_Mountain_Lion>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gatekeeper_(OS_X)>
<http://support.apple.com/kb/HT5797>
<http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1222>

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

You may have noticed (If you've read my blog for any significant amount of time) that I'm a 20 Year Retiree of the U.S. Military. I served in the U.S. Air Force from 1984 - January of 2005. That puts me in a special category of 'Veterans'. In the U.S. A person who has served on active duty in the U.S. Military (any branch), and was discharged or released under conditions other than 'dishonorable', is considered a 'Veteran' (this is a generalized definition - There is no single federal definition). That's a large number of people - Veterans constitute (as of 2011) approximately (Veterans = 21,596,951 / Non-Veterans = 222,306,675) 11.3% of the U.S. population. Of that number, there's a smaller sub-category - Something called 'Military Retirees'. Veterans that have served 20+ years in the armed services (Military Retirees compose less than 1% of the U.S. population (Military Retirees 1,932,928 / U.S. Population in 2011 243,906,626 = 0.0079 less than 1%)). These particular veterans not only answered the call, they went so far as to make the military their career. They dedicated a substantial portion of their life to the military. Just like all the other veterans, they were willing to die for our freedoms, defend our nation and support our leaders in all matters. With a 20+ year career, military retirees are entitled to some additional benefits that other veterans are not. Military Retiree benefits: Military retirees were promised (I know I was) free medical care for themselves and their eligible dependents for life at Military Treatment Facilities (which are disappearing at an increasing rate). Military retirees recieve a pension (a percentage of their basic pay) for life. Military retirees also receive (for themselves and their eligible dependents) free 'space-available' travel onboard military transport aircraft. There are other / additional benefits, but these are some of the major benefits. None of this should be meant to mean that 'Veterans' are somehow less deserving of their benefits. All veterans deserve the benefits that they've earned. FYI: I pay (as do all other Military Retirees) an annual fee for my 'Free' medical care.

This introduction serves one purpose. It serves to illustrate a point in the following paragraphs. Veterans benefits are under attack! This administration (has decided that it is politically expedient to target veterans benefits (especially those of Military Retirees) as an extravagent expense that needs to be 'controlled' and 'reduced'. How so? Well, let's take a look at some recent developments. On the 14th of June, 2014, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1960 (the National Defense Authorization Act (the version crafted by the House Armed Services Committees)). The vote passed the house by 315 to 107. In passing this bill, the House bucked the WH proposals (the WH proposed budget for 2014). The House version of the bill did NOT raise the cost of Tricare for Military Retirees (no fee increases and no new/additional fees) and it raised the pay (proposed a 1.8% increase) for military members beyond the 1% cap that the WH proposed.

Here's what the WH had to say about these proposed differences (in a statement two days before the vote):
"…if the bill [HR 1960] is presented to the President for approval in its current form, the President's senior advisers would recommend that the President veto the bill."

Here is what the administration had to say on the subject of Tricare Fees and Co-Payments:
The Administration believes that military retirees deserve an excellent, sustainable health care benefit. For this reason, the Administration strongly supports its requested TRICARE fee initiative that seeks to control the spiraling health care costs of the Department of Defense (DOD) while keeping retired beneficiaries' share of these costs well below the levels experienced when the TRICARE program was implemented in the mid-1990s. The projected FY 2014 TRICARE savings of $902 million and $9.3 billion through FY 2018 are essential for DOD to successfully address rising personnel costs. DOD needs these savings to balance and maintain investments for key defense priorities, especially amidst significant fiscal challenges posed by statutory spending caps. The Administration strongly urges the Congress to support the proposed TRICARE fee initiative.

Here is what the WH had to say on the subject of Military Pay:
The Administration strongly urges the Congress to include the Administration's proposal to slow the military pay raise growth to 1 percent in FY 2014. Consistent with the views of the uniformed military leadership, the Budget requests a 1.0 percent increase to basic pay, a 4.2 percent increase in the Basic Allowance for Housing, and a 3.4 percent increase in Basic Allowance for Subsistence. This total compensation level recognizes the sacrifices made by the men and women in our Armed Forces, while adhering to the current budget constraints faced by DOD. The higher pay raise provided by this bill would cost an additional $0.6 billion in FY 2014 and $3.5 billion from FY 2014 to FY 2018. As these costs are not offset, deeper reductions to troop levels as well as readiness and modernization accounts would be needed at a time when statutory spending caps require defense reduction.

Our elected representatives are at it again (congress, representatives and the white house) - With sequestration creating the latest crisis du-jour, our elected 'representatives' are looking for ways to save Defense spending and programs which pay out to the Defense Industrial Complex companies. Specifically, companies that pay into the re-election campaigns of these elected (or should we say 'paid') representatives. Guess who doesn't have the financial resources to influence these representatives? Veterans and active duty military. As usual these elected representatives have plenty of 'Think Tanks' (conservative think tanks - funded by corporations and partisan groups) telling them that the 'only way' to fix the current budget crisis is to cut 'social programs' and 'veterans benefits'. They want to cut medicare, medicaid, social security, food stamps, housing assistance, and the one benefit with the least support (less than 1% have served 20+ years in the military); veterans benefits. What about the tax breaks that corporations enjoy? That's not even mentioned. What about the subsidies paid out to the oil corporations and agriculture corporations? Oh no, we can't cut those! How about cutting expenditures like the 'Energy Policy Act of 2005' - It paid out $15 million to oil, gas and coal industries in 2005. Do they really need government handouts? Aren't they the same industries that rake in record profits year after year? What about the overseas aid paid to other countries? No mention of cutting that, what about cutting the export-import bank? Let me guess, you never heard about that? Do you think you'll hear about it on the news? Fat chance!

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

Wake up America, vote with your conscience and some knowledge of who really matters to the politicians. Stop electing the same people, the same people who keep making decisions based upon the desires of their biggest contributors. Let your elected officials know how you feel about the President's proposed 2014 defense budget.

My Opinion: The article/blog posting above (on my website: http://www.robsworld.org) contains reported facts, observations, and some of my personal opinion(s). It does not represent any official government position, and is not meant to imply a suggested course of action, or advocacy of any specific action(s). These are my personal opinions, and the last time I checked I was still entitled to have those. If you have your own opinions on the matter of 'Sequestration' or the 'Defense Budget' that's great. You may disagree with my personal opinion(s), and you may email me regarding my opinions, but please don't bother telling me that my personal opinions are 'wrong', because opinions can't be 'wrong'. Copyright: Robert L. Vaessen (2013)
<http://militaryadvantage.military.com/2013/06/wh-willing-to-fight-for-tricare-fee-hikes/>
<http://actuary.defense.gov/Portals/15/Documents/statbook11.pdf>
<http://www.va.gov/vetdata/veteran_population.asp>
<http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget>
<http://www.gop.gov/bill/113/1/hr1960>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Veteran>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tricare>
<http://mrgrg-ms.org/not-same.html>

RefinanceCash back from the 'American Title Insurance' corporation?
Back in April of 2012, Kim and I refinanced our VA loan through our (at the time) current mortgate holder. Recently (June 17th, 2013), I received a check from 'First American Title Insurance Company' - Why? The $5.00 check wasn't accompanied by any explanation. No letter explaining why I was receiving the check. I can only assume that they messed up something with our mortgage paperwork, and they were refunding money to us in order to make right some charges they shouldn't have applied to my loan. If I was a conspiratorially minded citizen, I would suspect that they were trying to pre-emptively avoid a Class-Action lawsuit - Something that will likely be illegal in America, as soon as the corporations manage to get their way!

Kim and I bought our house back in 2005, when mortgage rates were riding high pretty high. Thankfully, my status as a veteran allowed us to get a decent fixed rate with our VA home loan. Great? Well, maybe not so great - 6.5% Over the years, the economy has fallen into the crapper, the banks won a giant windfall (when we bailed them out at our expense), paid their executives gigantic bonuses, bought up a bunch of other banks, and delivered record dividends to their investors. With the Federal Funds Rate riding along at 0 - 0.25% (The rate fell to 0% on the 16th of Dec, 2008), the big banks (my bank included) have been raking in record profits. As of 2012 (and later), they're paying virtually nothing for the money they get from the fed. Every penny they lend becomes instant profit for them. Man, talk about a lucrative deal. So why are the rates for home mortgages so high? Yes high - Compared to the Prime rate.

Getting our home refinanced a second time was no easy task. We decided to go with our current bank. It may have been easier that way, but they sure are reluctant to let you refinance. If they had a choice, I'm sure they'd just say no whenever someone asked... Fortunately for us, that might result if federal investigations, oversight and fines. Still, they've got no incentive to reduce my rate, and I'm truly amazed that I was able to get any kind of reduction in my loan. The last time we refinanced (through our current lender) we managed to get a whole 1.375% reduction! Wow! Amazing, such a drastic drop. It's almost one and a half percent! ...I hope you're feeling the sarcasm...

Our second time around (with the refinancing), we managed a whole 1.125% reduction. Another massive drop in interest - Not! Just like first time (the first time we refinanced), the paperwork was quite onerous (it took us more than an hour to sign all the documents), and the financing officers dragged the process out forever. Come on. We're refinancing into another VA loan with the same bank that holds the loan now. A loan that's guaranteed by the federal government. I tried to convince them that they didn't need to run a credit check. They did anyway. I still got the feeling that they were charging me a bunch of unnecessary fees. Fees that might be/might have been illegal or unnecessary.

Just like last time I refinanced; I was already in a VA loan, but they had to verify my status as a veteran? I had to convince them that an appraisal wasn't necessary. I tried to convince them that the Title search fees were unnecessary, because they held the title, and it wasn't changing hands at all. They should already know that. They held, hold and will continue to hold the title... Why would a title search be necessary? I'm refininacning from a (bank name intentionally withheld) mortgage to a (bank name intentionally withheld) mortgage. Seems like a totally unnecessary expense - yet they insist. Unfortunately the list of seemingly unecessary fees goes on and on. All in all, after more than two months, we finally got our mortgage refinanced, but the aggravation was barely worth it. Why does it have to be so difficult? Kim and I saved appx $225.00 per month through this refinancing, but we're continuing to pay the same monthly payment; putting the extra amount towards the principal. Hopefully we'll pay off this loan before we die...

Why don't I mention the name of my bank? You're kidding right? They hold all the power, just like the mail man, just like your employer. Complain and you're screwed. Just like the so-called 'whistle-blower protection' in the U.S., there's no such thing as consumer protection in this country. Try to fight the man and you'll end up unemployed, without a credit card, no bank account, probably on a terrorist watch list... I love my job, I love my bank, I love my mailman. All is good in my World! For the privilege of a home loan I will pay more than $300,000.00 (that's the estimated cost of the loan - not the principle). How could any bank possibly go bankrupt with that kind of a deal?
<http://www.robsworld.org/whatsnew/wn2012/wn2012_apr.html#refinance2012>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whistleblower_protection_in_United_States>
<http://benefits.va.gov/homeloans/purchaseco_loan_fee.asp>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Class_action>

Jun 16, 2013

Clip-Art by: Miguel Sevilla-Callejo / msevilla00Geocaching in my Community:
Kim and I just got back from an activity we can share. 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). Now Kim and I have decided to make a habit of it (hopefully). We just finished a two hour hike around our community. We found three caches within 1 mile of our house. Ended up walking a total of 1.93 miles on terrain with elevation varying from 5,870ft (near a frog pond) to 5,960ft (the highest point in an adjacent community). Our home sits at 5,903ft so the walk was a bit vigorous. If you're not from this area - or you're as old as us - 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. I'll post the first four Caches on Twitter, but I'll keep them off my Facebook.
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geocaching>
<http://www.geocaching.com>

Eating out in DenverDate Night - Out to Eat in Greenwood Village:
Occasionally, Kim and I take the opportunity to eat out at one of the fine restaurants in the Denver area. They're not always five star places, but we're not that kind of people. During June of 2013, Kim and I enjoyed a 'Date Night' at a new restaurant. We gave 'Lucy' a try. Lucy is a restaurant located above the 'Comedy Works' location in Greenwood Village. The restaurant features a modern American decor and a similar cuisine. The atmosphere is slightly upscale - Seemed a bit stuck-up if you ask me... The place was overcrowded and understaffed. Creating that 'oh-so-special' atmosphere that I despise.

We had veggie spring rolls as an appetizer, and then waited forever to get our food. I had baked salmon, and Kim had scallops. The salmon was o.k. - but it was room temperature by the time I got it, and cold by the time I finished it. The food wasn't all that remarkable, but the wait was quite memorable. Eventually we paid our check - after an very long wait. Then after another very long wait - with no waiters asking if we wanted another drink, we finally got up from our seats. No one asked us to get up, or make our way to the stairs, we just kind of got tired of waiting. Us and the two other couples still waiting. This waiting crap, combined with lack of service sealed the deal for us. While the food may have been o.k. The experience (dinner before the show) was so badly handled, that we will never come back to this restaurant.

After dinner we were 'escorted' to our seats downstairs at 'Comedy Works'. We've been to the Comedy Works in Greenwood Village before, it's crowded. The seats are stadium tight and this makes the entire experience uncomfortable. The act was Jim Belushi and the Chicago Board of Comedy. Jim Belushi is a name that I've grown up with, and his style of comedy is one which suits me. It isn't designed to disgust, outrage or evoke a visceral reaction - It's intended to entertain, amuse and elevate. The 'Board' is a group of interactive improv artists. The engaged the audience, encouraging us to interact, suggest and create. The experience was more like a party than an 'Act'. I really enjoyed the two-way give and take that Jim encouraged. It's too bad I didn't realize what was happening until later. If I had known it was going to be so reliant on interaction, I would have spent more time shouting out suggestions, and less time sitting back and watching. By the end of the night, the bad experience of Lucy had disappeared completely, and I was feeling good about our latest 'Date Night'.

The cost for our two person outing in the Denver/Aurora megalopolis? Way too much. Dinner at Lucy, plus Comedy Works? Way more than our typical ~$40-50/person. This outing set us back approximate $150.00. I can't remember the break-down precisely, but the tickets for Comedy Works were cheaper than our dinner at Lucy. We'll be back to Comedy Works, but I won't subject myself to the 'Dinner before the show' experience at 'Lucy' - The restaurant. Pick a different restaurant at the Landmark Mall.
<http://www.comedyworks.com/pages/landmark>
<http://www.visitthelandmark.com/shops.htm>
<http://www.jimbelushi.ws/Improv.htm>
<http://www.lucyrestaurant.com>

Home ImprovementsHome 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.

The first repair was a condensate line. When we moved in we immediately noticed a problem with the condensate return line on our furnace. Unfortunately, not knowing better, we assumed it was normal, and our complaints to the builder went unheeded - If I'm not mistaken they even claimed it was normal. The way that our condensate return line was installed was causing a lot of condensate to to leak out onto the floor of our furnace room. After a few furnace repair visits, the technicians explained that "This isn't quite Kosher". The contractor who installed the condensate return line used the wrong sealant on the plastic piping and the angle of return was also contributing to the leaking. The install was botched, and as a result the slightly acidic condensate had dissolved the joint sealant. This in turn caused the condensate to leak out onto the floor of our furnace room, making for a dripping mess with water constantly running out onto our floor and down the drain. Because we run a whole house humidifier, the problem is nearly constant.

Finally fed up with the constant dripping, leaking and watery mess, I decided to hire someone who could fix the mess. After a lot of cutting, gluing and plastic pipe rearranging - we now have a drip free condensate return. The condensate now returns properly, all the pipes (from both furnaces, the humidifier and the roof/vented return) now work properly, depositing water directly into the drain in the center of the room. No more leaky pipes, no more pans overflowing with water, no more slimy mineral deposits on the floor. Best of all, my wife is happy with the clean furnace room floor.

The second repair was something installed out of concern for all the electronic goodies in our house. A recent thunderstorm (in Early June of 2013) drew lighting to our community. During that storm, a resident's home was damaged when lightning struck their home. Initially, the news and some reports came in to our community manager that indicated a lack of proper grounding on our houses. Like many of my fellow residents, I was concerned. I didn't want a hole blown in my ceiling, and I didn't know what to look for when checking for grounding.

I did some research on the internet (it's always better to have some knowledge before the 'experts' show up), then I called an electrician. The electrician came out to our house and inspected the grounding. My wife was at home when the electrician came over, and I got home from work just as he was 'explaining' to my wife that we needed an in-ground grounding rod in order to protect our home…

After some initial questions, I started asking him about the NEC (National Electric Code) requirements for residential properties (I had done my research). According to the NEC code, residential properties (in Aurora/Colorado) must employee at least two grounding methods to protect the home and it's occupants. Two of the three primary methods are employed in my home. Grounding to metal water pipes (My home has copper pipes for water), and grounding to concrete encased electrode (Ufer grounding - Named after Herbert G. Ufer).

This electrician was trying to tell me that I needed a third method. He was telling my wife that we didn't have a grounding rod. He was trying to sell us an additional grounding method. Soon after I started asking questions, he changed his tune from 'you need this' to 'its recommended'. I specifically asked him what NEC said in regards to how many grounding methods are required. What I had read indicated that two methods are required, and two of those methods must come from a list of three primary grounding methods (the third method on the list of three was the grounding rod method). Additional methods are permitted, but I couldn't find anything in the NEC code (online I found references as late as 2011) that indicated a requirement for a third method.

I asked the electrician whether the copper wire outside my house had been stolen. I asked him whether I already had a grounding rod. I didn't have a grounding rod, and it didn't appear that anyone had stolen any copper wire off the back of my house. I asked whether he tested the grounding in my home. I asked him if my house met code - He answered yes to both questions.

A lightning strike directly to your home can cause a lot of damage whether or not you have proper grounding protection (to code). If you suspect that your grounding components have been stolen, it's a good idea to have your home's grounding and electrical components inspected.

In the final assessment (for my home); no one had stolen any of my grounding components. My home was properly grounded, and I didn't need any additional grounding. That's when I asked the electrician if he could install a 'Whole Home' surge protector. I'd read about these devices, and I already knew how much they cost. He indicated that he could. As a matter of fact he had all the necessary equipment with him. I asked what brand of surge protector he had. He named a brand I'd already read about, and I asked him to go ahead and install the 'Whole House' protection. Now if lightning strikes, I've got one more layer of protection to keep lightning from frying all the computer and electronic goodies scattered all around the house (many are protected by power-strip surge protectors).

The electrician didn't overcharge me for something I didn't need, and I got what I wanted. It's a good thing I did my research ahead of time. I posted some photos and an explanation about the 'Whole House Surge Protector' on my website.
<http://fyi.uwex.edu/mrec/files/2011/04/W4.-Biesterveld-NEC-grounding-MREC2010.pdf>
<http://robsworld.org/galleryphotos/index.php/Electrical-Grounding>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ufer_ground>

WWDC 2013Apple's WWDC announcements:
An annual event held (most recently (2013) at the Moscone West Center in San Francisco, California) by Apple for developers and the press. The World Wide Developers Conference is a multi-day forum (Jun 11 - 15 in 2012) where Apple announces new software, hardware and products to the developer community and public at large. A showcase where Apple demonstrates the newest technologies and products to the press, public and developers. The conference also features numerous workshops, seminars, and feedback sessions with developers and the press.

So, what amazing new products and services did Apple unveil at the latest WWDC? During the Keynote speech, Apple announced the expected refresh to the Mac OS: Mac OS X Mavericks (no more Cats!). An update to the iOS: iOS 7 (significantly different). New hardware: New versions of the Macbook Air and Macbook Pro (Retina displays). Finally a few surprises: A new Mac Pro (a whole new chassis) and iTunes Radio. Here's a brief recap of some of the key product announcements and highlights during the Keynote.

iOS7

  • Upcoming iOS 7 Features:
    • Control Center: Quick access to the controls you need now. Apple updates the Control Center to make it more useful. Swiping up from any screen (including the lock screen) gets you to the Control Center. With one swipe you'll have access to Airplane Mode, Wi-Fi controls, Brightness, a flashlight, a timer, a calculator (thank you!) the camera, music controls, and lots more.
    • Notification Center: Keeping you informed and up to date on all the little tasks that demand your attention - Without taking you away from what you're doing. That's the challenge of Notification Center. Updates to this capability with additional updates, more control over the notifications, and a new feature called 'Today' - which provides a summary of the days chores. Access the notification from any screen (including the lock screen) by swiping down from the top of the screen.
    • Multitasking: Doing more than one thing at a time has always been a challenge on your iDevice. Apple's iOS 7 makes it easier as it learns you app usage habits. If you always check your email five minutes after your AM alarm, iOS will pre-load your Mail application just before you check it. If you always check the stock market around 7AM, it'll pre-load new content just before 7AM. This multi-tasking improvement will put the information at your fingertips when you need it, not five minutes after you ask for it! To see what apps are open double tap the Home button. Now you can quit any of the open apps by swiping them up from a preview pane. You can do all this with your thumb. No need to juggle your phone or break your thumb in order to quit an app. Multi-tasking will see when you're wi-fi connected and use the opportunity to keep your apps and podcasts up to date. Saving you from the perils of a limited data plan while simultaneously keeping you up to date.
    • Camera: Significant functionality updates come to the Camera under iOS 7. Multiple formats (still, video, panorama, square) are now front and center. In addition to the formats accessibility feature, another feature puts filters (Mono, Tonal, Noir, Fade, Chrome, Process, Transfer, Instant) at your fingertips. You can preview the effect, apply it or remove it (from Square and Still format photos) as your mood suits you.
    • Photos: Building on the Camera improvements is a slew of new features in the Photos app. The ability to view 'Collections, Moments, and Years' allows you to group your photos in whole new ways - Making it easier to find the shot you're looking for. Organization is joined by improved iCloud sharing in the Photo app. Now you can create shared photo streams with other iOS users. Updates to that Photo Stream are automatically updated.
    • AirDrop: Sharing everything and anything is one of the goals built into iOS 7, and AirDrop helps get that done. Sending photos, videos, contact info, and documents
    • is easier than ever. Now you don't need to draft an email or attach a document to a text message. You can transfer the documents directly to other nearby iOS users through AirDrop. Sensing other users nearby (using BlueTooth), Apple's AirDrop allows you to share files (via Wi-Fi) in a safe (encrypted) and quick way with one or multiple users simultaneously. The content shared with other users shows up in the App it's designed for contact information shows up in the 'Contacts' app, a Photo shows up in the 'Photo' app and so on.
    • Safari: Improvements to Safari in iOS 7 mirror those made to Safari in OS X Mavericks. The Safari browser on iOS keeps buttons, bars and tabs hidden unless you intentionally scroll all the way to the top of the screen. The search field is now unified with the URL field. Tabbed pages are now displayed using a vertically aligned 'CoverFlow' display. Unwanted pages can be closed by swiping them off the side of the screen. You can share URL links with other iOS/Mac OS users. The reading list is revised to allow seamless scrolling through all the items in the reading list. The new iCloud Keychain (see below for additional details) is integrated into the Safari browser.
    • iTunes Radio: A whole new experience. Apple is adding a music discovery app to iOS and the desktop. The new iTunes Radio will feature streaming radio 'stations' which allow you to personalize, pick and choose the music you want to hear. Available for iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Mac, PC (through iTunes), and Apple TV. The free service will allow users to discover and purchase music in a whole new way (look out Pandora!).
    • Siri: New and improved. With a new look, a new sound (new male and female voices), and new capabilities. The new voice is easier to understand, faster with responses, and checks more sources (wikipedia, bing, twitter). Siri also gets more to do with this update. Now it can return phone calls, play voice mail messages, control iTunes Radio and more. Siri now indicates that it's listening and processing your request. Siri doesn't shove your search results into Safari, you can see them on the same screen with the Safari interface; no matter what application you were using when you invoked Siri.
    • App Store: In iOS the app store gets a few updates. One interesting update is the 'Apps Near Me' functionality. This shows you what Apps are being run in your vicinity. Maybe you'll discover a useful app using this feature. Automatic updates is a new feature that I know I'm going to love. Updating apps is just one more annoying task I have to endure on a daily basis. Apple's already vetting this software in the store, and there's nothing more I can do to make it safe, so why should I need to manually authorize each update?
    • Find My iPhone: I know I've already been thankful for this app on at least one occasion. O.k. so the iPhone was only in the car, but being able to instantly locate the phone was an massive boost to my well-being. iOS 7 introduces a few new features to make it even better. You now need to enter your Apple ID and password in order to disable the feature. The app also has a new capability to display a custom message - Even if someone manages to 'Erase' the device. Finally a message will be displayed if your iPhone somehow makes it back home. If you get your phone back, you can enter your Apple ID and a password in order to reactivate it and restore all the data you might have erased.

These features and more will be available on selected devices when iOS 7 rolls out in the fall. The iOS 7 upgrade will be free for anyone holding a selected Apple device. See the iOS 7 preview page for more details. Aside from the new look and feel of iOS 7, all the new features; like Control Center, AirDrop for iOS, and smarter multitasking will make the things you do every day easier, faster, and more enjoyable.

Mavericks

  • Mac OS X 10.9 - Mavericks:
    • iBooks: This book creation application is finally coming to the Mac desktop OS. Great news for those who want to read on their laptops (Students!) or create some awesome interactive books on a platform that's larger than an iPad and easier to control. With iCloud integration, all your iBooks store purchases will automatically show up on all your Apple platform devices. Integration across devices will sync highlights, bookmarks and notes.
    • Maps: iBooks isn't the only app to make it's move from mobile to desktop. Apple is finally porting the mobile Maps app over to your desktop with 10.9. I've been using a google maps app and google maps in the browser for so long that I didn't even think about this logical step from iDevice to Mac OS. Graphics on a desktop machine will surely be smoother, quicker and vastly improved over most of my iDevices. Now I can plan my trip at my desk, transfer the map to my iPhone and receive voice navigation on the way to the restaurant. Maps will also be built into other Mavericks apps - Mail, Contacts and Calendar.
    • Calendar: Apple's calendar app receives a refresh. This is one of many apps that will ditch the 'skumorphic' design treatment. Stripping off the fake leather corners and page flipping animations moves us into an actual consumer electronics environment. Integration with the new Map application, calculating travel times and weather forecasts makes your Calendar more of a planning tool than a reminders app.
    • Safari: Apple's browser picks up a few improvements in the new OS. Speed is one of the improvements. Something you'd expect. Not only does the speed jump up under the new version, but the memory and CPU usage are also reduced - Making everything more responsive. Shared links in the sidebar allows you to share links with people you follow on Twitter and LinkedIn. Top Sites is redesigned to use the floating panels display now used in the tabs CoverFlow (which is a bit difficult to use).
    • iCloud Keychain: A feature which will be shared with iOS. The revised, updated and iCloud integrated Keychain finally returns cross-device syncing and access to the Keychain It's a capability that's been missing for some time, but now its back. iCloud Keychain will not only remember your authentication credentials (user names, passwords, credit card info and more), it will also offer password recommendations, store your passwords securely and sync them across all your Apple devices. Maybe I can stop using my second party solution?
    • Multiple Displays: In the past, Apple's ability to use multiple displays was quite limited. All it would do is extend your desktop, merging two monitors into one big monitor. You couldn't use them independently. Under Mavericks you'll be able to use each monitor independently of the other(s). Each display will have its own Dock and independent menu bars. You can run multiple apps on either display, and even run a full screen on each screen. Mission control is modified to give you a bird's-eye view of multiple displays, allowing drag-and-drop between the multiple displays. You can even drag apps 'across the room' and drop them onto an HDTV enabled with AppleTV via AirPlay - Yes, AirPlay enabled devices will be accessible as a display destination.
    • Notifications: The notifications center on the right hand side of your OS X desktop, and the pop-ups in the corner of your display will now give you more flexibility to get things done. You'll be able to reply to tweets, email, FaceTime video calls and Message chats. If you've stepped away from your Mac you can now view a list of notifications you missed while you were away.
    • Finder Tabs: Something we've been requesting for many years! Finally making its way to the Mac OS Finder. No need to clutter your desktop with multiple windows. Its about time. I switched to a second party solution long ago. Its hard to fathom why it took Apple this long to put tabs in the Finder. The drag-and-drop functionality helps you get things done without switching back and forth between multiple open windows. Unfortunately, given the fact that this is Apple's first attempt at Tabs in the Finder, I can only imagine that it won't have anywhere near the number of features available in many of the second party solutions.
    • Tags: Tags have been part of the Mac OS for a long time (going all the way back to OS 7). Previously known as 'Labels', this 'Tags' capability was/is quite limited (you could only use 7 labels). OS X Mavericks gives them a long needed boost, expanding the functionality. From what I've read, it sounds like these 'Tags' will supplant/replace the current 'Labels' functionality. I hope I don't lose all my current labels. Hopefully they'll become Tags under the new OS. The Tags will now appear in the sidebar (dragging files onto the sidebar Tag category will 'Tag' it with that Tag) and the 'Save' dialog, making them easier to use for sorting and viewing your data. In addition to this welcome update, they'll also sync across devices using iCloud integration.

Apple's new OS X update promises a new look and more behind the scenes than out front. Clocking in with more than 200 new features (just like the Mountain Lion update), the changes behind the scenes introduce a lot of engineering designed to make your Mac run faster, quieter, more efficiently and smarter. Timer Coalescing groups low-level operations (from multiple-apps) together to reduce idle-time between operations. This allows the CPU to enter low-power states more frequently. This will reduce energy consumption on desktops and battery operated laptops. Extending the life of your Mac and your energy bills. Another power-saving feature is App Nap. Apparently Apple has finally gotten around to implementing this feature - They've tried before, but couldn't get it to work properly. Now when you're working with multiple apps, App Nap will conserve energy by slowing down the inactive apps (the ones that aren't at the front of your monitor). Another memory hog is Flash and Safari. With more tabs open than I know what to do with, Safari is a constant drain on my CPU and RAM. Under OS 10.9, Mavericks will automatically pause content that you're not looking at. Shutting down those annoying Flash animations when you're not looking at the advertisement, or calming that YouTube video when you pin it behind your iPhoto work. I certainly hope that all these energy saving features don't end up preventing me from listening to music as I work... These are just a few of the energy and memory saving features built into Mac OS 10.9. With all these new features, my new machine (I'm planning a desktop upgrade this year) should feel like a revolutionary change in speed!

This update (like the last) will likely be available through the Mac App Store (no discs for sale), it will update users from Mountain Lion to the new OS. There's no word yet on whether it will do the same for those who skipped Mountain Lion. Estimates are putting the price at $19.99 (that's what Mountain Lion cost). The update will be available 'This Fall', and a fall update will keep Apple on their one update per year track, and moves the two OSs (iOS and OS X) closer to an integrated/common experience.

MacPro 2013

  • Hardware and device updates:
    • Mac Pro: The most surprising announcement at WWDC 2013 was punctuated by the Phil Schiller's quip: "Can't innovate any more, my ass" - The phrase was uttered in conjunction with the announcement of a brand new Mac Pro. The first major refresh to the Mac Pro since the line was introduced back in 2006. Gone is the perforated obelisk shaped polished aluminum chassis; replaced by a tiny (6.6" x 9.9"), slick, black, cylinder, this amazing little container packs more power than anyone would suspect. At 1/8th the size of the current generation machine, this new Mac Pro packs in a Xeon E5 processor in configurations up to 12 core. Capable of running three 4K displays at the same time, no one could claim that it isn't powerful enough - no matter the application. Missing from the new Mac Pro are the hard drive and optical drives. This baby runs on solid state memory and storage. The tower is gone - Long live the cylinder! No prices or specific release dates available yet.
    • Macbook Air: That amazing, lightweight computer in 11" and 13" models gets another refresh. Compared to that amazing new Mac Pro, the new Macbook Air announcements are quite tame. While it didn't get a Retina display, it did get a processor bump and significantly improved battery life. The device is now using the all-new fourth-generation Intel Core i5 and i7 processors (of the Haswell variety). This ultra-efficient architecture was designed to use less power and still deliver high performance. Battery life gets a significant bump up. The 11 inch model jumps from 5 hours to 9 hours of continuous use. The 13 inch model goes from 7 hours to 12 hours. Wow! That's all day performance. If you're a student you're going to love the fact that your laptop isn't about to die during a lecture or quite during your lab work. Finally, the new Macbook Air's now support enhanced 802.11ac networking (aka 5G WiFi). Stack this on top of a twice the memory (compared to the previous versions of the 11 and 13 inch laptops) for the same price - and you won't be able to resist!
    • New Airport Extreme/Time Capsule: The new Airport Express and Time Capsule both got a re-design. They now appear as extruded Airport Express units. With the same footprint as the Express (3.85" square and 6.6" tall), the new Extreme and Time Capsule take up significantly less desk space (64% less than the previous generation). The vertical extrusion also allows for improved performance. The new devices are equipped with 6 antennas (3 for the 2.4GHz spectrum and 3 for the 5GHz spectrum). The new design also includes incorporation of 802.11ac technology. This new networking standard moves WiFi into the far-out fast category. You can now reach data rates up to 1.3Gbps! That's 3x faster than the 802.11n standard. They've also doubled the channel bandwidths to 80MHz wide. That means fewer slow downs due to congestion and interference; improving 802.11a/b/g/n device connectivity as well. While simultaneous dual-band support isn't new, a new Beamforming capability allows the 802.11ac networking to more efficiently provide WiFi access in all directions, even when there's interference in the field. The Time Capsule comes with either a 2 or 3 TB storage/backup capability.

This year's WWDC was lighter on the hardware than last year, but the new Mac Pro, and Macbook Air improvements should keep the blogs speculating for months. The new hardware introduced represented some significant updates and I'm definitely planning to grab one of those new Time Capsules. While I'm planning a major desktop refresh this year, I won't be investing in a new Mac Pro. The line has outgrown my needs. A new iMac will easily fit my needs, and the lower cost will suit my budget nicely. I'm still lusting after that new Mac Pro, but I really can't justify anything that powerful during this year's refresh.

This year's WWDC didn't limit itself to hardware and software. It also made some exciting service announcements. iCloud gets quite a few updates. The new iTunes Radio is just one of them. There's also plans for iWork for iCloud. I'm not sure, but Apple may be phasing out the stand-alone iWork applications for web-based versions. Doing so would eliminate the price (for iCloud users) while making the iCloud storage more attractive. The new iOS and OS X operating systems won't ship until later this year (September?), but most of the hardware (not the Mac Pro) will be available sooner (Macbook Air now / Airport Extreme and Time Capsule in June of 2013).

Apple continues to move iOS and Mac OSX closer to each other. Common functionality and user experience is a goal that Apple is clearly pursuing, and I have to say that this strategy is a good one. There are plenty of apps and features in iOS that I'd like to see on my Mac, and there are lots of capabilities on the desktop that I'd like to see on the mobile devices. Putting the iWork applications in the browser with an iCloud bridge helps move the two operating systems closer, and I wouldn't be surprised if Apple's iCloud becomes the digital hub that holds it all together. Gatekeeper in Mountain Lion should help keep our Macs more secure as iCloud moves down the promised path. These particular updates should keep the blogs and review sites busy for the next few months. I'm excited and looking forward to all these updates. Can't wait to get my hands on that new Mac OS.
<http://www.apple.com/pr/library/2013/06/10Apple-Releases-Developer-Preview-of-OS-X-Mavericks-With-More-Than-200-New-Features.html>
<http://www.apple.com/pr/library/2013/06/10Apple-Gives-Sneak-Peek-Into-the-Future-of-the-Pro-Desktop.html>
<http://www.apple.com/pr/library/2013/06/10Apple-Brings-All-Day-Battery-Life-to-MacBook-Air.html>
<http://www.apple.com/pr/library/2013/06/10Apple-Announces-iTunes-Radio.html>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apple_Worldwide_Developers_Conference>
<http://www.apple.com/pr/library/2013/06/10Apple-Unveils-iOS-7.html>
<http://www.apple.com/icloud/features/documents.html>
<http://www.apple.com/osx/whats-new/features.html>
<http://www.apple.com/osx/what-is/security.html>
<http://www.apple.com/apple-events/june-2013/>
<http://www.apple.com/airport-time-capsule/>
<http://www.apple.com/itunes/itunes-radio/>
<http://www.apple.com/iwork-for-icloud/>
<http://www.apple.com/airport-extreme/>
<http://www.apple.com/macbook-air/>
<http://www.apple.com/osx/preview/>
<http://www.apple.com/mac-pro/>
<http://www.apple.com/ios/ios7/>
<http://www.apple.com/osx/>

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 on the front page - It's something I do to indicate a change (updates) in the content.
    • Updated the announcements regarding the next HOA and Metro District meetings. Our next HOA meeting is 19 Jun, 2013. The next MD meeting is 25 Jun, 2013.
    • I updated an announcement about our pool opening. The community pool house opens on the 25th of May.
  • Events: A detailed listing of upcoming and recurring events in and around Tollgate Crossing. Here is more detailed information regarding some of the events you may have read about on the 'Welcome' page. It's also a place to look for long term/recurring events.
    • Updated the announcements regarding the next HOA and MD meetings. Our next HOA meeting is 19 Jun, 2013. The next MD meeting, 25 Jun, 2013.
    • I removed some old information about the Metro District's efforts to refinance our community's bonds. The effort was successful, and our MD board managed to refinance our community's bonds at a much lower rate. Thanks to the board members who put in many long hours working through all the financial and legal requirements to make this refinancing happen. The results are much lower expenses for our community, a stronger bond rating and a better interest rate.
  • Info: A page of links, phone numbers, email addresses and other information pertinent to the residents/community of Tollgate Crossing.
    • I updated links to Meeting Minutes from HOA and MD meetings. I added MD meeting minutes from the 23rd of Apr, 2013 and HOA meeting minutes from the 20th of Mar, 2013. Meeting minutes from the current month aren't released until the board approves them; during the month that follows. As a result, my posting of meeting minutes are always a month or more behind. Please let me know if you'd like to read minutes from further back (further back than those available on the website).
    • I posted an updated DRC (Design Review Committee) architectural review form. The DRC form is something that residents need access to in order to submit approval requests to our DRC. The new form contains a corrected address for our HOA management.
    • Update contact information for our Covenant Enforcement contractor. This individual is paid by our HOA but they answer directly to the HOA board, not the management company. To contact the covenant enforcement contractor: Susan Ellis, e-mail:

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>
<http://www.tollgatecrossing.org/drcform.pdf>

Heat WaveTurning up the Heat - June 2013:
June 10th was a scorcher for our corner of Colorado. It's barely June, and already we're setting records. With more than a week to go before Summer sets is, this year's records are already being broken. On the 10th and 11th of June, we set records for our area. According to the official records (temperatures in Fahrenheit) for Denver/DIA airport is closest station to our house with NWS accepted instrumentation, Denver hit a high of 99 degrees on the 10th, and 100 degrees on the 11th. The temps in Aurora weren't quite as high, but they were records too. These are unseasonably warm days for this time of year. Hot weather, damn hot, crotch pot cooking hot! So hot you'd think we're living on the sun. This is definitely not 'Normal'. Have you heard of global warming? Perhaps you don't believe it's real? I'd say that these highs constitute a more than normal indicator.
<http://www.denverpost.com/ci_23435468/hot-denver-weather-breaks-temperature-record>
<http://www.wunderground.com/history/airport/KDEN/2013/6/10/DailyHistory.html>

Software favorites:
Another batch of updates for my favorite Graphic editor. GraphicConverter moves ever forward. As usual, developer has been busy updating this application. All the updates are free for those who own a license (for the most recent version). If you need a powerhouse converter, editor, and browser for your graphics, grab a copy of GraphicConverter - You won't be disappointed.

Graphic ConverterGraphicConverter:
Thorsten Lemke (of Lemkesoft) completed work on a few updates over the past week. I recently saw/downloaded the following update: 8.7 (b1240). GraphicConverter is an image converter and editor. A fantastic piece of shareware that is well worth the price (~$40.00). I use it to convert image formats into web standard formats, to create and edit image maps and other graphics. I've been singing GC's praises for many years now, and I'm not sure I would do without it. The best part about GC is it's author. Thorsten Lemke is completely committed to his customer base. Constantly and Continuously responding to customer recommendations and bug reports. GC is a dynamic, evolving, application. Always on the cutting edge, an absolute must in any web developers tool box. At a fraction of PhotoShop's cost, this photo editor puts a huge wrench in your toolbox. The full release version: 8.6 (b1200) finally introduces layers proper to the toolkit; putting GraphicConverter on an ever closer footing with the likes of PhotoShop at a fraction of the price. A priceless application with all the bells and whistles of the top end editors.
<http://www.lemkesoft.de/en/products/graphic-converter/overview-of-new-features-and-versions/>
<http://www.lemkesoft.de/en/products/graphic-converter/key-features/>
<http://www.lemkesoft.org/files/graphicconverter/notes/1200.html>

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

MessagesMessages Mix-Up since 10.8.4:
Ever since I updated my computer's OS to Mac OS 10.8.4 (on the 8th of Jun, 2013), I've been having a bit of a problem with the Messages application. Just after installing the Mac OS 10.8.4 update, my Messages application went on the 'fritz' (where the heck does that term come from?). Most of the accounts I use for chatting stopped working. All the accounts powered by AIM or Jabber; including Apple's iCloud chat service (powered by AIM), simply stopped working FYI: The protocol used for AIM client connectivity is OSCAR (Open System for CommunicAtion in Realtime), The protocol used for Jabber client connectivity is XMPP (Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol).

I can't connect to my iCloud/MobileMe/Mac.com chat account (AIM/OSCAR), my ICQ account (AIM/OSCAR), any of my Jabber accounts (three different ones/using XMPP), my Facebook chat (uses XMPP), or my AIM and AOL accounts (AIM/OSCAR). I am able to use Yahoo (uses YMSG (Yahoo! Messenger Protocol), MSN accounts (Windows Live Messenger clients use MSNP (Microsoft Notification Protocol) protocol), and Bonjour (local network connectivity) accounts. I'm also able to use the iMessage chat capability (iMessage chat capability was developed by Apple as an SMS/MMS alternative. It uses a proprietary Apple push notifications (APNS) protocol).

I tried restarting the application (Messages (fka iChat)), logging out and back into the affected accounts, as well as restarting my computer, none of these measures had any affect on my ability to chat using these services/protocols. Error messages noted are less than helpful, and read something like: "A network error occurred." Disabling/re-enabling all firewall settings seems to have no effect whatsoever. I haven't changed my passwords on the affected services, and I can still get email and use the native chat client capabilities if I log into the web based clients for those services (except for Apple's iCloud/MobileMe/Mac.com chat service, which has no web based equivalent).

A related issue cropped up a day after I noticed problems with the Messages application. Soon after updating to OS X 10.8.4, I noticed that all my email accounts that used SSL were also having issues. I couldn't seem to authenticate or log into those accounts with any consistency. Sometimes I could log in - or so it seemed, only to find that I wasn't receiving any email through that account. Sometimes it seemed like I was logged in, and I'd occasionally receive incoming messages. The problem was inconsistent, and I had a hard time narrowing down the cause...

To recap - The installation of Mac OS 10.8.4 seems to have broken chat capabilities that rely on XMPP and OSCAR protocols and affected SSL authentication with email accounts. A day after the problems became a nuisance I tried a reboot - The universal solvent for most Mac OS issues. Guess what? After two reboots, everything is working fine! What did I learn from this OS update? Unlike most Apple OS updates, this one didn't force a reboot of my computer. The lesson? Reboot whenever you update your OS. I can't believe I didn't think of this right away.
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Messages_(application)>
<http://support.apple.com/kb/HT5784>

Jun 09, 2013

iTunesiTunes updated to version 11.0.4:
Recently (May 16th, 2013), Apple updated iTunes to version 11.0. This update was touted as a major update. It certainly shook up the interface. As a matter of fact, the interface update was the major update. The biggest change? The CoverFlow interface is gone! Why? I loved that CoverFlow interface. It was form and function. Not only did it look good (showing off your cover art collection); it was also functional. I was able to locate albums easily by scrolling through the covers. I can recognize visual patterns quicker than I can read. So, without typing (just swiping my finger), I could very quickly locate an album and start the music. Now I'll have to remember the 'Name' of the album or 'Artist' when I'm looking for my favorite artist. After the major update on the 30th of November, Apple released a series of minor updates.

The 11.0.1 update addressed an issue where new purchases in iCloud didn't appear in your library if iTunes Match was turned on. It also made iTunes more responsive when searching a large library, fixed a problem where the AirPlay button didn't appear as expected, and added the ability to display duplicate items within your library. As usual, that update also included other important stability and performance improvements. The 11.0.2 update was delivered on the 22nd of Feb, 2013. This particular update added a new Composers view for music (great news for fans of classical music), improves responsiveness when syncing play lists with a large number of songs, and fixes an issue where purchases may not show up in your iTunes library (again!). Like most iTunes updates, this update also includes other stability and performance improvements. The latest (11.0.3) update was delivered on the 16th of May, 2013. The 11.0.3 update brought us a few new tweaks (improved miniplayer, multiple disc display), returns album art to the 'Songs' view - Thank you! (although this doesn't really make up for the loss of 'CoverFlow'), and a bunch of security updates. The 11.0.4. update fixes a bug that caused iTunes to crash when users switched between wired and wireless syncing. It also patches a bug that forced users to sign in to the iTunes store multiple times.
<http://www.macworld.com/article/2040852/apple-releases-minor-updates-for-itunes-aperture.html>
<http://appldnld.apple.com/iTunes11/091-6058.20130605.Cw321/iTunes11.0.4.dmg>
<http://www.apple.com/itunes/>

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

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

Those who favor this 'For Profit' model argue that this is the American way of doing things. Just like other 'basic needs' are sold on the open market, Hospitals and HMOs should be allowed to compete against each other and set their prices according to the customers ability to pay. If you can't afford the steak dinner, you can always opt for the Mac & Cheese. If you can't afford the high priced glass of wine, you can always opt for the plastic cup of water. If you can't pay for cardiological surgery, you can always opt for the pills and a prayer. This model applied to health care is not ethical. You can survive just fine on the Mac & Cheese with water. Getting by without corrective heart surgery is a death warrant. Why should any hospital or HMO be allowed to send you packing when you need heart surgery to live another year? If you don't think that this is actually happening, you should do a bit more research (see the links below). In the meantime, the executives at these HMOs make bonuses in the 10s of Millions of dollars.

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

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

The latest efforts stem from the Obama administration's proposed Defense budget numbers for 2014. In the run up to a new round of budgetary debate (over another National Defense Authorization Act (for 2014)), the House and Senate are preparing to sock to the Veterans yet again. The House armed services subcommittee on military personnel voted to unanimously reject the administration's call to cap the 2014 military pay raise at one percent. A one percent raise would once again fail to keep up with cost of living (currently pegged at 1.8 percent); effectively reducing pay for active duty military. Not mentioned in this debate is a pay raise for Civilian employees of the DoD. I expect that they (and by 'they' I mean 'Me') will once again get NO pay raise at all. A fourth year without a pay raise or 'Cost Of Living' increase in pay. At least when I was a Defense Contractor, I could count on a minimal 'Cost Of Living' increase. Even when the Fat Cat CEOs and shareholders were still raking in there executive bonuses and record breaking profits. Life as a government employee is anything but financially rewarding. I certainly didn't get into this line of work for the money. Despite what the public at large might think, most government employees make far less than their equivalent public sector equivalent.

The latest action by the House armed services subcommittee on military personnel blocked the administration's plans to increase TRICARE fees once again. The white house had proposed plans to increase TRICARE fees substantially for military retirees and their families over the next five years, including an idea to vary fees based on retired pay levels. One exception to these planned increases is the panel's allowance of a $4 increase in co-payments for retirees under age 65 and their family members for outpatient care under TRICARE Prime. Co-pays for doctor visits would increase to $16 except for mental health care, which would stay at $12. Of course a press aide for the chairman of the personnel subcommittee (Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.)) had a prepared 'reason' why they were permitting this increase: "We cannot block this $4 increase because it would incur significant mandatory spending that we cannot offset without taking resources from other medical research and health programs our service members depend upon,"

The Senate Armed Services Committee will work on its version of the defense authorization bill next month (Jul of 2013) and is expected to embrace more of the personnel cost controls proposed by the president. Even Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.), ranking Republican on the personnel subcommittee, has said he will support higher TRICARE fees IF they made the benefit more sustainable, which military leaders argued in defending their 2014 budget.

Approximately 1% of Americans have served in the U.S. Military, and approximately 20% of that number have retired after 20+ years in the military (like me). That means that very few Americans, and even fewer government representatives have served in the military much less stayed long enough to earn a 20 year retirement. Members of Congress and the House of Representatives get their benefits (for life) after they serve a single four year term! Yet they're the ones calling for cuts to military retirement and medical benefits. It's an outrage and anyone who has served already agrees with me. What we need to do is convince these leaders that reneging on our veterans and military would be a very bad idea. In the 90s, congress reduced military retiree pay by 20%, and the result was a huge drop in retention numbers. The military couldn't reach their retention goals, and the number of people in the military dropped far below readiness levels. 9-11 and a 'War on Terror' corrected that retention problem, but now the nation is growing weary of this everlasting war, and the military is beginning to take the brunt of the public's weariness.

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

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

Wake up America, vote with your conscience and some knowledge of who really matters to the politicians. Stop electing the same people, the same people who keep making decisions based upon the desires of their biggest contributors. Let your elected officials know how you feel about the President's proposed 2014 defense budget.

My Opinion: The article/blog posting above (on my website: http://www.robsworld.org) contains reported facts, observations, and some of my personal opinion(s). It does not represent any official government position, and it is not meant to imply a suggested course of action, or advocacy of any specific action(s). These are my personal opinions, and the last time I checked I was still entitled to have those. If you have your own opinions on the matter of 'Sequestration' or the 'Defense Budget' that's great. You may disagree with my personal opinion(s), and you may email me regarding my opinions, but please don't bother telling me that my personal opinions are 'wrong', because opinions can't be 'wrong'. Copyright: Robert L. Vaessen (2013)
<http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/09/business/health-care-and-pursuit-of-profit-make-a-poor-mix.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0>
<http://thinkbynumbers.org/government-spending/corporate-welfare/corporate-welfare-statistics-vs-social-welfare-statistics/>
<http://www.concordcoalition.org/tabulation/federal-budgets-health-care-problem-isnt-quite-what-everyone-thinks-it>
<http://www.theindustryradar.com/index.cfm?account=radar&page=Healthplan_Executive_Compensation>
<http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-05-21/health-care-costs-rise-faster-than-u-s-inflation-rate.html>
<http://www.military.com/benefits/2013/04/19/beneficiary-rx-co-pays-would-climb-for-a-decade.html>
<http://www.healthinsurance.org/blog/2013/06/17/its-not-health-insurance-its-bankruptcy-insurance/>
<http://spousebuzz.com/blog/2013/06/an-open-letter-to-military-benefits-haters.html>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patient_Protection_and_Affordable_Care_Act>
<http://www.skyhidailynews.com/article/20110824/NEWS/110829987>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Health_insurance_in_the_United_States>
<http://www.capwiz.com/military/issues/alert/?alertid=62582886>
<http://usmilitary.about.com/cs/generalpay/a/retirementpay.htm>
<http://www.scu.edu/ethics/publications/iie/v1n4/healthy.html>
<http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/113/hr1960/text>
<http://www.opensecrets.org/pres12/contriball.php>
<http://strikedebt.org/medicaldebtreport/>
<http://www.progress.org/corpw30.htm>
<http://healthcareprovider.info/forprofit/>

Mountain LionMac OS 10.8.4 / Security Update 2013-002:
On the 5th of June, 2013, Apple released another update to Mountain Lion (OS 10.8). 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 new software release; once it's out in the wild, the users have discovered a pile of problems that those engineers never imagined or saw in testing. This particular update is recommended for all OS X Mountain Lion users and includes features and fixes that improve the stability, compatibility, and security of your Mac, including:

  • Improved the handling of cookies in order to prevent attackers who have access to a user's session info. The browser wasn't get rid of temporary cookies.
  • Improved bounds checking in CoreAnimation to prevent unexpected application termination or arbitrary code execution when a user visits a maliciously crafted site.
  • Added additional text track validation in the CoreMedia playback code. This prevents unexpected application termination or arbitrary code execution when a user views a maliciously crafted movie file.
  • Moved configuration directives to cups-files.conf, which cannot be modified from the CUPS web interface. This prevents local users in the lpadmin group from reading or writing certain files. The engineers at Apple are protecting you from hackers in your local network. Even the ones with admin access!
  • Improved bounds checking on OS 10.6.8 (Snow Leopard). This improvement prevents remote attackers (with system privileges) from executing arbitrary code on systems with Directory Service enabled. Once again, the Apple software developers are protecting you from attackers on your network - Even when they are trusted with admin privileges. This issue does not affect OS X Lion or OS X Mountain Lion systems.
  • Added additional authentication checking when someone attempts to disable FileVault (whole disk encryption). This change prevents non-admins from disabling FileVault using the command-line.
  • Disabled compression in OpenSSL. A recent vulnerability in OpenSSL allows attackers to compare compressed SSL/TLS packets with uncompressed ones. Through comparison of the packets an attacker could decrypt SSL protected packets. This vulnerability existed in OS 10.6.8, 10.7 and 10.8. This fix will slow down internet traffic (packets may no longer be compressed), but its necessary to prevent this comparison vulnerability.
  • Updated OpenSSL to version 0.9.8x in order to address multiple vulnerabilities, which may lead to denial of service or disclosure of a private key.
  • Improved bounds checking in QuickDraw Manager. This prevents unexpected application termination or arbitrary code execution when users open a maliciously crafted PICT image.
  • Improved bounds checking in QuickTime code. This prevents unexpected application termination or arbitrary code execution when users view a maliciously crafted movie file.
  • Improved bounds checking in QuickTime code. This prevents unexpected application termination or arbitrary code execution when users view a maliciously crafted QTIF file.
  • Improved bounds checking in QuickTime code. This prevents unexpected application termination or arbitrary code execution when users open a maliciously crafted FPX file.
  • Improved bounds checking in QuickTime code. This prevents unexpected application termination or arbitrary code execution when users play maliciously crafted MP3 files.
  • Updated Ruby on Rails to version 2.3.18. in order to address multiple vulnerabilities in Ruby on Rails. The most serious of these vulnerabilities could lead to arbitrary code execution on systems running Ruby on Rails applications. This was a huge vulnerability, impacting Mac OS 10.6.8, 10.7 and 10.8.
  • Improved access control of SMB file sharing. If SMB file sharing is enabled, an authenticated user could write files outside a shared directory. That's not supposed to happen! This vulnerability was patched on Mac OS systems 10.7 and 10.8.
  • Starting with OS 10.8.4, Java Web Start (JNLP) applications that are downloaded from the internet (not just the App Store) must be signed with a Developer ID certificate. Gatekeeper will check downloaded Java Web Start applications for a signature and block such applications from launching if they are not properly signed.
  • The OS 10.8.4 update also includes a new version (6.0.5) of Safari (see below for more info).
  • Adds compatibility improvements when connecting to certain enterprise Wi-Fi networks.
  • Microsoft Exchange compatibility improvements in the Calendar application.
  • Fixed an issue that prevented FaceTime calls to non-U.S. phone numbers.
  • Fixed an issue that prevented scheduled sleep after using Boot Camp.
  • Improved VoiceOver compatibility with text in PDF documents.
  • Implemented a fix for an issue that caused iMessages to display out of order in the Messages application.
  • Resolved an issue in which Birthdays in the Calendars application appeared incorrectly in certain time zones.
  • Fixed an issue that prevented the desktop background picture from being preserved after a restart. My computer did this every time I restarted it. I always got a new picture, even if the requisite amount of time hadn't elapsed.
  • Fixed an issue that prevented some documents from being saved to a server using SMB.
  • Addressed an issue that prevented certain files from opening after being copied to a volume named "Home"
  • Fixed an issue that prevented changes to files made over an NFS network/connection from displaying. I've noticed this problem.
  • Resolved an issue that affected the ability to save files to an Xsan volume from within certain applications.
  • Improved Active Directory log-in performance, especially for cached accounts or when using a .local domain.
  • Improves OpenDirectory data replication.
  • Improves 802.1X compatibility with ActiveDirectory networks.
  • Improved compatibility when using mobile accounts. That's kind of vague. I wonder what was actually addressed?

The operating system and security updates contained numerous fixes and patches. Note: OS X Mountain Lion v10.8.4 includes a new version of Safari (Version 6.0.5). As a result of these recent updates, the following pages have been updated. myfavs.html, feedback.html, and mycomputer.html.
<http://www.apple.com/macosx/whats-new/features.html>
<http://www.apple.com/macosx/whats-new/>
<http://support.apple.com/kb/HT5730>
<http://support.apple.com/kb/HT5784>
<http://support.apple.com/kb/HT5785>
<http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1222>
<http://support.apple.com/kb/DL1659>

Software favorites:
Another batch of updates for my favorite Graphic editor. GraphicConverter moves ever forward. As usual, developer has been busy updating this application. All the updates are free for those who own a license (for the most recent version). If you need a powerhouse converter, editor, and browser for your graphics, grab a copy of GraphicConverter - You won't be disappointed. Another update is BBEdit - BBEdit has been a favorite for a long time. After a short absence, a price change brought it back into my favorites category, and I've been using it for a variety of text based jobs since. I sure do like it's find and replace features. Another set of updates is a refresh to the Bruji trio of 'collectibles' applications. Finally, a new version of Safari was released along with a new Mac OS version.

Graphic ConverterGraphicConverter:
Thorsten Lemke (of Lemkesoft) completed work on a several updates over the past couple of weeks. I recently saw/downloaded the following updates: 8.7 (b1234). 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>

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

BBEdit is a high-performance HTML and text editor for the Macintosh, and I'm running version 10.5.4 It's designed and crafted for the editing, searching, transformation, and manipulation of text and code (several different flavors of code/languages). BBEdit provides a vast array of general-purpose features which are useful for a wide variety of tasks, and includes many special purpose features which have been specifically developed in response to the needs of Web authors and software developers. It's an absolute must for any HTML author, code developers and hardcore Mac enthusiasts. My needs for BBEdit no longer revolve around HTML editing. While I still use BBEdit for some of my HTML coding, I primarily use it for plaintext editing. It's ability to search, find, compare, replace text and handle documents is simply unparalleled. The 10.5 update is a significant (let's just call it 'Huge') update which includes support for Macs with high-res 'Retina' displays, several new features and numerous fixes for reported problems. The 10.5.3 was a minor update, released to fix a small number of customer reported issues. The 10.5.4 update was a maintenance update which included fixes for numerous (54!) reported issues.
<http://www.barebones.com/support/bbedit/arch_bbedit1054.html>
<http://www.barebones.com/support/bbedit/updates.html>
<http://www.barebones.com/products/bbedit/>

DVDPediaDVDPedia:
DVDPedia is a great little application for cataloging and displaying your movie collection, and I'm running version 5.1.6. It's list of features is impressive, and it keeps getting better with every update. The database is capable of generating statistics, you can keep track of multiple collections, you can easily add titles by typing the name of the movie or you can scan the barcode (using your iSight camera or a barcode reader) right off the movie box (it then searches the internet, and displays choices). It has customizable HTML export capabilities, a 'borrowed' feature with address book integration, the ability to play movies in full screen mode, and many more features which make an awesome addition to your software library. I use DVDpedia to generate HTML listings of my movies and movie reviews.

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

CDPediaCDPedia:
CDPedia is a great little application for cataloging and displaying your music collection, and I'm running version 5.1.6. It's list of features is impressive, and it keeps getting better with every update. The database is capable of generating statistics, you can keep track of multiple collections, you can easily add titles by typing the name of the artist, album, or track. You can scan the barcode (using your iSight camera or a barcode reader) right off a jewel case (it then searches the internet, and displays choices), or you can import lists of music from iTunes. It has customizable HTML export capabilities, a 'borrowed' feature with address book integration, and many more features which make an awesome addition to your software library. I use CDPedia to generate HTML listings of my music.

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

BookPediaBookpedia:
Bookpedia is a great little application for cataloging and displaying your book collection(s), and I'm running version 5.1.6. It's list of features is impressive, and it keeps getting better with every update. The database is capable of generating statistics, you can keep track of multiple collections, you can easily add titles by typing the name of the author, book, or isbn number. You can scan the barcode (using your iSight camera or a barcode reader) right off the book cover (the application searches the internet, and displays choices). It has customizable HTML export capabilities, a borrowed feature with address book integration, and many more features which make an awesome addition to your software library. I use Bookpedia to generate an HTML listing of my favorite books.

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

SafariSafari:
Apple's default web browser for OS X (also available for Windows!), is way ahead of the pack. Apple's browser contains a plethora of incredibly powerful features, and this release moves the browser forward for everyone (there's even a Windows version! - Microsoft stops developing IE for Mac, and Apple makes a Windows version of Safari?). I'm currently running Version 6.0.5 (8536.30.1)

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

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

By the way, Safari is fully compliant (it was the first Browser to meet that bench mark) with the advanced Acid 3.0 test. So, if you're concerned about standards and compliance, you've nothing to worry about. Develop your web site using the Safari webkit and you won't have to worry about rendering problems or sticky browser compatibility issues. Check out the website for more info. Safari is just one more reason to Switch! It's won a place as my default browser, give it a chance and it'll soon be yours. This particular update (6.0.5) has no new features, just security fixes and updates.
<https://developer.apple.com/technologies/safari/whats-new.html>
<https://developer.apple.com/technologies/safari/>
<http://www.webstandards.org/action/acid3>
<http://www.apple.com/safari/features.html>
<http://support.apple.com/kb/HT5785>
<http://www.apple.com/html5/>
<http://www.apple.com/safari/>

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>

Wisconsin VacationWisconsin Vacation - 2013:
In May of 2013 (May 26 - Jun 3), Kim and I took a short vacation. We drove to Wisconsin in order to attend a high school graduation and visit with our family. We drove Kim's car (it gets way better mileage than the XC90) and stopped at my Mom's place first. We visited with my mother for a few days (May 26 - 29). While we were there, we relaxed around the campfire, and had a short visit with my Sister. We dropped off a graduation gift for Leo (my Sister's youngest boy), before we drove to De Pere.

In De Pere we visited with Kim's family. We stayed at her parent's house while we were there. We relaxed, had some awesome cookouts and enjoyed a few drinks on the back porch. While we were in town I helped Ted with some work at Keith's house (Keith is Kim's brother). On the 31st of May, we drove down to Wauwatosa to visit with Kim's Sister. We spent the day visiting with Kary, Mark and Mark's kids (Sam and Emma). We gave Sam a graduation gift while we were there, and went out for lunch with the whole gang before we headed back to De Pere. On the 2nd of June, we attended the graduation ceremony for Amber (yes she got a graduation gift from us as well). Three high school graduations happened this summer. All our nieces and nephews are growing up so fast, pretty soon we're going to start feeling old :-(

We had a great time visiting with our family, enjoying cookouts, eating out, walking around De Pere, hunting for geocaches, sitting on the back porch and hearing all about the plans these kids are making. We left Ted & Sharon's on the 3rd of June and finally made it home (Aurora, CO) on the 4th of June. In order to recuperate, we spent the next 3 days recovering from our vacation. Here's a few of the photos I took while we were home on vacation. We wish we could have seen more of our friends and relatives, but time was tight and we wanted to make sure that we spent some time with all the graduates.
<http://robsworld.org/galleryphotos/index.php/Wisconsin---May-of-2013?page=1>

Music CollectionJumpin' Jams in June:
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 (June of 2013) I downloaded 44 tracks at the low cost of $23.06. I'm paying a $19.99 monthly fee, so that makes the tracks even cheaper (~$0.45 / track). Unlike some music outlets, eMusic doesn't have any DRM and they don't insert unique track id's into the ID3 tags. Their terms of service are consumer friendly; eMusic allows you to burn as many CDs as you like and copy downloads to an unlimited number of your computers and portable MP3 players. At less than $.50 a track (I'm currently paying $19.99 for $22.99 worth of downloads per month (Note: As of Feb, 2013, you no longer have to be a member/subscriber to access the site or buy music)). eMusic offers a really good value for your download dollar. iTunes and Amazon still charge more. eMusic offers more music for your money, and the variable bit rate recordings make for exceptionally high quality recordings. Since being purchased from VU (Vivendi Universal) Net in 2004, the prices on eMusic have been slowly creeping ever upward, and they're approaching the cost of Amazon tracks. If that happens, I'll probably switch to Amazon for my music acquisition needs.

* Out Of Step - Minor Threat: (9 tracks) Thrash Punk, speed punk, hardcore. American Punk from Washington DC. Favorites from the '80s. I used to listen to these bad boys (and other similar bands) during the mid to late 80s. A great way to pass the day fighting boredom and counter-culture claustrophobia while stationed in Italy. It's loud, it's crass, it kicks Ass! Unfortunately, this is the only album that eMusic carries. Thankfully, MOG's got more!
* Well Well Well - Milburn: (12 songs) Another post punk band from Sheffield, England. Here's a band with a clean, crisp sound and a lyrically centered band. U.K. Independent bands have consistently hit the right spot with me, and here's one that doesn't disappoint. The drumming and bass keep the pace simple and easy to follow. I can't help but hope that this band finds a crest to ride on it's journey. So far it looks like they've only got one release. Discovered by listening to MOG recommendations.
* Talking Heads - 77: (16 songs) A band I've been listening to since the 70s! The debut album from a band that formed much of my musical appreciation. This art punk, alternative, new wave act soared into the 80s creating magical music that kept me entranced for decades. I still appreciate David Byrne's insanely masterful lyrics, staccato delivery and the percussion of alternative instruments. This debut album still sounds new every time I hear it!
* Infinite Sun - Digital Leather: (7 tracks) Discovered by listening to MOG recommended artists. This synth-punk band uses noise and fuzzy guitar tracks to bring a rough edge to an otherwise synthetic electro-pop medium. I'm looking forward to more music from Shawn Foree and his band of grunge-synth-rockers!

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>