March 31, 2013

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

Graphic ConverterGraphicConverter:
Thorsten Lemke (of Lemkesoft) completed work on at least ten updates over the past week. I recently saw/downloaded the following update: 8.5.4 (b1177). GraphicConverter is an image converter and editor. A fantastic piece of shareware that is well worth the price (~$40.00). I use it to convert image formats into web standard formats, to create and edit image maps and other graphics. I've been singing GC's praises for many years now, and I'm not sure I would do without it. The best part about GC is it's author. Thorsten Lemke is completely committed to his customer base. Constantly and Continuously responding to customer recommendations and bug reports. GC is a dynamic, evolving, application. Always on the cutting edge, an absolute must in any web developers tool box. At a fraction of PhotoShop's cost, this photo editor puts a huge wrench in your toolbox.
<http://www.lemkesoft.com/content/162/new-functions-and-versions.html>

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

GPGMailEncryption and digital signatures on my Mac:
Spammers often assault my digital identity by forging messages to look like they came from me. As a result, I try to use pgp signed messages (whenever possible) with my email correspondence. Thankfully, there's an open source, free and reliable way to make that happen. There's a group of software developers who devote their time and effort in development of a product called 'GPGTools' it's a series of applications which enable digital signatures and encryption inside the Mac OS X environment. One of the primary components is GPGMail.

GPGMail (recently (06 Oct 2012) updated for Mountain Lion compatibility) is an open source plugin for Apple Mail. It brings the functionality to sign, verify, encrypt and decrypt mails using the OpenPGP standard. I use MacGPG2 (version 2.0.19) and the GPGMail plugin (version 2.0b5 ML3 b111836) with Apple's Mail.app Version 6.3 (1503) for encryption, decryption, and message authentication. If you would like to correspond in secret, please take note of my Public Keys. The GPGTools installer (available on the gpgtools.org website) contains an older version of GPGMail (version 2.0a30), but I've got a more recent version. I'm not quite sure where I got the newer version, but I have been providing the developers with some support ($money), so it is possible I got it directly from one of the developers.

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

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

No SpamSpamhaus attacked by Spammers:
Spammers take the fight to the front lines. Recently (March of 2013), Spammers have taken their online onslaught into the lime light. Erupting onto the front lines, a recent online battle has emerged on the headlines of our National News (or what passes for news in this country). Spamhaus is an international organization (based in London and Geneva) that tracks email spammers and spam-related activity. It compiles this information, analyzes it and provides services based upon the analysis of this data. The products that they provide are anti-spam lists and filtering data. Many ISPs and email service providers use these lists in order to reduce the amount of spam that their customers receive. These lists are used to protect somewhere around 1.77 billion email users. The lists are used to block billions of spam messages each and every day.

Blocking, reporting, fighting spam - These are all dangerous endeavors; as I have discovered on multiple occasions. Spammers have tried (at various time) to shut me down, they've targeted me, the ISPs which provide me with service and they've pretended to be me by forging their email messages to look like they came from me. Do I have proof? Of course. Does anyone care? No. I can definitely understand how Spamhaus (A Non-Profit) became the target of spammers. Considering the fact that they are responsible for lists and databases used to target and eradicate spam, it's no wonder they haven't been on a list for more severe consequences.

So here's what happened (as best as I could decipher from a slew of reports about the incident). The story revolves around an ISP called 'CyberBunker' (because they were headquartered in a surplused military bunker designed to withstand a nuclear attack). Apparently, no one knows where the actual CyberBunker data center is currently located. Anyway, this CyberBunker ISP is known to host the 'PirateBay', 'Bit Torrent services' and the 'Wikileaks' mirrors. Controversial customers and content. They claim that the only thing that they won't host is Child Porn and Terrorism web sites/materials. Well, in March of 2013, SpamHaus added this 'CyberBunker' ISP to their list of blocked IPs/services. It seems that a large amount of Spam was spewing forth from CyberBunker' IP addresses. These blacklists are used by many email providers around the world.

According to SpamHaus, they identified CyberBunker as the source of spam back in 2011, and they tried to resolve the problem with CyberBunker's upstream provider (a company called A2B). A2B initially refused to cooperate with SpamHaus (they shut down one IP address) in their efforts to eliminate the spam problem. SpamHaus decided to blacklist all A2B IP addresses (a bit of an over-reaction if you ask me). A2B responded by dropping CyberBunker as a customer, then they filed complaints with Dutch Police; claiming that SpamHaus engaged in extortion against A2B. That was October of 2011. Years later - 2013, SpamHaus finally added CyberBunker to its list of blocked/blacklisted IPs. By then CyberBunker had found alternate bandwidth provider(s), but it didn't make much difference. CyberBunker found it's traffic being blocked left and right. CyberBunker didn't take kindly to this action. Rather than working to resolve the issue; i.e. clean up their act, or resolve what may have been a misunderstanding (again, this is based upon the information I was able to find online), they chose to attack the source of their woes - The company who put them on a blacklist - SpamHaus (or so it is claimed). SpamHaus soon began to experience a DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack. Machines with spoofed IP addresses began pinging/querying the DNS servers used by SpamHaus. As this attack escalated, other internet users found that they couldn't connect to the SpamHaus websites/services. The DNS resolver was too busy handling the onslaught of illegitimate traffic to respond to 'actual' IP resolution requests. According to some reports more than 100,000 open DNS resolvers were requesting IP resolution from SpamHaus' DNS servers. The amount of traffic incoming to their DNS servers (reported to be as much as 300GBps) was so great that they simply couldn't handle it all. They stayed up, but it didn't make much difference. The DNS server was so clogged with requests, that resolving them all resulted in numerous timeouts and responses that were minutes old. Effectively crippling the service.

The attack didn't go unnoticed. Various national cyber-defense forces began investigating the incident almost immediately. After conducting their own investigation, SpamHaus pointed the finger at 'CyberBunker'. SpamHaus alleged that CyberBunker was behind the attack. They claimed that they had enlisted the service of various Eastern European and Russian bot nets ("Criminal Gangs") to attack SpamHaus. As of March 27th, 2013, the attack passed the one week mark. The event began to garner public scrutiny, but CyberBunker refused to respond to BBC news inquiries. Someone (Sven Olaf Kamphuis) claiming to be a spokesman for the 'attackers' published a public statement: "We are aware that this is one of the largest DDoS attacks the world has publicly seen", and that CyberBunker was retaliating against SpamHaus for "abusing their influence". A report in the New York Times (by security researcher Dan Kaminsky) indicated that "You can't stop a DNS flood ... The only way to deal with this problem is to find the people doing it and arrest them." SpamHaus wasn't the only target of this 'retaliation'. When CloudFlare (an internet security firm) came to SpamHaus' defense (with additional programming resources), they soon found themselves under attack. On March 18th, someone claiming to be 'Anonymous' announced "Operation Stophaus" as an effort to publicly shame SpamHaus by disclosing legal cases and complaints against SpamHaus. Imagine that - Someone complaining that SpamHaus is stopping their traffic! Yes, SpamHaus creates and distributes block/black lists, but there's very little 'legal' recourse, as nations aren't doing anything to stop spam. In the U.S. we can report spam (under the CanSpam act of 2003) to the FTC, but that's it. No action is taken based on those reports. SpamHaus is one of the only companies that is actually taking the fight to the spammers. In my opinion (and SpamHaus'), this individuals/group claiming to be "Anonymous" is probably some spammer using the name "Ann onymous" as a convenient means of publicity.

The attacks have waned, additional bandwidth gathered, patches put in place, and more statements posted on behalf of both parties. Clearly SpamHaus operates 'outside' the law. But what law applies? If SpamHaus provides a list to an ISP, and that ISP uses the list to block specific IP addresses, what crime has SpamHaus committed? It's a very interesting development, and we can only sit by and watch these internet giants slug it out. In the mean time, I continue to fight spam on my individual front. I do what I can by reporting spam to the appropriate upstream authorities and various clearing house organizations. I hate spam, and hope that this huge slugfest motivates nationalities to get involved. Perhaps a consolidation in internet security and best practices could help ISPs fight spam and other malevolent practices? There are no penalties for loose security, and it costs money to grease the squeaky wheel. Patching security flaws costs money. If your ISP isn't under attack right now, why would it spend money to patch that open DNS port?

If you ever need any help hunting down a spammer, don't hesitate to ask for my help. I'm willing and eager to help (IPv6 spam is currently a challenge beyond my capabilities). Just drop me an email. I'd put the email address here, but this email message is also posted online, where spammers could scrape the email off the web page. Damn those spammers!
<http://rt.com/news/spamhaus-threat-cyberbunker-ddos-attack-956/>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CAN-SPAM_Act_of_2003>
<http://www.robsworld.org/index2.html#fightingspam>
<http://www.spamhaus.org/news/article/695/>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CyberBunker>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spamhaus>

Amazon is AmazingAmazon is Awesome:
<rave>More and more I've come to realize, what you must - Amazon is amazing. The convenience of shopping without leaving home, with multiple vendor sources, with reviews, with extensive information, the ability to contact the seller, with a sense of security by purchasing through the trusted name - Amazon! I've only been using Amazon since... 1997 (possibly earlier), but it's quickly become my go to shopping portal of choice. It's the first place I go when I'm trying to find something I want to buy, Amazon is the go to portal. If I can't find it on Amazon.com I know I'm in trouble. With Amazon Prime (which I gladly pay for) I get free two day shipping (on certain orders), and that service is something I appreciate. Like most Americans I'm impatient. The internet has made us this way. We want our stuff now! Not two weeks from now. Two days is a short time to wait when the standard shipping wait is likely a week or more. Two days seems miraculous - Two weeks seems pre-industrial!

The selection can't be beat and the prices are low. For example - I bought some generic ink cartridges for my Epson Stylus Photo R200 printer. Cost for 14 cartridges (2 sets of 5 color + 1 black and two extra black) on Amazon for a total of $19.23 (not counting tax and s&h (which coincidentally was $0.00 on Amazon). If I had purchased Epson ink cartridges (for my Epson Sytlus Photo R200 printer) through the Epson or Office Depot websites, I'd pay $176.96 (w/out s&h) for the same color cartridge selection. Of course that would have been the price for original Epson cartridges... The original Epson product is so much better right? By purchasing a secondary brand, I saved $157.73, an 89% savings! Ink cartridges aren't the only products where you can save loads of money. How about HDMI cartridges? I've saved hundreds of dollars by shopping frugally in this category as well. Americans sometimes pay way too much for the products they buy. Thanks to the Internet and Amazon, those days are quickly slipping away. Combine the cost savings with all the other features, and you'll certainly agree that no one does online sales the way Amazon does online sales. I can't even imagine how much money, frustration and time Amazon has saved me over the years. Congratulations Amazon, and keep up the good work! You truly are Amazing!</rave>
<http://www.pcworld.com/article/112199/article.html>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ink_cartridge>
<http://www.amazon.com>

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

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

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

Will it put us back into recession? Absolutely! Will it help reduce our deficit? Probably, but the amount of lost revenue from taxes (due to layoffs, furloughs and cancelled federal contracts) might actually make the deficit worse! It's certainly going to hurt every sector of our economy - Unless you're selling cynicism, doom, gloom or disdain for our elected leaders. That's going to skyrocket! So, now that Sequestration is a FACT, how is it going to affect me? Well, the rumors, fear, confusion, concern and consternation are running rampant. At all time highs, the mood in the federal work force is the worst that I've ever seen it. Even the cuts in the 90s (during the cold-war drawdown) didn't affect our work force in the way that this sequestration has. The perpetual gloom of furloughs (days without pay) looms over all our heads (in DoD federal service) and no one seems to know what's going to happen next. We're continually told to expect furloughs, but we haven't received any official notifications. The heads of each agency and department are doing all they can to avoid furloughs, but it seems like we're going to end up losing some of our pay through furloughs. The latest 'rumor' (because we can't get government officials to make an affirmative statement one way or the other) is that our furloughs will be reduced from 30 days without pay (during fiscal year 2013) to 14 days without pay (in fiscal year 2013).

In my last blog posting about the sequestration, I remarked: What might stop the sequestration? That's a good question. Let's see: Congress/the Senate actually doing their jobs (figure those odds), a military coup (probably better odds than politicians working together to prevent the sequester), a Continuing Resolution to continue funding at current levels (i.e. just kicking the problem down the road). The weakness and uncertainty of our elected leaders is clear and distressing. Well, guess what? Congress didn't act to avert this financial fiasco. That's right the only thing certain about this current crisis is this: Our political leaders lack the will to work together for our benefit. It's good to know that one thing is constant in this country - Politicians don't give a damn about the Americans they're supposed to represent.

A minor glimmer of hope. On the 6th of March, the House of Representatives managed to pass a bipartisan continuing resolution (the vote was 267 to 151). This bill funded continuing funding (at 2012 levels) from March 27th through September 30th of 2013. While this bill averted a complete shut down of the federal government, it didn't do much of anything with regard to the sequestration cuts. It did manage to provided the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs some flexibility to reprogram the coming cuts. It allowed the Department of Defense to reduce furloughs from 30 to a maximum of 22 days. Unfortunately, the continuing resolution signed by the President did not end the three year freeze on federal employee wages (Thanks congress - They pulled a proposed 0.5% pay raise out of the bill). The last time that federal workers got a Cost of Living pay raise was 2010. We've had our pay frozen at 2010 levels. At the same time the cost of living has gone up 6.5% (nationwide average) in that same amount of time. In the Denver-Boulder-Greely area (where I live), the cost of living has risen 7.5% since 2010.

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

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

Apple SecurityApple adds two factor authentication:
Yes, Apple has finally decided to join the crowd of services providers offering two factor authentication. Adding two factor authentication to their iCloud services makes sense to me, you, and the Joe next door. Apple is calling their enhanced security 'Two-Step Verification', and officially, it's associated with your Apple ID. The announcement/new service was rolled out on the 21st of Mar, 2013. Apple customers can now add an extra level of security to their Apple purchases by enabling this new two factor authentication.

If you haven't enabled the new security feature yet it's relatively simple to enable through the Apple ID web page. Select 'Manage your Apple ID', sign in, select the 'Password and Security' section and you'll be able to enable the 'Two-step verification'. Note: If Apple thinks that your current password isn't 'secure' enough it'll make you change it before you can proceed. It takes some time to navigate through all the security related questions and configuration panes, but it's well worth it if you're security minded. From that point on, any time you attempt to manage your Apple ID, make a purchase (on the iTunes store, App Store, or iBookstore) from a new device, or attempt to get Apple ID related support, you'll have to 'Authenticate' your transaction by entering a four number code sent to one of your trusted mobile devices. Managing your Apple ID has it's own built in security as well. Once enabled, you'll need to use the authentication code on the Apple ID portal, and if you don't do something within a couple of minutes the website will log you out. If you somehow lose all your trusted devices Apple provides you with a one time security code that you can use to reset/revoke the trust settings (you really should print/write this code down and keep it somewhere safe).

Not only will you need to use your password to make purchases, you'll also need to enter a randomly generated four digit code. It may sound a little inconvenient, but you only need to do this once per device. In order to get the authentication code, you'll need to have a trusted mobile device nearby. You can use any of Apple's devices (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch) or a text capable cell phone. If someone steals your device, you can visit the Apple ID web page and manage that device, remove the 'trust verification' and a thief will find it difficult to make any purchases or do anything requiring your Apple ID password. When they attempt to purchase a song, they won't be able to complete the purchase, because the Apple store will be waiting for the 4 number code that they don't know. If they guess too many times they'll be locked out.
<https://appleid.apple.com/cgi-bin/WebObjects/MyAppleId.woa/>
<http://support.apple.com/kb/HT5570>

March 23, 2013

Big Snow StormEven More Snow!
Another big snow storm hit the Aurora area on the 22nd of Mar, 2013. It's only two days since Spring began, and we're getting smacked with another good snow storm. It's just what we need - Seriously! We really need more snow. Well, maybe not snow; but more precipitation, that's for sure. This snow arrived on a Friday. It was already snowing as we left for work, and it kept snowing all day. It never really came down all that hard, but I knew this wasn't going to be the end of this storm. After we got home from work we settled in to watch a movie and let the snow fall all night long. Saturday brought more snow. The worst part was the blowing. With temperatures down in the low 20s, the wind made it feel like sub zero territory. It snowed all day Saturday. The snow finally stopped falling, but the blowing kept up and the temps actually dipped down into the single digits (without the wind chill) When we woke up on Sunday I decided to finally get out there and shovel. We ended up getting approximately 10 inches of snow, but drifting and blowing made it deeper in parts.

While I was out shoveling, Kim discovered that our furnace had quit working! - Again! We just paid a huge pile of money ~$1,300.00 for repairs last month! While Kim called the repair shop, I continued with the shoveling - Yes I used the snow blower! It took me nearly two hours to clear the driveway. By the time I got inside Kim had the basement furnace running. Thank goodness we've got that second furnace. When we retire retire (I've already got one pension/retirement under my belt) we're planning to move to a tropical island in the Pacific (Seriously! - but that's a whole different story). I'm sick and tired of snow, shoveling, and the cold. I took a shower, we ate lunch and we waited... Eventually the furnace repair person showed up (the same company we used last time - and that's a whole different story (see my 'Frozen Furnace' rant from February of 2013)). In less than an hour he had the furnace up and running. He couldn't figure out exactly why the furnace had stopped running. Perhaps it was the high winds we experienced. They can cause a furnace to shut off when exhaust fumes build up in the exhaust vent... No charge for the trip, the diagnostics or the 'repairs'. Thankfully we've still got that second furnace in the basement. I really thank D.R. Horton for building our home with two different furnaces (one for the basement and one for the upstairs - in our ranch style home).

Shoveling all that snow is a lot easier when I listen to some podcasts. My favorite? The No Agenda podcast with Adam Curry (Crackpot) and John C. Dvorak (Buzzkill). "In the morning!" An insightful deconstruction of the media machine and today's social buzz. Without corporate sponsors, Adam and John aren't afraid to tell it like it is. The show keeps me sharp, It's sharp witted, packed with good humor and generous jabs at the media, politicians and military industrial complex.
<http://www.noagendashow.com>

Montana Inc.Montana to give corporations the right to vote:
<rant>This is no a joke! - On the 15th of Feb, 2013, Montana State Representative Steve Lavin (R) introduced House Bill 486 during a Montana state legislative session as proposed bill. This legislation would give voting rights to any person or firm that owns property in Montana. That's right, the term 'firm' refers to Corporations. Why? Well, corporations are people right? While the concept of 'Corporate Personhood' goes way back (to the 1800s), a recent Supreme Court ruling (Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission) basically solidified that concept that Corporations are People under the law. It further clarified that prohibiting Corporations (and Unions) from spending money on political speech (i.e. advertisement for candidates) constituted infringement upon a Corporations 'Free Speech' rights. That's right - Not only are Corporations equivalent to people, they're apparently entitled to all the constitutional rights that you and I enjoy. It's the most disgusting thing I can conceive of. An abomination of justice - Allowing corporations (or Unions) the same rights as 'We the people' is so disgusting to me that it enrages me every time I think about it. I'm opposed to this development, and often write my elected officials, urging them to pass laws that will overturn the SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the US) ruling(s) which brought us to this point.

Steve Lavin, the Representative who introduced this bill is a member of American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), introduced the bill, which was quickly tabled in committee. While you and I may understand that voting is for people, there are many people who don't know what's going on. Corporations are trying (and succeeding) to take over our nation. Little by little they chip away at our rights, take away our ability to sue them, make themselves immune to prosecution, give themselves rights reserved for 'We the people' insist on our respect, demand lower wages, work to undo all workers rights, destroy unions, pollute our airways, waterways and minds with toxic chemicals and ideas. If you really think this isn't happening or couldn't happen... WAKE UP! Corporations are fighting a war against the American people. To them we are only resources to be exploited, and they will continue to wage this war until the last free American is shackled to a production line at slave wages to produce more profit for the corporation! Yes; I sound a bit rabid in this particular rant, but most of America is sleeping. They're dreaming of 'Just Getting By' and eating their 'Mac and Cheese'.

Here's a little background for you... Just before this recent development (HB0486), Montana had a century old law that prohibited corporate campaign spending. Based upon the SCOTUS ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, Montana upheld their century old law prohibiting corporate campaign spending. Montana's Supreme Court held that striking down their law would give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption in their government. SCOTUS ruled (June of 2012) that Montana's law was unconstitutional and struck it down. According to the SCOTUS ruling (in both cases); "We now conclude that independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption." The Supreme Court also stated: "The appearance of influence or access, furthermore, will not cause the electorate to lose faith in our democracy." With the century-old law struck down, corporations are free (in Montana and the rest of America) to spend as much corporate money as they want on local, state, and federal elections. Imagine the re-election campaign of Steve Lavin. He'll have access to Billions of dollars in campaign financing. His opponent - that is, if anyone dares to oppose him - will be funded by who, me and you? Do you have more money than the corporations of America?

As this war proceeds, you and I need to realize that corporations have more money than us. They are gaining ground in this war, but we still have the vote. The only right that separates us from Corporations. As the Supreme Court continues to hear arguments that would limit Americans from voting, elected officials like Steve Lavin obey their corporate masters, introducing legislation that promotes the Corporation over 'We the people'. Remember: Money = Free Speech, and corporations will use their free speech to influence, elect and control politicians. When you are offered the opportunity to vote, think about who the person you're electing will serve. Are they beholden to corporate campaign donations? Do they advocate rights for 'We the people?' Do they believe that Corporations are people? Educate yourself and vote against corporate control. I don't care what party you vote for, as that increasingly makes no difference in candidates. The most important thing you can do with your vote? Vote against corporate control.

Wait a minute, following this attempt to endow more rights to corporations by giving them the vote (in Montana), the Supreme Court heard arguments to weaken key provisions of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). After a number of states passed ALEC-sponsored Voter ID laws last summer, and this latest exploit to undermine the VRA, it is clear there's an effort to minimize the power of 'We the people' by limiting our access to the ballot box, while simultaneously maximizing the power of corporations and businesses by giving them the vote. If you're not outraged yet, you should be. You can start to fight back by signing the 'Move To Amend' petition.</rant>
<http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/07/the-supreme-court-still-thinks-corporations-are-people/259995/>
<http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/06/atm-v-bullock-a-win-for-citizens-united/258949/>
<http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Controlling_Corporations/ControllingCorporations.html>
<http://www.democracynow.org/2012/6/27/citizens_united_part_2_supreme_court>
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citizens_United_v._Federal_Election_Commission>
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Legislative_Exchange_Council>
<http://data.opi.mt.gov/bills/2013/billhtml/HB0486.htm>
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corporate_personhood>
<http://movetoamend.nationbuilder.com/petition>
<https://movetoamend.org/corporations-voters>
<https://movetoamend.org>

AppleTV updateAppleTV (2nd & 3rd gen) update:
On Tuesday (19 Mar, 2013), Apple released an AppleTV Software Update (version 5.2.1). Released in conjunction with the iOS 6.1.3 update. 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 5.2.1) is delivered in conjunction with the iOS 6.1.3 update (see below for information on the iOS 6.1.3 update). This update brings a few security updates, iTunes in the Cloud for Japan and Israel, and a redesigned HULU interface/style.

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/>

eMusiceMusic makes amends for recent website problems:
<rave>Recently (21 Mar, 2013), eMusic (My music provider of choice) made reparations for a website snafu. During the middle of March, 2013, many members/and visitors experienced problems with the eMusic website. Thankfully I wasn't one of the people who experienced problems. I visited the site several times during March, downloading numerous tracks on the 27th of Mar, 2013, and I didn't have any problems. According to an email I recently received, eMusic added a $5.00 credit to my account:

"Dear Robert, All of us at eMusic understand how frustrating it can be when you can't get to the music you want. So when a technical issue occurs on our site, as it did over the past week, we want to make things right. And of course, we also want to assure you that our tech department is aware of the issues and is working to resolve them as quickly as possible. As a token of our appreciation for your patience, we've added a $5 credit to your account, to use towards any music of your choice. This credit is valid until March 31, 2013. Please contact Member Services if you have any questions. Once again, we apologize for the inconvenience and thank you for being an eMusic member. 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> Recently (as of Feb, 2013), eMusic dropped it's membership requirement, allowing direct sales to the masses (at higher than membership prices). This has resulted in a significant increase in users on the website, which may account for some of the increased technical problems. Hopefully, eMusic will add more technicians to deal with the increased traffic.
<http://www.robsworld.org/emusicthanks04.png>
<http://www.robsworld.org/music.html>
<http://www.emusic.com/>

iOS 6.1.3iOS 6.1.3 released:
Apple's iOS 6.1 was released on the 28th of January, the changes listed in Apple's download announcement are quite slim, but it's a bigger update than one would expect for so few updates. A few days later (on the 11th of Feb, 2013) Apple released iOS 6.1.1, followed soon after by iOS 6.1.2. (on the 19th of Feb, 2013) and then again they released iOS 6.1.3 (on the 19th of Mar, 2013). According to Apple, the iOS 6.1.1 update was supposed to fix an issue that could impact cellular performance and reliability for the iPhone 4S (the model I'm using). The iOS 6.1.2 update was then released in order to fix an Exchange calendar bug that could result in increased network activity and reduced battery life. The iOS 6.1.3 update addresses a handful (6) security issues, including a rather embarrassing fault that would allow a person with physical access to bypass the screen lock. By the time you read this (unless you're a time traveler on the wrong track), you should be able to download the iOS 6.1.x updates for all your iDevices.
<http://support.apple.com/kb/HT5704>
<http://support.apple.com/kb/DL1646>
<http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1222>

USAAWay to go - USAA:
<rave>When it comes to American companies, it's sometimes difficult to find much to be thankful for. Thankfully, there's one company that restores my confidence in American excellence. USAA is an insurance company and a bank (United Services Automobile Association). It is 'NOT' a publicly traded company. It's an 'Association', the members are the 'owners'. It doesn't answer to 'stockholders', it answers to it's members. Military members, veterans and their families constitute the membership. The company suggests products and services, but the members get to vote on all the big changes and decisions. They're focused on products and services which help members meet their financial needs, not services that generate the most income for the company.

Recently, I received an email from USAA, that email contained a link to the annual report, and some other interesting facts. Here is some of the information it contained:

* In USAA's second-costliest year ever for catastrophe claims — $1.1 billion — they were on the scene quickly to take care of members, assess the damage and handle claims promptly and efficiently. Many times, USAA members had checks in their hands to begin rebuilding their lives before other insurance companies had even made it out to assess their policyholders' damage. In fact, we were able to settle Hurricane Sandy and Waldo Canyon wildfire claims even before some members were able to get back to their neighborhoods. USAA did the right thing, while many others used their favorite word - Denied! - to describe their response when American's asked for the benefits that their insurance should have provided.
* Financial advice and tools when you need them most. Hundreds of thousands of USAA members worked with USAA CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERS™ or used our new online goals-planning tools to help prepare for life's milestones. Others spoke with USAA professionals to understand the financial challenges of transitioning to civilian life.
* Building an even stronger USAA for you. More veterans, service members and their families joined USAA in 2012, bringing our ranks to more than 9.4 million strong. As a result, our net worth increased 10 percent, and we were able to return $1.3 billion to members and customers in the form of dividends, distributions, and bank rebates and rewards. Despite all the money paid out (as claims) during 2012, they still returned more money than last year — a 21 percent increase over 2011.
* USAA's net worth — one of the best measures of their ability to meet commitments — increased 10 percent to $22.1 billion in 2012. There is no better proof of their management team's prudent stewardship than the fact that USAA's Property and Casualty Insurance Group remains one of only a few companies with the highest-possible financial strength ratings from Moody's and A.M. Best.

While researching this posting, I found a few videos and web pages which purportedly criticized USAA for some reason or another. After viewing some of the videos and postings, I'm still convinced. I trust that you will come to the same conclusion. Reading through (and watching) the complaints was a reinforcing experience. It was easy to see that most of the 'problems' these people described were manufactured by their own ignorance or incompetence. They blamed USAA for things that weren't under USAA's control, were clearly the fault of the poster, or likely weren't the real issue at all. This is one of the best companies I've ever done business with. I've never been steered wrong, wronged or misled by USAA. Their service has always been the best. I can't imagine another company which treats it's members like owners, always looks out for the interests of it's members, and doesn't seek to screw those it serves. If you know a company as forthright, honest, and responsive, please share it with me.</rave>
<https://www.usaa.com/inet/ent_utils/McStaticPages?key=about_usaa>
<https://www.usaa.com/inet/pages/reporttomembers_main_landing>
<http://www.robsworld.org/usaadoingtherightthing.pdf>
<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IXi-ER0Fnkw>
<http://www.usaareporttomembers.com/>
<http://usaa.pissedconsumer.com>

March 17, 2013

Crazy Colorado WeatherCrazy Colorado Weather:
It's still winter but it feels like spring - Colorado's Crazy Weather continues. From the freezer to the frying pan and back again. Another one of those crazy weather fronts moved through our area - It's headed east, so you may see it soon. The temperatures this week swung wildly from freezing to way to hot for winter in the span of a couple days. On Monday (the 11th of March, 2013) we had temperatures hovering around the freezing point. On Tuesday (the 12th of March, 2013) we had snow; only a couple of inches, but it was clearly winter with the temperature getting down to 23 degrees Fahrenheit. On Wednesday (the 13th of March, 2013) the temperatures rose drastically. We made it up into the 60s and most of that snow melted off. On the 14th and 15th (of March, 2013) the temperatures really jumped up into the low 70s. Yup - In the span of two days we went from below freezing to the seventies! All the snow was gone by the end of the week. This freeze thaw cycle really doesn't seem all that odd if you've lived through the last few years of crazy Colorado weather. So, the crazy weather swings have become the new normal. Stay tuned for more crazy weather in the days ahead.

Mountain LionMac OS 10.8.3 / Security Update 2013-001:
On the 14th of Mar, 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:

  • The ability to redeem iTunes gift cards in the Mac App Store using your Mac's built-in camera. That's pretty cool!
  • Boot Camp support for installing Windows 8. Now who would want to put Windows 8 on their Mac? I like the Windows 8 Metro interface for a portable device, but it seems to be the wrong approach for a desktop computer. Imagine how tired your arm would get after using a touch based monitor on a desktop machine...
  • Boot Camp support for Macs with a 3 TB hard drive. Cost of storage continues to drop.
  • A fix for an issue that could cause a file URL to quit apps unexpectedly. That's odd.
  • A fix for an issue that may cause Logic Pro to become unresponsive when using certain plug-ins.
  • A fix for an issue that may cause audio to stutter on 2011 iMacs
  • A fix for an issue in Contacts that may cause cards to print out of order.
  • A fix for an issue that may cause the desktop picture to change after logging out or restarting.
  • A fix for an issue in Messages that may cause messages to appear out of order after waking from sleep. I haven't noticed this problem.
  • A fix for an issue that may cause the screen to display incorrectly after waking from sleep.
  • Improves compatibility with IMAP servers in the Notes app. Good - I definitely have seen this problem.
  • Allows the Slideshow screen saver to display photos located in a subfolder.
  • A fix for an issue in Contacts that may cause addresses to print in the wrong location.
  • Reliability improvements when using a Microsoft Exchange account in Mail.
  • Xsan reliability improvements.
  • A fix for an issue that could cause Active Directory accounts to be locked out after accessing the Security & Privacy pane in System Preferences.
  • A fix for an issue that could cause link aggregation to not complete after a restart.
  • A fix for an issue that could cause delays when logging into an Active Directory account on high latency networks

The security update contained numerous fixes/patches not mentioned above. Including another Java problem (Java Web Start applications would run even if the Java plug-in was disabled. This problem was corrected by removing JNLP files from the CoreTypes safe file type list) and many other security updates. Note: OS X Mountain Lion v10.8.3 includes the content of Safari 6.0.3. 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/HT5612>
<http://support.apple.com/kb/HT5671>
<http://support.apple.com/kb/HT5672>
<http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1222>
<http://support.apple.com/kb/DL1640>

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

  • Welcome: The website's opener. A page containing an introduction to the Neighborhood Watch program and it's volunteers.
    • I updated the banners and links announcing the next Neighborhood Watch meeting. The next meeting was scheduled for May 2nd, but due to scheduling issues, we've had to cancel that meeting. I'll update the website when a new date has been determined. The announcement links to our Current and Events pages.
  • Current: A web page dedicated to the most recent news, announcements and information.
    • I updated announcements for the next Neighborhood Watch meeting. The next meeting was scheduled for May 2nd, but due to scheduling issues, we've had to cancel that meeting. I'll update the website when a new date has been determined.
  • Events: A listing of upcoming and recurring events in you Southeast Aurora Neighborhood. Events sponsored by or relevant to our Neighborhood Watch.
    • I updated announcements for the next Neighborhood Watch meeting. The next meeting was scheduled for May 2nd, but due to scheduling issues, we've had to cancel that meeting. When additional information becomes available I'll update the Current and Events pages to reflect the updated information.
  • Info: A page of links and information pertinent to the safety and security of communities in Southeast Aurora, Colorado.
    • I updated the links and contact info for our Southshore Area Coordinator. We now have a new AC for the Southshore community - Bill McFarland is available to answer Neighborhood Watch email questions from residents of the Southshore community. I've set him up with a special email address, updated the web page links to show him as the Area Coordinator for Southshore, and I plan to set up a new mailing list for his community in the near future.

If you are a resident of Southeast Aurora, you might want to check out our Southeast Aurora Neighborhood Watch website (Serving the following communities: Tollgate Crossing, Sorrel Ranch, Wheatlands, Beacon Point, Southshore, Tallyn’s Reach, Saddle Rock - North, Serenity Ridge, Black Stone and Heritage Eagle Bend). If you're concerned about the safety and security of your community, you might want to join our group, or subscribe to one of our mailing lists to receive periodic alerts, updates and information.
<http://www.southeastaurora-neighborhoodwatch.org/Welcome.html>

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

Graphic ConverterGraphicConverter:
Thorsten Lemke (of Lemkesoft) completed work on a few more beta releases over the last week or so. I recently saw/downloaded the following update: 8.5.4 (b1165). GraphicConverter is an image converter and editor. A fantastic piece of shareware that is well worth the price (~$40.00). I use it to convert image formats into web standard formats, to create and edit image maps and other graphics. I've been singing GC's praises for many years now, and I'm not sure I would do without it. The best part about GC is it's author. Thorsten Lemke is completely committed to his customer base. Constantly and Continuously responding to customer recommendations and bug reports. GC is a dynamic, evolving, application. Always on the cutting edge, an absolute must in any web developers tool box. At a fraction of PhotoShop's cost, this photo editor puts a huge wrench in your toolbox.
<http://www.lemkesoft.com/content/162/new-functions-and-versions.html>

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 6.0.3 (8536.28.10)

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?.

Battle of the browsers. Internet Explorer vs FireFox. Those are your choices right? Wrong! Think different! Think Mac! A fast (The fastest available for Mac) 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, RSS, 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. Nitro Engine - 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 (6.0.3) 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/HT5612>
<http://www.apple.com/html5/>
<http://www.apple.com/safari/>

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

Java for Mac OS XWhat the!? - Another Java update for Mac OS X:
As proven over and over - As the Mac OS becomes more popular, more threats will emerge. 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 revalations 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. A week ago, Apple quickly responded to a Security Alert issued by Adobe. This Security Alert addressed security issues CVE-2013-1493 (US-CERT VU#688246) and another vulnerability affecting Java running in web browsers. These vulnerabilities are not applicable to Java running on servers, standalone Java desktop applications or embedded Java applications.

These vulnerabilities may be remotely exploitable without authentication, i.e., they may be exploited over a network without the need for a username and password. For an exploit to be successful, an unsuspecting user running an affected release in a browser must visit a malicious web page that leverages these vulnerabilities. Successful exploits can impact the availability, integrity, and confidentiality of the user's system. Due to the severity of these vulnerabilities, and the reported exploitation of CVE-2013-1493 "in the wild," Oracle strongly recommends that customers apply the updates provided by this Security Alert as soon as possible. Due to multiple vulnerabilities in: Java 6 update 41 and earlier and Java 7 update 15 and earlier; Apple has updated the web plug-in blocking mechanism to disable versions of Java older than Java 6 update 41 and Java 7 update 15. Ref: CVE-IDs - CVE-2013-0809, CVE-2013-1493. Apple has taken the extra precaution of once again disabling the ability to run Java through a web plugin. If you haven't been updating your Java on a regualr basis (through Mac OS updates) then this update will take away the 'danger' by disabling Java enabled web pages. More information on Apple-provided updates and the blocking of web plug-ins is available on Apple's support web pages.

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

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/ocom/groups/public/@otn/documents/webcontent/1915099.xml>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OS_X_Mountain_Lion>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gatekeeper_(OS_X)>
<http://support.apple.com/kb/HT5677>
<http://support.apple.com/kb/HT5660>
<http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1222>

March 09, 2013

Big Snow StormYes - It's still Winter:
Another big snow storm hit the Aurora area on the 9th of Mar, 2013. As usual, the news played it up. They predicted a massive event. Once again, they managed to produce such a show that people were talking about it at work. Concerned that it might shut down everything, that this might be the snow storm of the century! Wow - It sure sounded like it was going to be a heavy duty event. As usual, the actual event didn't live up to the media's hype. The snow fell all day long. I sat in my office typing away and watching the nasty weather accumulate in our back yard. The wind was blowing quite violently, and I didn't dare go out to run the snow blower. We waited all day, and it never relented. At the end of the day, we accumulated approximately 6" in our part of Aurora. It looked far worse than it was. All this snow isn't such a bad thing. Colorado can definitely use the moisture. Our summer/previous year was quite dry, and the mountains are certainly acquiring a nice coating this winter. It's good news for Colorado.

Shoveling all that snow is a lot easier when I listen to some podcasts. My favorite? The No Agenda podcast with Adam Curry (Crackpot) and John C. Dvorak (Buzzkill). "In the morning!" An insightful deconstruction of the media machine and today's social buzz. Without corporate sponsors, Adam and John aren't afraid to tell it like it is. The show keeps me sharp, It's sharp witted, packed with good humor and generous jabs at the media, politicians and military industrial complex.
<http://www.noagendashow.com>

Business trip to TexasBusiness visit to Texas:
March 6-8, 2013 - I finally went on a business trip! It's my first business trip since I was hired by my new employer. My last boss had sent everyone except me (in an office with appx 20 people) on business trips. Many of my coworkers had gone more than once... I'm still on probation, and that ends on April 25th... So, for now - I'll exercise the best practice/policy of 'Shut up Probee!' This was my first business trip in many years (since 2006?). Under NG, I went on one business trip. Before that (when I was still in the USAF), I went on an average of one business trip per year. We (myself and a couple of coworkers) went to Texas for a working level visit. We visited a new facility that we've never been to before. This new facility was awesome. You can easily see the difference between big-time corporate money (the building used to belong to a large corporation) and government money. The old facility was really run down, cobbled together from several different buildings, dated to the 60s or so, had low ceilings and was very overcrowded. It's about time the moved into a new facility. The work related visit went really well, and we had a good time after work as well. I was reunited with an old friend and his wife (Dale and Lara), and we ate out a handful of great places. I wouldn't mind living in Texas, the place we visited seemed a pleasant place and the cost of living is very low. Given the state of our current budget problems, I don't think I'll be able to go on another TDY for some time. We got a lot done and I really hope to continue the good relations we established while we were there.

Java for Mac OS XYet Another Java update for Mac OS X:
As predicted - As the Mac OS becomes more popular, more threats will emerge. Nefarious individuals with malicious intent will create Trojans and exploit code flaws in order to infect and compromise the computers of those who own Macs. Over the last week Apple quickly responded to a Security Alert issued by Adobe. This Security Alert addresses security issues CVE-2013-1493 (US-CERT VU#688246) and another vulnerability affecting Java running in web browsers. These vulnerabilities are not applicable to Java running on servers, standalone Java desktop applications or embedded Java applications.

These vulnerabilities may be remotely exploitable without authentication, i.e., they may be exploited over a network without the need for a username and password. For an exploit to be successful, an unsuspecting user running an affected release in a browser must visit a malicious web page that leverages these vulnerabilities. Successful exploits can impact the availability, integrity, and confidentiality of the user's system. Due to the severity of these vulnerabilities, and the reported exploitation of CVE-2013-1493 "in the wild," Oracle strongly recommends that customers apply the updates provided by this Security Alert as soon as possible. More information is available via the Java website at <http://www.oracle.com/technetwork/java/javase/releasenotes-136954.html> This particular update is applicable to Macs running OS 10.6 (Snow Leopard), OS 10.7 (Lion) and OS 10.8 (Mountain Lion).

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

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/topics/security/alert-cve-2013-1493-1915081.html>
<http://www.oracle.com/technetwork/java/javase/releasenotes-136954.html>
<http://support.apple.com/kb/DL1573?viewlocale=en_US&locale=en_US>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OS_X_Mountain_Lion>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gatekeeper_(OS_X)>
<http://support.apple.com/kb/HT5676>
<http://support.apple.com/kb/HT5677>
<http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1222>

D&D iconD&D updates:
The updates below cover two of our more recent meetings - March 2nd and 16th, 2013. With recent player changes and a recent business trip (by me) delaying our journal entries and my web updates, I was a bit behind on getting some of this material out the door. As our group of new players (everyone is new except Micheal, Kim and I) settles in, I expect that you will notice some marked changes in the characters personalities and journal entries. The party departed Whillip long ago, and several chapters of this latest adventure have already been written. Our heroes completed all their administrative tasks and chores, and decided upon their next adventure. After accepting a charge to quest for a lost tome of legendary power, the party was teleported across the world to Kester; a small mountain town on the edge of a vast wasteland. After talking with their sponsor, they set off to start this new adventure. After trekking south along an old trade route, the party entered the town of Parlonis. Here they sought more clues about the nature of the Dry Steppes, it's inhabitants, and the fabled city of 'Lingice-Enz'. Departing the frontier town, the party struck out into the desert. Here they encountered odd magical effects, ancient ruins, dangerous monsters, a crazy Gnome and the challenges of a deadly tainted realm. After nearly two weeks in this ruined land, the party discovered the ruins of Lingice-Enz. Countless battles ensue as the party probes the depths of this strange sewer complex. Filled with crawling, slithering, flitting and skulking creatures, the sewers are alive with many creatures. While most are benign, and strive only to survive in this harsh environment, some are intent on making meals of the party. The predators in this environment have evolved to resist magic and standard attack forms; making for very deadly opponents. As the party limps from encounter to encounter, they search for the book, for clues, for some way to bring this quest to a speedy end. Ambushed, abducted and imprisoned in a strange workshop, the party easily secured their freedom, but found the 'workshop' to be a very dangerous place to rest. After the death of Allurean and the departure of Chartruz, they left the workshop. Now they're exploring a hidden complex of interconnected rooms. They're trying to figure out where they are and who imprisoned them in the first place. Will the party find the tome known as "Eivobrin's Incanabula"; or will they become another footnote labeled 'A group of adventurers sought the book, but never completed their quest'? Stay tuned for the exciting and continuing adventures of the H.A.L.L.O.W.ed Knights.

3rd Edition Campaign:
I updated the date of our next meeting - Our next meeting will take place (not counting tomorrow's meeting) on the 13th of April, 2013. The "3eCampaign" page is the first stop for information on the campaign that I'm currently running. Here you'll find information regarding our next meeting, some notes, and an index of web pages and documents that are important to our campaign. You can also check out the latest group photo (it's way out of date, but I can't update it quite yet). FYI: We're still looking for one additional player to join our campaign. If you think what you've got to be a 'Hallowed Knight' send me an email.
<http://www.robsworld.org/3ecampaign.html>

The Adventurers journal:
The tale of our adventurers. A series of journal entries from various party members. This document contains details of their encounters. Victory, defeat, desire and glory. Here is the tale of The H.A.L.L.O.W.ed Knights, a group of adventurers who set forth from Whillip, seeking fame, fortune and the defeat of evil in these lands. The journal entries I recently posted come from Dareus. Dareus is one of new players with a flair for writing. He's take to the journal entries with gusto, and I hope he'll continue to provide us with continuing notes to keep us entertained and up to date. I've posted updates from the two most recent meetings, and I'm actually caught up at this time (until tonight!). The party has been exploring the sewers beneath the ruins of Lingice-Enz for some time now. Recently, they discovered a hidden workshop filled with all manner of strange creatures and objects. After the death of Allurean and the departure of her familiar, the party decided to leave this dangerous workshop and continue their adventure, looking for the famed 'Incanabula' and a way out of this hidden complex. Check out the details in the party's journal entries.
<http://www.robsworld.org/ajournal09.html#mar02_2013>
<http://www.robsworld.org/ajournal09.html#mar16_2013>

Monsters encountered:
Down in the Dungeon! Welcome to the Sewers of Oblivion. During our most recent gaming sessions, the party entered a phase of the campaign where they've delved deep into an entirely new environment. Here they are discovering new varieties of creatures. Some intent on just getting by; some intent on making a meal out of our heroes. As a result, we've seen plenty of updates to the 'Monsters Known' page. Some of those creatures include: An extremely powerful Flame Fiend named 'Lord Adoleth' and a dungeon hazard known by the name 'Yellow Mold'. The monsters page is a listing of monsters that the party has encountered, read about, or heard of.
<http://www.robsworld.org/monsters.html>

Who's Who?
I recently updated the "Who's Who?" page. During the last couple of sessions, the party encountered a few unusual characters. These people were all found living, lounging and lamenting their fate within a hidden bunker. A series of interconnected rooms surrounded by a catacomb of narrow passageways roamed by dangerous creatures. These individuals were: Winston Churchill, Thusadra Margus, Varnus Chodarun, and Szeck Namataz.

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

While exploring these interconnected rooms, the party has uncovered indications that a man known as Glan Sarin might be involved in their quest for the famed book - Eivobrin's Incanabula. Members of this party have a history with this individual, and now it appears as if he might be onto their trail. What dire role does Glan Sarin play in the party's quest?

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

These updates follow our meetings on the 2nd and 16th or March, 2013. You can keep up to date with our adventures by continuing to visit "Rob's World!" for all the latest campaign info. If you're enjoying the story of our adventurers, I encourage you to write me and let us know. Perhaps you've got an idea you'd like to share, some criticism or praise. Either way, it'll be earnestly appreciated.
<http://www.robsworld.org/3ecampaign.html>

Software favorites:
More updates to some of my favorite software applications. GraphicConverter moves ever forward. As usual, developer has been busy updating this application. over the last week or so, Thorsten released a handful of updates for the product that's always getting better. All the updates are free for those who own a license (for the most recent version). If you need a powerhouse converter, editor and browser for your graphics, grab a copy of GraphicConverter - You won't be disappointed. In addition to the GC update, Transmit - FTP software, DVDpedia, and Apple's iOS versions of Pages, Keynote and Numbers have all been updated.

Graphic ConverterGraphicConverter:
Thorsten Lemke (of Lemkesoft) completed work on a slew of beta releases over the last week or so. I recently saw/downloaded the following update: 8.5.3 (b1153), 8.5.3 (b1154), 8.5.4 (b1160). GraphicConverter is an image converter and editor. A fantastic piece of shareware that is well worth the price (~$40.00). I use it to convert image formats into web standard formats, to create and edit image maps and other graphics. I've been singing GC's praises for many years now, and I'm not sure I would do without it. The best part about GC is it's author. Thorsten Lemke is completely committed to his customer base. Constantly and Continuously responding to customer recommendations and bug reports. GC is a dynamic, evolving, application. Always on the cutting edge, an absolute must in any web developers tool box. At a fraction of PhotoShop's cost, this photo editor puts a huge wrench in your toolbox.
<http://www.lemkesoft.com/content/162/new-functions-and-versions.html>

TransmitTransmit:
An FTP tool that does it all. Anyone who publishes web pages eventually needs a way to upload their pages to a web site. I've found that stand alone FTP tools are the best for this task. Transmit (updated to version 4.3.3 on the 9th of Mar, 2013) has a clean and easy to use interface, and some really nifty features, like the ability to resume a transfer that's been interrupted, advanced site synchronization capabilities (with simulation mode and reporting capabilities), Amazon S3 integration, Sync your favorites using Dropbox, drag-to-dock sending, creation / use of transfer droplets, column views, quick navigation side-bar, multi-connection transfers, built in compression, a built in text editor, remote file editing using local editors, and secure transfer (in various different flavors) capabilities. Check out the Panic.com Release Notes for all the changes made (by version) to Transmit.
<http://www.panic.com/transmit/index.html>

iWorkiWork '09:
Apple's productivity suite is three applications with iCloud integration. I'm running various versions of the component software: iWork 9.3 on my desktop and laptops delivered Pages 4.3 (1048), Keynote 5.3 (1170) and Numbers 2.3 (554) respectively. On my iPad and iPhone, I'm running the newest versions (updated on the 7th of Mar, 2013): Pages 1.7.2, Numbers 1.7.2 (I don't have the portable (iPad/iPhone) version of Keynote).

iWork is Apple's productivity suite. Previous versions of iWork (2005-2006) contained two applications, a bit anemic for a productivity suite. It was missing a crucial component. No spreadsheet application? In 2007, things changed. They added a spreadsheet application. Numbers is the newest addition to the productivity suite. With the addition of this new component. iWork became a feasible replacement for the venerable (and still useful) AppleWorks - which hasn't (and never will - according to Apple) seen an update since 2004. iWork is also a home productivity contender; competing against Microsoft Office. Most home users don't need the power provided by Microsoft's productivity suite, and Apple's iWork suite provides a suitable alternative to the expensive Office suite. iWork applications are Office compatible (No it's not 100% compatible, but it can open, edit and save documents as Office documents), and the pricing is far more affordable than the behemoth on the block. So, the addition of numbers (back in 2007) and a fantastic price (Sold separately on the Mac App store for $19.99 each (Mobile apps are available in the iTunes App store for $9.99 each)), the great reviews (that I've read), the compatibility (Office and AppleWorks) and the outstanding support that Apple provides, have enticed me to switch from AppleWorks to iWork. All of the iWork components contain web based output options, which is crucial for anyone creating web pages, or managing a web site.

iWork consists of three productivity applications and online integration with Apple's iCloud syncing capability:

PagesPages - Pages is a word processing application with page layout features. Besides basic word processing functionality, Pages includes 180 templates designed by Apple that allow users to create various types of documents, including newsletters, invitations, stationery, and résumés, along with a number of education-themed templates (such as reports and outlines) for students and teachers.

Along with Keynote and Numbers, Pages integrates with Apple's iLife suite. Using the Media Browser, users can drag and drop movies, photos and music directly into documents within the Pages application. A Full Screen view hides the menubar and toolbars, and an outline mode allows users to quickly create outlines which can easily be rearranged by dragging and dropping, as well as collapsed and expanded. Pages includes support for entering complex equations with MathType 6 and for reference citing using EndNote X2.

The Pages application can open and edit Microsoft Word documents (including DOC and Office Open XML files), rich text format documents, and plain text documents. Pages can also export documents in the DOC, PDF, and ePub formats (from WikiPedia). Compatability with other applications and formats is outstanding

KeynoteKeynote - Keynote is an application used to create and play presentations. Its features are comparable to those of Microsoft PowerPoint, though Keynote contains several unique features which differ from similar applications. Keynote, like Pages and Numbers, integrates with the iLife application suite. Users can drag and drop media from iMovie, iTunes, iPhoto and Aperture directly into Keynote presentations using the Media Browser. Keynote contains a number of templates, transitions, and effects. Magic Move allows users to apply simple transitions to automatically animate images and text that are repeated on consecutive slides. With 44 Themes and 25 Transitions to choose from, you can easily find a series of layouts and effects to help get your project started.

The Keynote Remote application lets users view slides and presenter notes and control Keynote presentations with an iPhone or iPod touch over a Wi-Fi network.

Keynote supports a number of file formats. By default, presentations are saved as .key files. Keynote can open and edit Microsoft PowerPoint (.ppt) files. In addition, presentations can be exported as Microsoft PowerPoint files, QuickTime movies (which are also playable on iPod and iPhone), HTML files, and PDF files. Presentations can also be sent directly to iDVD, iTunes, GarageBand, iWeb, and to YouTube. The Keynote 09 file format is not backward compatible; .key files saved with Keynote '09 can not be opened with earlier versions of Keynote (from WikiPedia).

NumbersNumbers - Numbers is a spreadsheet application that was added to the iWork suite in 2007 with the release of iWork '08. Numbers, like Microsoft Excel and other spreadsheet applications, lets users organize data into tables, perform calculations with formulas, and create charts and graphs using data entered into the spreadsheet. Numbers, however, differs from other spreadsheet applications in that it allows users to create multiple tables in a single document on a flexible canvas. Many prebuilt templates, including ones designed for personal finance, education, and business use, are included.

Numbers 2, the latest release which is included with iWork '09, integrates with other iWork applications. Charts that are pasted into Keynote and Pages are automatically updated across documents when they are changed in Numbers. Additionally, Numbers 2 lets users categorize data in tables by column, which can then be collapsed and summarized (from WikiPedia). To help get your project started, Numbers now comes with 30 templates which include embedded formulas, charts and graphs to help you with your planning, tracking and analysis.

DVDPediaDVDPedia:
DVDPedia is a great little application for cataloging and displaying your movie collection, and I'm running version 5.1.5. 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…

The 5.1.5 update puts all the other apps (by Bruji.com) on a different release number as this update was only provided for DVDpedia. The update brought a patch for changes in the imdb search plugin. 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/>

These recent updates (updates to the mobile applications) contain stability improvements and bug fixes. The 1.7.1 updates (on the 7th of Mar, 2013) were the first updates since December of last year?
<http://www.apple.com/apps/iwork/numbers/>
<http://www.apple.com/iwork/compatibility/>
<http://www.apple.com/apps/iwork/pages/>
<http://www.apple.com/iwork/numbers/>
<http://www.apple.com/iwork/keynote/>
<http://www.apple.com/iwork/pages/>
<http://www.apple.com/icloud/>
<http://www.apple.com/iwork/>
<https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/pages/id361309726?mt=8>
<https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/numbers/id361304891?mt=8>

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>

Music CollectionMusic Madness in March:
Here's a list of some of the music I recently acquired. Where do I get all this stuff? Well, I used to find/discover a lot of free (actually free) music by visiting several of the new music web sites (Pandora, 3hive.com, musicalfamilytree.org) and several other music blogs (Analog Giant, Brooklyn Vegan, Fluxblog, Gorilla vs. Bear, etc) out there, and listening to a few different music podcasts. Used to... Now? Now (As of Oct of 2010) I subscribe to an online music streaming service called MOG, and I've recently (as of Sep 2011) started using eMusic 'Radio' stations for music discovery. Combined together, these two services provide full-play access to more than 33 million tracks! (16m on MOG (as of Sep, 2012), 17m on eMusic (as of Jan 2013)) Two fantastic ways to discover music, and no need for illegal downloads or pirated tracks. I occasionally use a few of the other methods (music blogs and podcasts), but MOG now serves as my primary Music Discovery source.

Artists want you to hear their music - If you like it, you'll buy it, or maybe you'll buy some concert tickets. The major labels want you to pay for their product - letting you hear it for free is contrary to their business model. Well, guess what? I won't buy it unless I can listen to it first. The major labels are killing themselves with their restrictive distribution and dissemination policies. If you like new music, you can do a web search to find your favorite artists web site, a new music web site, or an archive of free music. Free music is available - Legally! Don't believe the major labels propaganda - Not all free music is illegal. You can legally download or listen to all sorts of music for free (Have you heard of Pandora, Audiolizer, Presto, Jango or GrooveShark?). I download most of my music from a couple of commercial sources (eMusic and iTunes), but I occasionally download tracks (legally) from various websites, newsgroups and blogs in order to satisfy my craving for music.

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

eMusic monthly downloads:
Every month I download ~50 tracks from eMusic.com. This month (Mar of 2013) I downloaded 54 tracks at the low cost of $23.25. I'm paying a $19.99 monthly fee, so that makes the tracks even cheaper (~$0.37 / 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.

* The Botanic Verses - The March Violets: (18 songs) Takes me back to the 80s. Here's a band I heard on the periphery of my 80s experience. Fortunately, MOG is like a way-back machine, capable of transporting me back to my roots where I can explore the origins of my musical tastes. Thanks to MOG, I've been able to rediscover may awesome bands (like this one) that I missed during the 80s - If only for the sheer volume of underappreciated bands that began their careers during this era of musical magic. Unfortunately, eMusic only has one album by this band. Fortunately, it's a 'Best of' compilation.
* Suck It and See - Arctic Monkeys: (12 songs) Discovered by listening to MOG recommendations. I've enjoyed their music in the past, but this is my first purchase. I enjoyed the moderate pacing; the idiosyncratic lyrics; the mind warping imagery; and the 70s style instrumentals. Production, vocals, and instrumental arrangements remind me of Echo & The Bunnymen.
* Synthesizer - Information Society: (13 tracks) A favorite band. Synthpop that screams 'Dance monkey dance!' - Keyboards are mighty and the power of Kraftwerk surely flows through this bands veins. With industrial overtones, the funk and techno beats blast out the hits on this excellent album. Formed in the 80s, here's another band I wouldn't have known about if it hadn't been for my MOG recommendations.
* Oooh! - Mekons: (11 songs) Oooh! (Out of our Heads!) is my fourth album by the Mekons. A favorite band since 2008, I was introduced to this band by a friend (Thanks Troy). Proto-punkers, evolved from the primordial ooze of English rockers in the late 70s. Here's another album filled with folkish punk with a hint of country. The low-fi instrumentals mixed with powerful vocals sets this band apart from some of their contemporaries. Willing to embrace different styles and tie it all together with raw emotion and plenty of energy.

These are some of the items I added to my music collection during this month. Since revamping my music collection back in September of 2005, I've been slowly adding, revising and updating the collection. If you have a comment, question or correction regarding my music collection, please don't hesitate to send me an email. Please keep in mind that my collection isn't for sale, and I'm not interested in giving you any copyrighted materials. I'd rather not go to jail for music piracy. :-)
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_online_music_databases#On-demand_streaming_music_services>
<http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/technology/2008/07/emusic-lets-the.html>
<http://www.robsworld.org/music.html>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emusic>

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

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

In this instance, Dropbox said it hasn't been able to detect anything out of the ordinary. "At this time, we have not seen anything to suggest this is a new issue, but remain vigilant given the recent wave of security incidents at other tech companies," a Dropbox team member wrote in one of its forums. It is possible that the original spammer has sold the email addresses obtained in 2012, and a new spammer is using these addresses in fresh spam campaign. Luckily, I manage my own email servers, and I quickly deactivated the email address in question. I had to change my 'Dropbox' email address, but that's a small price to pay in order to avert the coming onslaught that would surely follow. If my new Dropbox address is also compromised, I'll have no choice but to discontinue all use of Dropbox for the sake of my file transfer security. I hope Dropbox hasn't allowed hackers to access their accounts database. There are a lot of businesses that depend on the security of their Dropbox accounts.
<http://www.pcworld.com/article/260176/dropbox_blames_employee_account_breach_for_spam_attack.html?tk=rel_news>
<http://www.macworld.com.au/news/dropbox-says-no-evidence-of-hack-in-investigation-of-spam-64663/>
<http://www.macworld.com.au/news/dropbox-may-suffer-a-spam-hangover-from-its-data-breach-88428/>
<https://forums.dropbox.com/topic.php?id=97303&page=4#post-531171>
<http://www.robsworld.org/dropboxhacked.png>
<http://www.robsworld.org/dropboxspam.pdf>