Nov 30, 2013

Xfinity ComcastCraptastic Customer Service from Comcast:
<rant>Isn't capitalism great! With all the competition in the Cable market, surely the consumers will end up with excellent service at reasonable prices and technological innovations that make the service even better. Just in case you couldn't tell - That was sarcasm. The Cable market in America is a complete sham. A totally controlled market that is locked down by a few big names. There is NO COMPETITION at all. They all collaborate, conspire, and non-compete in order to create an anti-competitive market that has soaked the American public for decades. Does the FCC care? Does the FCC do anything about it? Does the consumer ever get a break in the Cable market? Absolutely NOT - Shut up Slave! You will pay what they 'ask for' and you will 'like it'. When you have no other choice (Verizon FIOS? No! - Google fiber? No! Century Link fiber - I think NOT! - Some other Cable company in the same market? No! - Satellite? Are you serious? Yeah, that's another market that's wide open - Lots of competition there... Not!</rant>

What am I complaining about now? I'm complaining about the sad state of Comcast customer support. Recently (29 Nov, 2013), I called Comcast customer service to inquire about an issue. Before I was even routed to the 'phone-maze', I was asked if I wanted to participate in a customer service phone survey after the call was over. I selected '1' for the yes option. After the call finished - it didn't go well, and we'll leave it at that - I was prompted to complete the phone survey. I pressed the option to continue the survey and my call was immediately dropped. Outstanding! Perhaps they knew that my responses to the customer service survey were going to be 'negative', and they simply dumped my call... This is how you satisfy your customers. Does Comcast suck? I think the real question is 'How badly does Comcast suck?

Happy ThanksgivingHappy Thanksgiving:
This year Kim and I stayed home (in Colorado) to celebrate Thanksgiving. Kim and I had a good Thanksgiving. Kim didn't do much cooking this year - She deserves a break. We purchased a pre-cooked (except for the turkey) meal from our favorite grocer - Tony's Market (a family owned business). A complete heat-and-serve Thanksgiving dinner that serves 4 adults. We paid ~$100.00 for the meal, but it was well worth it. The food was excellent. While food in Colorado is somewhat pricey, we feel that we got our money's worth with this meal. Here's what we got for our $100.00

  • Tony's Market - Turkey Breast Dinner (Thanksgiving 2013):
    • A boneless fresh turkey breast, brined and roasted (3+ lbs)
    • Side Dishes Included:
      • Fresh Spinach Salad with Bacon, Egg, Hot or Cold Cabernet Sauvignon Dressing and Red Onion on the Side (48 oz bowl)
      • Homemade Turkey Gravy (1 quart)
      • Homemade Brandied Cranberries (1 pint)
      • Homemade Sage Stuffing (2 lbs)
      • Chantilly Whipped Potatoes (2 lbs)
      • Praline Sweet Potatoes (2 lbs)
      • Roasted Vegetables (a squash medley) with Garlic Butter (2 lbs)
      • Fresh Dinner Rolls (7 ea)
    • Dessert was a large pumpkin pie with whipped cream.

Americans certainly enjoy a high standard of living, and Kim and I are definitely thankful for that. There are many other things that we are thankful for, but we're mostly thankful for our health, the love of our family and the prosperity we enjoy in the good ol' U.S. of A. It'll take some time to finish all that food, but we sure had a good day. If you're an American or Canadian, we hope you had a good Thanksgiving too.
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thanksgiving>

Hotmail Hates HostRocketHotmail Hates HostRocket:
Over the past month, I've begun experiencing considerable issues with my hosting provider. I use a service provider called 'HostRocket' to host several websites and my email services. Over the last month, I've been receiving numerous email bounces from email sent by HostRocket's email servers. The email being affected is being sent by the mailing list service running on one of the shared hosts. I use this shared host for mailing lists (because my hosting provider doesn't configure the mailing list and email service to filter by incoming domain/IP). My Neighborhood Watch, RobsWorld, and Tollgate Crossing mailing lists are all hosted on this particular hosted server.

Unfortunately for me, someone using the shared host is sending spam. Hotmail (aka live.com, msn.com, outlook.com, hotmail.com) has decided to mark all email originating from that IP address/email server (the shared host/machine/IP address) as being suspect (aka spam!). Currently, I can't send email (via the mailing list) to any of the mailing lists subscribers that use Hotmail (aka live.com, msn.com, outlook.com, hotmail.com) for their email services. That's thousands of subscribers. People subscribed to our South East Aurora Neighborhood Watch, my personal RobsWorld mailing lists, or the Tollgate Crossing community mailing lists.

Subscribers do not receive my messages (messages from the mailing list) and I receive a bounce message (when I'm the originator of the mailing list message) from Hotmail. Not only are these subscribers unable to receive email from my mailing list services, my domains are being implicated as sources of spam, because they all trace back to that shared host (by way of the mailing list servers). I've written my hosting provider, but they seem unwilling or unable to deal with the problem. For that matter, I don't think they actually know what's happening. It's a direct consequence of the low pay they dole out to the personnel that manage their services.

While I continue to troubleshoot and document the issue, the hosting provider seems content to let Hotmail besmirch their name and my name. After all, a lot of the blow-back is affecting my name (I'm the registered owner of many domains on the shared host). In the meantime, the hosting provider immediately suspects me of being the source of the 'spam' that Hotmail is using as its source of complaints. Getting answers or action from my hosting provider is just as difficult as getting Hotmail to respond or interact with me. The problems persist, and my displeasure with this hosting provider grows by the minute.

It's taken me forever to complete the hotmail/msn/live.com support request form. The form is buggy, doesn't function properly, is non-intuitive, and is 'supposed' to be filled out by the person/admin responsible for the machine responsible for the suspected spam. Since I don't actually own/control the machine/IP block/address, I doubt that Hotmail will responde, but I've got to try something, my hosting provider isn't doing squat about the problem. I think I filled out the form correctly. I didn't get a good 'feeling' about the results from clicking the 'submit' button. HostRocket did move me over to a different IP for a period of time, but then - not at my request - they moved me to another IP address. Another 'Bad' IP address, one that the spammer was using, so now I'm back on the Hotmail 'spammer' list. Arrggghhh!

Of course I had to write a big long email to one of my primary customers (the city of Aurora, CO and it's Neighborhood Watch), explaining what's going on. Explaining why I can't deliver Neighborhood Watch news to residents of South East Aurora. Why don't they just figure out who the spammer is (they've got all the logs, the admin privileges and the time to do the work) and 'Kill' them!?

Software favorites:
Several updates to some of my favorite software applications came in during the later half of November. Most of the updates were spurred by Apple's release of two Operating Systems over the month The new desktop OS (10.9 / Mavericks) and the new iOS update (7.0). GraphicConverter moves ever forward. As usual, developer has been busy updating this application. over the last month or so, Thorsten released several updates for the product that's always getting better. All the GC 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, there's another set of updates to refresh the Bruji trio of 'collectibles' applications: DVDpedia, CDpedia and Bookpedia. Apple updated their own applications - the iWork suite of products: Keynote, Pages and Numbers. And finally; there's an updated version of Transmit available.

Graphic ConverterGraphicConverter:
Thorsten Lemke (of Lemkesoft) completed work on a slew of beta releases over the last week or so. I missed a bunch of the updates, but I caught up with the following update: 8.8.3 (b1381). 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.de/en/products/graphicconverter/key-features/>

DVDPediaDVDPedia:
DVDPedia is a great little application for cataloging and displaying your movie collection, and I'm running version 5.2. It's list of features is impressive, and it keeps getting better with every update. The database is capable of generating statistics, you can keep track of multiple collections, you can easily add titles by typing the name of the movie or you can scan the barcode (using your iSight camera or a barcode reader) right off the movie box (it then searches the internet, and displays choices). It has customizable HTML export capabilities, a 'borrowed' feature with address book integration, the ability to play movies in full screen mode, and many more features which make an awesome addition to your software library. I use DVDpedia to generate HTML listings of my movies and movie reviews.

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

CDPediaCDPedia:
CDPedia is a great little application for cataloging and displaying your music collection, and I'm running version 5.2. It's list of features is impressive, and it keeps getting better with every update. The database is capable of generating statistics, you can keep track of multiple collections, you can easily add titles by typing the name of the artist, album, or track. You can scan the barcode (using your iSight camera or a barcode reader) right off a jewel case (it then searches the internet, and displays choices), or you can import lists of music from iTunes. It has customizable HTML export capabilities, a 'borrowed' feature with address book integration, and many more features which make an awesome addition to your software library. I use CDPedia to generate HTML listings of my music.

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

BookPediaBookpedia:
Bookpedia is a great little application for cataloging and displaying your book collection(s), and I'm running version 5.2. It's list of features is impressive, and it keeps getting better with every update. The database is capable of generating statistics, you can keep track of multiple collections, you can easily add titles by typing the name of the author, book, or isbn number. You can scan the barcode (using your iSight camera or a barcode reader) right off the book cover (the application searches the internet, and displays choices). It has customizable HTML export capabilities, a borrowed feature with address book integration, and many more features which make an awesome addition to your software library. I use Bookpedia to generate HTML listings of my favorite books.

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

TransmitTransmit:
An FTP tool that does it all. Anyone who publishes web pages eventually needs a way to upload their pages to a web site. I've found that stand alone FTP tools are the best for this task. Transmit (updated to version 4.4.5 on the 23rd of Nov, 2013) has a clean and easy to use interface, and some really nifty features, like the ability to resume a transfer that's been interrupted, advanced site synchronization capabilities (with simulation mode and reporting capabilities), Amazon S3 integration, Sync your favorites using Dropbox, drag-to-dock sending, creation / use of transfer droplets, column views, quick navigation side-bar, multi-connection transfers, built in compression, a built in text editor, remote file editing using local editors, and secure transfer (in various different flavors) capabilities. Check out the Panic.com Release Notes for all the changes made (by version) to Transmit. This particular update was released in order to make the application compatible with the Mavericks OS update.
<http://www.panic.com/transmit/index.html>

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

My XC90Who damaged my Volvo - Again?!
Back in June of 2013, I took my Volvo in for some repairs... What followed was a rather expensive set of repairs (~$1,000.00). I think that the repairs were all brought about by a local maintenance shop. I believe that they inadvertently damaged my Volvo when they performed some routine maintenance. Unfortunately, I can't be certain which shop caused the damage. For more details, read my original reporting of the problem, back in June of 2013. So why am I writing about this issue - again?

Yes, again. I took the Volvo (My Volvo XC90) into the shop today (Ellis Tire Pro) on the 14th of November, 2013. I brought it to the garage because of a noise and some vibration when turning left. The garage inspected the vehicle and found the rear axle (drive shaft) exhibiting signs of damage/wear. The right rear axle/drive shaft had about 1/2" of play in it. This was causing the vibration and noise. It was unsafe to continue driving with under these conditions and they recommended that the right rear axle/drive shaft be replaced. They indicated that the left rear axle/drive shaft showed minimal deviation from normal, and didn't need replacing at this time, but may eventually. I asked them to proceed with the repairs. Yesterday (on the 20th of November) they called me to report that they were replacing the drive shaft (parts had come in), and they'd discovered additional damage. They indicated that the bearings on the right rear tire (the bearings are inside a sealed hub assembly) would also need to be replaced. According to the garage; since the drive shaft connects to the hub assembly, the 1/2" deviation in the axles turning radius had damaged the bearings. I indicated that we (their garage) had just replaced the bearings back in May of this year; and asked if this damaged axle could have caused the damage to the right rear hub/bearings in June. They said that they would have noticed the damage back then.

According to the garage (Ellis Tire Pro), this (the axle damage) must be new damage... Notably, when they removed the hub assembly from the right rear wheel back in June, they had to use an air gun. See the photos from the May claim for illustration of the damage that the air gun caused to the hub assembly). I wonder if the use of the air gun may have damaged the axle? Some online research indicates that mechanics must be very careful when removing stuck hub assemblies. The use of an air gun can damage the axle/drive shaft. This may also explain why they didn't see any damage to the axle back in June. If the damage occurred while they were affecting repairs they wouldn't have noticed it during their initial inspection, and they might have been reluctant to mention it afterward.. I wonder whether... A) This axle/drive shaft damage was present at the time of the initial claim (back in June of 2013). Perhaps they didn't notice it? B) Perhaps the garage caused the axle damage during the repairs performed back in June of 2013. Perhaps they didn't notice, or didn't want to say anything? C) Was this damage caused as a result of the 'improper lift procedure' that caused the damage to my vehicle's control arms (aka 'stays') and wheel bearings (hub assemblies) back in June? Perhaps the axles, stays and bearings were all damaged by the improper lift procedure?

Note: I have not had any accidents or collisions since the repairs conducted back in June of this year. I still don't know who executed the 'improper lift procedure' which damaged (as I believe) the vehicle earlier this year (In June of 2013). I reported this repair/incident as a possible extension to the original claim I made back in June of this year. As a result of the original claim, two shops conducted repairs. A) Ellis Tire Pros repaired the right and left rear bearings on the Volvo. I was reimbursed for that expense. B) John Elway Collision center repaired the right and left control arms. They were paid by USAA, and I paid the deductible on the claim. I obtained the damaged axle, but Ellis Tire Pro kept the hub assembly. They claimed that they were going to get Volvo to reimburse them for the hub assembly/bearings... Their claim regarding the Volvo compensation seems odd to me, considering the fact that they told me that the bent axle caused the damage to the wheel bearings. I believe they're repairing the bearings because they were damaged by the bent axle, but they told me that they weren't charging me for that because it was covered under their warranty to me (they replaced the part back in June). I paid $980.92 (on the 21st of Nov, 2013) for these recent repairs.

I believe that the suspension stays (or rear control arms) and rear wheel hubs were damaged by the improper lift procedure. I also believe that the damage to the right rear wheel axle (the right rear wheel hub and suspension stays showed the most damage) was also caused by that improper lift procedure. The damaged right rear wheel axle caused damage to the recently replaced (in June of 2013) rear right wheel hub assembly. Arrggghhh!

After negotiations with my insurance company (The Greatest Insurance Company Ever! - USAA), I ended up being covered for all the repairs. Based upon photos and testimony (from me and the mechanics involved in the repairs), my insurance company agreed that this damage was caused to my Volvo by someone working at one of the repair places. Because it wasn't a defect or normal wear, the insurance company covered the repairs. USAA decided to allow this damage claim under the original claim (made back in June of 2013). The repairs were all completed by the 21st of November, and I was able to drive my vehicle once again.

My insurance company (USAA) has now (by the 26th of Nov, 2013) compensated me for more than $2,154.00 worth of repairs. All I paid was a $100.00 deductible (A single $100.00 deductible and I'm driving safely again. I wish I knew precisely where/how the damage occurred). The link below will take you to a gallery of annotated photos showing the damage and my explanation of what happened. Hopefully this will be the last time I'll have to repair my vehicle from the damage caused by that improper lift procedure. The longer you own a vehicle, the more repairs you require, the more opportunities there are for someone to destroy your vehicle. I wish I was able to do these repairs myself.
<http://www.robsworld.org/whatsnew/wn2013/wn2013_jun.html#whodamagedmyvolvo1>
<http://robsworld.org/galleryphotos/index.php/Damage-to-Volvo---2013>

Airport TimecapsulePower Outage:
I was taking a day off work when the power went off. I was spending some 'quality time' configuring my new computers... Integrating a new computer into your network is never an easy chore, and I budgeted an entire week (yes I took a week off of work) in order to get everything up and running properly. I took an entire week off in order to upgrade my computer(s), and I'm still having issues. Hooray for new Computers (One new iMac (3.5GHz Intel Quad Core i7 w/32GB of RAM and a 1TB Fusion Drive) running Mac OS 10.9/Mavericks, and one old/used Mac Mini (2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Duo w/16GB of RAM and 2x500GB HDD) running the server version of 10.6.8/Snow Leopard.

Add in a new TimeCapsule and a new RAID array, and I've been dealing with numerous network connectivity issues, backup issues, software and account migration issues, wi-fi issues, and many more problems. It's a good thing I took a week off of work to deal with all theses issues. If I hadn't I might have been dealing with these issues for the next three months. The computer upgrade is stressful enough. I try my best not to blame the minor issues (connecting to the network, getting new memory and storage connected, configuring the hardware and software, etc) on the computers and software manufacturers. These issues are typically solved with a bit of patience and persistence.

Of course a power outage (on the morning of 20 Nov, 2013) at 0542mdt didn't make things any easier. With all the computer problems I was working through, my first thought was "Holy Shit - What did I do now!?" It was still dark out and I thought for sure it was just my house. There were no indications that the power might go off. No flickers, no bad weather, no heavy duty wind... I was in the middle of a computer reboot when the outage occurred, and that's not good. I thought for sure that I had wrought some dire damage upon my computer and more. I made my way to a window (the kind in the walls of my house not the kind on a computer), and was 'relieved' to find that it wasn't my fault - or so I prayed - the entire block was dark and silent. No porch lights visible. I saw a few lights, but those were likely solar powered lights. The entire neighborhood was experiencing a power outage. I was relieved! Sort of...

Since moving here (to South East Aurora) in May of 2005, we've experienced very few power outages. In the first year; when the community was still heavily under construction, we might have experienced a dozen outages. After that, the few outages we experienced could easily be explained by lightning strikes and accidents where a local transformer were damaged. Maybe five or so since 2005.

I called Xcel* and notified them that the power was out. Apparently they already knew about it. They said it would be restored in 1 - 4 hours. This particular outage lasted less than an hour, and my computer recovered properly from the unexpected interruption in the restart. Whew! I have to give credit to Xcel Energy. They're quite good at maintaining the electrical grid/infrastructure in this area. We won't discuss their prices or administrative practices for now. I never saw any explanation in the news, I'm just glad it didn't damage any of my equipment, and the power was restored in a short period of time.

Note: *I called Xcel using my cellphone, as my home phone wasn't working (due to the power outage). My home phone is now (as of Oct, 2013) a VoIP appliance. My home phone works by way of the internet. When I was considering the switch, some people (notably the Alarm company and the phone company) tried to dissuade me from switching off the traditional POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service) line because I'd be unable to make calls if the power fails, and my home alarm system wouldn't work during a power outage. I questioned these claims. I indicated that I have a cell phone, that the cell towers have back up power, and thus they're just as reliable in a power outage situation. They still disagreed, claiming that the cell towers run on municipal power. How wrong they were! Everyone carries a cell-phone these days. My cellphone was unaffected. Even if the cell tower was located within the area of the power outage, the cellular carriers have back-up power supplies for just such problems. While it's possible that an extended outage may have affected the connectivity of my cell phone or my battery might have lost its charge, the reliability of municipal power makes that possibility a faint and feeble excuse for saving me more than a thousand dollars a year ($85 / month (for my traditional home phone) = ~$1,020.00 / year vs $Free)
<http://www.robsworld.org/whatsnew/wn2013/wn2013_oct.html#mynewhomephone>

Airport TimecapsuleAirport Time Capsule - Failure:
As part of my recent Computer update/upgrade (see below), I purchased a new Airport Time Capsule. Apple's Time Capsule is a wireless network product sold by Apple Inc., featuring network-attached storage (NAS) and a residential gateway router. Essentially, it's an AirPort Extreme wireless router with an internal hard drive. Apple describes it as a "Backup Appliance", designed to work in tandem with the Time Machine backup software utility. I've owned one since 2009 (they were introduced in Jan of 2008), and it was time to update mine. So, I purchased a new one. I purchased one of the new 5th Generation versions. The shape has changed from a short square device (similar to a Mac Mini or the original AppleTV) to an extruded cube shaped cylinder. The new Timecapsule featured a simultaneous dual-band wireless network capability which uses 802.11 DSSS 1 & 2 Mbit/s standard, 802.11ac (draft)/a/b/g/n. The new 802.11ac protocol promised greater wireless connectivity speeds, and stronger signals with a beam-modelling feature which would automatically figure out where your 802.11ac capable devices were, and shape the wireless beam to optimize strength and connectivity between the router and the connected device(s).

Unfortunately, the new Time Capsule (with a 3TB hard drive for Time Machine backups) failed to perform as expected. I could create a secured wireless network, but I could not make that network 'invisible'. No matter what I did, I could not create a 5GHz 'non-public' wireless network. In addition, I couldn't get the Time Capsule to pair or work with my Airport Express wireless router/extender. I tried to set up the networks on my own, and worked at it for three days before I finally broke-down and called the Apple Care/Support number. They weren't as helpful as I've experienced in the past. Of course I was patient, and I answered all their questions. We started from scratch, troubleshooting everything that could be causing the problems. No matter what we tried, we could not get the Time Capsule to create a hidden network (which is o.k. - I can live with that) or allow my Airport Express to pair with the base station. In the end, I ended up connecting the brand new Time Capsule to my network by tethering it (via Ethernet) to the Mac Mini in my living room. There I was able to add it to my network as a Time Machine destination, and remove it from any network/base-station responsibilities.

I was very disappointed with this solution. I really wanted to take advantage of the new faster speeds available with the 802.11ac protocol, and the beam-shaping capabilities of the new base station. The technician who helped me never offered to replace the unit, a refund was offered, but I still needed a 3TB appliance to support my Time Machine backup responsibilities. I should have opted for the refund, and simply purchased a 3TB hard drive or NAS for backup purposes. Well, what's done is done. Unfortunately, this means I'll have to continue using my 1st generation Time Capsule (with 500GB hard drive) as my primary base station. It still functions properly, but I wonder whether it will serve me for another 5 years? I sure hope so. Here's a situation where Apple's support and warranty basically failed me. I purchased a new product, I expected it to perform in accordance with the advertised specifications, but it didn't. Apple did not follow through on their promises to me. I should have pressed the matter more forcefully, but this is one instance where I had enough. I just wanted to get on with life. I went several days (3 days on my own, and another 3 days with the Apple technician) without any internet connectivity, and I was tired of explaining what was happening, completing every conceivable troubleshooting step, and trying to make this brand new Apple device work with my existing network and my Apple devices...
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AirPort_Time_Capsule>

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

Graphic ConverterGraphicConverter:
Thorsten Lemke (of Lemkesoft) completed work on a few updates over the past week. I recently saw/downloaded the following update: 8.8.3 (b1378). 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 what 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 (and no monthly subscription fees!), this photo editor puts a huge wrench in your toolbox. The full release version: 8.6 (b1200) finally introduced layers proper to the toolkit; putting GraphicConverter on an ever closer footing with the likes of PhotoShop, at a fraction of the price. A highly versatile application with all the bells and whistles of the top end editors.
<http://www.lemkesoft.de/en/products/graphicconverter/overview-of-new-features-and-versions/>
<http://www.lemkesoft.de/en/products/graphicconverter/key-features/>

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>

Nov 16, 2013

AppleTV updateAnother AppleTV update:
On the 14th of Nov, 2013, Apple rolled out another AppleTV update. This particular update was released in order to patch a security vulnerability. Applicable to the 2nd generation and later (of the AppleTV), this particular patch addresses a secure transport vulnerability, which could allow a privileged user to capture or modify data protected within an SSL/TLS session. Apple is always working to keep you safe, even when the attack can only be executed by someone who already has privileged access to your network.

It's a close call, but I now consider the AppleTV to be the superior set top streaming box. Slightly edging out the Roku player, I find the overall AppleTV experience (primarily the user interface) superior to that of the Roku player. If you want variety in choices, chose the Roku over the AppleTV. Having both gives me the best of both worlds. If only Apple would add more channel choices - like Amazon video!
<https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT202933>
<https://www.apple.com/appletv/whats-on/>
<http://www.apple.com/appletv/>

iOS 7.0.4Apple releases iOS 7.0.4:
It hasn't been too long, and Apple has already released another major update for the latest iOS. The iDevice operating system is running on version 7.0 at the moment. Released on the 18th of Sep, 2013. A point update (7.0.1) was released on the 19th of Sep, 2013. 7.0.1 was released to fix some bugs on the iPhone 5C and 5S. I didn't see that update at all (still using my iPhone 4S at this time). On the 26th of Sep, 2013, Apple released version 7.0.2. On the 22nd of Oct, 2013, Apple released version 7.0.3, and another release - Version 7.0.4 was posted on the 14th of Nov, 2013.

The adoption rate for iOS 7 was quite high and quite rapid, reaching 35% in just one day. After just four days (by the 22nd of Sep), the new OS was installed on more than 200m devices. According to Apple iOS 7 adoption was "the fastest software update in history" - I'm not quite sure what that means, but it didn't mean everyone was happy. As soon as the new OS was released, Apple started receiving complaints, and the press started reporting them. Thankfully, it didn't take Apple very long to address some of the concerns and patch most of the bugs. The 7.0.4. update was pushed out to patch a flaw with In-App purchases. A security flaw allowed users to complete transactions without providing a password. This update also addressed failed FaceTime calls which affected some users.
<https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT202883>
<http://www.apple.com/ios/whats-new/>
<https://support.apple.com/kb/DL1701>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IOS_7>

Emusic 'roll-over' issueeMusic Roll-Over issue:
Recently (appx 0400MST 13 Nov, 2013) I had a problem while downloading my latest batch of eMusic goodness (Established in 1998, eMusic is an online music and audiobook store that operates by subscription. In exchange for a monthly subscription, eMusic users can download a number of tracks (based upon their subscription plan and the cost of those tracks) to their MP3 players per month. Music tracks typically cost $0.49 or less (depending on your plan and the track). When I finished downloading this recent batch of new music (new to me!), I was stuck with a Music Balance of $0.43 cents to spend on something --- Problem: The cheapest tracks I could find cost $0.49 (not counting free, which doesn't really help). My balance didn't say 'Will carry over', so how was I supposed to spend $0.43? There's no way to sort by price in the 'Browse' function (although I have asked for/recommended that functionality).

I was quite frustrated, thinking I had to look through the entire catalog until I stumbled across something (that I probably don't want) for $0.43 cents (or less)? What's the minimum cut off for 'Carry over'? I thought it was $0.49 (since that appears to be the cheapest track price). I sent a message to eMusic, and then engaged in a 'we said', 'I said' conversation where I described a situation where eMusic used to tell you 'Up Front' that your 'remainder' would roll over. Now it seems that don't do that any longer. I'm guessing that they're hoping that people will forget that they haven't spent the minimum needed for roll-over credit... Anyway, they eventually (after I sent in screen shots and documentation showing the way they used to keep you informed) relented and admitted that they used to be more informative in the way they notified you of the 'roll-over' amount remaining.

In the end they said: "Because you are a valued eMusic member we are setting your account up to transition into a 30 day rollover version of your current membership plan. This will cost the same amount you are spending now, and you'll get the same spendable balance you get now, but your paid membership amount will roll over for an additional 30 days. Please note, any free, bonus, or courtesy amounts we add will not roll over. Your new 30 day rollover plan will go into affect on your next refresh date December 8, 2013. Please let us know if there is anything else we can help you with." Once again, eMusic proves to be a customer focused portal for fans who demand their own physical copies of music, and not simply another streaming service. Thank you eMusic. It's your customer service that has kept me coming back, year after year. I've been a customer since 2006 (eMusic has been around since 1998! - They were the first digital media retailer and sold the first MP3 players on the internet), and I've always enjoyed your responsive customer service, fair pricing and great selection. Keep up the good work!
<http://www.emusic.com/info/help/membership-plans/>
<http://www.robsworld.org/music.html>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emusic>

Computer Upgrade - 2013Computer Upgrade - 2013:
Purchased in November of 2013, Kim and I planned and saved for nearly five years. With a budget of appx $7,500.00 (I didn't spend all of that), I planned a computer upgrade November of 2013. I can actually afford a slightly beefier upgrade now that I'm not in the military anymore. With my new career (as a civilian), I can finally afford some of the nicer toys offered to consumers these days. The last computer was purchased in May of 2009, it lasted a long time, and it did it's job well. With the purchase of our new computer, the old work-horse will make it's way back to Wisconsin. I'm planning to hand it down to a Niece who's enrolled in college courses and living on a very limited income. Here are some of the details regarding the new computer purchase(es).

  • Hardware:
    • Machine type: iMac (27-inch, late 2013). I chose an iMac instead of a Mac Pro this time around. In comparisons of computing power for my needs, I now find that the iMac line has sufficient power to handle my computing needs. You no longer need a Mac Pro to do video editing, rendering, production. In the past, the iMac line couldn't adequately handle this type of application (in my opinion). Since occasional video production is now my most CPU/Graphics intensive application, I can easily switch over to the iMac line for my needs.
      • CPU Type: 64 bit, 22nm, fourth generation 'Haswell' chip. The CPU contains a 3.5GHz quad-core i7 processor (4 processors on one chip).
      • CPU Speed: This particular build to order option cost $200 more than the standard 3.5GHz quad-core Intel Core i5 processor (with Turbo Boost up to 3.6GHz). With the Turbo Boost (automatically enabled based upon processor load), this CPU can clock up to 3.9GHz. Each core has a dedicated 256k level 2 cache, and each core shares a single 8MB level 3 cache.
      • Number of Cores: This CPU supports 'Hyper Threading', giving this desktop iMac access to/the ability to recognize eight total 'cores' or 'threads' (four real/four virtual).
    • Memory: The base model comes equipped with 8GB (2x4GB - Two slots unoccupied) of 1600MHz PC3-12800, DDR3 SDRAM SO-DIMMs (204-pin) - The machine has four memory slots (optimized as one slot per core on the CPU). Following the 'bigger is better' maxim, I maxed out the RAM. Apple wanted $540 in order to max out the RAM at 32GB. I opted for a second party upgrade (installing it myself) for appx $350.00.
    • Hard drive: With only one storage bay, I'll need to connect external drives via USB and/or Thunderbolt in order to get the same kind of redundancy/storage I had on the old Mac Pro. This model has a few configurable storage options. I selected (for $200 more than the base model) the 1TB fusion drive. A 1TB Serial ATA drive running at 7200rpm, fused to a small (128GB) SSD drive for optimal speed. The 1TB drive is more than spacious enough for my current needs.
    • Media drive: The iMac doesn't come with any media drives (CD or DVD). I purchased a USB SuperDrive for any disk reading/writing needs. Model MD564ZM/A is a slot-loading 8x SuperDrive (DVDA±R DL (double-layer)/DVDA±RW/CD-RW). Writes DVD+R DL and DVD-R DL discs at up to 6x speed. Writes DVD-R and DVD+R discs at up to 8x speed. Writes DVD-RW discs at up to 6x speed and DVD+RW discs at up to 8x speed. Reads DVDs at up to 8x speed. Writes CD-R discs at up to 24x speed. Writes CD-RW discs at up to 16xspeed. Reads CDs at up to 24x speed.
    • Internet connection: 12Mbps(download)/2Mbps(upload) always-on cable (Motorola SB5100 SURFboard cable modem) internet connection (Comcast) w/DHCP IP assignment.
    • Wired/Wireless Network: I'm planning to buy one of the new ME182LL/A Airport Time Capsules. The 3TB model (~$379.00). The Time Capsule is a simultaneous dual-band (2.4GHz/5.0GHz) wi-fi base station (Apple's Airport Extreme router) with 802.11a/b/g/n/ac wireless, Bluetooth (modified in Apr 2012 to use an external antenna), an Ethernet WAN port, three Ethernet LAN ports, and one USB port. It supports the following protocols: NAT, DHCP, PPPoE, VPN Passthrough (IPSec, PPTP, and L2TP), DNS Proxy, IPv6 (6to4 and manual tunnels). There's a 3TB hard drive inside the casing for use as a Time Machine backup (I'll use this one with my new iMac). I've also got an older MB764LL/A Airport Time Capsule. It's a 500GB model, with 802.11a/b/g/n simultaneous dual-band wi-fi capabilities (I'll use this one with my wife's laptop). I've also got an Airport Express in my network. It's serving (through the ethernet connector) an older Roku player that would otherwise slow my network down.

Those are some of the stats for the new iMac. I also purchased a Mac Mini (Model MC438LL/A). It's loaded with 4GB of RAM, but I bought a 16GB upgrade kit from OWC. This machine is/will be configured as a Snow Leopard Server for use as a media server in the living room. With Snow Leopard on it, I'll have access to the 'Rosetta' emulator in order to run older PowerPC compatible/translated applications. For more of the details, see my Computer page. Yup, I've got a page dedicated to my computer. On it you'll find all the exciting details regarding my computer. Hooray! You know you're going to love it. ..well, I know I will. :-). I've also made my 'purchase order' available, if you'd like to examine all the items I purchased in greater detail. With these new computer purchases, I updated the following documents: mycomputer.html, myfavs.html, computer.png,
<http://www.everymac.com/systems/apple/imac/specs/imac-core-i7-3.5-27-inch-aluminum-late-2013-specs.html>
<http://www.robsworld.org/computerupgrade2013_invoice.png>
<http://www.robsworld.org/mycomputer.html>
<https://support.apple.com/kb/SP688>

Nov 9, 2013

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

GPGMail is an open source plugin for Apple's Mail application. It provides the functionality to sign, verify, encrypt and decrypt messages/documents (including email messages) using the OpenPGP standard. The GPGTools package (all the Mac GPG tools in one download) contains the GPGMail plugin (updated to version 2.1 (build 601) with the recent release of Mac OS X 10.9/Mavericks). I use this software in conjunction with with Apple's Mail.app for encryption, decryption, and message authentication. If you would like to correspond in secret, please take note of my Public Keys. Unfortunately, the installation of Apple's newest operating system (10.9/Mavericks) wasn't without problems, and they recently released another new version of their email application. This particular Mail update includes improvements to general stability and compatibility with Gmail. It also includes some additional fixes that improve the compatibility and stability of Mail. Of course this new version of Mail.app rejects my GPGMail plugin. After installing the new version of the Mail.app, I had to reinstall the GPGMail plug-in. Thankfully that's all I had to do. After re-installing the plug-in my email signing and encrypting capabilities were restored.

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

One of the best parts of this software? The developers! They're fantastic. Whenever I have a problem or question, they're eager and willing to help with a patch, troubleshooting or detailed instructions. The project/developers aren't working for a profit, they do it because they believe in the open availability of secure email.
<https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT202874>
<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/>

Hotmail Hates HostRocketHotmail Hates HostRocket:
Over the last few days, I've begun experiencing considerable issues with my hosting provider. I use a service provider called 'HostRocket' to host several websites and my email services. Over the last couple of days, I've been receiving numerous email bounces from email sent by HostRocket's email servers. The email being affected is being sent by the mailing list service running on one of the shared hosts. I use this shared host for mailing lists. My Neighborhood Watch, RobsWorld, and Tollgate Crossing mailing lists are all hosted on this hosted server.

Unfortunately for me, someone using the shared host is sending spam. Hotmail (aka live.com, msn.com, outlook.com, hotmail.com) has decided to mark all email originating from that IP address/email server as being suspect (aka spam!). Currently, I can't send email (via the mailing list) to any of the mailing lists subscribers that use Hotmail (aka live.com, msn.com, outlook.com, hotmail.com) for their email services. That's thousands of subscribers. People subscribed to our South East Aurora Neighborhood Watch, my personal RobsWorld mailing lists, or the Tollgate Crossing community mailing lists.

Subscribers do not receive my messages (messages from the mailing list) and I receive a bounce message (when I'm the originator of the mailing list message) from Hotmail. Not only are these subscribers unable to receive email from my mailing list services, my domains are being implicated as sources of spam, because they all trace back to that shared host (by way of the mailing list servers). I've written my hosting provider, but they seem unwilling or unable to deal with the problem. For that matter, I don't think they actually know what's happening. It's a direct consequence of the low pay they dole out to the personnel that manage their services.

While I continue to troubleshoot and document the issue, the hosting provider seems content to let Hotmail besmirch their name. After all, a lot of the blow-back is affecting my name (I'm the registered owner of many domains on the shared host). In the meantime, the hosting provider immediately suspects me of being the source of the 'spam' that Hotmail is using as its source of complaints. Getting answers or action from my hosting provider is just as difficult as getting Hotmail to respond or interact with me. The problems persist, and my displeasure with this hosting provider grows by the minute.

MavericksSMB2 implementation = Big problems:
On the 22nd of Oct, 2013, Apple released it's latest desktop operating system. The tenth release of OS X, this new desktop (and server) OS is touted for bringing the 'Power to the Desktop'. Originally announced in June of 2013 (at WWDC (World Wide Developer Conference), this OS marks the first of the non 'Big Cat' based coverterms. The name Mavericks is based upon a place in California (a surfing location). A place where you can experience 'Big Waves'. With more emphasis on iOS integration, enhancements to the Finder (the Mac OS desktop), improved iCloud integration and features for power users, Mac OS X 10.9 is another evolution in the Desktop OS arena.

One of the things introduced with Mavericks was a new version of SMB. SMB (Server Message Block) is an application layer network protocol, used to provide shared access to files, printers, serial ports, network attached servers, and other devices connected to your network. While the protocol was originally designed (in the late 80s) by Berry Feigenbaum of IBM, Microsoft has made considerable use and modifications to the protocol over the years. The versions/flavors of SMB used now (as of 2013) are part of an open-source reverse-engineered version.

SMB2 is one of those later versions. SMB2 was introduced Microsoft for use as a LAN (Local Area Network) file sharing protocol upgrade to previous SMB implementations. SMB2 is used by many NAS devices and file servers. With the release of Mac OS X 10.9 (Mavericks), Apple is embracing the SMB2 protocol. Unfortunately the support in Mavericks isn't complete or fully tested... Since I've upgraded to OS 10.9, I've had nothing but problems with SMB2 protocol. Using SMB2 protocol on my Mac has effectively crippled my NAS it now takes hours to transfer files. I lost several photo and music files. Files that were stored on the NAS and served up by iPhoto and iTunes. I've had to re-host all those files back on a locally attached drive. I'm currently in the middle of my file recovery efforts. Scouring other drives, backups and download sites for copies of my missing files.

The most annoying part is Apple's lack of response and apparent failure in testing SMB2 before the release and inclusion of SMB2 in Mavericks. Apple announced that it was replacing AFP (Apple Filing Protocol) back in July, and I assumed that the new protocol (SMB2) would be/had been thoroughly tested before it was released. Thankfully, I've found some support from the Samba community, but it appears that Apple decided (after Samba (developers of SMB2) decided to license the software under GPL3 (GNU's General Public License 3)) to go with it's own implementation of SMB2. Something called SMBX instead of the standard SMB2 protocol.

I've been struggling to recover music, movies and other files from my barely responsive NAS device (Buffalo Technology LinkStation Pro Duo 4 TB (2 x 2 TB) RAID Network Attached Storage LS-WV4.0TL/R1 (Black)). Thank goodness for Apple's iTunes Match (iTunes Music Match) service. I was able to recover 24 tracks that I couldn't get back from my NAS. Apple's iTunes Match service allowed me to easily recover the missing tracks. I simply deleted the versions iTunes couldn't locate (they were on my NAS), and downloaded Apple's copies of my music. iTunes Match even allows me to recover copies of music that I didn't buy through the iTunes Store (most of my music was purchased through eMusic).

While struggling with my NAS was lots of fun (Not!). I now find that my NAS is completely bricked. After attempting various fixes for my SMB2 problems, I've changed numerous configuration files and attempted various code level changes to my networking preferences. The result is a NAS that won't respond to any commands. I've tried using CIFS, SMB1, AFP and several other protocols. I've completely hosed the NAS. I blame Apple! The NAS was working fine before the change to SMB2 under Mavericks. Once it stopped serving properly (after upgrading to OS 10.9), I should have just disconnected it and waited. I should have waited for an Apple solution... Thankfully I had enough backups available. I was able to recover all my files. Others (and I know a few of those others) weren't so lucky. They were relying on Apple to maintain a reliable file transfer protocol. Now they've lost thousands of photos, files and countless NAS devices.

Despite all the benefits that SMB2 should have brought, the implementation by Apple has turned it into a smoldering disaster. I can no longer use external storage devices with any reliability. Apple's implementation (mishandling) of SMB2 has completely derailed my ability to do it myself. I don't know how I'm going to revive my non-responsive Buffalo NAS, and I don't know when or if I can ever trust Apple to provide reliable networking software again. I'm starting to think that I might need a Windows machine (or a paid hosting/remotely served solution) in order to externally host and share my ever-growing collection of movies, music, photos and other files. It's a very sad day. At the moment I'm unable to electronically share these files with other computers outside my network (i.e. remotely). Apple has really let us down.
<http://www.zdnet.com/article/mavericks-smb2-problem-and-fixes/>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GNU_General_Public_License>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Server_Message_Block>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ICloud#iTunes_Match>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OS_X_Mavericks>
<https://www.apple.com/itunes/itunes-match/>

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 to resident and maintaining close ties with the local Police Department in order to help keep residents safe and neighborhoods crime free. Over the last couple of weeks I took some time to update some web pages.

  • Welcome: The website's opener. A page containing an introduction to the Neighborhood Watch program and it's volunteers.
    • I updated the page to add a banner/announcement for our next/upcoming neighborhood watch meeting - The next meeting will be held: Dec 5th, 2013.
  • Current: A web page dedicated to the most recent news, announcements and information.
    • I updated the page to add a banner/announcement for our next/upcoming neighborhood watch meeting - The next meeting will be held: Dec 5th, 2013. The meeting will be held at the Tallyn's Reach Library (adjacent to the police station), starting at 6:30pm.
    • Removed the Blackstone mailing list announcements. Blackstone is the latest SE Aurora community to have its own Neighborhood Watch mailing list.
  • Events: A listing of upcoming and recurring events in you Southeast Aurora Neighborhood. Events sponsored by or relevant to our Neighborhood Watch.
    • I updated the information about our upcoming Neighborhood Watch meetings. Removed the info about the meeting held in Oct of 2013. Updated information about our next Neighborhood Watch meeting.

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/eMail_lists_files/websiteandmailinglists.pdf>
<http://www.southeastaurora-neighborhoodwatch.org/Welcome.html>

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

  • Welcome: The website's opener. A page containing an introduction to our community website. Here you'll find all the latest news and announcements.
    • I rearranged the banners and announcements on the front page - It's something I do to indicate a change (updates) in the content.
    • Updated the dates for an upcoming Tollgate Crossing HOA meeting date. Next meeting date is 20 Nov, 2013.
    • I posted an announcement regarding the next Tollgate Crossing Metro District meeting. The next meeting is 26 Nov, 2013.
  • Events: A detailed listing of upcoming and recurring events in and around Tollgate Crossing. Here is more detailed information regarding some of the events you may have read about on the 'Welcome' page. It's also a place to look for long term/recurring events.
    • I updated the announcements regarding the next Tollgate Crossing MD meeting (on the 26th of Nov). As usual, the meeting will be held at our clubhouse.
    • Updated the announcement for the next Tollgate Crossing HOA meeting (20 Nov, 2013). Also held at our clubhouse.
  • Info: A page of links, phone numbers, email addresses and other information pertinent to the residents/community of Tollgate Crossing.
    • Added a new Metro District meeting minutes (from Sep 24th, 2013).
    • Removed some old Metro District meeting minutes. All the minutes are still available (email me if you'd like to see old meeting minutes); they're just not on the website.

My community website (the 'Tollgate Crossing' website) is a personal website that I use to keep the residents up to date on all matters regarding our community. I ask for and appreciate the cooperation of the HOA and MD boards in this effort (as neither has/maintains a website where residents can obtain such information). I do not work for the board or the management company. I do my best to serve the community and it's residents. If you are a resident of 'Tollgate Crossing' (in Aurora, Colorado), you might want to check out the website, mailing lists or bulletin boards. They're loaded with information about our community, provide multiple venues for communications, community interaction and interactive ways to stay connected in Tollgate Crossing. If you'd like to help out by being a moderator, provide feedback, or help me with my coding efforts, please let me know. I'm open to your suggestions.
<http://www.tollgatecrossing.org/Welcome.html>

AppleTV updateMinor AppleTV update - no big problems:
On the 3rd of Nov, 2013, Apple released a new AppleTV update. This version 6.0.1 update was released just after/in conjunction with the release of iOS 7.0.3 (at the end of Oct 2013). This minor update had no new features, and Apple's release notes were quite spare on the details. According to Apple, this update delivers stability and performance updates, including general performance and stability improvements. I'm guessing they corrected some of the major problems noted in the previous problems noted in the 6.0 update. That major update 'bricked' the Apple TVs of some users. Thankfully most of those 'bricked' Apple TVs were restored by a simple restart. In some cases the users had to connect the device to a computer (via micro USB) and restore the Apple TVs software using iTunes.

I consider the AppleTV to be the superior set top streaming box (superior to my Roku player and two different 'connected' BluRay player solutions (One Panasonic, one Sony)). I find the overall AppleTV experience (primarily the user interface) superior to that of the Roku player. If you want variety in channel choices, chose the Roku over the AppleTV. Having both gives me the best of both worlds. If only Apple would add more channel choices - like Amazon video!
<https://www.apple.com/appletv/whats-on/>
<http://support.apple.com/kb/HT4448>
<http://www.apple.com/appletv/>

Software favorites:
Several updates to some of my favorite software applications came in early during the month of November. Many of the updates were spurred by Apple's release of two Operating Systems over the last few weeks. The new desktop OS (10.9 / Mavericks) and the new iOS update (7.0). 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 GC 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, there's another set of updates to refresh the Bruji trio of 'collectibles' applications: DVDpedia, CDpedia and Bookpedia. And finally, there's an updated version of Transmit available.

Graphic ConverterGraphicConverter:
Thorsten Lemke (of Lemkesoft) completed work on a slew of beta releases over the last week or so. I missed a bunch of the updates, but I caught up with the following update: 8.8.3 (b1371). 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.de/en/products/graphicconverter/key-features/>

DVDPediaDVDPedia:
DVDPedia is a great little application for cataloging and displaying your movie collection, and I'm running version 5.1.10. It's list of features is impressive, and it keeps getting better with every update. The database is capable of generating statistics, you can keep track of multiple collections, you can easily add titles by typing the name of the movie or you can scan the barcode (using your iSight camera or a barcode reader) right off the movie box (it then searches the internet, and displays choices). It has customizable HTML export capabilities, a 'borrowed' feature with address book integration, the ability to play movies in full screen mode, and many more features which make an awesome addition to your software library. I use DVDpedia to generate HTML listings of my movies and movie reviews.

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

CDPediaCDPedia:
CDPedia is a great little application for cataloging and displaying your music collection, and I'm running version 5.1.10. It's list of features is impressive, and it keeps getting better with every update. The database is capable of generating statistics, you can keep track of multiple collections, you can easily add titles by typing the name of the artist, album, or track. You can scan the barcode (using your iSight camera or a barcode reader) right off a jewel case (it then searches the internet, and displays choices), or you can import lists of music from iTunes. It has customizable HTML export capabilities, a 'borrowed' feature with address book integration, and many more features which make an awesome addition to your software library. I use CDPedia to generate HTML listings of my music.

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

BookPediaBookpedia:
Bookpedia is a great little application for cataloging and displaying your book collection(s), and I'm running version 5.1.10. It's list of features is impressive, and it keeps getting better with every update. The database is capable of generating statistics, you can keep track of multiple collections, you can easily add titles by typing the name of the author, book, or isbn number. You can scan the barcode (using your iSight camera or a barcode reader) right off the book cover (the application searches the internet, and displays choices). It has customizable HTML export capabilities, a borrowed feature with address book integration, and many more features which make an awesome addition to your software library. I use Bookpedia to generate HTML listings of my favorite books.

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

TransmitTransmit:
An FTP tool that does it all. Anyone who publishes web pages eventually needs a way to upload their pages to a web site. I've found that stand alone FTP tools are the best for this task. Transmit (updated to version 4.4.4 on the 3rd of Nov, 2013) has a clean and easy to use interface, and some really nifty features, like the ability to resume a transfer that's been interrupted, advanced site synchronization capabilities (with simulation mode and reporting capabilities), Amazon S3 integration, Sync your favorites using Dropbox, drag-to-dock sending, creation / use of transfer droplets, column views, quick navigation side-bar, multi-connection transfers, built in compression, a built in text editor, remote file editing using local editors, and secure transfer (in various different flavors) capabilities. Check out the Panic.com Release Notes for all the changes made (by version) to Transmit. This particular update was released in order to make the application compatible with the Mavericks OS update.
<http://www.panic.com/transmit/index.html>

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

iPhone 5siGotta new iPhone:
<rave>My 4th iPhone. I bought my first iPhone back in 2007 (16 Sep, 2007), and I've been a fan ever since. I've owned other phones, but nothing that compares - Well, in all honesty, I haven't owned any other smart phones. I've looked at some of the other smart phones (all created as a result of the iPhone phenomenon), but I haven't seen a compelling reason to switch. Apple's u/i and usability have always been the best (as far as I'm concerned), and I really can't see why I would want to own something that's not as easy to use, less intuitive, less secure, not as aesthetically pleasing, not as simple to use, complete and integrated with my lifestyle. The old (pre-iphone) paradigm of what defined a smart phone was shattered when Apple introduced that first iPhone, and I haven't found anything that really competes since. I keep up on the reviews, and occasionally consider the alternatives. I look at the features, the price, the carriers, the contracts, and I always come back to Apple. In addition to Apple, I've also stuck with AT&T since 2007. In my area (the Denver metro area) the coverage is great, and I've never had any billing problems (like I did with Sprint). Thankfully, I'm still grandfathered in with my unlimited data plan, so I don't worry too much about extra charges. On the 1st of Nov, 2013, Kim and I purchased two new iPhones.

I got a 'Space Gray', 32GB, iPhone 5S, and Kim got a new 'Blue', 32GB, iPhone 5C with a black case (the kind with the holes in it). We traded in our old phones. My iPhone 4S, and Kim's iPhone 3GS (my previous phone). The 'recycling' / trade in allowed us a few extra bucks off on our purchase ($183 for the iPhone 4S, $0.0 for the iPhone 3GS), but the phones were still pricey. Apple products are exactly cheap, and we both wanted new phones. It looks like we're both on a 2 year upgrade cycle at this point. After the necessary activation and data transfers, I found myself re-discovering that amazing breakthrough product.

The iPhone; well, just about every 'smart' phone puts the power of the internet in your hands. With the iPhone (and an LTE cellular connection) I can surf the internet while I'm on the phone. Look up the location of a restaurant while I'm making a reservation. Add an appointment to my calendar while I'm talking to the dentist's receptionist. The eco-system, integration, and availability of applications, makes the iPhone an awesome productivity tool, gaming platform, and all-purpose urban survival tool-kit. Clicking on phone numbers from a web page dials the phone. Paired with a blue tooth headset, the hands-free experience is awesome; especially when you leverage the power of Siri (Apple's 'voice assisted technology'). Speak your query using natural language: "Where's the nearest gas station?" and Siri responds with an easy to understand answer: "Checking your location... I found a number of gas stations... 24 of them are fairly close to you." Siri presents a list of gas stations sorted by distance. Clicking on the results presents a map, and there's even a tab which calculates a route from your location. The route is displayed on the map, and pressing the 'Start' button tracks your progress along the highlighted route. Imagine trying to do that while you're driving. Forget about it. No other smart phone can compare! No typing necessary. Just talk to Siri, and press a couple of buttons. Amazing! I can see Siri being extremely useful for all sorts of tasks: "Where can I buy comic books?"... O.k. How about this - I just composed an email, dictated the message, and sent it to my buddy Rob. I did it all with Siri, hands-free! Talk about awesome!

The latest version of iOS makes the new iPhone a joy. The new camera is really awesome. With only 8MP of resolution, it manages to create some truly awesome photos. Great color, excellent white balance, fantastic focus and great built-in editing. The iPhone 5S may seem to some like a minor upgrade from the iPhone 5, but the step up from my 4S was fantastic. Kim is now using a brand new iPhone 5C, and she loves that phone as well. So now we've both got iPhones. With email, calendar, contacts, web surfing, maps and more. Our AT&T plan is a bit pricey, but that's the cost of doing business. The iPhone does everything I want, more than I need, and things I never imagined possible. The Apple Care warranty was a bit pricey; ~$100.00, but it covers everything, including accidental damage. Hopefully, I won't drop my phone while jogging or hang-gliding!</rave>
<http://www.robsworld.org/boseseries2bluetoothheadset.pdf>
<http://www.apple.com/iphone-5c/specs/>
<http://www.apple.com/iphone-5s/specs/>
<http://www.apple.com/iphone/>
<http://www.apple.com/ios/>

Music CollectionNew Music November:
Here's a list of some of the music I recently acquired. Where do I get all this stuff? Well, I used to find/discover a lot of free (actually free) music by visiting several of the new music web sites (Pandora, 3hive.com, musicalfamilytree.org) and several other music blogs (Analog Giant, Brooklyn Vegan, Fluxblog, Gorilla vs. Bear, etc) out there, and listening to a few different music podcasts. Used to... Now? Now (As of Oct of 2010) I subscribe to an online music streaming service called MOG, and I've recently (as of Sep 2011) started using eMusic 'Radio' stations for music discovery. Combined together, these two services provide full-play access to more than 35 million tracks! (16m on MOG (as of Sep, 2012), >19m on eMusic (as of Aug 2013)) Two fantastic ways to discover music, and no need for illegal downloads or pirated tracks. I occasionally use a few of the other methods (music blogs and podcasts), but MOG now serves as my Primary Music Discovery source.

Artists want you to Hear their music - If you like it, you'll buy it, or maybe you'll buy some concert tickets. The major labels of the music industry 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 the music if I can't listen to it first, and no one listens to the radio anymore (I don't because of all the advertising, interruptions, lack of new music and lack of information - you can never figure out who/what is being played) 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 propaganda of the major labels - 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 (Nov of 2013) I downloaded 47 tracks (from eMusic) at the low cost of $22.66... I'm paying a $19.99 monthly fee, so that makes the tracks even cheaper (~$0.43 / 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, and the membership prices (per album) are compared to the non-member prices right up front)). 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. If you still want your own copies of the music, check out eMusic.

* Woodface - Crowded House: (14) Crowded house are the 'descendents' of 'Split Enz'. Tim Finn and Neil Finn (brothers) from New Zealand were two of members of Split Enz. When that band split up in the 80s, Crowded House was formed by Neil Finn and two other Australians. Later, Tim Finn and a few Americans joined the band. With Neil Finn as a vocalist, guitarist and the primary songwriter, it's no surprise that the sound brings me back to Split Enz and the 80s music that formed the majority of my earliest musical experiences. While Crowded House originally broke up in 1996, the band has been reunited since 2006/2007. They've released two albums since then. This album was released in 1991. While it wasn't well received in the U.S. Australians, New Zealanders and I found it to be excellent.
* The Strangest Things - Longwave: (12) A new favorite. Longwave was recommended to me by MOG. An American indie rock band, formed in 1999. This band sounds something like Radiohead, the Strokes, and 70s post-punk band 'Television' (another of my favorites). With only four albums under their name, the band stopped performing in 2008. Melancholy, slow and featuring a good tempo, I plan to listen several times.
* Something Else for Everybody - Devo: (11) One of my favorite bands from the 80s. This American 'rock?' band was formed in 1972. The band first hit it big with 'Whip It' in 1980, and I've loved their style ever since. Yes, they're still together. This album 'Something Else for Everybody' is their latest release. Released in 2010, it's taken me a while, but I finally got around to this band from my roots. Filled with pop-punk gems that remind me of their early 80s work. I definitely recommend it.
* The Sky's Gone Out - Bauhaus: (10) Another favorite band from the 80s. Bauhaus were an English post-punk band, formed in 1978. Peter Murphy (a favorite artist) was the core vocalist, and I unknowingly followed his voice on more than one occasion. One of the original 'goth' rock bands, Bauhaus still makes me stand in place, stare at my shoes and tap my feet while I groove out to their tunes. While they originally broke up in 1983, a reunion in 1998 and 2005-2008 marked a slight come back. This particular album is quite good, and the goth vibe is unmistakable in this classic Bauhaus release.

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