Oct 31, 2013

Obi202 VoIP gatewayMy new Home Phone - Cost per month $0.00:
In the past I've bitched and moaned about the crappy state of home phone service in the U.S. I've made some claim... Like: "I'm definitely going to ditch the residential phone" Well, Hell hasn't frozen over, but I've made good on my claims. I'm free! As of this week (as of 30 Oct, 2013), I'm officially free of the U.S. Telecom scam known as the 'Home Phone' using conventional POTS (Plain Old Telephone System). How did I do it? Well, it wasn't easy, but I managed and here's how.

First of all, I've always hated this telephone monopoly where there's only one carrier available wherever you are. The only way to get competition is for you to move! Really, I have sell my house pack up all my belongings and move to a different city based upon where the telephone service is better? That's the equivalent of competition in the US Residential Telephone marketplace. It's practically the same with Television and Internet. If you want better service, you have to literally move from one city to another. That's what competition looks like in these markets. So how did I escape from the monopoly residential solution?

First step - Cancel your residential home service. Sure it sounds easy, but it's not. Before I could cancel my residential service a couple of things had to happen. First I got laid off (kind of). The recent 'Furloughs' gave me all the incentive I needed to cut some costs. As part of this first step, I had to get my Home Security system moved over to a cellular connection. That actually costs more than running the home security system on a POTS line, but the cost of cutting the residential phone service more than made up for the difference. I was paying appx $85.00 a month for a service that I had replicated in my mobile phone and I wanted to eliminate altogether. Once I got the home security moved over to cellular, I called CenturyLink (my residential phone provider) and told them to 'get lost'. What about your phone numbers and the 'distinctive ring' features? They said. I said, you can keep 'em. I'll get new ones. That hurt a little, but oh well. A new phone number might actually cut down on the number of telemarketing calls I get, and getting rid of the distinctive ring features will definitely eliminate a lot of 'wrong numbers' to that day care who published my phone number in their ad.

Step two - Get a VoIP service. Not just any VoIP service, get one that's inexpensive, yet has all the features you need and want. A VoIP service that has more features than you need and one that has some track record as a reputable service. This was the hard part. There is a LOT of competition in the VoIP services field. There are literally hundreds of companies offering VoIP service. The number of options and price points are quite vast. Example of who NOT to select - Comcast. Who did I select? Google. Google offers a VoIP service called Google Voice. Of course their are others as well; such as Anveo or Phone Power. Take some time and do your research. There are several plans and the prices vary drastically. Keep in mind that these companies are very competitive, and this is your chance to save some money. In the end, I opted for Google Voice. It had all the features I needed, with the added benefit of costing $0.00 per month! Actually - That's not quite fair. To be honest, the cost for Google's VoIP service was $FREE. You pay nothing!

Step three - You will need an appliance, a box, an endpoint device for the VoIP service to work on. I purchased my hardware from ObiHai. They make several different VoIP devices. The one I bought was the Obi202 (~$75.00 on Amazon). It has two phone ports, I have one connected to my Epson Artisan 800 multifunction printer/scanner/fax machine, and another connected to my Panasonic DECT 6.0 base-station. In addition to this base-station, I have three more handsets around the house. This setup (connecting the base-station to the Obi202 device) provides phone service to all the handsets in my home. The device supports up to 4-VoIP services. I've got two different services configured: The Google Voice mentioned earlier (I got a free phone number from Google with an area code in my home town (for local calls from relatives back in Wisconsin), and an Aurora phone number from Anveo. It also supports Obi device-to-device calling, but I've never used that. It also has a USB port for use with ObiWiFi or ObiBT plug-ins. I have the WiFi plugin (~$20.00 on Amazon) so that I can reconfigure or communicate with the device via wifi vs ethernet.

Step four - The difficult part. Configuring your Obi device so that you can make use of that low cost VoIP service. While I initially configured my device with Google Voice VoIP service, I later added a second VoIP service (from Anveo), because there were rumors that Google was going to discontinue their free VoIP service. Configuring the VoIP device wasn't really difficult because ObiHai had lots of instructions available to help guide me through the configuration process. Tutorials with videos were available, so I was able to provision the equipment to use Google Voice with little difficulty. While this step is technically challenging, the extensive help and available resources made it less of a burden than I anticipated.

Once everything was up and running, I performed a series of tests. With my new VoIP service (with just the Google Voice service) I'm able to make and receive phone calls to or from anywhere in the US. International calls have a small charge (less than $0.01 - $0.05 / minute in many cases). The Google number also came with voice mail, email transcripts of voice calls, custom greetings, call forwarding, call recording and many other features. The pay service (Anveo) provided an even greater number of options with more customization. With the Anveo service, I was even able to get 911 service and fax support working. It took me a while to get everything configured properly, but now I've got an extremely cheap home phone service that I can customize to my hearts content. For the cost of the hardware - It cost me appx $100.00 to get it all set up with Google Voice - I've got a service that will pay for itself in under two months. Whereas before, the crappy phone service was costing me $85.00 a month! So don't be daunted by the dread of technological difficulty. Setting up my own VoIP service (don't bother with those expensive solutions like Comcast VoIP or Vonage) was far easier than I had anticipated, and now I'm in charge of the service not someone else.
<http://www.robsworld.org/whatsnew/wn2013/wn2013_jul.html#ustelephoneservice>
<http://blog.obihai.com/2014/09/google-voice-and-obihai-update.html>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Furlough#Furloughs_in_2013>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plain_old_telephone_service>
<http://www.google.com/googlevoice/about.html>
<https://www.anveo.com/consumer/default.asp>
<http://www.phonepower.com/voiphome.aspx>
<http://www.robsworld.org/obi202ds.pdf>

GPGMailEncryption and digital signatures on my Mac:
In the past spammers used to routinely target my digital identity by forging messages to look like they came from me (I used to get a lot of spammers shut down, back in the early days of the 'war against spammers' - 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.

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.
<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 SpamZiff Davis B2B = Spam:
An insanely overzealous spamhaus. This company produces low-end 'newsletters' filled with schlock, useless advice and outdated technical 'articles'. I never subscribed to any of their 'newszines' or online 'magazines', yet once again, I find myself receiving torrents of their crap. Back in July of 2012, I had a similar problem (again Ziff Davis) with one of my other email addresses. This time (September and October of 2013) it's my 'Yahoo' email address. Somehow they got a hold of my Yahoo.com address, and they subscribed me for every one of their crappy 'newszines'. As of September, 2013, my Yahoo account suddenly started receiving spam from the following Ziff Davis B2B spamhaus addresses: pcgadgetsnewsletters.com, pcmagnewsletters.com, logicbuynewsletters.com, savingsmarter.net.

At first I thought they were legitimate, that I had unknowingly signed up for this crap. I unsubscribed to a couple of them, but the spam kept showing up in my inbox. After unsubscribing from one, a new spam would show up with the same content, from a different domain. Eventually I figured out that they were all associated with the Ziff Davis B2B spamhaus. Luckily, I found a 'Global Unsubscribe' site. According to that website, the following 'brands' were associated with the Ziff Davis B2B mailings: Voip-News.com, itmanagement.com, itsecurity.com, hrworld, insidecrm, webhostingunleashed. I had also received spam with similar brands, and a bit more research confirmed my findings. I had not 'willingly' signed up for any of this crap. Someone at Ziff Davis B2B had leased/purchased an email list, and signed me up for their schlock. I didn't 'Opt In' - They 'Opted' me in without my consent. It's just another one of those crappy email marketing policies that get companies in so much hot water.

I immediately - Unsubscribed; as the torrent wasn't slowing and a high of three email messages a day was quite unacceptable. What really surprised me was the efficacy of the 'Unsubscribe' action. At least they honored the unsubscribe. Reporting it as spam via Yahoo didn't do a damn bit of good. After 10 days the spam from Ziff Davis ended completely. I still consider Ziff Davis to be a 'spamhaus' (i.e. creators of crappy content designed to sell you shit you don't want and don't need. users of shady email marketing practices that result in numerous blacklistings as spammers). Thankfully they honored the unsubscribe, which is more than you can say for most spamhaus operations.

If you ever need any help figuring out a problem involving unsolicited email, or help hunting down a spammer, don't hesitate to ask for my help. I'm willing and eager to help. 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://www.edcottrell.com/2007/10/02/ziff-davis-spammers-extraordinaire/>
<http://www.edcottrell.com/2007/11/19/ziff-davis-spam-part-ii/>
<http://www.edcottrell.com/2007/12/20/more-ziff-davis-spam/>
<http://www.robsworld.org/index2.html#fightingspam>
<http://b2b.ziffdavis.com/pages/emailpolicy>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SpamCop>
<http://www.damnspammers.com>
<http://www.knujon.com>

iTunesiTunes updated to version 11.1.2:
Recently (October 22, 2013), Apple updated iTunes to version 11.1.2. I completely missed the 11.1.1 update, but Apple's been releasing updates quite frequently, and it's possible that the 11.1.1 and 11.1.2 updates were both rolled into one update. As far as most people knew, this release (the 11.1.2 update) was another bug fix release. One of the latest additions that seems to be missing from Apple's release notes was the iTunes Radio feature, which first appeared in the 11.1 release. Apple is now offering streaming music for free. If you have a 'iTunes Match' subscription you'll be streaming their 'stations' without any ads. You need to be in the US or have a US iTunes account in order to access this feature (for now). The iTunes Radio feature is also available on mobile devices via the recent iOS 7 update. Shortly after releasing the OS X Mavericks (10.9) desktop OS and all those new versions of the iWorks applications, Apple released this update to iTunes.

In addition to a slew of bug fixes and security patches, this update also brings us Mac OS X Mavericks support, support for some additional languages. As usual, I'm not sure whether this update will make things better or worse. Apple's efforts to keep iTunes running smoothly haven't been meeting with much success of late.
<http://www.apple.com/itunes/>

iOS 7.0.3Apple releases iOS 7.0.3:
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.

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 7.0.3. update not only patched additional security flaws, it also ushered in some new iOS versions of the iWork applications (see below).

  • Some of the bug fixes included:
    • Updated the lock screen to delay the 'slide to unlock' message if Touch ID is being used
    • Fixed an iMessage bug where messages weren't sent and iMessage failed to activate
    • Improved system stability for iWork applications. Fixed an accelerometer issue
    • Fixed bugs with Siri and VoiceOver volume and input recognition
    • Fixed a bug that could have allowed someone to bypass the lock screen passcode
    • Corrected an issue that caused 'supervised' devices to become unsupervised during software updates
  • New features included:
    • Added iCloud keychain support for use websites, wi-fi networks, credit/debit card management, etc
    • Added a password generator to the mobile version of the Safari web browser
    • Re-enabled the web search and wikipedia search options to the Spotlight pull-down menu
    • Updated bold text settings on the telephone dial pad
    • New iOS versions of iWork applications (Pages 2.0, Numbers 2.0, Keynote 2.0). See below (Software favorites) for more information on the iWork updates.

<http://support.apple.com/en-us/HT202855>
<http://www.apple.com/ios/whats-new/>
<http://support.apple.com/kb/DL1691>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IOS_7>

Software favorites:
Numerous updates to some of my favorite software applications flowed in during the month of Oct. 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). There were two groups of updates to the applications that make up Apple's 'Productivity Suite'. The desktop and iOS versions of Pages, Numbers and Keynote were all updated. In addition to the OS updates, Apple also released a new version of it Safari web browser. 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, there's another set of updates to refresh the Bruji trio of 'collectibles' applications: DVDpedia, CDpedia and Bookpedia.

Graphic ConverterGraphicConverter:
Thorsten Lemke (of Lemkesoft) completed work on a slew of beta releases over the last week or so. I recently saw/downloaded the following updates: 8.8.2 (b1365), 8.8.2 (b1366), 8.8.2 (b1367). 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/>

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 stopped developing IE for Mac, and Apple makes a Windows version of Safari?). I'm currently running Version 7.0 (9537.71).

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

Some of the newest features (under the 7.0 release) include: Improved performance for JavaScript and memory usage. A new look for the Top Sites (shows page thumbnails in a grid) and the sidebar (which now includes bookmarks, a reading list, and new social links), A new Shared Links feature. New power saver feature which pauses unused plugins (when not in use). Safari also works seamlessly with the new iCloud Keychain; auto filling credit card info and passwords and syncing that secure info across all you Mac and iOS devices. This time around, Apple really focused on making Safari more memory efficient and reduced it's power consumption. Keeping Flash from constantly running, keeping looping videos and graphics from sucking up your memory and battery life.

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 (6.1) 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://support.apple.com/en-us/HT202844>
<http://www.webstandards.org/action/acid3>
<http://www.apple.com/safari/features.html>
<http://support.apple.com/en-us/HT6074>
<http://www.apple.com/html5/>
<http://www.apple.com/safari/>

iWorkiWork 2013 Update:
Apple's productivity suite is three applications with iCloud integration. I'm running various versions of the component software: The iWork 2013 update (Note that the iWork suite is no longer branded as with a year or decimal designator: This is the 'iWork 2013 Update'. I'm running one version of Apple's Productivity Apps on my desktop and laptops and another version on my iOS devices. The iOS 7.0.3 update delivered new versions of the iCloud enabled applications. The new iOS versions are: Pages 2.0, Numbers 2.0 and Keynote 2.0 (I don't have Keynote 2.0). The Mac OS 10.9 update delivered new versions of the desktop applications. The new desktop versions are: Pages 5, Keynote 6.0 and Numbers 3.0 respectively. These new versions (the new desktop and iOS versions) also came with updated icons.

iWork (Apple's Productivity Applications for the Desktop) now comes in two different flavors. The iWork '09 version, which capped out at Pages 4.3, Numbers 2.3 and Keynote 5.3. Then there's the new 'Apple Productivity Apps' versions. Starting out with Pages 5.0, Numbers 3.0, and Keynote 6.0. The old versions are still available, but they will no longer be updated (they might be patched for security vulnerabilities/bug fixes). The old versions and new versions can coexist on a Mac desktop. The iOS versions continue to work separately, but the new iOS versions will be compatible with the new desktop versions only. In it's current form (which is a confusing mix of desktop and iOS applications) iWork is a home productivity contender; competing against Microsoft Office and the OpenOffice/LibreOffice productivity suites. 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 (The Microsoft applications).

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

PagesPagesPages - Pages is a word processing application with page layout features. Besides basic word processing functionality, Pages includes over a hundred 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). Compatibility with other applications and formats is outstanding. Pages 5 (introduced in Oct of 2013) can no longer read or export rich text format documents. Pages 5 adds online collaboration across Macs and iOS devices as well as over the web via iCloud.com. Unfortunately, Pages 5.0 lacks (they were removed) many advanced features, including mail merge, bookmarks, text box linking, advanced find/replace, alternating left-right margins (along with alternating left-right headers and footers), 2-up "page spread" viewing, non-contiguous text selection, and robust Applescript support. Thankfully, you can still use Pages 4.3. I have both versions on my Macs.

Hopefully, some of these features will find their way back into Pages as the new application is developed and subsequent releases bring us improved features.

KeynoteKeynoteKeynote - 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 dozens of Themes and Transitions to choose from, you can easily find a series of layouts and effects to help get your project started.

The Keynote Remote application (available in Apple's iOS App Store) lets users view slides and presenter notes and control Keynote presentations with an iPhone or iPod touch over a Wi-Fi network. This Keynote Remote application works with the older version (5.3) of Keynote, but there's no compatibility with the new version of Keynote (version 6.0). There's no need for any compatibility with the newer version of the desktop app, because now there's an iOS version of Keynote (the iOS 7.0.3 release introduced Keynote for iOS, version 2.0).

Keynote supports a number of file formats. By default, presentations are saved in a Keynote format. 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. Using the previous version of Keynote (version 5.3), presentations could be sent directly to iDVD, iTunes, GarageBand, iWeb, and to YouTube.

NumbersNumbersNumbers - 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, which was included with iWork '09, integrated 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). This cross-application support was not included in the Numbers 3.0 release (which came with Mac OS 10.9 upgrade). Number 3.0 also added the ability to create interactive charts, and a new user interface resembling the new Keynote and Pages design. Numbers comes with dozens of templates which include embedded formulas, charts and graphs to help you with your planning, tracking and analysis.

The new versions of Pages, Keynote and Numbers all use a completely new file format (as of the iWork update in Oct, 2013 - Released in conjunction with the new Mac OS 10.9 upgrade) that can work across OS X, Windows, and in most web browsers by using the online iCloud web apps. As a result of this change to the basic file format, the current version of iWork (iWork 2013 update) does not open or allow editing of documents created using previous versions. Users who attempt to open older iWork files will see a pop-up telling them to use the previous iWork 09 (which users may or may not have on their machine) version of the application. The current version of iWorks for OS X (the iWorks 2013 versions released with OS X Mavericks 10.9) moves any previously installed iWork 09 apps to an iWork 09 folder on the users machine (in /Applications/iWork '09/), as a work-around to allow users continued use of the earlier suite in order to open and edit older iWork documents locally on their machine.

This complete overhaul and re-design of the iWorks suite changes the application's look and feel, eliminates some advanced features, and makes the old versions incompatible moving forward. These are all draw-backs to the new applications. The iCloud integration should turn into a benefit, but so far Apple hasn't delivered on this iCloud integration. The best part about these new applications? As of September, 2013, Apple has announced that iWork, iMovie and iPhoto would all be available as free downloads on any new iOS devices activated since the 1st of Sep, 2013. So the desktop suite comes free with the Mac OS, and now the iOS apps are free on any new iOS devices. That's good news. That's way cheaper than the $100+ price tag for the Microsoft applications.
<http://www.apple.com/ios/pages/compatibility/>
<http://www.apple.com/iwork-for-icloud/>
<http://www.apple.com/mac/numbers/>
<http://www.apple.com/mac/keynote/>
<http://www.apple.com/ios/numbers/>
<http://www.apple.com/ios/keynote/>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IWork>
<http://www.apple.com/mac/pages/>
<http://www.apple.com/ios/pages/>
<http://www.apple.com/icloud/>

DVDPediaDVDPedia:
DVDPedia is a great little application for cataloging and displaying your movie collection, and I'm running version 5.1.9. 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 5.1.9. 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 5.1.9. It's list of features is impressive, and it keeps getting better with every update. The database is capable of generating statistics, you can keep track of multiple collections, you can easily add titles by typing the name of the author, book, or isbn number. You can scan the barcode (using your iSight camera or a barcode reader) right off the book cover (the application searches the internet, and displays choices). It has customizable HTML export capabilities, a borrowed feature with address book integration, and many more features which make an awesome addition to your software library. I use Bookpedia to generate an HTML listing of my favorite books.

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

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>

MavericksApple releases Mac OS 10.9 / Mavericks:
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.

As I stated previously, the new OS (just like Mountain Lion / OS X 10.8) incorporates more iOS features. Building upon the success of that platform, it certainly seems to me that Apple is moving ever closer to a unified operating system, or at least a common architecture and baseline. The mobile devices running the iOS operating system are becoming more and more sophisticated. With more powerful and faster processors, the portable iOS devices are quickly approaching par with some of the desktop machines. I can see a future where the two operating systems will merge to form a singular OS which runs on portable devices as well as Laptops and Desktop computers. The features released under Mavericks clearly show further harmonization of applications, looks and feel. It won't be long before Laptops will be running iOS, and soon afterwards the two will merge to become the 'Apple OS'. This would be very good for developers, but will it be good for consumers?

Here are some of the new features, applications and changes:

  • Mac OS X 10.9 - Mavericks:
    • iBooks: This book creation application is finally coming to the Mac desktop OS. Great news for those who want to read on their laptops (Students!) or create some awesome interactive books on a platform that's larger than an iPad and easier to control. With iCloud integration, all your iBooks store purchases will automatically show up on all your Apple platform devices. Integration across devices will sync highlights, bookmarks and notes.
    • Maps: iBooks isn't the only app to make it's move from mobile to desktop. Apple is finally porting the mobile Maps app over to your desktop with 10.9. I've been using a google maps app and google maps in the browser for so long that I didn't even think about this logical step from iDevice to Mac OS. Graphics on a desktop machine will surely be smoother, quicker and vastly improved over most of my iDevices. Now I can plan my trip at my desk, transfer the map to my iPhone and receive voice navigation on the way to the restaurant. Maps will also be built into other Mavericks apps - Mail, Contacts and Calendar.
    • Calendar: Apple's calendar app receives a refresh. This is one of many apps that will ditch the 'skumorphic' design treatment. Stripping off the fake leather corners and page flipping animations moves us into an actual consumer electronics environment. Integration with the new Map application, calculating travel times and weather forecasts makes your Calendar more of a planning tool than a reminders app.
    • Safari: Apple's browser picks up a few improvements in the new OS. Speed is one of the improvements. Something you'd expect. Not only does the speed jump up under the new version, but the memory and CPU usage are also reduced - Making everything more responsive. Shared links in the sidebar allows you to share links with people you follow on Twitter and LinkedIn. Top Sites is redesigned to use the floating panels display now used in the tabs CoverFlow (which is a bit difficult to use).
    • iCloud Keychain: A feature which will be shared with iOS. The revised, updated and iCloud integrated Keychain finally returns cross-device syncing and access to the Keychain It's a capability that's been missing for some time, but now its back. iCloud Keychain will not only remember your authentication credentials (user names, passwords, credit card info and more), it will also offer password recommendations, store your passwords securely and sync them across all your Apple devices. Maybe I can stop using my second party solution?
    • Multiple Displays: In the past, Apple's ability to use multiple displays was quite limited. All it would do is extend your desktop, merging two monitors into one big monitor. You couldn't use them independently. Under Mavericks you'll be able to use each monitor independently of the other(s). Each display will have its own Dock and independent menu bars. You can run multiple apps on either display, and even run a full screen on each screen. Mission control is modified to give you a bird's-eye view of multiple displays, allowing drag-and-drop between the multiple displays. You can even drag apps 'across the room' and drop them onto an HDTV enabled with AppleTV via AirPlay - Yes, AirPlay enabled devices will be accessible as a display destination.
    • Notifications: The notifications center on the right hand side of your OS X desktop, and the pop-ups in the corner of your display will now give you more flexibility to get things done. You'll be able to reply to tweets, email, FaceTime video calls and Message chats. If you've stepped away from your Mac you can now view a list of notifications you missed while you were away.
    • Finder Tabs: Something we've been requesting for many years! Finally making its way to the Mac OS Finder. No need to clutter your desktop with multiple windows. Its about time. I switched to a second party solution long ago. Its hard to fathom why it took Apple this long to put tabs in the Finder. The drag-and-drop functionality helps you get things done without switching back and forth between multiple open windows. Unfortunately, given the fact that this is Apple's first attempt at Tabs in the Finder, I can only imagine that it won't have anywhere near the number of features available in many of the second party solutions.
    • Tags: Tags have been part of the Mac OS for a long time (going all the way back to OS 7). Previously known as 'Labels', this 'Tags' capability was/is quite limited (you could only use 7 labels). OS X Mavericks gives them a long needed boost, expanding the functionality. From what I've read, it sounds like these 'Tags' will supplant/replace the current 'Labels' functionality. I hope I don't lose all my current labels. Hopefully they'll become Tags under the new OS. The Tags will now appear in the sidebar (dragging files onto the sidebar Tag category will 'Tag' it with that Tag) and the 'Save' dialog, making them easier to use for sorting and viewing your data. In addition to this welcome update, they'll also sync across devices using iCloud integration.
    • Look and Feel of the UI: There have been a few cosmetic changes to the 'look and feel' of the user interface. One of those changes is the elimination of some skumorphic elements such as the leather texture in Calendar, the legal pad theme of Notes, and the book-like appearance of Contacts.
    • File Sharing: Apple's default protocol for file sharing is now SMB2 (Server Message Block version 2). SMB2 is a Windows protocol (with published standards), introduced with Windows Vista in 2006. This should bring better integration and file sharing with Windows computers and peripherals. I certainly have had plenty of problems with Apple's previous implementation of file sharing protocols. Maybe this will make more disk arrays and network attached servers available for Mac users.
    • LinkedIn Integration: Another option has been added to the 'sharing' dialogues that appear within numerous Mac OS level applications. Personally, I could care less about LinkedIn. I don't care for it one bit - It's a long story, but I won't/don't use LinkedIn.
    • USB Syncing removed: The ability to sync data from various applications (Calendar, Contacts, Notes, Mail, etc) to various iOS devices using a USB cable has been removed, instead requiring the use of iCloud. I'm not entirely sure whether this is a good thing or not. If you don't want an iCloud account you'll have to make do without the ability to sync certain types of data...

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

This update (like the last) is available through the Mac App Store (no discs for sale), it will update users from Mountain Lion (and even Lion (10.7) and Snow Leopard (10.6.8)) to the new OS. Estimates had originally put the price at $19.99 (that's what Mountain Lion cost), but here's the amazing news: As of 22 Oct, 2013 - Apple has announced that all OS upgrades will be FREE! That's right no charge. The Desktop OS is now Free! - Free as in Free Beer! Lets see the competitors top that! The new OS is available now on Apple's App Store.

Apple continues to move iOS and Mac OSX closer to each other. Common functionality and user experience is a goal that Apple is clearly pursuing, and I have to say that this strategy is a good one. There are plenty of apps and features in iOS that I'd like to see on my Mac, and there are lots of capabilities on the desktop that I'd like to see on the mobile devices. Putting the iWork applications in the browser with an iCloud bridge helps move the two operating systems closer, and I wouldn't be surprised if Apple's iCloud becomes the digital hub that holds it all together. Gatekeeper should help keep our Macs more secure as iCloud moves down the promised path. These particular updates should keep the blogs and review sites busy for the next few months. I'm excited and looking forward to all these updates. Can't wait to get my hands on that new Mac OS.
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OS_X_Mavericks>
<http://support.apple.com/en-us/HT202854>
<http://www.apple.com/osx/>

Oct 19, 2013

ComcastComcast Customer Service Sucks!
Comcast Customer service is the worst - Recently (Oct, 2013) I decided to discontinue my traditional telco land-line home phone service. These traditional telephone services (in the U.S.) are a joke (As I've written about previously). While doing so, I had to talk to the Comcast Customer representatives. While they may be great people (individually), Comcast policies and procedures make my life a living hell (first world hell) every time I'm forced to call them. I've wasted several hours over the last week trying to get VoIP service (from Comcast) working in my house... Some of the 'low-lights':

  • They never bothered asking what sort of modem I would need - They just assumed I'd want the modem with voice and wifi capability - Wrong! I didn't want one with wifi (wireless capability). I wanted to continue using my Apple TimeCapsule.
  • They didn't inform me that I would be paying $7.00 a month extra for the Modem.
  • They wouldn't/couldn't/weren't willing to help me configure the VoIP so that it would work throughout my house (i.e. connected to the telephone network in my house)
  • They seemed to think that adequate service (for VoIP) constituted a single phone (provided by me of course) dangling off the back of my modem; which is located in the furnace room in the basement - And for that I should pay appx $40.00 a month!
  • They always ask that I use the last four of my Social Security number as a means of identifying myself - That's a horrible practice, I despise it, and I HATE companies that insist on using the last four of my SSN as identification. I don't want some low paid, disgruntled, customer service representative having access to any of my personal information, let alone my SSN!
  • Over the last week I think I spent two hours on hold waiting for the 'Customer Service Executive'.
    • When they 'transferred' me from one department to another, they seemed to almost always (>50%) end up disconnecting me, and I'd have to call back and listen to that horrid 'elevator music'.
    • The 'Elevator Music' they subject you to while you're on hold is so bad that I think they chose it in the hopes that it would make you hang up or induce suicidal thoughts.
  • Over the last week I think I was hung up on or disconnected a total of twenty times.
  • I wanted to buy my own modem - Didn't want to pay the $7.00 monthly rental fee. Unfortunately, no one at Comcast could tell me which of their 'recommended/certified' modems was VoIP capable and NOT a Wifi modem. From their list of 31 different Docsis 3.0 compliant modems, the 'technicians' could only tell me that all the modems listed are 'compatible'.
  • Even the supervisor couldn't understand that I was looking for a 'Voice capable modem that is not a wireless gateway'. The paltry information available on the Comcast website was so anemic that I was forced to google search each and every modem from their compatible list before I was able to find two modems that were voice capable, but not a wifi router.
    • Unfortunately, only one seemed to be available commercially (The Arris Touchstone TM822G). Unfortunately, it's quite expensive to own; selling for ~$250.00 on Amazon.
    • It took approximately one hour to determine that I would be better off providing my own support - aka looking up each modem individually; because the Comcast tech support had no idea that they were different modems, with different capabilities.
  • When I told a technical assistance person that I wanted to 'discontinue' my VoIP service, they were happy to transfer me to someone in billing - Yes, transfer me. Guess what? They disconnected me, my call got dropped.
    • When I called back and asked for billing (because I wanted to remove the VoIP from my service), guess what? Nope; I didn't get disconnected this time; and I managed to get through to the billing department, but guess what? Well, the 'Customer Support Executive' that I spoke to could only do 'upgrades' she couldn't 'downgrade' my service - Yup, she had to transfer me to someone who only does 'downgrades'!
  • After approximately eight hours of hell on the phone with Comcast 'Customer Service Executives' I managed to learn that I should never ask Comcast for VoIP service, or any service other than the ones I have now, because upgrading is HELL! Where's my 'I Survived Comcast Customer Service!' T-Shirt?

Yes - Comcast sucks! Unfortunately, I'm in the same boat as many other Americans. I'm forced to put up with their suckiness. According to the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), in 2004 and 2007, Comcast had the worst customer satisfaction rating of ANY company or government (Yes - They were rated worse than any government agency! - That includes the IRS!) agency in the country. According to ACSI survey results, Comcast's rating hasn't improved above their highest rating of 64% since the ACSI began tracking Comcast customer satisfaction. That's 13 years of sucky customer service!

The consumer affairs blog 'The Consumerist' named Comcast "Worst Company in America" in 2010, and I wouldn't be surprised if they manage to earn that award again. Not only did they achieve this level of notoriety in 2010, they worked hard to achieve the title. In 2008, 2009, and 2013 they only managed to reach top three tier. The competition is stiff, but I'm sure Comcast can pull it off again. <http://www.theacsi.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=149&catid=&Itemid=214&c=Comcast&i=Subscription+Television+Service>
<http://consumerist.com/2013/04/09/congrats-comcast-youre-only-the-third-worst-company-in-america-this-year/>
<http://consumerist.com/2010/04/26/congratulations-comcast-youre-the-worst-company-in-america/>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criticism_of_Comcast>
<http://customer.comcast.com/contact-us/>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comcast>
<http://comcastsucks.org>

Software favorites:
Another batch of updates for my trio of Bruji.com's 'collectibles' applications: DVDpedia, CDpedia and Bookpedia.

DVDPediaDVDPedia:
DVDPedia is a great little application for cataloging and displaying your movie collection, and I'm running version 5.1.8. 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 5.1.8. 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 5.1.8. It's list of features is impressive, and it keeps getting better with every update. The database is capable of generating statistics, you can keep track of multiple collections, you can easily add titles by typing the name of the author, book, or isbn number. You can scan the barcode (using your iSight camera or a barcode reader) right off the book cover (the application searches the internet, and displays choices). It has customizable HTML export capabilities, a borrowed feature with address book integration, and many more features which make an awesome addition to your software library. I use Bookpedia to generate an HTML listing of my favorite books.

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

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>

Can't buy an iPhoneCan't buy an iPhone!
Why can't I buy any iPhones? It's nearly impossible to buy a new iPhone: Yesterday (on the 17th of Oct, 2013), I wanted to upgrade the phones on our AT&T plan (Now that the furlough is over (see below), and I'm going to receive back pay for the days I couldn't work). We have two iPhones now. An old 3GS and a newer iPhone 4S. We wanted to upgrade to a 5C and a 5S. It's been more than two years since we last upgraded our phones. After five phone calls (back and forth between AT&T and Apple) I learned the following.

  1. Apple stores and AT&T stores have a very limited supply of the new iPhone 5S. You can find the iPhone 5C (in most colors) at most stores (Apple & AT&T), but the only 5S they had in my area (Cherry Creek (Denver), Aspen Grove (Littleton), Park Meadows (Lone Tree)) was a 'Space Gray' model with Verizon service.
  2. The wait with Apple's online ordering for a new 5S (in Gold) is appx 30-45 days.
  3. If you want to take advantage of Apple's 'buy-back' option (where they give you a credit on your new purchase if you trade in your old iPhones), you must complete the iPhone upgrade/purchase and turn in your old phones at the same time. You can't order the new phones, wait for them to come in, then turn in your old phones for a 'discount'.
  4. AT&T 'corporate' says you can order a new iPhone, agree to a 'buy-back' option (get a price quote) when you order, have the 'buy-back' credit applied to your order, then turn in your old phones when you pick up your new iPhone. After some research and a bit of discussion with the AT&T customer service rep, it became apparent that they 'say' I can do this, but the experience of customers has been different. Many customers have been unable to get a credit applied after the pick-up/activation.
  5. The local stores never know (or so they claim) what they're going to get - and they get new stock Mon-Sat - or how many they're going to get.
  6. You can't order a new iPhone for in-store pick-up (at the Apple Store). This really sucks!
  7. You can't make an 'appointment' to purchase/activate new iPhones. It's first come, first serve.

My best bet to get a new iPhone 5S? Wait until after Christmas. Really! Yup, if you want to trade in old phones, get a credit applied to the new purchase, and get a new iPhone 5S (32GB model, in gold, w/AT&T plan), you pretty much have to call the local stores every day, hope they've got the phone you want, and hope they don't sell it before you get there. Note: The iPhone 5C was first available for purchase (not pre-order) on the 20th of Sep, 2013. The iPhone 5S was first available for purchase (not pre-order) on the 21st of Sep, 2013.

While some of this info is suspect - I don't necessarily believe everything these 'customer service' representatives told me - I suspect that it's going to be a long time before I can upgrade my phones. It looks to me like there's a lot of opportunity for Apple's service to improve. That and there stock sucks (Their stock of new iPhones, not the stock traded on the Stock Exchange - I wish I could afford that stock). I suspect that they're intentionally withholding stock (now) in order to meet demand during the Christmas rush (during December).
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IPhone_5C>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IPhone_5S>

Government Shutdown - 2013Congress passes bill reopening federal government:
Yes it's true - our congressional representative forced our government to shut down. Like petulant little children who didn't get their way, they exercised their authority by punishing all of us. Civilian employees, the military, the citizens, the voters. The arrogance and ignorance is unbelievable. In a job where compromise and working with others is mandatory, inescapable and the primary means of getting the job done. These politicians have illustrated to everyone that our political system is broken; a joke filled with temperamental prima-donnas who would rather cripple our nation than do their job by working within the system to make meaningful change. The reality of politics in America - "Fxxk em' if they won't agree with us!" "Just shut it down - Shut it all down! That'll teach 'em a lesson!" This attitude has got to change. The politics of this position are clearly NOT in the best interests of our nation.

On the 16th of Oct, 2013, Congress passed H.R. 2775; basically a continuing appropriations act. It funds the government to continue operations at the 2013 levels. This bill and the Senate version were both passed on the 16th of Oct, 2013 (The senate bill passed 81 to 18, and the House version passed a few hours later, with a vote of 285 for and 144 against). This action funds the government until January 15th, 2014. It also suspends the U.S. debt ceiling until February 7th, 2014. The Act also authorized back payment to the 800,000 government workers who were furloughed during the 16-day government shutdown. The president signed the bill shortly after midnight on the 17th of Oct, 2013. All the federal civilians are now able to get back to work, doing what they were hired to do - Unlike those jerks in congress who intentionally shut down our government. Now that this sad and embarrassing episode is over, can our elected representatives please work with each other; which includes speaking with opposition party members, in order to come to a mutually agreeable consensus on how to fund our government while simultaneously reducing the deficit? That's your job.
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_federal_government_shutdown_of_2013>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Continuing_Appropriations_Act,_2014>
<http://www.robsworld.org/congressreopensgovernment.png>
<http://www.robsworld.org/shutdowneffectonmorale.pdf>
<http://www.robsworld.org/hr2775enr.pdf>

Java for Mac OS XJava updates for Mac OS X / Apple's stance on Java:
More 'Critical Updates' for Java on Mac OS X. Apple stopped providing native support for Java a few years back. Just like native support for Flash, Apple stopped providing native support (by building a Mac specific runtime environment) for Java when they released Mac OS X 10.7 (Lion). That was back in Jul of 2011. Since then the only way to get Java on your Mac was a manual download. The native support actually ended earlier (with OS X 10.6 Update 3). Apple's CEO (Steve Jobs) decided that Java like Flash needs to be deprecated on the Mac. It doesn't want its software base dependent on someone else's technology. While you can still use Java on the Mac, and run applications that rely on it, Apple will no longer dedicate in house resources to ensure that Java works on the Mac, and applications submitted to the 'App Store' will be rejected if they are built as Java applications (likewise for Apps submitted that require Flash or Rosetta). Users of Mac OS X 10.7 and above can still use Java and applications that rely on Java, but if Java fails to function on machines running future versions of Mac OS X, it won't be because of Apple's inability to 'make' it work on a Mac. If Oracle (owners/makers of Java) wants to maintain a cross-platform environment that works under Mac OS X then users may continue to install it on their Macs. ...My question / Apple's question is why? There are more than enough tools available to make applications run on the Mac without the need to build a 'cross-platform' compatible generic version. Developers can compile multiple or OS specific instances of an Application. These native builds use a smaller code base, have access to a wider array of features, more robust security and a more consistent interface experience.

This move didn't 'kill' Java. If and when Java dies is really up to Oracle. Apple is discouraging the use of Java on its computers. It's already stopped providing native support (Apple isn't maintaining a Mac specific runtime library). In the meantime, users can and will continue to use it on their Macs. I'm still running it on my Mac - The following applications on my Mac require Java in order to run:

  • Lux Deluxe: A game - I could easily do without this.
  • Navigator: Yes, that very old browser - I could easily do without this.
  • LibreOffice: An Office applications alternative - I could easily do without this. I have MS Office applications for the Mac and the superior Mac iWorks applications
  • KompoZer: An HTML editor based on Navigator - I could easily do without this
  • Adobe Dreamweaver CS5: Wow - I didn't know that this Adobe (makers of Flash (another cross-platform product)) required Java to run. This application is currently my primary HTML editor - I can't live without this. I haven't been able to find an adequate replacement.
  • Amazon Cloud Drive: I'm not sure why it needs Java. They could easily build a native app - I could do without this.
  • EpsonNet Config: A tool needed to set up my Epson Artisan 800 printer in order to work on my local network. This figures. Epson makes some of the crappiest software I've ever had the joy of using. The fact that they don't bother to compile a Mac specific/native application doesn't surprise me in the least. I can't do without this application. I've tried, but I can't get the printer to work via wired/USB network, so I have to keep this application around, just in case I need to get the printer working on my wireless network. Note that some other printer manufacturers don't need a special application to work with Apple's wired and wireless networks. They build them so they're native compatible.
  • Flickr Uploadr: An application to upload photos to my Flickr account - I could easily do without this. There are other ways to upload my photos to my Flickr account.
  • GraphicConverter 9: There's a scripting compatibility component - I'm guessing I could easily do without this. GraphicConverter simply wouldn't be able to run plug-ins that rely on Java to run.
  • Logitech Harmony Remote Software: Here's some software from another company (like Epson) that looks like crap, doesn't work very well, and I curse every time I'm forced to use it - I can't live without this. I really need it if I want to configure/reconfigure my remote.
  • Postbox: An email application - I could easily do without this.
  • remotecore: This is another piece of software for my Logitech Harmony Remote - I need this if I want to configure/reconfigure my remote.
  • Xcode: This is Apple's developer toolkit - I can't do without this.

Type the following command (without the quotes) in a terminal window in order to find the Java dependent apps: "find /Applications -type f -name *.jar"

After running this command/writing this article; I decided to ditch some of these apps. I got rid of the following applications: Lux Deluxe (haven't played it in over a year); Navigator (no one really uses this anymore - including me); LibreOffice (I wasn't using it, only used it because someone sent me a document saved using an OpenOffice format); KompoZer (evaluated for suitability as a Dreamweaver substitute - found it wanting); Amazon Cloud Drive (I don't use this, and the app hangs when I try to launch it); Flickr Uploader (I'll use different ways to upload); Postbox (evaluated as substitute for Mail.app - found it wanting). Nice - I got rid of a bunch of applications that I don't use, can't use, prefer not to use.

Sorry about that - I kind of hijacked the article to rant on Java. On to the original premise of this article. Java updates for Mac OS X. Here's another reason not to run Java on your Mac: Security flaws. Just this week, Apple released two updates designed to patch vulnerabilities/flaws with Java's security. Java for OS X 2013-004 and Java for OS X 2013-005. The 2013-004 update (released 15 Oct, 2013?) delivers improved security, reliability, and compatibility for Java SE 6. This patch updates the Apple-provided Java (the last Java environment that Apple actually supported/provided) to version 1.6.0.51. This update is compatible with Mac OS 10.7 or later. ...That's odd, I thought they released this update back in June of this year, why is it being released again?

In addition to the 2013-004 update, Apple also released the 2013-005 update (released Oct 19, 2013). This update was intended for Mac OS X 10.6 or later. The auto update capability in System Preferences failed for this update. I had to manually download (directly from Oracle) and install this update. This update is available for Mac OS X 10.6.8, 10.7, 10.8 or later. It patches multiple vulnerabilities in Java 1.6.0.51. The most serious of these vulnerabilities would allow an untrusted Java applet (running in a web browser or stand alone) to execute arbitrary code outside the Java sandbox. Visiting a web page containing a maliciously crafted untrusted Java applet may lead to arbitrary code execution with the privileges of the current user (I hope you're not logged in as an Admin user). These issues were addressed by updating Java to version 1.6.0.65.

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://appleinsider.com/articles/11/02/26/mac_os_x_lion_drops_front_row_java_runtime_rosetta>
<http://www.oracle.com/technetwork/java/javase/releasenotes-136954.html>
<http://www.cnet.com/news/java-for-os-x-lion-available-from-apple/>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Java_(programming_language)>
<http://support.apple.com/kb/DL1572>
<http://support.apple.com/kb/HT5717>
<http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1222>

Oct 12, 2013

Government Shutdown - 2013Shutdown's effect on morale:
Yes it's true - our congressional representative have forced our government to shut down. Like petulant little children who don't get their way, they exercise their authority by punishing all of us. Employees, the military, the citizens, the voters. The arrogance and ignorance is unbelievable. In a job where compromise and working with others is mandatory, inescapable and the primary means of getting the job done. These politicians have illustrated to everyone that our political system is broken, a joke filled with temperamental prima-donnas who would rather cripple our nation than do their job by working within the system to make meaningful change. The reality of politics in America - "Fxxk em' if they won't agree with us!" "Just shut it down - Shut it all down! That'll teach 'em a lesson!" This attitude has got to change. The politics of this position are clearly NOT in the best interests of our nation.

I've already hinted that the 'Shutdown' is having a negative impact on my morale and the morale of my coworkers. It's hit the civilians, military and defense contractors equally. The negative impact has been quite devastating. I've heard a lot of people talking about 'getting out' - Meaning a switch to a different employment sector altogether. If you asked how my productivity was over the last few months, you shouldn't be surprised to learn that it's been lower than normal. I'm not the only one who's noticed this negative impact. Recently the American Forces Press Service published a press release (on the 11th of Oct, 2013) that sums it up pretty well.

According to that press release, DoD leaders are worried about the Shutdown's effect on Civilian Morale. FYI: When they talk about Civilians, they're talking about civilians (not military or Defense Contractors) that work directly for the Department of Defense. According to that press release, the DoD Comptroller recently spoke before a House Armed Services Readiness Subcommittee (on the 10th of Oct, 2013). In that hearing, the Under Secretary of Defense Robert F. Hale (he is the DoD Comptroller) stated that "DOD civilians have been through a lot over the past year and it is hurting productivity." "The furloughs triggered by the shutdown that began Oct. 1 are only the most recent instance of this damage," Hale said. Other things affecting morale over the past three years are Hiring freezes, cuts in training, bonuses and step increases. Oh, yeah - and then there's sequestration cuts and furloughs. The furloughs brought about by Congress inability to agree on a budget is the worst (in my opinion). This lapse in appropriations (which began on the 1st of Oct, 2013) continues to affect thousands of DoD civilians as well as the morale of all civilian employees.

DoD Comptroller Hale stated: "In the first days of the lapse, commanders repeatedly told me that civilian workers were frustrated and angry," The comptroller said: "many DoD employees say they will retire or resign and seek other jobs." I know that I had considered a switch in employment. I started working on my resume, and would have started to circulate an updated resume if this furlough would have lasted more than two weeks. Hale also said: "low morale means low productivity at most DoD support activities," Later in the hearing, Hale corrected a representative who called furloughed employees "non-essential." "Please don't use the word non-essential as regards our civilians," he said. "The folks that are still on furlough are essential. We can't operate without them in the longer term. It is very ... harmful to morale. Call them nonexempt or non-excepted, but please don't use that phrase."

The furlough may have ended for me, and many other DoD civilians, but there are still many thousands of DoD, and hundreds of thousands more government employees who are furloughed because our elected representatives could not - No, make that 'would not' do their jobs. They consciously chose to 'shut down the government'. Some of these representatives intentionally sought out this action. They felt that a punitive action that harms hundreds of thousands of government employees would 'force' their counterparts to give up their position on certain topics. They thought that this was an appropriate way to 'get their way' on any number of topics. In other words, rather than working within the system and following the rules, they decided to circumvent the standard procedures, to break the rules and try to force others to surrender to their demands. Do you really want these same individuals working for you in the Senate or House of Representatives? Please remember these actions when it comes time to vote for your elected representatives.
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_federal_government_shutdown_of_2013>
<http://www.robsworld.org/shutdowneffectonmorale.pdf>

No SpamYet another spammer pretending to be me:
Occasionally I receive bounce messages triggered by email I didn't actually send. It's evidence that the spammers still hate me. As I continue to report them, they find out that someone cares. I used to spend a lot of time reporting spammers. I still report spammers whenever I receive spam, but it doesn't take me as long to report them as it did in the past. I haven't given up and I know that my efforts are actually making a difference. I can tell that I've pissed off some spammers, because they've decided to implicate me as a spammer. Some of the spam that I report reaches ISPs that care, and they shut down the spammer(s). Sometimes it heads right back to the spammer. Some of these spammers control the mail server directly (the machine is compromised/they own it), or they're friendly with the service provider. The bounce messages I receive are proof that spammers use my email address(es) in the From: line of the spam they send. Most of these bounce messages are a cost of 'doing business'. Some spammers take offense when I try to get them shut down, and I do that a lot. They break the law, don't respect privacy, and use deceptive measures to conceal their true identity. Just another volley in this never ending battle - Death to Spammers! - If you think that this motto is extreme, you're either a spammer, or you're not receiving your fair share.

My first run-in with this sort of header forgery dates back to 2002. Like then, this instance is an attack on my domain/identity. Based on the number of bounce/auto-reply messages that I've received, it's fairly evident that this spammer hasn't sent many messages. While I only received three 'bounce' messages, the odds are very good that the spammer sent many more messages where my email address was forged to appear as the From: address. The spammer is pretending to be me; intentionally targeting me/my domain. The blow-back from his spam run is damaging to my domain and name. I can only hope that no-one will assume that I actually am the spammer. That's what the spammer is hoping for. He/She is hoping that my ISP(s) or email provider(s) will mistake me for the spammer. There's also a good chance that the spammer hacked someone's email account, harvested the email addresses in their address book, and is using these addresses in the From: address - Just in case someone believes that their friend actually sent them an email about 'replica rolex watches'. This possibility is based on the fact that this spammer didn't send individual spam messages. They used multiple To: address recipients; a sign of a hacked account. I checked the sent history on my email account, and found all the accesses in order - It doesn't appear that my account has been hacked.

If you ever need any help figuring out a problem involving unsolicited email, or help hunting down a spammer, don't hesitate to ask for my help. I'm willing and eager to help. 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://www.robsworld.org/index2.html#fightingspam>
<http://www.robsworld.org/forgery.html>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SpamCop>
<http://www.damnspammers.com>
<http://www.knujon.com>

ComcastComcast Sucks - The VoIP disaster!
Recently (Oct, 2013) I decided to discontinue my traditional telco land-line home phone (POTS twisted pair copper) residential service. These traditional telephone services (in the U.S.) are a joke (As I've written about previously). I had to find some costs to cut because of a furlough (see earlier entries in Oct, 2013), and the phone service sat at the top of my list. I'm glad I eliminated this home-phone service from CenturyLink. I was very unhappy with their service - Primarily their high costs, and eliminating this service was something I did gladly.

Unfortunately, as a substitute, I selected Comcast (aka Xfinity - Although this branding is confusing and needs to go away) to provided VoIP service. Getting the VoIP service through Comcast was supposed to provide a lower cost alternative with more services and better features... Supposed to. It didn't start out that great, and it only got worse.

I had to lease a new modem from Comcast in order to get my VoIP service running. Of course they screwed up the modem order. They sent me a WiFi modem which I explicitly told them I didn't want or need. As a result I had to send the modem back to them - Of course that confused them. If you're going to get VoIP service you have to have a new modem, the one you have now won't work with our VoIP service... I know that. I did this already. This conversation aggravated me to no end. Especially when they wanted me to explain what was wrong with the modem. If there was nothing wrong with the modem, I might be charged an equipment 'return' fee.

After receiving the 'other' modem - The one I needed, wanted, requested; I returned the WiFi modem. Thankfully I wasn't charged a 'return' fee. These people really have a horrible customer service model. Apparently, one department didn't talk to the other or cancel the order for the WiFi modem (which is automatically part of a VoIP order). After the correct modem arrived I started my research on how to install and activate the new modem. It didn't take long. It really isn't that difficult. At least it's not all that difficult on my end. In a matter of hours (approximately two hours) I had the new modem up and running with VoIP service. There was only one problem...

In order to use the VoIP service I had to relocate the modem to my desk upstairs. That's right, with Comcast's VoIP service, I couldn't have a phone in every room. Like I did with the CenturyLink service. Why not? I should be able to use the copper in my house to extend this VoIP service to all the rooms in my house. That's where I had to once again call Comcast customer service. You can just imagine where this is going... After navigating the impossible phone service selection tree, I finally got connected to someone who might be able to help me. Well guess what? You can't do that. According to the technicians I spoke with (two different customer support technicians) you can't connect your phone to the Comcast VoIP service through the copper (phone lines) in your home. You have to use the connection directly on the modem? At least that's what they claimed. Despite the fact that I had read online where numerous customers had connected their residential phone lines (the copper in their home) to the Comcast modem. They were able to locate the modem in the basement (a different room), and connect phones to the Comcast modem through the telephone lines in their home.

The technicians I spoke with insisted that I could not do this. That I would have to connect the phone directly to the modem. They even argued that the phone lines in the house didn't belong to me. Bullshit! I know that's a lie. Maybe they're thinking about an apartment building or some other situation; like the lines outside my house. The phone lines inside my home belong to me. I am permitted to do whatever I want with them. Eventually they suggested that they send a technician here to figure out what the problem is. Right... and that will be free right? No - Of course not. I opted for the self-installation kit. If I need a technician to come out, then they will have to charge me a fee.

O.k. If I pay this fee, will the technician be able to hook up all the phones in my home to the VoIP modem? Well, no. We won't be able to do that. To make a long story short. I canceled the VoIP service. I told them to take back their modem, their monthly modem lease fee, and their monthly VoIP service fees. I'll figure out something else. I disconnected the new fancy VoIP modem, and reconnected my modem. Guess what happened the next day? My modem - The one I own. Stopped working. Someone at Comcast had decided that I had the wrong 'boot' file for my new VoIP modem. That took another hour to straighten out.

Now I'm back on the internet with a modem that I own and decent speeds. As long as Comcast doesn't try to 'upgrade' my 'experience', I should be good to go. Just stay away with your improved services and upgraded experience. I don't need a Docsis 3.0 modem to achieve the speeds I'm currently paying for, and I don't need a costly VoIP alternative for a home-phone service. I later learned that Comcast charges extra if you want additional phone extensions in multiple rooms. That figures. Man Comcast really sucks!
<http://customer.comcast.com/contact-us/>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comcast>
<http://comcastsucks.org>

Repaired my Music CollectionRepaired my Music Collection:
Recently Apple has been releasing iTunes updates left and right, and I've been experiencing some serious problems with my music collection. Due to the size of my collection, and the fact that I want my music collection to be accessible by applications other than iTunes, computers other than my primary Mac, and users other than me (my wife would like to listen to the music that 'we' own)... Due to these facts, I keep my music on a remote volume. A hard drive connected to a router located in the basement. That way we can both get access to it. So can our Apple TVs and some applications other than iTunes. Unfortunately, the hard drive I store that music on isn't reliable. It's been giving me issues lately. I can't seem to connect to it at times. I've had to reboot it (power cycle) numerous times. And now, now I've got a huge problem. After firing up iTunes (like I do every day) I can't seem to locate any of my music. Great - Not!

The music was still there, but the iTunes music library was corrupt, and I couldn't even get to the music through the finder. I could see it with a terminal tool, but that doesn't do much good. After a bit of troubleshooting and attempts to recover the music, I found that I had to manually rebuild the library by dragging individual tracks to iTunes from a secondary backup copy of all my music. Thankfully I had enough backup (three and even four copies in some cases) that I was able to recover almost all my music. The recovery would have been easier and quicker, if I hadn't made things worse by inadvertently deleting some of my backup data. After seven days of manual recovery, I've managed to rebuild my entire library... I think. In the end, I ended up losing more than a dozen tracks. Some of the data was corrupt and couldn't be recovered in a traditional sense. I even had to re-purchase one of my tracks. In the end, I bought a new hard drive, reformatted that old drive (wiped it clean) and marked it for use with secondary back up duties. I don't know if all these problems were caused by iTunes problems, the faulty hard drive or some other software issue. One thing is clear. Having a sound back up strategy (that involves multiple copies) is a damned good idea.

Back up all your important media. Movies, music, photos, television episodes, artwork, etc. If you can, make sure that one of the backups is off-site. Keep your backups running and check them to make sure they're still viable. This isn't the first time I've had to recover 'lost' data, and getting your data back after this kind of disaster is always satisfying. I'm awesome! Backup a directory today, you'll be glad you did down the road.

InfluenzaGot my Flu shot:
I don't get sick very often, and I'd like to think that getting the flu shot is part of the reason why. It's free (through my employer), and while there are plenty of people who believe that the flu shot gives them the flu - Please people read about the 'sympathetic reaction' caused by your body as it begins to create antibodies against the introduced dead (or attenuated live) virus. You may get a low grade fever, and feel aches as your body begins to churn out white blood cells, and turn up the heat to kill the suspected 'invading' virus. It's a common side-effect, but it isn't the flu itself.

While Colorado (every state) suffers through its annual flu-season, I hope that I will not get the flu. A vaccine cannot protect against every strain, and there's always the possibility that I was exposed to the flu before I got my shot, but I'd rather get the shot than not. What else can you do (at work) in order to reduce your chances of getting the flu? Wipe down your workstation and keyboard (especially if you're sharing it with someone else). Use a handkerchief on common door handles. Washes your hands frequently (at least 20 seconds of washing with soap). Use that 'hand sanitizer' gel or wipes that they make available.

I've had the flu, and I've had sympathetic reactions from vaccinations. The difference is remarkable. If you've had both, you'll definitely know what I'm talking about. The actual flu can/has taken me out of work for several days. Losing a week of work as I lay around the house suffering is not my idea of a good time. I get the flu shot. It's the best way to prevent the flu. Combine it with good practices during flu season, and you might manage to avoid all the flu all together. I hope you're not a victim of this years cold and flu season. If you haven't already, please be sure to get your flu shot.
<http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/flushot.htm>

Get Well SoonGet Well Soon:
Most of you didn't know that Kim recently had some medical issues. She needed medical attention at work, and the follow-up Doctor's visit confirmed that she would need some surgery to prevent further complications and the possibility of some serious issues in the future. We scheduled some surgery to occur after a short period of recovery (from the event that triggered this medical necessity). Kim recovered from that initial medical emergency and she was feeling better. So off to surgery she went (on the 9th of Oct, 2013). So brave, so strong, so ready to get better. The surgery wasn't major, routine in the words of the Doctors involved; scary all the same, especially to us. A hospital stay was prescribed. Kim went into the hospital on Wednesday morning. The surgery was short, and everything went well, but recovery in the hospital took some time. She had to stay in the hospital for a few days in order to recover and for observation. Kim is home now (on the 11th of Oct, 2013). She's going to be fine. She'll be out of work for some time, but it looks like everything is going to be o.k. Get Well Soon - Kim!

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

Recently (8 Oct, 2013) I encountered an internet outage. I did everything I could in order to resolve the problem, but eventually I called Comcast. After an excruciating experience with their telephone support maze - Where I eventually resorted to shouting obscenities - that usually triggers a connection to a 'customer support representative' - I was eventually connected to a human. By now I'm in a foul mood, thanks to all the elevator music and my inability to talk directly to a customer service technician. After approximately 30 minutes on the phone, I think I've finally got the right kind of support to help me with my problem. That's when the mandatory 'troubleshooting' begins. After several minutes of troubleshooting, a customer service person indicated that my modem was missing its 'bootfile' - What?

They attempt to restore my 'bootfile', but that doesn't work. They then sell me a crock of crap regarding my 'need' to upgrade my modem. According to the 'technician' Comcast has been upgrading its network to Docsis 3.0 compatibility, and my modem doesn't support that... B.S. I know that my modem (yes it's a Docsis 2.0 modem) should work on their network, but I'm also getting ready to switch over to their VoIP service for my residential phone service, so I'll need a new modem. I tell them to load the correct bootfile onto my modem so that my service can be restored... I don't want to 'upgrade' my modem at this time.

Eventually they get the 'correct' bootfile loaded onto my modem. I wonder what happened in the first place? I wonder why I actually lost internet connectivity? Did they send a signal to my Docsis 2.0 modem (Motorola SB-5100) in order to 'disable' it? In either case, my modem is back up and running. I ask to speak to sales. I want to upgrade my service... After another nightmare on the phone. Of course I got disconnected, had to call back, had to suffer through their phone 'tree' support hell. Eventually I got through to the correct representative.

I informed them that I want to sign up for Comcast's VoIP service. I was afraid of VoIP at the time (I've since learned enough to be dangerous), I wanted something that would cost less than my standard POTS commercial telephone service over twisted-pair copper, but I didn't want to spend the time to figure out how to do it myself. Getting an additional discount on my service (I've already got Cable TV and Internet through Comcast) seemed like a good idea (at the time). I asked the representative some questions about the VoIP service. They answered all my questions, but of course I wasn't ready to make the switch yet.

After approximately two hours of searching on the internet, I could only find a few modems that would support Comcast's VoIP service. One was a SBv6220 another was a TM822G. In doing this research I learned that the Motorola division (Motorola Mobility) that produced consumer modems had been bought out by Arris Group Inc. They still use the Motorola label in marketing, but Arris produces the modems now. They provide consumer grade modems to several different internet service providers (including Comcast). I kept digging and doing research on the SBv6220. Apparently they're only sold to telcos (i.e. cable companies) by Arris. If you find them on eBay or Amazon it's possible they've been stolen/never returned when a customer discontinued their cable service. Comcast will not provide support for such a modem, and they will know (by MAC/Serial) whether the device was previously part of some cable companies subscriber equipment. Well, damn, that's rather inconvenient. Why can't consumers buy these modems? Apparently some Comcast compatible modems can be bought from BestBuy - Of course you have to pay the BestBuy prices...

I call Comcast sales representative back and inform them that I want to sign up for their VoIP service. Yes, I will need to upgrade my Modem. No I won't be returning my Modem. No YOU don't own MY modem. Yes I bought it legally. No I'm not going to 'prove' that I didn't lease my modem from you. Do your records say that I am leasing a modem from you? No? Then why are you... Talking to the Comcast reps is always such a joy - NOT! Then I have to explain that I want a specific modem. No I don't want a modem with WiFi capability - They sure seem intent on making me rent the WiFi modem. I have to explain that I already have a WiFi router. No your modem is NOT better than my Apple TimeCapsule. I want the SBv6220. After that I have to explain that I don't need any technicians coming out to my house. In my research, it seems that I should be able to connect the modem and get the VoIP service configured without too much of a problem. Besides, I don't want to pay any more than I have to (I was furloughed at the time).

Renting the modem will cost me $7.00 per month. And the VoIP service would cost appx $15.00 per month... O.k. I'll still save quite a bit over the residential CenturyLink phone service that I recently cancelled. Thankfully I can cancel within 30 days? if I'm not happy with the service...
<http://customer.comcast.com/contact-us/>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comcast>
<http://www.arrisi.com/modems/>
<http://comcastsucks.org>

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

Graphic ConverterGraphicConverter:
Thorsten Lemke (of Lemkesoft) completed work on a few updates over the past week. I recently saw/downloaded the following updates: 8.8.1 (b1346), 8.8.2 (b1350). 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/>

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 4.4.3 on the 6th of Oct, 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 corrects a couple of problems - Migrating favorites from Transmit 3 to Transmit 4 and Dropbox sync reliability.
<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>

Government Shutdown - 2013Furlough Recall Decisions:
Yes it's true - our congressional representative have forced our government to shut down. Like petulant little children who don't get their way, they exercise their authority by punishing all of us. Employees, the military, the citizens, the voters. The arrogance and ignorance is unbelievable. In a job where compromise and working with others is mandatory, inescapable and the primary means of getting the job done. These politicians have illustrated to everyone that our political system is broken, a joke filled with temperamental prima-donnas who would rather cripple our nation than do their job by working within the system to make meaningful change. The reality of politics in America - "Fxxk em' if they won't agree with us!" "Just shut it down - Shut it all down! That'll teach 'em a lesson!" This attitude has got to change. The politics of this position are clearly NOT in the best interests of our nation.

The updates are coming fast and furious, as I sit at home hoping that I can get back to work soon. This furlough is having a seriously powerful and negative impact on my life. My morale is suffering, my marriage is stressed, my job is in jeopardy, my mortgage isn't getting paid by sitting at home. And I'm not the only one in this situation. Hundreds of thousands of government workers are out of a job. Many more are without jobs and pay as the government starts to cut contracts and lay off contractors who they can't continue to pay. Our government is now spending large sums of money in order to close down certain contracts, facilities and capabilities. Many people have been asking why should it cost our government anything to 'shut it all down'? Shouldn't we be saving money? They answer, ironically, is NO! This shutdown is actually costing our government more money than it would spend if it were still up and running. Why? How does it cost more to shut it all down? The short answer, it costs money to 'shutter' or 'shut down' contracts and facilities. Cancelling contracts often carries an economic loss clause, and the government has to hire some temporary workers to fill certain critical positions. The government has to close facilities that would normally be open to tourists, tourists generate taxation revenue, It costs money to turn off services. Time off (during furlough) is likely to be compensated, which results in annual leave not take, and in some cases that leave can be cashed out. Contractors who couldn't work - due to closed facilities - were often paid out of pocket by the companies that retain them. If they hadn't paid them, they would likely have left for a 'paying' job. Anyone who says it shouldn't or didn't result in a loss for the government isn't taking into account all the factors, they're simply focusing on a the macroeconomic spread of money not spent in one place is likely spent in another. That's simply not true for every expense. Some of these expenses would not have been spent if it weren't for the shutdown. For a more detailed accounting of how this shutdown costs our government money, please read the information available online (see links below for some places to start).

On the 6th of Oct, 2013, the DoD's top financial official (the Comptroller/Robert F. Hale) provided some details on which DoD civilians will be returning to work from the furlough. According to that announcement (by Hale): "We'll recall a category of civilians who provide ongoing support to military members," he said, such as health care activities and providers, sexual assault prevention and response providers, behavior health and suicide prevention, transition assistance programs for military members in active service, commissary and payroll operations and family support programs and activities, among others." "We'll also recall a second category of civilians whose work, if interrupted by the lapse for a substantial period, would cause future problems for military members," Falling into this category, he said, are acquisition program oversight, contract logistics, financial management, intelligence functions and supply chain management."

On the 6th of Oct, 2013, I was able to locate (online) a memorandum regarding the implementation of POMA. I mentioned that earlier; that the DoD would be providing additional guidance to the individual government components. This memorandum is part of that guidance. I'm sure there was more detailed information. Here is part of that memorandum:

There are two distinct categories of civilian employees who fall within the scope of this statutory provision, in addition to those performing excepted activities. The first category includes those employees whose responsibilities provide support to service members performing active service and their families on an ongoing basis. The second category consists of those employees whose responsibilities contribute to sustaining capabilities and Force Readiness and which, if interrupted by the lapse in appropriations, will impact service members' ability to conduct assigned missions in the future. To fall within this second category, there must be a causal connection between the failure to perform the activity during the duration of an appropriations lapse and a negative impact on military members in the future. In other words, if the activity is not performed over the duration of an appropriations lapse, would it be possible to identify a negative impact that will be felt by military members at some time in the future? In undertaking this analysis, it should be assumed that regular appropriations will be restored within the near term.

This guidance should allow each component to determine which employees can be recalled. I feel confident that I'm in one of these categories. Basically, POMA permits the DoD to bring many of its civilian employees back to work and to pay them. More action on the 5th of Oct, 2013. Another bill was passed on the 5th. H.R. 3223 - The Federal Employee Retroactive Pay Fairness Act provides for the back-pay of federal employees affected by the shutdown/furlough, once funds are appropriated. It passed the house vote by 407-0. A Senate version (S.1657) was introduced, but hasn't been voted on yet. It might not need to be passed, existing bills/laws may provide for back pay, or their may be a different bill introduced which will cover back pay...

Big News. On the 6th of Oct, 2013:
I was notified by my manager/supervisor that I have been identified as one of the employees who may return to work. Furlough is over for me. I am supposed to report back to work on the the 7th of Oct, 2013. I'm not sure whether I will get back pay, but it seems likely at this point. Unfortunately, there are still thousands of government employees who are still furloughed, and no one knows when they'll be back to work - Congress still hasn't passed a budget!
<http://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffreydorfman/2013/10/22/there-will-be-no-24b-economic-loss-from-the-government-shutdown/>
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_federal_government_shutdown_of_2013>
<http://www.robsworld.org/poma_implementation_guidance.pdf>
<http://www.robsworld.org/furloughrecalldecisions.pdf>
<http://www.robsworld.org/moneyfornothing.pdf>

Government Shutdown - 2013The Furlough Update:
Yes it's true - our congressional representative have forced our government to shut down. Like petulant little children who don't get their way, they exercise their authority by punishing all of us. Employees, the military, the citizens, the voters. The arrogance and ignorance is unbelievable. In a job where compromise and working with others is mandatory, inescapable and the primary means of getting the job done. These politicians have illustrated to everyone that our political system is broken, a joke filled with temperamental prima-donnas who would rather cripple our nation than do their job by working within the system to make meaningful change. The reality of politics in America - "Fxxk em' if they won't agree with us!" "Just shut it down - Shut it all down! That'll teach 'em a lesson!" This attitude has got to change. The politics of this position are clearly NOT in the best interests of our nation.

I was furloughed (along with hundreds of other government civilians) on the 1st of Oct, 2013. That means I'm sitting at home, not working, not getting paid, not doing the job that I was hired to do for the American people. Thank you congress... So now that I'm not working, I'm not getting paid. I've had to take some financially necessary actions. In a previous posting I mentioned some of the cost cutting measures I already took. What else have I done to reduce our expenses? (since the 1st?) So far I've: Shut off my MOG and eMusic music services. They allowed me to 'suspend' my account for a period of time. I really don't know how long this furlough will last. I eliminated my home phone service. That was costing me a lot! I switched my ADT alarm monitoring to cellular (for now). While cellular monitoring cost more (I'm not sure why - Probably because they can charge more for anything different), cutting my home phone service provided more than enough savings to make up for the switch to cellular monitoring. If necessary, I'll switch to a different service (ADT is one of the more expensive ones) or discontinue it altogether. As long as I have alarm monitoring, I get a break on my home owners insurance. We shut off the auto-pay feature of our credit card. We'll have to pay the minimum amount for now. Without my income we certainly won't be able to pay off the balance. We reduced our cable service to the 'basic' package - If necessary we'll eliminate cable, netflix and internet altogether.

As I mentioned earlier, we really don't know how long this will last, or what it will cost us. In the direst of circumstances, I'll have to get a new job. Before I can do that, I would have to officially resign from my appointment. I've already started working on a new resume, and looking at new job possibilities. We don't have a lot of savings, so I'm going to need to get our costs and spending under control very quickly... This could get ugly very quickly - Without my income we can't afford to pay our mortgage. For that matter, we probably couldn't afford to live in this area. The Denver/Aurora area isn't a cheap place to live. As a matter of fact, it's a very expensive place to live. The last time I was affected by a furlough, it lasted ten days (from Dec 16 - January 6th, 1995/1996). At the time, I was in the military. I was forced to continue working, but didn't get paid on the 1st of the month. Needless to say, as a military member, being forced to work without pay was not a good experience. My wife and I made considerably less back then, but our expenses were also much lower. Hopefully this furlough won't last very long!

A few days later... On the 5th of October.

The DoD Secretary of Defense (Chuck Hagel) released a press announcement indicating that most DoD civilians who were placed on furlough will be recalled. According to the announcement: "Today, I am announcing that most DOD civilians placed on emergency furlough during the government shutdown will be asked to return to work beginning next week," he said. Continuing with the announcement: "Immediately after President [Barack] Obama signed the Pay Our Military Act into law, I directed DOD's acting general counsel to determine whether we could reduce the number of civilian personnel furloughed due to the shutdown," Hagel said.

Apparently the lawyers have reviewed the 'Pay Our Military Act' (POMA), and they've decided that they can't simply recall all civilians. The announcement goes on to explain that certain categories of civilians will be recalled to work, and the surest way to get everyone back to work is by passing a budget which restores funds for the entire government. No kidding - Maybe they should have done that to begin with! Secretary Hagel also stated: "I strongly support efforts in Congress to enact legislation to retroactively compensate all furloughed employees," The most significant part of this announcement was this statement: "Consequently, I am now directing the military departments and other DOD components to move expeditiously to identify all employees whose activities fall under these categories," With this statement, Secretary Hagel has delegated an action down to the DoD components. Each DoD component will have to determine which of their employees fall into the 'excepted' categories mentioned in the original POMA. Presumably, the lawyers will provide additional guidance to these component elements. Finally, Secretary finished by stating: "Employees can expect to hear more information from their managers starting this weekend," What does all this mean to me?

There's a saying that we (military and government civilians) are very familiar with: "Hurry up and wait!"
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_federal_government_shutdown_of_2013>
<http://www.robsworld.org/hagelrecallannouncement.pdf>

Wacky winterEarly October Snow Storm:
Autumn only started a couple weeks ago, and it looks like Winter can't wait to get started. October in these parts is usually quite sedate; with slowly dropping temps and occasional rain, we typically don't get snow until late October or early November. With temps in the 80s just a week prior (Sep 25th and 30th, 2013), a snow storm wasn't something I would have expected during the 1st week of October. Despite my expectations, mother nature had other plans. With a cold front sweeping across the front range, the temps dropped quite drastically. While the temperature in our area never dropped below freezing, the upper atmosphere was obviously much colder. I was quite surprised on my drive to work on Friday morning (the 4th of October, 2012). Surprised by heavy snow. So bad at times that traffic had slowed to a crawl along Gun Club road. We got quite a bit of snow (approximately 1.5 inches), but it was all melted by Saturday. Nonetheless, it looks like we're in for another season of Crazy Colorado weather. I love it! FYI: We had a snowstorm last year on the 5th of October, 2012. Weird. Almost the exact same conditions. Went from 80s on the week before to a sudden cold front during the first week of October...
<http://www.robsworld.org/wintersquirrel1.png>

Adobe HackedAdobe Hacked!
On the 4th of October, 2013, I learned (through the press/news) that Adobe had been hacked. Since I'm an Adobe customer this concerns me. I haven't received any official notification (yet)... News Flash! I received an email notification from Adobe today (the 7th of Oct, 2013). Eventually these companies will simply stop sending these types of announcements. They hurt stock prices, and create negative stigma in the eyes of consumers. The executives will eventually over-rule the legal departments. They'll argue that the loss in sales is greater than the legal ramifications. After all, they've got 'no fault' and 'forced arbitration' baked into their end user agreements and terms of service. Consumers couldn't possibly hold them responsible for the financial loses incurred as the result of a hack. They don't have any legal requirement to actually protect your credit card data...

Back to the story... I received an email from Adobe. In that email message, they admitted that someone had executed an attack on their network. That someone had obtained a bunch of data. They're writing to let me know that nothing bad actually happened? Here's what the email said:

Important Password Reset Information

As we announced on October 3, Adobe discovered sophisticated attacks on our network involving the illegal access and removal of a backup database containing Adobe IDs and encrypted passwords. We are writing to let you know that your Adobe ID was in the database taken by the attackers -- but, importantly, your current password was not . As a result, we did not reset your password. We have no reason to believe that your Adobe ID account is at risk or that there has been unauthorized activity on your account. The database taken by the attackers came from a backup system that contained many out-of-date records and was designated to be decommissioned. Adobe's authentication system of record, which cryptographically hashes and salts customer passwords, was not the source of the database that was taken.

However, if you use your old passwords on any other websites, you should change those passwords. We also recommend that you follow password best practices to help ensure your current password is secure:

  • Don't reuse passwords: Your password should be unique to your Adobe ID account. Don't reuse a password you have previously used with your Adobe ID or a password you are using on any other website.
  • Make sure your password is difficult to guess: Your password should be at least eight (8) characters in length. It should contain a mix of different character sets, such as upper case letters (A-Z), lower case letters (a-z), digits (0-9), and special characters (# $ % & - _ { }). It should not use all or part of your name or your Adobe ID.
We deeply regret any inconvenience this may cause you. We value the trust of our customers and are working aggressively to prevent these types of events from occurring in the future. If you have questions, you can learn more by visiting our Customer Care page, which you will find here.

Adobe Customer Care

According to Adobe, The attackers only took my Adobe ID? Yet they had access to encrypted passwords. How were the passwords encrypted? Exactly... There are huge differences in the ways in which passwords can be 'encrypted'. Hashed and salted doesn't really tell us much. Why didn't Adobe simply reset our passwords or lock us out of our accounts until we reset the passwords ourselves? According to Adobe, "if you use your old passwords on any other websites, you should change those passwords". In my opinion Adobe should have aired on the side of caution and simply suspended/disabled all the affected accounts. I've got the feeling that we haven't heard the last on this matter...

News Flash! According to the press: Adobe's email doesn't really provide much information. According to the press. This attack affects 38 million users (registered accounts). And, get this; the company is now saying that it appears that additional information was stolen. To include code for their Photoshop family of graphical design products. Oh my! Someone stole the source code! What Adobe announced on the 3rd of Oct, but didn't include in their email to me... The attackers stole nearly 3 million 'encrypted' customer credit cards! Damn! They had my credit card info. Now I'm really pissed off. I guess they didn't think it was important that I know whether my credit card info was stolen. After all the bank will cover me if there's any fraud. Right! What about damage to my credit score? What about the effort and work I will have to expend/perform in order to reset my password, change my account log in info, check my credit card statement, put a lock on my card, etc, etc?

Over the weekend (of 7/8 Oct, 2013) AnonNews.org posted a huge file called "users.tar.gz" - Apparently this is the list of user names and passwords (supposedly encrypted) that were stolen. The 3.8GB file contained more than 150 million usernames and passwords! So much for the originally reported 38 million users. Yes, I've already taken some actions. Like changing all my Adobe account details. Of course, so was everyone else. So it took me some time. At first I couldn't get into their site in order to change my login credentials. It took me more than a day to finally get in.

In the meantime... I received another email message from Adobe (on the 8th of Oct, 2013):

Important Password Reset Information

To view this message in a language other than English, please click here.

We recently discovered that an attacker illegally entered our network and may have obtained access to your Adobe ID and encrypted password. We currently have no indication that there has been unauthorized activity on your account.

To prevent unauthorized access to your account, we have reset your password. Please visit www.adobe.com/go/passwordreset to create a new password. We recommend that you also change your password on any website where you use the same user ID or password. In addition, please be on the lookout for suspicious email or phone scams seeking your personal information.

We deeply regret any inconvenience this may cause you. We value the trust of our customers and we will work aggressively to prevent these types of events from occurring in the future. If you have questions, you can learn more by visiting our Customer Alert page, which you will find here.

Adobe Customer Care

This email arrived while I was trying to 'reset' my password. Adobe finally decided that it might be a good idea to actually 'reset' my password. Just in case. I wonder how many people received this email? I have two accounts with Adobe, and I only received the email once. The email was sent to an address associated with an old account, not my current one. Despite that fact, I went ahead and changed my account info on both accounts.

According to the press, an Adobe spokesperson stated that "Adobe has no indication that there has been any unauthorized activity on any Adobe ID involved in the incident." Well, how exactly would Adobe know if the activity is unauthorized? Let's say the attackers 'decrypted' the passwords. They could then log into your account with your username and password. How would that look any different than an 'authorized' attempt to log in? There is no 'two-part' authentication on these accounts. The log in process doesn't require any additional verification beyond username and password. What a joke.

In the meantime. I've confirmed that my usernames (both of them) are on the list of stolen account data. Great! So this ain't no joke. Oh, and now the news is reporting that those 'encrypted' passwords? Not encrypted very securely. Apparently, some crypto specialists have already decrypted most of the passwords. The 'encryption' being used? Some weak ass hashing that was quite easy to crack. Apparently when Adobe announced that 38 million users were affected, they were talking about 'Active' users. That's weak. Just because I haven't used one of my accounts in over a year doesn't mean it's not a valid account. It's still tied to my identity. It still contains personally identifiable data and a credit card association is very damaging regardless of how long its been since I used that account.

Apparently Adobe is still "investigating the number of inactive, invalid and test accounts involved in the incident" As I mentioned earlier. Adobe is now admitting that this theft included source code from its Adobe Acrobat, Adobe Reader, and Coldfusion applications. Other sources (AnonNews.org) reported that a leaked file contained the source code for Adobe Photoshop. That's pretty much all of Adobe's intellectual property. It also appears that this material was first leaked back in September. Just how long has Adobe known about this attack? When did it actually occur? How long did they sit on this before they notified users?

According to the press and various user reports (see KrebsOnSecurity posts), Adobe has offered a year's worth of credit monitoring to customers whose encrypted credit card data was stolen. Hmmm. I wonder why I wasn't offered any credit monitoring? I know that I provided Adobe with my credit card info... This credit monitoring service is being offered through 'Experian'. I'm sure you recognize this name. It's one of the big three major credit bureaus; but it's also responsible for a huge breach of security (in 2011), where it was tricked into selling consumer info directly to an online identity theft service! According to a lengthy investigation by 'KrebsOnSecurity', the identity theft organization was selling social security numbers, drivers license numbers, bank account info, credit card info, and more. Where did it get this data? It purchased much of it from Experian. Nice move Experian. Thankfully, in the U.S. most consumer credit cards have Zero Liability policies when it comes to fraud. Unfortunately, this lack of security and zero liability simply means that we (consumers) pay for this fraud and lack of security in the form of higher interest rates.

Most of these credit bureaus offer 'credit monitoring' services for a fee, but then they turn around and sell your info (see paragraph above) to the identity thieves, and affected companies (see Adobe) end up paying the credit bureaus in order to provide you with the 'free' credit monitoring services that they extend to those who've had their credit info stolen... What a mess. If these companies tighten up their security they risk a loss of revenue. It's obscene the way these attacks actually result in an increase in revenue to certain firms. I placed a fraud alert on my credit info with the three major bureaus. You can do that for free under some circumstances. Hopefully they'll notify me, or I'll spot any shenanigans with my credit card/credit info.
<http://www.theverge.com/2013/10/29/5042434/adobe-cyberattack-takes-38-million-passwords-photoshop-source-code>
<http://krebsonsecurity.com/2013/10/experian-sold-consumer-data-to-id-theft-service/>
<http://www.robsworld.org/adobehacked2.png>
<http://www.robsworld.org/adobehacked1.png>

iTunesiTunes updated to version 11.1:
Recently (Oct 2nd, 2013), Apple updated iTunes to version 11.1.1. This particular release is another bug fix. As is sometimes the case with Apple's software releases, the official update notes are extremely vague. According to the release notes: "This update resolves an issue that may cause iTunes Extras to display incorrectly, fixes a problem with deleted podcasts, and improves stability." There was additional info in the release notes, but the additional info was applicable to an earlier release of the iTunes application. Supposedly the podcast updates/changes are supposed to improve the podcast syncing capabilities. I'm not sure whether it will make things better or worse. Apple's podcasting software has always been, and continues to be, a sore spot. They can't seem to get it straight. If Apple wants people to be more confident about the updates they release, they need to include more information in their releases - Lately the trend has been 'less' information. This is a trend that Apple must reverse.
<http://support.apple.com/en-us/HT202814>
<http://www.apple.com/itunes/>

Mac OS XMac OS X updates:
Recently, Apple released a supplemental update to their latest OS. OS X v10.8.5 Mountain Lion was updated with APPLE-SA-2013-10-03-1 on the 3rd of Oct, 2013. This particular update was released in order to patch some security flaws/issues. A particularly nasty vulnerability would allow a local user (someone on the local network) to bypass password authentication in order to modify the Directory Services records. That's not good! It isn't a vulnerability from outside attackers, but it could be used by someone on the inside to muck with the accounts of other users. It's very important to anyone using Mac OS in a corporate/business setting.

Sometimes it's a chore to keep up to date on all the new improved software that Apple's putting out the door. Fortunately, they care enough to keep that software up to date with bug fixes, security patches, new features and new drivers. They even spend some time updating the older software, and previous operating systems.
<http://support.apple.com/en-us/HT202832>

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 MD meeting date. Next meeting date is 22 Oct, 2013.
    • I posted an announcement regarding the next Newbridge at Tollgate HOA meeting. The next meeting for that HOA is 5 Nov, 2013.
    • I updated the 'Tollgate Crossing Community Website' paragraph (at the bottom of the main page). I inserted wording reflecting the NB@TGX community.
    • I added a new photo to the main page. A picture with some Autumn colors.
  • 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. As usual, the meeting will be held at our clubhouse.
    • Updated the announcement for the next Newbridge at Tollgate HOA meeting (5 Nov, 2013). They also hold their meetings in our clubhouse.
  • Info: A page of links, phone numbers, email addresses and other information pertinent to the residents/community of Tollgate Crossing.
    • I updated the contact information for our Tollgate Crossing HOA board member: Liz Beerman and & Don Steadman (apparently they don't want to publish any contact information for Tollgate Crossing residents). If you want to contact them, you'll have to go through the community's management company, or show up at a meeting.
    • I removed an outdated Tollgate Crossing Metro District meeting agenda (Thanks go to the MD management for keeping me/us informed by making these available).
    • I updated some additional HOA and MD contact information.
    • Removed some old HOA 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.
    • Added a new HOA meeting minutes document (from Aug, 2013). Note: There was no HOA meeting in July, 2013.
    • Posted the MD end of year financials on the website.

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

Government Shutdown - 2013They really did it - Congress shut down our government!
Yes it's true - our congressional representative have forced our government to shut down. Like petulant little children who don't get their way, they exercise their authority by punishing all of us. Employees, the military, the citizens, the voters. The arrogance and ignorance is unbelievable. In a job where compromise and working with others is mandatory, inescapable and the primary means of getting the job done. These politicians have illustrated to everyone that our political system is broken, a joke and filled with temperamental prima-donnas. The reality of politics in America - "Fxxk em' if they won't agree with us!" "Just shut it down - Shut it all down! That'll teach 'em a lesson!" This attitude has got to change. The politics of this position are clearly NOT in the best interests of our nation. As of today (1 Oct, 2013), our government is officially closed for business.

In taking this action, the two chambers of congress have failed to agree on an appropriations bill to fund continuing government functions. Rather than agree on a budget, they've decided that it would be better to simply 'do nothing'. Oh, I'm sure they tried really hard to prevent this... By insisting that the other side accept their version of the budget. In part this problem was caused when republicans insisted on language (in the budget) that would delay and/or defund the Affordable Care Act. Otherwise known as 'Obama-Care'. Everyone in America deserves equal access to affordable health care. The way to fix our broken health-care system isn't by scrapping what we have without offering an alternative. If the republicans are so opposed to the current health care legislation, why didn't they work harder to make it better when the legislation was being considered. If they must 'destroy' 'Obama-Care' why won't they give us something better? What's the option here? Health care in America is broken, but shutting down the government doesn't fix it. Such idiots!

Not to worry though, once this is all over - A year from now; no will remember the shutdown. No one will remember why it happened, who caused it, or what the furloughs were all about. Of this I have no doubt.

As of 1 Oct, 2013. Myself and hundreds of thousands of other government employees are out of a job. We've been sent home without pay. Not fired - Furloughed. We're in a employed status with no work and no pay. This is NOT good! Should I start looking for a new job? Just before the shutdown some legislators managed to pass a bill, which became a law on the evening of 30 Sep. Just before the shutdown. That legislation 'HR3210' provided appropriation of funds for DoD civilians, but it can't be implemented until lawyers have reviewed it and decided what/who can be brought back to work or paid.

My first cost cutting measures? I cancelled my house cleaning services (Sorry about that Shirley - I'll be cleaning the house myself, now that I can't go into work - And I'm not getting paid!); I also cancelled my home phone services. More on that latter. I also called my Representative's office (Representative Michael 'Mike' Coffman) 1-202-225-7882. I called to thank him for supporting HR3210, the bill that would fund DoD Civilians in certain jobs.

In a conversation with the Representative's office, the office confirmed that the wording of the new law (also known as "Providing Support to Members of the Armed Services") is being questioned. "the decision is being left to the Defense Secretary and Homeland Security Secretary". Howard P. "Buck" McKeon (the Chairman of the House Armed Services committee) sent a letter to Secretary Hagel. In that letter Mr. McKeon stated "I strongly encourage you to use the authority congress has given you to keep national security running, rather than keeping defense civilians at home when they are authorized to work."

As of 2 Oct, 2013. The shutdown and furloughs continue. Despite the legal authority (ref HR3210 - The 'Pay Our Military Act') to reinstate hundreds of thousands of DoD civilians. I should get back to 'work' figuring out more ways to cut costs and save money. I've also got a resume to work on...
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_federal_government_shutdown_of_2013>
<http://www.robsworld.org/BILLS-113hr3210enr.pdf>
<http://www.robsworld.org/lettertohagel.pdf>

Music CollectionOctober's Audible Onslaught:
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 / the music industry wants 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, 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 major label 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 (Oct of 2013) I downloaded 72 tracks (from eMusic) at the low cost of $33.68... I'm paying a $19.99 monthly fee (plus a $10.00 booster pack this month), so that makes the tracks even cheaper (~$0.42 / 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 available 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.

* A Line In The Dirt - Eels: (Single) This single is track #5 from the album 'End Times'. I previously downloaded this entire album from eMusic in the past (See the April 04th entry from the "What's New?" blog posting in April of 2010), but eMusic claims to have no record of that purchase. I downloaded this particular track because it's come up missing. Lately I've been having some issues with iTunes and a bad hard drive. I lost a lot of music tracks, but luckily I've kept multiple copies/back-ups of my music. Despite my copious copies and recovery efforts, I just couldn't recover a viable copy of this particular track. Since eMusic wouldn't credit me for my purchase, I had to download a new copy of the song. Thankfully, the eMusic cost for a single ($0.49) is far cheaper than the iTunes (~$0.99 - $1.29) or Amazon (~$0.99) alternatives. As for this particular album... Eels are a favorite band from the 90's, I've got most of their stuff. It's melancholy, dark, moody and surprisingly resonant. If you're a fan of the band, this is a must. The latest release from a favorite band. Alternative, experimental, progressive, a bit dark.
* Come Back As Rain (Deluxe Version) - Good Old War: (15) Good Old War is a favorite band of mine since approximately May of 2012. I discovered this band by listening to iTunes New Music Tuesdays releases. A folk/country flavor with plenty of acoustic instruments, excellent harmony and outstanding vocals. On this album the opening track 'Over and Over' announces with singular clarity a clarion call for a clear and precise harmony of superlative sounds without peer. The entire album is chock full of thrumming strings, staccato percussion and heartfelt, foot tapping, addictive lyrics.
* Blue Sky - The Bottle Rockets: (13) Another album with a folk and country flavor. Purchased through eMusic, who later lost the rights to sell this album (when the severed several distribution deals with big name labels, and reverted to a more independent distribution model. In my opinion a positive change which refocused eMusic on their original audience). I discovered The Bottle Rockets by listening to recommendations on MOG.com. This particular album appealed to me with all its 'Twangy Sweetness' and bourbon blessed lyrics. Blues and roots rock with an unpretentious independent artist fervor.
* The Real New Fall LP - The Fall: (12) This album was formerly released as 'Country on the Click'. I'm not quite sure why it was re-released under a new name, but that's the way record labels screw with artists. I'm sure it had something to do with royalties or copyrights or some legal shenanigans designed to deprive the artists of their dues. The Fall is a favorite Manchester branded band from the 80s. Lead singer Mark E. Smith hits the notes with this sonic slam. This is no sloppy spoken word soup. Here's a cleverly crafted album full of signature 'Fall' reverberations. Filled with buzzing guitar tracks and brain twisting lyrics, your head explodes as the Sparta FC anthem burns a notch into your cranium. Listen with relish as the Fall gets their groove back in this album.
* Gyrate Plus - Pylon: (16) Another album/band recommended by MOG.com. This band reminds me of 'The Slits' the 'Urban Verbs', 'Martha and the Muffins' and 'Pere Ubu', all of which are great 80s bands that I would easily rank as favorites. For that reason Pylon pulls out all the stops and sets itself up as a talent I missed but won't forget. Active during the 80s and 90s, I've only now discovered this talented Athens, Georgia quartet. I'll definitely revisit this group on subsequent downloads.
* In A Tidal Wave Of Mystery - Capital Cities: (12) I discovered this band by listening to iTunes Radio (on the 'alternative' channel). It's pop with some jangly guitar strokes and some sweet synth syrup. At times it feels a little disco, definitely danceable, deliciously new wave. Safe and Sound seems to have taken the airwaves at the moment. I'm definitely enjoying this album.
* The Sky's the Limit - Nik Kershaw: (3) A single (two songs, one radio version) by Nik Kershaw. An artist I remember from the 80s. Re-discovered by listening to MOG.com recommendations. I still remember his charting single "Wouldn't It Be Good" He really never took off in the US, but here's a single (3 songs) where Nik gets to show us that he can still hit the high notes. This new song "The Sky's the Limit" (released 2012) is one more song that follows Nik's theme - Flying higher than any mountain, brighter, smarter, better than any other person in the world! Nik Kershaw's a king of inspiration. His songs always pick up my mood.

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>