Yet another spammer pretending to be me:
A recent incident provides proof that spammers are still trying to get spam passed off as coming from me. This particular spammer went to a lot of trouble to forge his messages in certain way, so that he/she could try to slip it past my Hosting Provider's filters. This incident was a bit atypical. The spammer wasn't sending email to millions of others with my name (and email address) forged in the headers. He/she was forging the headers with my name/email address in an attempt to get past my Hosting Provider's (HSP / Hosting Service Provider) filters. Specifically my HSP's 'mailing list' filters. This particular spam incident occurred somewhere around the 29th of Mar, 2014. The spammer tried to send spam messages to a few of my mailing lists. If they had been successful, hundreds of subscribers would have received the spam messages.
The spammer forged the headers so that any 'bounce' messages would be returned to my HSP's mailing list. I ended up getting multiple copies of the spam. Some were addressed directly to me, and some made their way to my inbox when the spammer tried to send more of the spam to my mailing lists. The spammer was attempting to send the spam to two mailing lists. My 'dndcampaign' mailing list and my 'robsworld' mailing list. Fortunately, my mailing lists are 'locked down' - Non members cannot post to the list. Anyone who is not a member gets their messages held for review. Thankfully the spammer didn't forge the header in a way that bypassed that filter (it is possible to forge a header in such a manner that it will bypass that filter). The mailman software did it's job, the spam was held.
After some forensics and troubleshooting, I was able to figure out who was responsible for the spam. I reported them to upstream providers, updated my spam filters and reported the incident to my HSP. It took another week to do all that, but it looks like this limited incident has been contained. My account hasn't been hacked, my HSPs filters and mailman processing worked as designed and the spammer wasn't able to circumvent the protective measures in order to send spam to my mailing lists.
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!
Way to go - USAA:
Recently, I received an email from USAA, that email contained a link to the annual report, and some other interesting facts. Here is some of the information it contained:
While researching this posting, I found a few videos and web pages which purportedly criticized USAA for some reason or another. After viewing some of the videos and postings, I'm still convinced. I trust that you will come to the same conclusion. Reading through (and watching) the complaints was a reinforcing experience. It was easy to see that most of the 'problems' these people described were manufactured by their own ignorance or incompetence. In many cases there was an obvious lack of detail regarding certain aspects of the complaint. They blamed USAA for things that weren't under USAA's control, were clearly the fault of the poster, or likely weren't the real issue at all. This is one of the best companies I've ever done business with. I've never been steered wrong, or misled by USAA. Their service has always been the best. I can't imagine another company which treats it's members like owners, always looks out for the interests of it's members, and doesn't seek to screw those it serves. If you know a company as forthright, honest, and responsive, please share it with me.</rave>
Another feature of Amazon Prime? Videos - On demand/instant videos. Amazon's instant videos come in two flavors, the kind you pay for. You can rent (Most titles $4.00) or purchase (Most titles $15.00) the videos, or - and here's the power of Prime, you can watch videos for Free! While it's difficult to get firm numbers, I was able to detect a few consistent numbers for the Amazon video selection. As of Feb, 2013, it looks like the Amazon Video library has ~180,000 titles, with ~33,000 free Amazon Prime videos. While that's not as many as Netflix, it's definitely a respectable number. You can watch the Amazon Prime videos on several different devices. I have six devices (not counting web browsers on a computer) capable of playing the free videos.
Two day shipping and free videos isn't the limit to the Prime goodness. Amazon Prime members in the U.S. who own a Kindle (Amazon's eBook/eInk readers) can access the "Kindle Owners' Lending Library", a collection of thousands of books (~5,000 titles to choose from) to borrow for free; including more than 100 current and former NYT best sellers. You can borrow one book a month, with no due date... I don't own a Kindle, yet, so I guess I'll just have to stick with the other benefits for now. So - Amazon Prime membership gets you three benefits: Two day shipping on eligible items (plus one day shipping for $4.00), access to the Amazon Prime video selection (~33,000 titles), access to the Kindle Owners' lending library. In addition to all these goodies, you can share the two day shipping benefit with other family members, even if they've got a separate Amazon account.
In March 2014 (Mar 13 in my Inbox), Amazon announced an increase in the annual membership fee for Amazon Prime, from $79 to $99. Despite this bit of bad news, I still consider Amazon Prime to be an excellent value for the money. The free shipping alone pays (in my case) for the cost of an annual membership. Combine that with the free streaming videos and you'll find me to be one happy customer.
I remember Amazon in the beginning (~1998). What started as a way to buy books soon exploded into something much larger - Music then Movies, then electronics, and the list goes on. Fast forward to 2014 - Amazon is the 1,000 pound gorilla of retail on the internet. An Amazon Prime membership plugs an intravenous of Amazon goods directly into your home. The speakers, blue-tooth transmitters, DVDs, Wireless headsets, ink cartridges, clock radios, shoes, laser pointers, batteries, etc! I may never leave the house again (Just Kidding). Imagine how indispensable this service must be for people living in rural parts of the U.S. Pretty much anything you can imagine is available via Amazon, and the prices are unbelievably low. With a Prime account delivery is super fast and FREE! No tax, no shipping, and two day delivery - Why bother with retail?
Problems with the AppleTV:
On the 14th of Nov, 2013, Apple rolled out a major AppleTV update. This particular update was released in order to patch a security vulnerability. Applicable to the 2nd generation and later (of the AppleTV), this particular patch addressed a secure transport vulnerability, which could allow a privileged user to capture or modify data protected within an SSL/TLS session. Apple is always working to keep you safe, even when the attack can only be executed by someone who already has privileged access to your network.
Unfortunately, the AppleTV isn't immune to 'poor customer experience'. In this case its an issue of purchase verification. In order to 'authenticate' your purchase, Apple has a very rigorous 'verification' process. A process which makes for a very poor customer experience. Fortunately, you only have to experience this pain once. In my case the pain was experienced when I tried to rent a movie on my newest AppleTV. I recently bought a new 3rd generation AppleTV. With that new AppleTV, I hadn't had a chance to rent any movies until recently (I was watching movies I already own).
When I attempted to rent a movie through the AppleTV I encountered a 'poor customer experience'. In order to verify my purchase (the first time), Apple made me respond to a verification code that it had sent to my iPhone. Unfortunately, the iPhone was in a different part of the house - So I had to get up from my comfortable spot on the couch. I thought I had the right number, but I didn't, and I ended up going back and forth from the office to the living room three times. I had to re-enter some of my credit card info into the iTunes store, but I had to do that on the computer. Then once I finally got the movie up and running, I lost connection to Apple's authentication server - I don't know how or why, all I know is the movie paused, ended and kicked me back to the main screen. I had to go back into the office, re-enter all my info, then re-start the AppleTV before I was finally able to watch the entire movie that I had just rented. It took me more than thirty minutes just to 'rent' the movie.
Thankfully, I only had to do that once, but Apple prides itself on customer experience, and that was one poor customer experience. The rental/purchase set up wasn't difficult, but it was time consuming. I think that Apple should include that in the device set-up. Allow customers to get their purchase/rental details set-up 'before' they settle down to watch their first movie. They could skip it at set-up, but at least they would know that it's expected with their first rental/purchase.
Out to eat in Parker:
Taking the elevator up to the 4th floor, we found a place with a decor that is instantly forgettable. The restaurant looks like it's located on the top floor of a Holiday Inn. It's about as memorable as the name (first, middle, last - you pick one) of my 5th grade math teacher (no offense to 5th grade teachers)... With warm wood grains and dim, suburban lighting, the atmosphere immediately made me yawn. Hopefully the food would be a bit more exciting, because the piano wasn't doing it for me either. Despite the fact that Yelp indicated 'Windows all the way around' (not true), we weren't lucky enough to be seated near the windows, so we didn't get to enjoy the 'elegant bird's eye view of the Rocky Mountains and Denver skyline'. For that matter, we couldn't even see the 'Spectacular views' of the E-470 interchange'. Every customer in the place looked like they were sleep-walking from their hotel rooms to the lounge...
Kim ordered a steak of some sort - I'm not entirely sure what she had, as she didn't make many exclamations about the quality. I had the Citrus Grouper. I don't see that on very many menus, so I thought I'd give it a try. Along with the Grouper, I had some oysters - Kim didn't join me there, as she's allergic, but I thought I'd give it a try. For an appetizer we had the Bruschetta. Something that a lot of places are featuring these days. This was another mediocre example of cuisine. I should never try something from a menu when Kim makes a version that puts most Italian chefs to shame. I would estimate that they were at approximately 15% occupancy when we arrived, and it rose to about 25% during the duration of our visit. Despite the slow crowd, our service was totally on par with the occupancy rate. There were times where I thought they had completely forgotten about us, until the bill arrived. Our choices weren't from the buffet or the bar menu, but I was slightly surprised by the 5 star price. This place 'Is' located in a Holiday Inn... I'm not sure why, but the prices were about 25% higher than I was anticipating - Coming in at just shy of $100.00 Kim and I couldn't quite figure out why the bill was so high. We didn't have any drinks, and based on the quality of the food, the customer experience and the location we really didn't anticipate such a high cost for two people. The food was good, but overall it was a mediocre experience. I don't think we'll be going back.
Microsoft Ups the Ante on Cloud storage:
In July of 2013, Google increased its free cloud storage to 15GB in order to match the inbox storage available through the free GMail service. Not to be outdone, Microsoft recently increased the amount of storage you get with their 'OneDrive' cloud storage (recently renamed from 'SkyDrive' to 'OneDrive'). Free customers who signed up recently got a bump up from 7GB to 15GB. Paying customers got bumped up to 1TB of cloud storage. Luckily for me, I'm still grandfathered into a free 25GB account. I signed up early (when it was still called SkyDrive), and Microsoft never 'reduced' my storage to match the new 7GB/15GB storage space.
If the storage increase is not enough for your needs, then you can increase the space further for free. All you have to do so is to install the OneDrive application (available for Android and iOS) and enable its camera backup feature. When you enable the camera backup feature, you get 3GB of additional (permanent) storage space in the cloud. That gets you up to 18GB with the standard free OneDrive account. You can always turn off the camera backup feature later on. I was concerned that turning off the camera backup feature might result in a reduction in your storage, and the possible loss of some photos. After a quick email to a Microsoft help desk, I was quickly reassured that no one would have their storage reduced for turning off the camera back-up.
What does the 'Camera upload' feature do? It basically transfers all photos and videos that you take with your camera to OneDrive so that they're available on the Internet via connected devices and the web. Dropbox and Google Drive are offering similar camera upload options. Here Microsoft is upping the ante by increasing your cloud storage if you enable the camera upload feature.
I certainly appreciate the bump in storage that Microsoft is providing, and this move keeps it in the race when it comes to small or home office/business user (I'm a bit of a tech-head, just above the typical home user range). Thanks for raising the bar Microsoft! If you're interested in cloud storage, I definitely recommend that you go out and get your free 15GB OneDrive account now. Give it an extra boost (an additional 3GB) by downloading and installing the OneDrive mobile app (and turn on the camera upload feature). As usual, these storage amounts are subject to change at any time... Get it now while Microsoft is feeling generous - That's how I got my 25GB account.
With this software update, I've updated my Software Favorites page. It's primarily dedicated to web publishing for the Mac user. Not meant for the professional, It's my hope that home users and hobbyists will find it useful. It's a listing of applications that I find useful in publishing my web pages.
Health Care in America - Preventative Health Care:
Despite the fact that I have some of the best health care in America (TriCare), my insurance does not cover vaccinations under all circumstances - or do they?. Kim and I have been planning a vacation. Our vacation will take us to Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands (In May of 2014). These Islands are part of the U.S. They are part of our country. However, based upon the responses of people who work for TriCare and AT&T - you would think that the CNMI (Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands) is a foreign country. Some exotic destination that isn't related in any way at all to the U.S. That may be partially true, but it's still part of the U.S. despite the fact that some of the people I've had to deal with are ignorant to the facts - Including the people who work for the U.S. department of Customs and Border Protection.
When Kim informed her primary care provider of our travel plans, he recommended that she get an immunization against Typhoid. The CDC recommends that anyone traveling to Guam or CNMI get a Typhoid vaccination. The CDC is the leading national public health institute of the United States. It's a federal agency under the Department of Health and Human Services. TriCare indicates (on their website) that immunizations recommended by the CDC are covered (or so I was told)... Unless you ask for an immunization that TriCare doesn't list on 'Their' website. Apparently, they don't cover immunizations recommended when covered persons travel outside the United States. Here we go again. I was even asked to 'prove' that the Northern Mariana Islands are part of the United States. They kept insisting that Guam and CNMI aren't part of the United States. When I asked what constituted 'the United States' they said, 'The 50 States' - I asked if they could provide an online reference that would explain this, they said 'No', 'that's just the way it is'... It's kind of hard to argue with that logic.
FYI: Later (after my fruitless discussion with TriCare officials; I discovered the 'official' (according to the federal government) definition of the 'United States'. The definition is codified in law under USC (United States Code) 5 and 18. USC is the official compilation and codification of the general and permanent federal statutes of the United States. I've spent plenty of time reading USC titles 18 and 5. They both define the 'United States' as follows: "United States" means the several States, the District of Columbia, and the territories and possessions of the United States including the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico". Note that title 5 refers to Government Organizations and Employees. I believe that it would also apply to TriCare as care administered under TriCare (to Active Duty military and Retired Military) is an official part of the US Gov't. Title 18 refers to the criminal and penal code of the federal government of the United States.
After going around and around with various TriCare officials, the coverage was clarified. Apparently TriCare doesn't cover immunizations that are recommended based on travel - because, get this "Travel is a voluntary decision" - Right. The vaccination is covered for active duty - I wonder if they cover it for dependents? Probably not. For some reason they covered my cost of a Typhoid vaccination (I needed a booster), but they wouldn't cover Kim (she has a different primary care provider / in a different facility). Kim got her vaccination, but we had to pay out of pocket for the vaccination It only cost us $50.00, but I'm a bit upset that it wasn't covered as a preventative vaccine, especially since they covered me. I never questioned why they covered me but not Kim. If I had asked too many questions, they might have decided that I had to pay as well.
Once again, bureaucracy can and will cause Americans to become ill, to forego preventative medicine, to take risks, to lie and even commit fraud in order to get the health care they need, deserve, and pay for. Who profits from this corruption, malpractice and criminal management? Health care and Insurance corporations. Who suffers and pays in the end? The American public. I'm sure there are people who travel to/from Guam and CNMI who don't get the proper vaccinations, because they can't afford it and their insurance won't pay for it. What about the Americans who live in Guam? They're at the greatest risk, but I suppose they're not covered for an immunization that can make the difference between life and death? Typhoid is far more dangerous and contagious than the common cold. Perhaps you've heard of 'Typhoid Mary'? Apparently TriCare thinks that Typhoid isn't all that dangerous, and people don't really need to be vaccinated against it; either that or they should just 'Not Travel'.
My Opinion: The article/blog posting above (on my website: https://www.robsworld.org) contains reported facts, observations, and some of my personal opinion(s). It does not represent any official government position, and is not meant to imply a suggested course of action, or advocacy of any specific action(s). These are my personal opinions, and the last time I checked I was still entitled to have those. If you have your own opinions on the matter of TriCare or 'Health Care in America' that's great. You may disagree with my personal opinion(s), and you may email me regarding my opinions, but please don't bother telling me that my personal opinions are 'wrong', because opinions can't be 'wrong'. Copyright: Robert L. Vaessen (2014)
Colorado's Crazy Weather - One Frosty Morning:
I woke up on a cold day in Mar of 2014, and this is what I saw out my window (see linked photos): Streets, trees, cars, fire hydrants, shrubs, roads, power lines, you name it; everything covered in a fine coating of frost, and an odd eerie fog rolling about in all directions. This unusual weather occurred on the 1st and 2nd of Mar, 2014. Looking back on it, I guess it wasn't all that odd. It was cold, very cold, very little wind, and there was a small amount of moisture in the air. The results? Everything was coated in a fine layer of frost. Oh, yeah, and then there was the fog. The fog was rolling in over the hill in the back yard, roiling around in the streets, and creeping about in all directions. The drive to work that morning (on the 1st of Mar) was like a scene from some horror movie. Such an alien landscape! Unfortunately, the camera didn't capture the fog very well. But I thought I'd share the photos anyway. Just another example of that weird weather we sometimes encounter in our Colorado community. What kind of crazy weather do you encounter in your corner of the planet?
SMB2 issues = NAS bricked:
Back in November of 2013, I wrote about Apple's OS 10.9 update and the changes they made to the SMB2 protocol. Since I upgraded to OS 10.9 I had nothing but problems with SMB2 protocol. Using SMB2 protocol on my Mac has effectively crippled my NAS (Buffalo Technology LinkStation Pro Duo 4 TB (2 x 2 TB) RAID Network Attached Storage LS-WV4.0TL/R1 (Black)) it now takes hours to transfer files. I lost several photo and music files. Files that were stored on the NAS and served up by iPhoto and iTunes. I've had to re-host all those files back on a locally attached drive. While struggling with my NAS, I encountered a 'full-stop' moment. My NAS became completely/utterly non-responsive. Completely bricked. The NAS wouldn't respond to any commands. I tried using CIFS, SMB1, AFP and several other protocols in an attempt to communicate with the NAS, but it simply won't respond.
I blame Apple! The NAS was working fine before the change to SMB2 under Mavericks. Once it stopped serving properly (after upgrading to OS 10.9), I should have just disconnected it and waited. I should have waited for an Apple solution... Thankfully I had enough backups (of my music, videos and photos) available. I was able to recover all my files. Others (and I know a few of those others) weren't so lucky. They were relying on Apple to maintain a reliable file transfer protocol. Now they've lost thousands of photos, files and countless NAS devices. The NAS stopped working back in November of 2013. In December I turned it over to a friend with a Windows machine. The only way to un-brick this supposedly Mac compatible NAS, required the use of a Windows compatible recovery application. Getting the device recovered wasn't an easy task, but I finally have the NAS back, and its working with my Mac.
Unfortunately, the transfer speeds are total crap (the recovery software didn't 'fix' the SMB2 compatibility problem / It just unbricked the NAS). At this rate (took 7 hours to transfer 50gb of a 500gb drive / and I had to start over three times because of timeouts and disconnects) it'll take me months to get my data off the device. It works fine on a Windows/PC, but the SMB/CIFS connectivity on the Mac is total crap! There is no 'fix' from the maker, despite the fact that other NAS manufacturers have gone ahead and added an SMB2 compatibility to their competing products (like the Synology DS-214 I recently purchased as a replacement). I wonder if this NAS will ever function correctly in the aftermath of Apple's SMB2 upgrade?
Despite all the benefits that SMB2 should have brought, the implementation by Apple has turned it into a smoldering disaster. I can no longer use one of my external storage devices with any reliability. Apple's implementation (mishandling) of SMB2 has completely derailed my ability to do it myself. I don't know when or if I can ever trust Apple to provide reliable networking software again. I'm starting to think that I might need a Windows machine (or a paid hosting/remotely served solution) in order to externally host and share my ever-growing collection of movies, music, photos and other files. It's a very sad day. At the moment I'm unable to electronically share these files with other computers outside my network (i.e. remotely). Apple has really let us down. Hopefully the Synology DS-214 will function adequately.
More music in March:
Artists want you to Hear their music - If you like it, you'll buy it, or maybe you'll buy some concert tickets. The major labels of the music industry want you to pay for their product. - letting you hear it for free is contrary to their business model. Well, guess what? I won't buy the music if I can't listen to it first, and no one listens to the radio anymore (I don't because of all the advertising, interruptions, lack of new music and lack of information - you can never figure out who/what is being played) The major labels are killing themselves with their restrictive distribution and dissemination policies. If you like new music, you can do a web search to find your favorite artists web site, a new music web site, or an archive of free music. Free music is available - Legally! Don't believe the propaganda of the major labels - Not all free music is illegal. You can legally download and listen to all sorts of music for free (Have you heard of Pandora, Audiolizer, Presto, Jango or GrooveShark?). I download (purchase) 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!
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. :-)