Oct 31, 2014

Vaessen emailBought a new Domain:
I bought a new domain today - Vaessen.email - I'm first! Yes, that's a new Top Level Domain. Two year registration with Godaddy.com cost me $43.00 - I'm thinking it might be cheaper elsewhere. Godaddy used to be the cheapest, but I'm thinking that's not the case anymore. Update: (Posted in Dec, 2018) I've found a cheaper domain registration service - NameCheap.com - They're significantly cheaper than Godaddy, and so far (2 years+), I haven't noticed any considerable difference in service or features. I've already switched many of my domains over to NameCheap.

The new domain is hosted with 'StableHost.com' but I don't have any webpages configured, nor do I plan to... As you might imagine. I'm planning to use this domain exclusively for email. Owning your own name domain is pretty awesome. With the right type of hosting you can configure every and any email address you want. I've already configured a few; you can probably guess the primary email address.

Mercury MilanMercury Milan - Battery Woes:
The battery in Kim's car (a 2010 Mercury Milan- Hybrid) died yesterday. We almost spent a bunch of money getting the vehicle towed 20+ miles (to the dealership). Thankfully our AAA membership helped keep that price down. Nobody other than the dealership will touch her car; because it's a hybrid. I won't be buying a hybrid again. It's paid off, but we're still taking it to the dealer for everything except tires and alignment. Diagnostic work and a new battery cost me $155.00 - Damn those dealerships!

Thankfully, the battery that failed wasn't the 'Hybrid' batteries, just the starter battery. A standard battery - As if there's one of those? A friend/relative who works in the car insurance industry remarked: "Interesting and very factual comment with what is happening in the auto industry. Most of the ma pa/corner shops are raising the labor rates into the $75-90 per hour range. I don't blame them but they get away from it as well on the coatails of the dealer. Everybody has the diag machine. They run $1,500-$3000 for those buzzards but darn well worth it. I would prefer to use the dirty sweaty guy on the corner but they are harder and harder to find due to being squeezed out. The other item you have to watch is parts. Many dealers will try and use a price matrix system which allows them to maximize the price for a part. Never pay more than list price and ask if it is list price before you pay."

Another friend commented: "Hybrid cars [are] like healthy food, sure you want to get it and make things better for you and the environment, but just like with getting healthy food, its too damn expensive to maintain"

Good advice - I just wish I had the option to 'ask' before I pay. With this repair, they called me and said the car needed a new battery so they replaced it; but I never spoke to them. I don't know if Kim authorized the repair ahead of time, but there wasn't any 'Would you like us to replace the battery' conversation. They just replaced the battery. Update: Apparently Kim had pre-authorized the repairs when she signed the paperwork at the dealership...

Annibirthday - 2014Annibirthday - 2014:
Kim and I skipped our traditional Annibirthday celebration last year (2013). We had far too many unexpected expenses in 2013, so we just stayed home for our anniversary/my birthday. The 'Annibirthday' is our anniversary and my birthday. Kim and I got married on my birthday, on the 26th of October, back in 1985 - We've been married 29 years now, and that should be worth something... How about a tax break?! This year we went on a short little mountain getaway to celebrate. On the 24th of Oct we drove down to Canõn City, Colorado. Kim drove her Milan (now that the battery is working!). We stopped along the way to gas up and get some coffee. Fuel for us and the vehicle.

The scenic drive along Colorado State Highway 115 (CO-115) is always scenic. A nice trip through the mountains to the south and west of Colorado Springs. Through the canyons around Pikes Peak Massif and into the Sawatch range as you reach Canõn City. Unfortunately, the traffic on this road increases every year, making sightseeing less and less enjoyable.

We stopped for a burger at a nice Mom & Pop joint - Big Burger World in Canõn City. The burgers were outstanding, and the atmosphere couldn't be beat. The weather on day one was fantastic. We spent part of the morning visiting the Royal Gorge train station and some city parks (Riverwalk trails) in Canõn City. Than night we ate dinner at the Royal Gorge Brew Pub. The food was good, but they were out of most of what we ordered.

On the 25th of October we spent a good part of the day visiting the Royal Gorge park. What a mess! After last years fire (In June of 2013), they've been busy rebuilding. So far they've got a good start with an excellent new visitor's center. The fire burned completely destroyed 48 of the parks 52 buildings. The bridge suffered minor damage. Unfortunately, the $16.00 entrance fee is kind of expensive for a visit to a park with one attraction (that 'sky coaster' swing - If it hadn't been for spectacular views, we would never have paid the entrance fee). Hopefully future visits will find additional attractions open/available.

That evening we enjoyed a Murder Mystery Train Ride aboard the Royal Gorge train. They served us dinner as the train rambled along the royal gorge route. At the same time, a murder mystery unraveled around us. As a team, eight of us tried to sleuth a solution to a convoluted 'who-dunnit' - We didn't win, but the entertainment was a winner and we had an excellent dinner. We drove home on the 26th, and enjoyed the last two days relaxing at home.

During the vacation - I took a few photos. Another great Annibirthday - and plenty of photos posted. With the demise of MobileMe, Apple's pulled a fantastic photo sharing site right out from under my feet. While my new webhost has empowered me with a large variety of web apps and cgi functionality, I opted for a 'client-side' photo-gallery application. I prefer the control I get from client-side applications, and I've suffered through one to many data-loss incidents to trust the server side solutions. Next time Apple decides to cut the cord on one of their services, I won't have to worry about my data. I posted all the photos to my website using the Exhibeo application by Softpress.

Mobile check depositMobile Check Deposits:
Here's a hearty 'Thank you' to USAA, Wells Fargo, and my iPhone. Technology is making some things better, and this is one of those times (the list is far smaller than one might imagine/the media hype might lead you to believe).

I recently received a personal check from someone. A slip of paper that had to be mailed to me (via the US Postal Service), because it was impossible to make an electronic transfer from one bank to another. Or at least it was impossible for mere humans/customers to make such electronic transfers. Note that banks have been doing this for many years. I did some research (web searches - another item in the how technology has made things better) on the 'electronic' account to account transfer, and it's pretty difficult if not impossible, for one individual to make a paperless transfer from one personal account to another personal account.

Every day banks and businesses make millions of transfers from one bank to another, from one business to another, from a consumer to a bank, from a consumer to a merchant, from a merchant to a bank, etc, etc... It all sounds wonderful. It's a technological marvel how commerce flows so freely over the internet, without the burden of physical mediums or the transfer of little slips of paper. But try to make a transfer from one consumer to another? Forget it, the obstacles are quite complex and the banks just can't seem to get their act together in order to make the lives of consumers easier.

You can make PayPal transfers, but not everyone has PayPal, not everyone is computer savvy enough to make that work. When it comes to a person to person transfer of electronic funds, forget it! You might be able to make it work, provided you're willing to pay extra in order to make that transfer from one person's bank account to another. You might be able to make it work, if you follow all the complex and intricate rules for routing and configuration of automated payments, but spontaneous person to person transfers of banking funds? Forget it, apparently the banks would prefer that you write a check on a piece of paper that they have to send to you. Then you put the check in the mail, put postage on the stamp, them mail the check to another party, then they have to wait for the post office to deliver the check, then pick the check up from their mail box (mine is a block away), open the envelope, then drive to the bank, endorse the check, hand the check to a teller, then the teller checks your ID, you bank account number, password, and what you want done with the funds... Not easy, not convenient, extremely expensive in materials, personnel handling and labor hours.

You'd think the banks could save the originator, the recipient and themselves a huge pile of time and money by facilitating this sort of person to person transfer. Eliminating a lot of manual processing and physical transfer. Do they make it easy? Hell no! Why should they make things better for consumers?

This is where a bank like USAA enters the picture. USAA is a member owned bank, similar to traditional credit unions. It's not a 'For Profit Corporation', it's a 'For the Members Corporation'. It was the first bank to allow consumer level mobile deposits using smartphones (in 2009). Since USAA implemented its remote deposit capability, the industry has slowly been adopting the feature as a benefit for consumers (10% adoption as of 2013). When consumers are looking for banks with actual consumer friendly services, USAA is number one! 

I don't have a USAA checking account (I do other business with USAA (Insurance)), but I must thank them for pushing the envelope. Because they made this feature available, the other banks have come under pressure to make the service available. Today marks the second time that I've used a 'remote deposit' application on my iPhone to deposit a check into my checking account (A Wells Fargo account). Despite the fact that I despise most of these big banks, I have to give USAA credit for their role in 'Forcing' the big commercial banks in this regard.

Have you used a 'remote deposit' service/app on your smart phone? I find that it saves me plenty of time, is extremely easy to use, and deserves kudos as one of the few times where technology is making my life better.

No SpamReturn of the Chinese Domain Name Scam (again!):
My first encounter with this particular scam occurred back in January of 2010. I had another encounter on the 29th of Mar, 2012, another on the 14th of May, 2012, again on the 22nd of May, 2014 and again on the 20th of Oct 2014 - These clueless con-men/scammers sure are persistent! In all cases I received a suspicious email. Something that caused a mild concern (at this point after numerous such extortion/scare-tactics, I barely notice). This email indicated that someone is trying to register "robsworld" as an Internet Keyword and their China Domain Names (CN/ASIA)? Presumably, that should concerns me! I own the domain name 'SouthEastAurora-NeighborhoodWatch.org', and this development could cause problems in the future. I don't think so. They've been trying to sell me on this confidence game since 2010, and their haven't been any issues since. This company (the one that sent me the unsolicited email) wants me to contact them regarding the matter. The use of English in the email certainly indicates that the originator isn't an English speaker. They claim to be a 'Domain Name Registration Center' in China. At the same time, some of the language felt out of place. The author used terms that are not applicable to the medium and or technical genre, and the tone of the email almost feels like extortion or some implied threat of intellectual property infringement. I got the feeling that something wasn't quite 'right' about the email. Being a skeptic, I started doing a little research (Isn't the Internet great!?).

The research/searches yielded a great deal of information regarding this domain (apidnr.hk in Jan of 2010, yiguangroup.com in Mar of 2012, ygnetworkltd.com in May of 2012, and now ygregistry.org.cn in May of 2014 and cnygregistry.net in Oct of 2014), similar emails, and the 'Scam' that these companies are engaging in. It's a scare tactic and an extortion racket. The fact that this email, and many like it, have gone out to several other domain name owners (as indicated by searches) indicates that it is a mass mailing email campaign (just like spam). They're not targeting me specifically, just targeting domain name registrants. I found numerous examples that were nearly identical to mine. Their email implies that someone is trying to register my domain name 'robsworld' as an 'Internet keyword'. I wasn't sure what that was to begin with (back in 2010), but I soon figured it out. They also insinuate that someone may be attempting to register the 'robsworld' domain with a .cn, .com.cn, .net.cn or some similar TLD (Top Level Domain). They also indicate that 'southeastaurora-neighborhoodwatch' refers to my 'company'. I don't have a trade mark, and I haven't incorporated anything under the domain name. Clearly they're trying to frighten me into taking some sort of 'preventive' action. If I had a trade mark or company name I would likely be concerned in a legal sense. This entire solicitation seems designed to make me call/contact them in order to prevent this 'third party' from using my trade mark or company name. As documented by other 'victims', once you email them back, a 'third party' (the one they mention in their initial email) conveniently gets involved in a further attempt to convince you that your domain/property is in jeopardy; unless you follow through with the only way to protect your property/domain name. You'll need to pay the 'legitimate' domain/keyword registration fees.

Domain name registration, trade marks and internet keywords are all different. This company is playing on fear and confusion in the hopes that I/others will become so concerned that we'll buy into their scam. Whatever it happens to be. One might speculate that they want me to register my domain with a Chinese TLD. Perhaps they want me to register my 'internet keyword' (something initiated by CNNIC (China Internet Network Information Center), the state run network information center of China), so that Chinese users will be directed to my website as opposed to a web site run by this mythical 'third party'. I'm not interested in registering any 'Internet Keywords' with a Chinese NIC; as these keywords are used as a means of internet censorship in China. The registration of 'Internet Keywords' is a costly proposition, that simply creates a second tier of domain name registration as a way of generating revenue for the Chinese state/corporations, and facilitating internet censorship. The only 'domain names' I'm interested in are the ones I've registered (through legitimate domain registrars). If I ever wanted a Chinese TLD (or internet keyword), I certainly wouldn't go through a company that sends me unsolicited email, full of unfounded, unproven, insinuations and speech designed to frighten me.

If you ever need any help hunting down a spammer, don't hesitate to ask for my help. I'm willing and eager to help. 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!

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

Graphic ConverterGraphicConverter:
Thorsten Lemke (of Lemkesoft) completed work on a couple more updates over the past couple of weeks. I recently saw/downloaded the following updates: 9.4.1 (b1754), 9.4.1 b1757). 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 is a highly versatile application with all the bells and whistles. On par with the 'Very Expensive' top end editors, and no 'subscription fee' required!

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.

SPF.EU TLD Spammers:
<rave>You just can't escape from this scourge of the internet era - Or can you?. It's a good thing that I own my own domains. I can create and delete email addresses at my whim. I do so in order to control who has my email address, what those email addresses are used for, and to track spam that shows up on specifically assigned addresses. During the month of Dec, 2011, I moved all my domains (robsworld.org, vaessen.name, vaessen.net, vaessen.ws, tollgatecrossing.org, and one other) to a new hosting service (the reasons are varied, but this is not the time to tell that story). The new hosting service offers numerous ways to cut down on the amount of spam I've been receiving: Account and user level filtering, SpamAssassin block/black list filtering, domain keys, SPF filtering, and other methods (Box Trapper was one of those methods, but it turned out to be ridiculous effort that probably just made things worse). Since moving to the new hosting provider (since approximately the 12th of Dec, 2011), I've reduced my spam by more than 98%. In the past (during 2011) I would typically receive approximately 35 spam messages per day, now I get less than one spam message a day! This is extremely good news. Reducing the amount of spam is awesome, but the excellent spam control measures at my disposal is even better!</rave>

Lately, I've been turning to another measure to reduce spam. Under the 'Account Level Filters' (used to filter email at the domain level) is an option to filter incoming email based on 'regex' (aka Regular Expressions). The regex filtering gives me some very precise and powerful controls to filter incoming email. By using a regex expression I can stop spam as it hits the server. According to all the forums I've read, it's best to simply drop the email. Don't reject it or deliver it. Simply route it to /dev/null. That's the trash for those who don't know. Email that matches the regex filtering is sent straight to the trash. I don't get a notification, no one receives the spam, and the spammer has no idea whether the email was delivered or not. The spammer (or the spammers email server) doesn't get any confirmation message at all. I originally thought this method would be pretty easy to implement, as I had used the Account Level Filtering extensively to great effect, but I hadn't use the 'regex' filtering option. How difficult could it be I thought? Well, after one disaster (no email for three days; due to some poorly constructed expressions), and several days of experimenting, I found out that it's not quite as easy as I had originally thought. There's information out there, but the help isn't all that easy to decipher. Written for organisms that communicate at a higher level of grunts and chirps, this mere mortal had difficulty implementing this rather obscure language of the ancient geeks.

The latest battle has been drawn on the front lines of an entire TLD (Top Level Domain). Apparently some group of spammers has settled on the .EU Top Level Domain as their 'Headquarters'. Unfortunately, not all mail servers have started implementing/insisting on SPF matching Once that starts, there will be less places for spammers to hide. Until then, the battle continues. This month it's been a battle in the EU name space. As I mentioned earlier, I've started receiving spam that contains a web address ending in .eu. For example:

To Unsubscribe http://www.rnp27.eu/l/lc10S9327IW172VN/212Q1565M3061KE3060OV34405447BB2892153480

Not wanting to simply block any email with a .eu web link (in the content of the message), I had to find a more effective way of blocking the spam. I needed a regex formula that matches their 'unsubscribe' links. No doubt these links are designed to track specific messages and may in fact lead to web pages that are generated dynamically. The spammers have crafted some algorithms/formulas (similar to my regex formula below) that varies as he/she send out the spam. An extremely sophisticated spammer might create some code that generates unique code/URLs for each victim. I believe that's what's happening here. Somehow the spammers code reads my email address (from a list of victim addresses), converts the victim address into a specially encoded URL, automatically creates a webpage that incorporates that encoded URL, then generates and sends the spam message. The results are unique spam messages - Unique to the victims, unique to the spam campaign, and able to withstand many filtering attempts as the code changes with each spam message. Here's the latest regex formula that I created to thwart the URLs in this shifting changing spam campaign:


Using this regular expression in a 'User' level filter (if you manage your own domains through cPanel) isn't easy, and constructing a working regex expression takes considerable experimentation, education and persistence. I've even bought a couple of applications to help construct these advanced spam filters. I use RegExRx to construct and test the filters, and I use a program called Peep to examine the content of spam messages in various different coding views (RegExRX - Purchased through Apple's 'App Store' for the Mac / Cost $4.99 and Peep - Purchased through Apple's 'App Store' for the Mac / Cost $1.99). As I said, these two tools help me create these advanced spam filters. Combining this new regex filtering with my other spam reduction measures (pgp signatures, SPF records, Domain Keys, Spam Assassin, Account Level filtering) have helped me greatly reduce incidences where spammers pretend to be me (forgeries), and it's helped reduce the amount of spam I receive.

Oct 18, 2014

Roof repairRoof Repair - Hammering Underway:
Contractors are hammering on my roof! Back in June of this year (2014), our area (Aurora/Denver, CO) got hammered by a lot of hail storms. I'm not sure whether it was more than typical, or if I just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time... The hail did some significant damage to our home. Denting/indenting the shingles, fracturing the frames around our windows, shredding the screens on our windows, denting our downspouts, marring the paint on our fences and some parts of the house. The damage was significant, insurance estimates and contractors estimates put the cost somewhere in the $40k range. 

I've been attempting over the last several months to find a suitable contractor to get all the work done, get my insurance company to pay enough to 'make me whole' on the repairs and get the work scheduled. Being in between the two (the insurance and the contractor) isn't a good spot. I just want my home repaired to the same condition it was in before the storms.

The insurance company (USAA) keeps offering an amount that won't cover the cost to 'repair' my windows - They're 'laminated' double panes, approximately 6' tall - Installed to mitigate sound from the airplanes (fighter jets from the nearby Air Force Base and civil airliners from DIA) flying overhead and to resist possible impact from any planes which might crash near my home! (Hasn't happened yet!). It's an officially designated hazard area. It's noted in my insurance and home owner purchase papers. These types of windows are 'required' by the state in this location (adjacent/within) an airport approach/flight corridor. Thankfully the insulation (on the windows) keeps out most of the noise from aircraft flying overhead, and hopefully, the impact resistant glass (a special coating) will protect us from debris in the event of a crash.

According to one party (the contractor), the other party isn't offering enough money to 'repair' these windows. I'm kind of stuck in the middle. I don't know enough about repair and restoration to know what the cost should be. The glass isn't broken, but I don't know how much it would cost to buy windows or frames and then remove the glass and put it into new frames. That might actually cost more (if its done by a an appropriately qualified person) than it would cost to replace the windows outright.

Today is Saturday, and the hammering continues. Getting the shingles replaced will be the easy part. Getting the rest of the repairs taken care of will be a more arduous ordeal.

This time around, we opted to get an impact resistant shingle. Hopefully that will help mitigate hail impact/damage the next time a storm passes through. It's not like I went and had an insurance estimate the first time we got hit with hail. These were significant storms. With tornado warnings and damage to thousands of homes and vehicles. Kim and I sought shelter in the basement and we thought the hail was going to come right through the glass! (Good thing we've got impact resistant laminated glass!)

I estimate another full day of hammering before they're all done. I sure hope the insurance will cover all the repairs. Yeah, I'll pay my deductible, but it sure would suck if the contractor decided to skimp on some of the materials or required steps. Hopefully the bank and insurance companies will help me out if something goes wrong - Yeah right!

Anxiety is running high as these home repairs are completely out of my control. I'm just a spectator as these corporate entities do battle over my house. Do they really care whether my home is 'made whole'? Update: (this entry written in Dec of 2018) The insurance company (USAA) eventually covered the full cost to replace the windows. I had to provide proof that my home was located in a designated hazard area, and the state required the builder to equip our home with these special windows. The best part? The insurance company didn't raise my rates because of my location in this hazard area - They knew when they initially/annually insured my home. It was disclosed in my initial insurance assessment.

Furnace repairFurnace Repair - Beware:
Beware the up-sell from your furnace service technician. Recently (during Sep of 2014) we had our furnaces serviced for the coming winter season. We've got two furnaces in our house, and we've found that it pays to have them inspected and serviced before winter rolls around. We've been stuck in the middle of winter with no heat, and that was no fun - So I compromised and decided to have the furnaces serviced at the start of the season.

Twice now we've had this particular company (Applewood) try the 'up-sell' technique on us. While conducting work that we requested, they commented on our whole-house humidifier. We have an evaporative humidifier connected to the heating/ducting of our primary furnace (just for the upstairs, where there's a lot of wood flooring and cabinets).

Twice now this company has commented regarding the humidifier that we already have. According to the service technicians, the humidifier we have is 'too small' for a home of this size. My wife wanted to know more, so she asked them to make a recommendation and prepare an estimate. According to the company (Applewood) that services our furnaces (does electrical and plumbing work in our home), we need a bigger unit. They recommend the 'Aprilaire 700a', and they could install the unit for approximately $1,600.00 (the estimate didn't include a break-down of parts and labor). I wasn't looking for a new humidifier the first time (in May of 2014) they recommended an 'up-sell', but then they recommended it again (in Sep of 2014), and my wife was pretty much sold - According to the 'Experts', "Our humidifier was too small"

Having heard the 'up-sell' twice, and questioned by the wife, I was moved to action - Was there any truth to their claims? I asked again what type of humidifier they recommended. As I mentioned earlier, they recommended an Aprilaire 700a; so I looked it up online. The Aprilaire 700a (a = automatic) is designed to humidify a home of up to ~5,000sqft. That's odd, our home is appx ~2,200sqft. Surely they're aware that our humidifier is only used for our upstairs... They can see that it's connected to the furnace for the upstairs. For that matter, I told them that I'm only humidifying the upstairs.

I wondered why they vastly over-estimated my home size when I asked them how many square feet my current humidifier was humidifying. Then I asked how many square feet my furnace was rated for. The technician never answered that question, but there's the estimate. ~$1,600.00. The humidifier costs ~$220.00 on Amazon, so the cost for labor was approximately ~$1,400.00. A job of this size might take two hours at most, so we're talking about $700.00 an hour for labor!

A little more research reveals some interesting facts. The Aprilaire 700a is the same kind of humidifier that I already have. A bypass evaporative whole-house humidifier. The Aprilaire is rated for homes up to 5,000sqft, and the HE260a Honeywell humidifier that is currently installed? It's rated to humidify a home of up to 2,500sqft.

I presented all these facts to my wife, and we discussed the benefits of replacing our current humidifier with a new bigger humidifier. My wife and I both agree; replacing the current humidifier - which works fine - with one that's rated for a larger home, would be a waste of our money. Now we're better informed regarding our humidifier, and we won't be suckered by the 'up-sell' when this company comes to inspect our furnace next year.

Home owners beware. There are some unscrupulous companies out there. Get all the facts before you make a decision. It's a constant battle. The name of the company that attempted to 'up-sell' us? Applewood plumbing heating and electric (of Denver). They do good work when there's an actual problem or I ask them to fix something specific, but I feel like I have to examine and fully scope everything they tell me - Especially when it's something that isn't outwardly obvious. I've had similar problems with other companies, so I guess this is common practice with residential businesses. 

Beware the 'up-sell' - Don't believe the quote or claims. Do your own research.

Software favorites:
Another batch of software updates from my Mac. Here are some of my Software Favorites. A bunch of updates for my favorite Graphic editor. GraphicConverter moves ever forward. As usual, the developer has been busy updating this application. All the updates are free for those who own a license (for the most recent version). If you need a powerhouse converter, editor, and browser for your graphics, grab a copy of GraphicConverter - You won't be disappointed. In addition to the GraphicConverter updates, we've also got a few Apple Productivity updates.

Graphic ConverterGraphicConverter:
Thorsten Lemke (of Lemkesoft) completed work on a slew of updates over the past couple of weeks. I recently saw/downloaded the following updates: 9.4.1 (b1734), 9.4.1 (b1735), 9.4.1 (b1743). 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 is a highly versatile application with all the bells and whistles. On par with the 'Very Expensive' top end editors, and no 'subscription fee' required!

iWorkiWork Updates:
Apple's productivity suite is three applications with iCloud integration. I'm running various versions of the component software. I'm running two versions of Apple's Productivity Apps on my Apple computing devices: The 2014 release and the 'Legacy' "iWork '09" release (which might stop working at any time/probably with the release of macOS 10.15). These two are designed for the desktop. I'm also running another version of the productivity apps for my iOS devices (that's normal as the two versions are built on a different code base).

iWork (Apple's Productivity Applications for the Desktop) now comes in two different flavors (not counting the iCloud based versions). 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 'Legacy' 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 (although I'm not sure if I need to/should keep both versions). The iOS versions continue to work separately, but the new iOS versions will be compatible (file sharing) 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 (document storage, syncing collaboration):

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.

As of 17 Oct, 2014 - I have Pages 5.5 installed on my Mac, and Pages 2.5 installed on my iOS devices.

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.

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.

As of 17 Oct, 2014 - I have Keynote 6.5 installed on my Mac. I don't have Keynote installed on my iOS devices.

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.

As of 17 Oct, 2014 - I have Numbers 3.5 installed on my Mac. I have version 2.5 installed on my iOS devices.

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 (I predict an eventual return of all these lost capabilities), 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 really 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.

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.

Oct 8, 2014

Volvo XC90Hail Damage to my Volvo XC90:
Hail in these parts (actually, just about anywhere in America) can be a big problem. On the 29th of Sep, 2014, I was at work when a storm swept through our area. The storm spawned multiple tornados, a downpouring of rain, thunder, lightning, and yes - Hail! My vehicle was outside (in the parking lot at work) when the storm hit. Thankfully Kim's car was elsewhere - Otherwise we would have had two claims. I contacted my insurance company, and started looking for a place to take my vehicle.

After a few recommendations and some research, I took the vehicle to Gerber Collision in Englewood, CO. I dropped the vehicle off at the beginning of Oct, 2014, and by the 8th of Oct, 2014, I received an estimate on the repair cost. $2,500.00 - Thankfully my full coverage auto insurance (through USAA) is willing to pay for the repairs. With no previous hail damage claims (on the Volvo), the insurance company didn't even flinch when I gave them the bad news. The total repair bill ran a bit higher than the $2,500.00 estimate, and I ended up paying a $100.00 deductible. I'm sure it will take a while to complete the repairs - It's going to be a while before I can get the vehicle into the garage for repairs (They'll be busy for a long time), but I guess I'm lucky - The damage could have been much worse.

Fall hailstorms in Colorado are rare, but they're not unheard of. June and July (in my experience) seem to be the peak months, but we've definitely seen damaging storms hit the area as late as October. This particular swept across the area in less than an hour. Thankfully the tornados didn't hit our house, and Kim's car was located elsewhere when the storm swept through the parking lot at work.

LinkedOutLinkedIn Class Action Lawsuit:
It's a big problem - I wrote about it in March of 2011. LinkedIn scans the 'Address Book(s)' of it's users and sends email on their behalf. Does it tell people it's doing this? Not really. There's some fancy legalese in the 'End User Agreement'; probably something that starts with 'You agree'. It takes the contact information that it 'steals' from you, and sends email to everyone you know. The email that these 'victims' receive says something like: "Your friend sent you an invitation to become part of his or her professional network at LinkedIn" - It's a lie, it's a scam, it's spam, and it just won't stop.

As I'm not a member of LinkedIn - I've never been a member, don't want to be a member, and please don't send me an 'Invitation' to LinkedIn. Even though I'm not a member, I've been receiving incessant invites since at least 2011. I can't get LinkedIn to stop (I've tried many times), but they keep sending me invites from my 'Friends'. Unfortunately, they keep sending them from different friends, to different email addresses (I've got a lot of email addresses), and apparently I have to 'Unsubscribe' every email address, every time a new friend 'Invites' me. Apparently, someone inviting me constitutes my acceptance to the LinkedIn terms - Someone sends me an 'Invite' and now I'm subscribed to LinkedIn invitations/solicitations. In my opinion (reading 'CAN SPAM' law) it's illegal.

Finally someone is doing something about it. A law firm in California has put together a Class Action Lawsuit against LinkedIn. Unfortunately for me, the victims in this lawsuit are the people who've had their address books scraped by LinkedIn, not the people receiving the incessant 'Invites'. After hearing about the lawsuit, I went to the law firms website and attempted to enroll in the class action lawsuit. I provided a statement regarding 'My Experience with LinkedIn' - I described the impact that LinkedIn's practices were having on me. I later learned that the victim members in this lawsuit were the members of LinkedIn. I'm not a member. Hopefully the lawsuit might result in some relief for me.

Apparently, the lawsuit was targeting LinkedIn because the email being sent to non-members contained advertisement, and some members felt that the advertisement might adversely affect their business. i.e. Recipients might get the impression that they (the members who LinkedIn pretended to be) might be spammers, or people who might endorse a questionable business (the advertised business/product). Crazy - What about the people receiving email who just think LinkedIn suck!? You know - The people who are receiving incessant invites - i.e. Me and the millions on non-members (non-LinkedIn members)? Don't I have a right to not receive 'Unsolicited advertisements'?

Actually, it's possible that there might be more than one class action lawsuit against LinkedIn. I discovered some evidence that the lawsuit covered the sending of multiple 'Reminders'. Again I'm the recipient, but the lawsuit covers those who 'Agreed' to the sending of invites (not Me) - I didn't agree to receive or send any invites or reminder, I'm not a member of LinkedIn - I feel like I'm the victim of LinkedIn. They send me invites/advertisement that I didn't ask for. How is it legal (not legal according to the CAN SPAM law) for them to continuously send me invites? I 'Unsubscribe', but then another 'member' signs up for LinkedIn, and LinkedIn sends me an email on their behalf!

Under a proposed settlement, LinkedIn will pay $13 million as part of a deal to compensate users who signed up for its “Add Connections” feature between September, 2011 and October of 2014. The feature in question gave LinkedIn permission to scrape your email address book, and send out multiple messages reminding recipients you want them to be part of your "personal network".

Personally, I am hopeful that this will mean a reduction in the amount of 'Spam' that I receive from LinkedIn. Apparently, I've got a lot of friends who think that I need to join the LinkedIn 'cult' - Thanks, but no thanks. I'm not about to join a 'Network' that sends email on my behalf. If I want to send an email, I'll send an email. I'm not giving anyone else permission to send email (to other people) on my behalf (or at least not that I know of).

Epson sucks!Planned Obsolescence - Printers that Suck!
<rant>Yesterday (06 Oct, 2014) my Epson Artisan 800 inkjet color printer (purchased in May of 2009) stopped working. It's a combination printer, fax, scanner. It's 'Ink Pads' reached their 'End of Life' and the the printer simply stopped working. The only thing it will do right now is power off. It's flashing an 'error' message at me from across the room: "The printer's ink pads are at the end of their service life. Please contact Epson support" - Really? Contact Epson support? I don't think so. You know that's not going to help. If they recommend repair, the repair will likely cost more than the value of the printer or the cost to replace the printer. If they're honest about their business practices, they'll say: "You suck and we're glad that we're screwing you royally. Why don't you just go out and buy another Epson printer? We can recommend the latest model. It's flashy, loaded with features, and sure to give you hundreds of high quality prints for an exorbitantly high price per page. Thanks for choosing Epson for your screwing!"

In researching the issue, I have learned that this is apparently done for my 'benefit', so that I don't have poor print quality. Epson has arbitrarily programmed their printers to stop functioning after a certain number of prints. This information would have been good to know when I was making my buying decision. I bought this printer in 2009, and never would have bought it if I'd have known that it was going to stop working after a predetermined amount of time (I don't know, and Epson won't say, what that 'period' of time is / for all I know it's based on a certain number of impressions, an amount of ink dispensed or some arbitrary amount of cpu cycles).

If you have a PC (I don't) you can reset the magical counter which will allow you to complete some additional print jobs, but the printer will stop printing after another predetermined amount of time, and eventually you will be forced to replace the ink pads. The ink pads are not a 'user' serviceable part. You can find some 'how to' videos online, but replacing them on your own voids any warranty and doesn't look all that easy to do.

Not being the type to give up easily, I set about doing some research and troubleshooting. I found an 'Epson Inkpad Reset Utility' - According to the FAQ for the application: "This utility is for Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista and Windows XP operating systems only. We hope to develop an option for Mac users as well; however, we do not have an ETA or the OS requirement at this time." Nice - Why do they even bother stating that they 'Hope' to develop an option for Mac users. It seems to me that 'Hoping' as a strategy is really an insult. Why don't they write a utility? Are they hoping that someone else will provide their customers with a solution to a problem that they created? They must really hate you/all Mac users.

Wait a second - That's not all. Perhaps there is some hope. There's a little blurb here (on their FAQ page) that says "see Mac users options". Maybe there's some actual remedy or option for Mac users? Here's the Mac Users option: "You can have your printer serviced by an Epson Customer Care Center, use Windows XP with the Mac OS X Boot Camp program to run the utility, or borrow a PC for the reset" - Grrr! This makes me upset.

Still not willing to quit, I downloaded the 'Reset Utility' for Windows 7. I installed a copy of the Java Virtual Machine software for Mac. I installed a Windows 7 image within the Java Virtual Machine (for 'Educational and testing purposes'). After some initial testing, that attempt failed. I was unable to configure the Epson Artisan 800 as a printer. I could not get the printer driver software to work within the Java Virtual Machine environment. I don't blame Java - I blame Epson. I'm not going to purchase and install Windows 7 within the Mac's Boot Camp software, just so I can attempt to run the 'Epson Inkpad Reset Utility'.

  • So what are your/my options?
    • Throw away the printer and get a new one (I certainly won't be buying another Epson printer).
    • Try to sell a printer that doesn't work. Maybe someone will give you money for the parts.
    • Get the printer serviced for ~$90-110.00 at a local authorized service center. Amazingly, there's an entire industry that relies on the planned obsolescence of these printers.

Perhaps there are other options; but what exactly am I supposed to do with all the ink cartridges I've got sitting on a shelf next to the printer? 8 color cartridges and 2 black cartridges (all OEM parts). Those things aren't exactly free! One thing is certain - I'll never buy an Epson printer again. Even if they work great; producing hundreds of high quality images. The principal of the matter is this - They are intentionally going to screw me if I buy another one of their products. I am joining the growing ranks of people who simply won't buy their products on principal.

I've got another Epson printer. I bought an Epson Stylus Photo R200 back in April of 2004. As far as I know, it doesn't have any 'Ink pads' and it's still working fine. The print quality isn't the best (the heads are damaged (it's old)) but I can still use it for routine printing requirements (not photos). This other printer? (The Epson Artisan 800) I can't use it for anything but a boat anchor. I can't use it to scan or fax, even though the issue is the 'ink pads'.

Update: The course of action that I decided upon was repair by an 'Authorized Dealer' - I found a shop in Denver (Micro Computer Technology of Denver, CO) that was able to 'repair' my printer. I took the printer in for repair on the 7th of Oct, 2014, and picked it up from the service center on the 10th of Oct, 2014. The repair center quoted me a price ranging from $90-$110.00, and they estimated that the work would take 2-3 days.

I picked up my printer from the service center today. It cost me $72.29 to have the printer 'repaired' - Which means I had to pay to have the 'ink pads' replaced and the 'end of service life' counter reset. Thanks Epson - Thanks for making my printer unusable. I couldn't use the printer, scanner or fax capabilities after the 'ink pads' reached their end of life (as if there was something wrong with those functions), and I was forced to pay to have the printer serviced. The place that serviced my printer did a good job, but you (Epson) suck for making a printer that has planned obsolescence built into it. I have decided (now that I have the machine working again) that my next printer absolutely won't be an Epson. While it's possible that other manufacturers also have planned obsolescence built into their products, I can't in good conscience purchase another printer from a company that has intentionally deceived me in this regard. There is/was nothing in the promotional materials, on the box, or in the manual that warned me ahead of time that this printer would eventually (without mechanical failure) reach a pre-planned 'end of life'. While the ink pads needing servicing may be a 'legitimate' reason for disabling the printing capabilities of this printer, there is absolutely no conceivable reason why the fax and scan capabilities would also be disabled.

What have I learned from this incident?
Epson Sucks! I will never buy another printer from Epson. I like their print quality and versatility, but thankfully there's more than enough options out there. My advice to you? Don't buy an Epson printer. Ink is already expensive enough as it is, but making the printer itself obsolete after a certain amount of time/prints is criminal. Especially since it wasn't disclosed on the box or in the documentation when I purchased the printer. Epson isn't the only company that intentionally employs this practice of planned obsolescence. It's quite common, an industry standard as a matter of fact. If you buy a printer, the printer is most likely designed in such a way that it will intentionally fail to perform after a certain number of prints or specific period of time or if you use non-official ink.
FYI: I'm not the first one to 'blog' about this issue: 

Music CollectionIt's an Octoberfest of Music:
Here's a list of some of the music I recently acquired. Where do I get all this stuff? For the long story on my music discovery efforts, see my music page. After rdio was shut down, I searched for an alternative streaming service, but the only thing that made sense (given price, catalog, service, support and my existing preferences) was Apple Music. I signed up for a 3 month free trial in December of 2015, and I've been a $9.99/month subscriber ever since - Thank you for not raising your prices (as of Dec, 2018). For now, eMusic is my primary download service (even though it's catalog is severely shrunken - no major labels, and the minor labels are disappearing on a daily basis), and Apple Music streaming is my primary music discovery service, but I certainly can't afford to buy my music from them, and the other major players - Amazon and Google both think that the outrageous prices that Apple charges are o.k. Really - $1.29 for a single track!

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, Presto, MySpace, SoundCloud or DashRadio?). 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!

eMusic monthly downloads:
Every month I download ~50 tracks from eMusic.com. This month (Oct of 2014) I downloaded 86 tracks (from eMusic) at the low cost of $22.76. Normally I pay a $19.99 monthly fee, which makes the tracks extremely cheaper - That's right I didn't actually pay $22.76, that would have been the price if I had purchased individual tracks. When you purchase an entire album you get a discount. Plus I got a discount for being on a specific plan (as a member), and I've been 'Grandfathered' with additional credits since I'm a long-time loyal member (since 2006). As a subscriber, you save even more. I only paid $19.99 for my $22.76 worth of downloads. The price for these tracks came out at ~$0.23 per track - Way less than the cost on iTunes or Amazon. A non-subscriber/non-member would have paid nearly $67.00! If you bought these tracks on iTunes you might have paid more than $100.00!

* The Opera Ain't Over Till The Fat Lady Sings - Suburban Mutilation: (47 tracks) Fourtyseven tracks that take me back to my roots. Yes - Fourtyseven tracks. Many recorded in N0rb's Dad's basement. The Reverend N0rb was one of the people who I hung around with back in the early 80s. Norb and friends formed a few bands in the Green Bay, WI area. The music is irreverent, cacophonic and sophomoric. It's punk! Who would ever imagine that Norb's rantings would ever sell - on iTunes no less - for $9.99! The price on eMusic was $6.49 - I hope Norb and his cohorts get a cut. My copy of this album (Yes - Vinyl!) had 17 tracks. Here we get to listen to an additional 30 tracks - which are mostly shit!
* The Cosmic Game - Thievery Corporation: (16 songs) Smooth and sophisticated. I've been listening to Thievery Corporation since 2008 (possibly earlier). This album is an excellent way to relax and chill. The music is an electronic combination of jazz, dub, downtempo and lounge. There's a lot of guest vocalist mixed into this album and I'm certainly enjoying the soothing styles of this release.
* Heaven and the Sea - Pete Shelley: (11 songs) Pete Shelley is one of my favorite artists (from the 80s). This album is a less mainstream release than some of his other albums. It's a bit more laid back than the others. Formerly lead singer of the Buzzcocks. His solo career is notable, and I remember him more from his solo career than his time with the Buzzcocks and Howard Devoto. His power-pop version of punk burned up the dance floor and I can't get enough. Unfortunately, he died on the morning of 6 Dec, 2018. Long live Pete Shelley!
* Neon Mirage - Stan Ridgeway: (12 tracks) Stan Ridgway has been a favorite of mine since the early 80s. As the lead singer and founding member of Wall of Voodoo, Stan has a distinctive voice and dramatic lyrical style. Stan has done a lot of cinematic work, and his solo recordings are outstanding. This particular album is very emotional and far ranging in its style. I love his Americana, folksy, rhythmic compositions.

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) you can't really go wrong. You don't have to be a member/monthly subscriber to access the site or buy music, and the membership prices (per album) are compared to the non-member prices right up front, so you can see how much you save as a monthly member. eMusic offers a really good value for your download dollar. iTunes and Amazon still charge more. eMusic offers more music for your money, and the variable bit rate recordings make for exceptionally high quality recordings. If you still want your own copies of the music, check out eMusic.

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. :-)