Host Gator usually does a good job for me but screwed up bringing the server back from maintenance. To their credit they admitted the mistake. All looks well EXCEPT for some reason we have picked up absurdly high Disqus Twitter reaction counts.
Archive for the ‘Blogging, Computers & the Internet’ Category.
Unfortunately, Kevin Drum's prediction is probably dead on
a fellow with the Twitter handle @FootyTube_ quickly changed his handle last night to @Dzhokhar_ and swapped out his avatar for a thumbnail of the suspect in the Boston bombings. That's hilarious!
Or not. But I predict a growth industry in this kind of thing. FootyTube's idiocy was easy enough to see through, but someone out there now has the bright idea of creating a Twitter/Facebook/Tumblr/etc. account and populating it over time with grievances of some kind. Islamic, gun nut, anti-tax, libertarian, PETA, whatever. Just create a nice long chain of posts and then wait for the next terrorist attack. As soon as pics and names are available, switch the account name, make it public, and wait to be discovered.
I am left to wonder today how much of Earthlink's remaining income is from zombie accounts. I generally hate the hassle of dealing with a changed credit card number, but one advantage is that I discover some zombie accounts that I have forgotten about and keep charging my card every month.
Today I had an amazing one -- from my old Earthlink dial-up account. I had thought I cancelled Earthlink something like 8 years ago (I certainly have not used it since about 2003). That is several credit cards ago and so I have absolutely no idea how they were able to continue to bill me, but they were, right up to this month when my corporate card number changed due to a fraud alert. It is kind of depressing that I spent well north of a thousand dollars over the years on a service that I would never even consider using again, but that is the danger that comes as a company gets larger and one can't personally inspect every bill that gets paid.
Of course, despite evidence that I never used the account, they would not waive the final month's billing and threatened collections, etc. They wanted my credit card for one last charge, and then they would cancel. Which made me suspicious that this is how they got my credit card for the last five years - by asking for it for one last charge and then continuing to bill for 5 years. So I told them I did not trust them with my new credit card number and to send me a paper bill that I would pay by check. As a final insult, they said they had to charge me an extra dollar for the paper bill.
If I had time, I would challenge them and give them grief, but sometimes one has to put one's ego away and just move on with the loss.
During the call, it was very, very clear that trying to collect money on zombie accounts that people had forgotten about was very, very typical for their customer service folks. Leading me to wonder just how much of Earthlink's revenue comes from such zombie accounts. As a funny side note, they were perfectly fine taking money from me without any identification, but would not cancel the account without an extensive account verification, a verification that is rather hard if one has not used the account in about 8 years.
Came in via email this morning
Dear President & CEO,We are an organization specified at dealing with domain name dispute and registration in Asia. We have something important on intellectual property right need to confirm with your company.On April 13, 2013, we received an application formally, one company named "Phgbuhfcj Holding Ltd" applied for the Brand Name "coyoteblog" and some domain names with our organization.After checking, we found your company is the original trademark owner. If the company's action haven't been authorized by your company, so their behavior will conflict with your interests. In order to deal with the matter better, please contact us ASAP. (If you are NOT President, please forward this to your President & CEO, because this is urgent. Thanks.)
Update, from the comments: Yes, it is! I figured as such. This blog gets pretty good Google ranking so I like to post this stuff for others to find in the future.
The personal computer is in crisis, and getting little help from Microsoft Corp.'s Windows 8 software once seen as a possible savior.
Research firm IDC issued an alarming report Wednesday for PC makers such as Dell Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co., saying world-wide shipments of laptops and desktops fell 14% in the first quarter from a year earlier. That is the sharpest drop since IDC began tracking this data in 1994 and marks the fourth straight quarter of declines.
Gartner Inc., a rival research firm, estimated global shipments sank 11.2%, which it called the worst drop since the first quarter of 2001. Gartner blamed the rise of tablets and smartphones, which are sapping demand for personal computers.
Windows 8 was never, ever going to save the PC, because Windows 8 represents an abandonment of the traditional PC. It is essentially a touchscreen tablet OS forced onto the desktop. Like Windows Vista, it is an absolutely awful OS that our company has banned any employee from using on a company machine. Fortunately, we can still buy a few Dell computers with Windows 7, and when that is no longer possible, I will go back to building our company machines and putting Windows 7 on myself, the same thing I did to survive the Vista nightmare (hanging on to XP until Windows 7 came out).
Later in the article, the author recognizes that Windows 8 is killing the PC rather than saving it
But there is little sign that buyers are responding. In a surprisingly harsh assessment, IDC said Windows 8 hasn't only failed to spur more PC demand but has actually exacerbated the slowdown—confusing consumers with features that don't excel in a tablet mode and compromise the traditional PC experience.
Mr. Chou said not only has Windows 8 failed to attract consumers, but businesses are keeping their distance as well. Chief information officers at several companies echoed his opinion Wednesday.
Ricoh Americas Corp., which replaces about a third of its 17,000 PCs every three years and upgrades to the most current operating system available, said this year it is sticking with Windows 7, released in 2009. Tracey Rothenberger, the company's chief operating officer, said the benefits of switching to the new software aren't worth the effort of training employees to use it.
I am sympathetic to Microsoft's goals, if not their tactics. Certainly market share in OS is shifting to handheld devices, such as smartphones and tablets, and Microsoft has largely missed this market. To stay relevant, they need to gain share in these markets -- and trying to gain a foothold by somehow leveraging their market share in desktops makes sense. It would be great to have an OS for tablets that allowed more access to the file system and customization options, as a competitor to Apple's walled garden, though Google is way ahead in that particular niche.
But the imposition of tablet aesthetics, user interface, and apps framework on desktop PC's is just frustrating as hell for those of us who still like using a mouse and prefer our traditional desktop interface. The training issue for employees is not a trivial one -- when Microsoft completely abandoned the menu structure and user interface of their Office products several years ago, we decided not to upgrade any of our PC's and, when necessary, to use the OpenOffice alternative, as much because it retains the old Office interface as for its being free.
I still use Word, Excel, and Powerpoint 2002 on this computer, because I have never really been happy with the new Office interface. I use no other software even remotely that old. I routinely upgrade everything I have. I dutifully upgrade Quickbooks and Norton Security and a dozen other programs every year. So to go a decade without upgrading shows how little I think of Microsoft's upgrade strategies.
This sounds a lot like what AOL tried to do, back before anyone knew what the web was or how to navigate it. Interesting how these things come back around
Facebook's long-term ambition has been twofold. First, to become the de facto front end for the web— to become a portal not just to the lives of your buddies, but to everything else that is on the web in the first place. (There is remarkably little discussion about Facebook eclipsing Google as a search engine, maybe because nobody thinks the subject is worth taking seriously; they need to reconsider.) The second step is to replace the web entirely— to take every piece of functionality that we've normally associated with the rest of the web, from picture storage to news aggregation to messaging— and reincarnate it inside Facebook's ad-driven walled garden.
Facebook Home is yet another way to do that. By giving people a low-entry-level device that's essentially a front end for Facebook— or a convenient all-in-one fullscreen app— they make it easier for people to dispense with dealing with any other part of the web that's not Facebook. They don't have to block anything explicitly; they just have to make the Home experience so immersive, and offer so much through it, that after a while you don't feel the need to touch anything else. And given that I have friends who barely know a web that exists outside of Facebook, that's really unnerving.
First, an update on SimCity. I am a huge SimCity series fan from way back. I was excited by the new release, which turned out to be a total disaster. I wrote several weeks ago about the horrendous decision to make SimCity an always-online game, which led on day 1 to the game being unplayable for most because of server problems and overloads at EA.
Since that time, they have (mostly) fixed the server overload issues and I have been able to play. Sort of. The game is beautiful and the interface is pretty nice. And the game tantalizing retains many of the elements that made the previous games so compelling to some of us. But in the end, the game is a fail.
First, it is full of bugs. One horrible bug ensures that over time, almost every city you build will crash on the online server. The only solution is to accept a rollback to an earlier state, though every once in a while this leads to a total city loss.
Beyond that, almost every element of the game is broken. Sims will suddenly stop going to school, and complain about there being no education when an empty school is right across the street. City water tables can be drained in a matter of months, making a city unplayable -- one can avoid this only by putting their sewer plant right by their water supply. Certain city specializations added to the game, like gambling, don't work right. Meteor showers cities every few months and can't be turned off. etc. etc.
It may be that this game will be playable in 6 months or so, but even then I fear that the EA team has simplified the game so much and removed so many options to appeal to the mass market XBOX set that the wonky complexity many of us enjoyed in early games will never be there. In particular, city size is limited such that in about 20 minutes of play I can completely fill the city space. All that one can even do with the game after that is just sit and watch density increase and expand a fire station or two as the population grows. In fact, a lot of the game for me runs unattended, since EA had to turn off the fast speed mode. The city now needs to just run for hours for anything to happen, so I resorted to leaving it on in the other room and checking back on it every hour or two.
Oh, and by the way. The highly touted multiplayer features are a bad joke. Someone in the business department told developers that the game had to be online for piracy protection, and told them to go develop some game features that justified this decision so they could tell users that the online requirement was really for their benefit and not for copy protection. Well, they failed.
Bioshock Infinite. I don't play a lot of first person-shooter style role-playing games, but my son talked me into playing the new Bioshock. He has played a lot of this genre (e.g. the Mass Effect series) and said that this was the best he had ever played. This evaluation may be in part due to his fascination with strange dystopic visions of society, because we certainly get one in this game (as in each of the Bioshock series).
I am not every far into it but I will say that is a fun experience. So far I would say it was less of a game and more of an immersive novel -- WTF is this place I am in and what is going on. The environment is really fascinating to explore. I am still trying to figure out the back story, but piecing it together is a fun process. Already I have been to several memorable locations.
I found out more about why the WordPress Bad Behavior plugin was blocking updating of my Feedburner RSS feed -- apprently, Google got a bunch of its IP addresses blacklisted in project Honeypot, which Bad Behavior uses as one source of spam data. Here is more:
This is caused by an architectural problem at Google, and will require Google to resolve the issue for the problem to go away permanently. The issue is that, in the case of FeedBurner, Google uses IP addresses which are shared by third parties using Google App Engine, some of which are spammers. The spammers quickly get Google’s IP address blacklisted all over the Internet, and suddenly FeedBurner stops working.
If you are impacted by this issue, you can whitelist the affected IP addresses or the FeedBurner user agent string, or disable Project Honey Pot. Be aware that doing any of these will increase the amount of spam you receive. You should also complain to Google, since this isn’t the first time this has happened, and they seem to have done absolutely nothing about it.
OK, the Twitter problem was fixed by shifting from gd.is (which Twitter has apparently blocked) to Goo.gl for URL shortening. For reasons I still don't fully understand, the Bad Behavior plugin was blocking the RSS feed to Feedburner. My guess is that this may be something to do with an interaction with Incapsula. I like Incapsula as a service, but they are constantly shifting their servers around so the .htaccess file and the proxy server list in Bad Behavior have to be constantly changed.
I was just informed, and have confirmed, that somehow my RSS feed stopped syndicating about 2 weeks ago. And then, on an entirely other date, the new Twitter feed stopped, but Facebook still works.
I think I have diagnosed the Twitter problem, which we will confirm with this post, that Twitter flagged and blocked the default URL shortening service my plugin uses for malware. It is either that or Coyoteblog has been blocked. Crossing my fingers I will see this on Twitter in about 5 seconds.
NOTE: We had some sort of massive fail with the WordPress scheduler where this post failed to post at the scheduled time. For some reason, if it misses the scheduled minute it is supposed to post, it fails (it does not just post a minute late). So this is 3 days late and we likely won't have many folks join, but its free and a nice bracket site and you are welcome to join between now and tomorrow.
Back by popular demand is the annual Coyote Blog NCAA Bracket Challenge. Last year we had nearly 140 entries. Yes, I know that many of you are bracketed out, but for those of you who are self-employed and don’t have an office pool to join or who just can’t get enough of turning in brackets, this pool is offered as my public service.
Everyone is welcome, so send the link to friends as well. There is no charge to join in and I have chosen a service with the absolutely least intrusive log-in (name, email, password only) and no spam. The only thing I ask is that, since my kids are participating, try to keep the team names and board chat fairly clean.
To join, go to http://www.pickhoops.com/CoyoteBlog2013 and sign up, then enter your bracket. This year, you may enter two different brackets if you wish.
Scoring is as follows:
Round 1 correct picks: 1 points
Round 2: 2
Round 3: 4
Round 4: 8
Round 5: 16
Round 6: 32
We have upped later round scoring to try to keep things more competitive at the end. Special March Madness scoring bonus: If you correctly pick the underdog in any round (ie, the team with the higher number seed) to win, then you receive bonus points for that correct pick equal to the difference in the two team’s seeds. So don’t be afraid to go for the long-shots! The detailed rules are at the link.
Bracket entry appears to be open. Online bracket entry closes Thursday, March 21st at 12:18PM EDT. Be sure to get your brackets in early. Anyone can play — the more the better. Each participant will be allows to submit up to two brackets.
The other day I noted the impending death of Google Reader. Having started to survey the alternatives, I feel much better about the transition. But I did not fail to note a different implication -- that RSS has never really caught on as a syndication vehicle -- twitter and Facebook and I suppose Google circles are more popular.
Well, I am happy to to adopt technology where it makes sense. I loath Facebook as a personal tool (seriously, is there a worse laid out web page on the planet?) but my customers love it so we have adopted it enthusiastically as a business tool, using Facebook pages to create a dialog with our customers. Here is a good example of a great business Facebook page - people are doing our advertising for us.
In the same vein, I likely will never really be able to use Twitter like other pundits do, to fire off witty, biting remarks in 140 characters. I have trouble keeping post titles under 140 characters. But I am happy to use it as a syndication tool.
So, starting now (actually starting with the previous post), Coyote Blog posts will be tweeted out at twitter.com/coyoteblog and linked at facebook.com/coyoteblog. If that is your preferred way of discovering web content over RSS or just surfing the site itself, go for it. I am still working on Google, but that will come soon. By the way, for other bloggers interested, I am using the free version of Netscripts: Social Networks Auto Poster plugin.
PS- I am sure my friend Tom, who is driven to distraction by my typos and grammatical errors, would observe at this point that at least in 140 characters there is less room for me to make mistakes.
Perhaps I am the last one to get the word on this, but I have happily depended on Google Reader for years for my blog and news reading. Recommendations for an alternative would be greatly appreciated, but I am not optimistic anything will be a good replacement, particularly since I frequently use the simply link in Reader to Gmail to send stories to friends and family.
I blame Twitter.
Update: As an aside, Google's behavior here seems to be exactly the opposite of the fears people usually have vis a vis monopolies. Google gained a dominant market share by leveraging off other strong products and under-cutting prices (ie free). I would be thrilled if they did what monopoly-phobes fear, which is raise prices. I would happily pay, say, $10 a month to keep the service. But in fact, Google, having subsidized its way to market leadership, is simply liquidating.
Update #2: Lots of alternatives out there. In the end, this may be a positive since Google Reader had not really innovated much of late.
As of tonight, the new SimCitygame is still unplayable due to overloaded servers and numerous bugs even when one is on the server. Today, the manufacturer purposely defeatured the product in a patch to try to get it to work. As I predicted the other day, this product was not ready for market.
Update: Via Game Skinny, this may be an example of some of the worst customer service I have ever seen. The makers of SimCity in a press release tells users they may request a refund. When a customer requests the refund, he is told that he can request it, so the press release is not lying, but they are not going to process it. Unbelievable. Extra credit for the fact that those who bought from Amazon can get a prompt and immediate refund, but those who bought directly from the manufacturer, like me, are stuck.
Further, it is becoming increasingly clear that the multiplayer capabilities that supposedly require the server login are a sham - a very very thin shell of functionality that adds almost nothing to the game but provides the excuse for always-online DRM.
First, I have always enjoyed the SimCity games. Sure, I know that these games take a planning and technocratic control approach that I find distasteful in real life, but I enjoy playing first-person shooters as well despite being a pacifist.
So I have been extremely disappointed in their implementation of their new version. In this sort of mad rush to be like all the other games out there, SimCity built in a multi-player mode where you play online interacting with neighboring cities run by other players. This is all fine as far as it goes, thought the appeal escapes me so far.
But the true fail is that they require players to log in and play online on their servers, even when playing solo. What was an irritant yesterday became an enormous mess today, as every North American server for the game is full. Run the game, and you immediately get hit with a pop-up window with a counter forcing you to wait in what is at least a 20-minute queue before you can play. There is no offline mode - even if your intent is to play solo, you have to wait for a spot to open up on their multi-player servers.
At this point I would seriously recommend that you wait before buying this game. Combined with other irritants (the game is not available on Steam, you have to use Origins far inferior proprietary clone), and the game's high price, I am sorry I pre-ordered and did not wait for reviews to come in. It may eventually be a good game, but I am not going to pay $70 to stare at a 20-minute count down clock every time I want to play.
Update: Most online games allow players to pre-load the game several days prior to when the servers are turned on. This smooths out the load on the download servers. Apparently Origin did not do this, and the servers for downloads crashed yesterday (these are different from the play servers which are full today). Apparently Origin was still "polishing" the code right up to the hour of launch, which is code for, "this is likely still a bug-filled mess."
Why Do We Need Electronic Medical Records? So Your Personal Data is More Readily Available to the Government
Given recent legislative and judicial decisions, there are vanishingly few electronic records that the government cannot rape at will. Increasingly, government agencies can access electronic data without even bothering with silly stuff like warrants or judicial review. Latest case in point: Electronic medical records
The Drug Enforcement Administration is trying to access private prescription records of patients in Oregon without a warrant, despite a state law forbidding it from doing so. The ACLU and its Oregon affiliate are challenging this practice in a new case that raises the question of whether the Fourth Amendment allows federal law enforcement agents to obtain confidential prescription records without a judge’s prior approval. It should not.
In 2009, the Oregon legislature created the Oregon Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP), which tracks prescriptions for certain drugs dispensed by Oregon pharmacies, including all of the medications listed above. The program was intended to help physicians prevent drug overdoses by their patients and more easily recognize signs of drug abuse. Because the medical information revealed by these prescription records is highly sensitive, the legislature created robust privacy and security protections for the PDMP, including a requirement that law enforcement must obtain a warrant before requesting records for use in an investigation. But despite those protections, the DEA has been requesting prescription records from the PDMP using administrative subpoenas which, unlike warrants, do not involve demonstrating probable cause to a neutral judge.
While the government needs a search warrant to access paper medical records, it apparently feels it can look at electronic records without a warrant,. Which explains one reason why the Administration is so excited about the new medical records requirements in Obamacare. You didn't think HIPAA applied to the government, did you? And if you wondered why Obamacare requires doctors to ask medically-unrelated questions (e.g. on gun ownership), now you know.
I say that as if it was hard. Actually, it was pretty dang easy to get the OS (a Linux variant) loaded on the memory card. Seems to work fine -- you can see I have Coyote Blog up in the browser. I am playing with it because I am looking for something to control signaling and other systems on a model railroad. I am more likely to use some kind of Arduino setup, but I wanted to play around with Python on Raspberry Pi as well.
Here is the card. The top wire is a micro-USB 5v power connector. Clockwise from that is a 32GB SD card (for memory), a bunch of empty programmable pins for I/O on the upper right of the board, the composite video connector and audio headphone out, two USB ports with my wireless keyboard connector, the network cable, and on the left the HDMI cable for video out (don't know yet if it has audio out over HDMI). As in the Arduino community, there are already daughter boards for the pin-outs with breadboards, motor controllers, and other gizmos.
...you use way too much of it, never having to do any cost-benefit analysis.
Case in point, some spam I got today at my blog. All bloggers are likely bombarded with request to "guest post", which in reality is a thinly veiled request to post a long advertorial masquerading as a blog post. And of course, since the down of Google's ranking methodology, I get a lot of link request spam. Here is the funniest I have gotten in a while
Inquiry About A Bounty Hunting Resource
I happened upon your collection of Internet links related to bounty hunting here coyoteblog.com/coyote_blog/2005/10/more_on_califor.html and thought you might be interested in another authoritative online resource to add to those.
Are you the correct person to contact for having resources added as an additional link on this page? If not, could you please direct me to the right individual?
Thanks for your time. I hope to hear from you soon!
LOL. I responded:
All bounty hunters attempting to do business here are thrown into the Sarlacc
A lot of folks are criticizing the FBI for losing about 12 million ipod/iphone/ipad records, many of which included user name and addresses as well as their device's unique identifier.
What I would like to know is how all that ended up on an FBI laptop in the first place. I know there are those who have rooted on Jack Bauer for 6 or 7 seasons who expect that the FBI should have all this data -- but this is not the case. I know of no law that grants the FBI automatic access to all cell phone records or Apple accounts.
OK, this is an incredibly noob question and you will all lose respect for me. But take this situation:
OK, I am streaming media from the server on the left to the PC on the left running XBMC at my TV. The data rate is slower than I would have thought over all gigabit lines. I know there are a jillion things that could be causing this, from software to drivers to, well, lots of stuff. I have one narrow question.
And this is the embarassingly noob part. I am presuming that all the data does not actually go through the router, that it can just go from server to switch to TV. The router is actually on the other side of the house connected by a long line across the roof of questionable quality. I know the router is involved - I picture small packets of data going to the switch with routing information.
So the question: is there any reason a bad cable from the router to the switch above -- one that still passes data but slower than gigabit speeds -- would slow down streaming from the server to the TV?
Update: Thanks for the help in the comments. I am increasingly suspicious I have a graphics driver problem that is causing stuttering on 1080p playback, and I will test that out this weekend. Turns out there are a lot of XBMC users in the group. I used to be a SageTV guy, and I still think their HD hardware streamers were a great solution. But after Google bought them a couple of years ago they went dark. There is still an active community but I was ready to move on. I have switched to XBMC and have been very happy (I never used the TV/recording functions in Sage so the fact XBMC does not have these was no problem, though the OpenElec variant does have them). I hope to put a post up with my experiences and observations. I have now done XBMC installations on Windows PCs, an Ubuntu box, using OpenElec (a linux variant), and on an old Apple TV2. As it turns out I still have not found the perfect installation, but with the right box I may find it with Openelec.
Well, this has been a while in coming, but for a variety of reasons I am switching to Disqus comments on this site. Essentially this means commenters will have to register, though I feel like the registration is pretty un-intrusive as Internet things go. Active commenters in the blogosphere likely already have a Disqus account. And there are some definite benefits in terms of comment ranking and such that I hope will offset any hassle. I have been testing Disqus on Climate Skeptic, along with the security updates I have been slowly porting over here, and I am pretty happy with the result.
What this means is that for several days, comments will disappear here as Disqus imports them. Though they they promise a day turnaround, on Climate Skeptic it took them nearly a week. With all the comments on this site, it may take a while. New comments will still work, but the old ones will go away, and then magically return a few days later. Hopefully.
By the way, this is a mild illustration of what started the security lockdowns at the climate blog. These are actually minor spikes compared to some in the past, and so far I have seen no similar patterns at any of the other blogs I run. A number of folks active in the climate debate have been hacked of late.
I am working on site security, so if you get locked out for some reason, let me know by hitting the email here, or if you can't get in here, over at climate-skeptic.com. I thought I had this process pretty well practiced as I did everything I wanted first at two other blogs, but this morning I managed to lock myself out of the site. Oops. So screw-ups are definitely possible.
I have been using Amazon AWS servers for years to host large videos and to store backup files in their S3 service. But apparently their servers have also become the home of a lot of spammers and bots. I have been in the process of locking down the security of my climate blog, testing changes that I will then migrate here (Incapsula front end, Disqus comments, a package of improved wordpress security changes, and ZB Block to catch what still makes it through. I am not naive enough to think that I am safe from hackers, but I can at least be safe from stupid, lazy, or automated ones.
Anyway, I probably don't see a lot of the bots any more because they hit either Disqus or Incapsula. But a great number still get through, and if they are persistent they get banned. What amazed me was that of the first 22 IP's banned, 9 were on the Amazon AWS servers.
My sense is that this is one of those classic tragedy of the commons issues, which happens when valuable resources are essentially free. I had an idea years ago, that I still like, that charging a tenth of a cent to pass each sent email would shut spam down. You and I might spend five cents a day, but spammers would be hit with a $10,000 charge to email their 10 million name lists, which would kill their margins. Don't know if there is a similar approach one could take for bots.
This rental house has AT&T DSL. Never had DSL before, always use cable for broadband, but I am amazed at the problems it has caused. After a lot of investigations, it seems to shift my IP address frequently and near randomly, which tends to cause a frequent need to reboot the browser and drives services that try to increase security by tying one to an IP address absolutely bonkers.