Showing posts with label computers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label computers. Show all posts

Sunday, September 4, 2016


Today, just for fun and to resolve some outstanding technical problems, I installed a new solid state drive in my computer and tried installing Windows 10 fresh from a DVD. Windows 10 installed OK, but pitched a fit over the activation, which scratched a sore spot with me. There is a tawdry story involved here, and I might as well 'fess up.

You see, I did not purchase Windows 10 through proper channels. Ever the bargain-hunter, I snagged a product key for Windows 10 Professional off an Ebay seller, who later was banned from Ebay, probably for pushing shady licenses, because all she ever sold was Windows 10 licenses.

Nevertheless, I had paid her $80 for Win10 Pro, and it seemed quasi-legit. I had researched and found it to be a volume licensing for some kind of online academic institution. Microsoft indeed had gotten paid, although not quite as much as they would have preferred, no doubt. No way I was coughing up another $140 for a brand new license. Just no way.

I called Microsoft, and the first Indian I spoke with was a guy with a really smooth, mellow voice. He had me recite my product ID, a 30-digit number. I just loved listening to his voice, it was so clear and smooth. He could easily have been a jazz singer. I didn't really expect that from Indian tech support. In the end, however, he handed me bad news. I had to contact my seller and get the product key, which is different from the product ID. No other way forward, according to him.

I didn't tell him this, but the seller is out of the picture completely. She is gone, kaput, does not answer emails, so forget about that. But I know a thing or two. When I bought Windows 10 originally, the seller did send me a product key, or otherwise I never would have had a licensed Windows 10 in the first place. I printed it out back then and filed it. I found my hardcopy and, armed with that information, called Microsoft again, because Windows for some reason was not accepting that product key anymore.

This time I got an Indian dame, whose name remains Anonymous, because when she connected to my computer, the window indicated it was Piyush. But googling that name suggests that it is a masculine name, not a feminine one. I do not see any male Piyushes in Facebook. I think she was using the previous tech's, or her boyfriend's, log-in details in order to preserve the sanctity of her true identity. In truth, it is not a good idea for young female voices to be attached to actual names that can be researched and tracked down to a location. I would have done the same thing in her position and indeed I do it. The fact of the matter is, although one desires to be appreciated and admired on the Internet before an audience of one's peers, one is well-advised to treat one's identity the same as one's chastity. Many people do not seem to understand that. But Piyush, as I call her, understood.

She fixed everything for me. Windows 10 Pro was activated on my new solid state drive, and she was quick about it and rather nice, too. As for me, I was sunshine and butter on popcorn. I had all my ducks in a row. She did not have to do any extra work or waste any time explaining anything to me. I was always two steps ahead of her. I am not surprised things worked out so well for me in the end. If it is at all possible to get a positive result out of technical support, I can do it, because I am technical support, and I like people and get along quite well with them, whatever their age or gender or any other factor that other people seem to think is important. I am neutral and results-focused and results-oriented, but I also like to have fun and joke around, within the parameters of propriety. I had quite a bit of banter with Piyush.

Here is the strange thing that set me blogging with a title of the false name she used.

She liked me. I was the nicest person she spoke to all day or will speak to all week. I walked around in her mind a bit. There were echoes of unpleasant exchanges with abusive callers upset at Microsoft, and I hated that. People don't always understand how difficult computers can be. They don't know how much patience and work is required to get them to function at all. Most people in support have been abused by the ignorant, the impatient, the negligent and the frankly stupid. I am honored and grateful to the Goddess that I am not like that.

After we disconnected, I walked around the house, exuberant that I had fixed the problem and feeling a lingering pleasure from the strangely potent connection with this Piyush lady from India. Five minutes later, there was a phone call. The caller ID indicated a long distance number, but I just knew it was her.

I picked up, and there she was. She had dialed me by mistake, intending to reach her next customer. But really, are there mistakes? Is it so difficult to dial the correct number in a call center? Her subconscious preferred to talk to me again rather than play the fool's lottery on the next caller. I would have loved to talk with her for hours and learn all about her interesting life in India, but that is not such a good idea. I redirected her back to her work with firm pleasantries. I mark her existence only in this blog. Perhaps in another Universe, another reality, who knows? She was a lovely lady. She deserves to be loved. I have said it. The world must do it.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

A Master's Degree in Marketing

This is the funniest IT story I've read in ages.

You know, the best way to drum up business is to design a good product and provide good service. Little tricks don't get you far.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Nocturnal Perfection Achieved by Linux Mint 18

What I want in an operating system is simple. I want to look at a screen that is easy on the eyes. I spend a lot of time on the computer, and I don't need to be staring into a light bulb. I do not like headaches and I do not appreciate eyestrain. After twenty years, Windows does not understand this. Windows insists upon burning out the eyeballs of its users. Ubuntu is no better. Only Linux Mint understands, as of version 18.

I'm happy with Linux Mint 18, because it has included a dark theme that just works all the time. Fastest and easiest route to nocturnal perfection that I have ever experienced in any operating system. I liked it so much, I donated to the project. In my opinion, Mint-Y-Dark is reason enough to convert to Linux Mint 18. Meanwhile, I don't know what Windows and Ubuntu are doing, but they are not doing anything for me.

Mr. Developer, please. Think, for a moment, about the human body. In particular, have pity on the human eyeball. It is not designed to stare into the Sun all day long. Try to design your product so that it works in harmony with the user and is not harmful to the user.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Dumbed Down OSes

Modern operating systems like Windows 10 and all smart phones have been dumbed down to the point where they work great if you're dumb and terrible if you're not.

My Chromebook won't let me do anything without installing and more likely buying some app from the app store. There is no GUI even for something as mundane as renaming a file. I regard ChromeOS as crippleware, with little more functionality than a browser. Forget about any utilities such as FileZilla that other desktops run. The Chromebook is basically a browser, period. Google has gone to great lengths to cripple their product and "protect the user from himself."

Windows 10 likes to hide things from the user. When I tried to shutdown Windows 10 today, it told me to Please wait and Do Not Turn Off the Computer. Doubtless it was uploading all the spyware-data it stole from me to Microsoft's marketing department, so that Microsoft can sell the data to advertising firms. But there wasn't enough bandwidth available, so the process got stuck and was still going on an hour later. I defied Microsoft and restarted the computer anyway, because I wanted to run Linux, which I like, as opposed to Windows 10, which I distrust and hate. All Windows 10 is, is Spam, Advertising, and Malware all rolled into one big, nasty ball and prettied up to look like a smartphone. However, we have to go with Windows 10, because it will continue to be supported in the future, whereas Windows 7 will not. My plan is to use Windows 10 about 1% of the time, and Linux 99% of the time, until such time that I can dispense with Windows altogether by replacing the few apps that only work on Windows.

The only reason I continue using Windows is ACDSee and Call Clerk. Once those applications support Linux, I'm done with Windows forever. Krita is starting to get pretty good as an image editor, and can do a lot of important things that ACDSee never got around to doing, so perhaps I will not buy any future versions of ACDSee. As for Call Clerk, I might have to discontinue my land line service in order to avoid needing to use it. I doubt Call Clerk will ever be ported to Linux, because landlines are on the wane, and with it the market for Call Clerk.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

No Duh

High-falutin business executives are as stupid as wood when it comes to computers. Who would have thought?

I think the easiest thing in the world for a hacker to do is target a CEO, because those people are as stupid as the day is long in my experience. They know nothing, but know certain important people, hence their job and their salary. Never ask a CEO to think about anything, because they don't think. They hire people to do all their thinking for them and tell them what to think. So in order to extract sensitive financial and technological information from a corporation, all one has to do is deceive a damned fool, the top leader of that corporation, and that's pretty easy to do.

"Oh, I'm in at a fancy hotel owned by god knows who. It must be okay to use the Internet here and chat all night long about secrets that are worth millions of dollars. It must be okay... because I'm frankly too lazy and too stupid to think about why it might not be okay."

Really I think most CEOs are not worth even a tenth portion of their salary. I have yet to see any that are really admirable. Fancy suit, good at public speaking, bold and confident, good with people's names--that's about as far as it goes. Okay, you remembered my name. Maybe I forgot yours. Big goddamn deal. Could you reason your way out of a paper bag? The only thing most CEOs know is about sending jobs over to China to save on labor costs, stabbing Uncle Sam in the back. For that, they get millions or billions in bonuses. Whup-de-do, you're a genius. That's what the CEO knows, along with strike-breaking and slashing salaries and benefits.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Purchasing Test for Computer Hardware

What do I look at when I need to purchase computer hardware?

The key word here is "need." Do I really need the damn thing after all? I hate spending money. Everyone should. The world would be a financially sounder place if the rest of the human race would stop and think about their purchases before making them. If the benefit to me outweighs, in my view, the cost, then I proceed to the next question. If I can afford to make a discretionary purchase even after saving for retirement and medical expenses and the proverbial rainy day--then and only then I'll buy. I do not believe in using credit for anything other than a home mortgage, even for the sake of the stupid one per cent rewards that credit card companies offer. No. Cash money up front, every time. No exceptions. Go by that rule, and you will live a calmer life. Credit card companies are parasites feeding upon the mentally feeble.

The first thing I look at with computer hardware is what other people are saying about it. Reputation matters. If a lot of people are having problems with a product, then there is probably something wrong with it. The other thing I look at is Linux compatibility. If a piece of hardware is not Linux-compatible, then it is a piece of garbage in my view. When computer systems reach retirement age, they evolve from Windows systems to Linux systems. I don't want any nasty surprise waiting for me ten years from now with a scanner, printer, video card or external enclosure for a hard drive. The #1 thing I look at is does it work in Linux. If not, pass.

Generally I buy the absolute minimum that I need and only purchase hardware that has been around for a while. Newly introduced hardware has two problems. First, it is more expensive. Second, it is untested and may have as yet unidentified problems. I know exactly how much testing many manufacturers do. The answer is not enough. The rush to market is insane, and quality controls just don't matter to the manager-types looking to boost sales figures. Again, I want to see a lot of positive reviews from respectable sources about a product, and then I might buy it. If other people are having a problem with the product, and the problem is not related to their ignorance, then I don't want that product.

In summary:

-I can afford it
-I really need it
-Good reputation of the manufacturer and the specific product
-Linux-compatible AND moreover, works very well with Linux (positive reviews help here)
-Been out for a while, not brand new
-Good price

Saturday, October 18, 2014

How Much to Spend for an HTPC

An HTPC really requires very little in computer hardware, I've discovered. A low-end Intel Haswell Celeron cpu (~$50), with its built-in Intel HD graphics, paired with 2 gigs of RAM is ample to render 1080p using any free Linux distro, though I'm partial to XFCE desktops such as Linux Mint Xfce. Anything more than 2 gigs is overkill, pure and simple. I stripped my HTPCs of their 4 gig sticks and reduced them to 2 gigs and noticed absolutely no difference in performance.

Linux really shines as an HTPC, and I don't understand why anyone would want to use Windows for that purpose. There's no reason at all. Why pay the license fee? Why wait twice as long for startup? Why bother installing an anti-virus? Also, if you go the Windows route, you certainly will want 4 gigs as opposed to 2 gigs. Windows is just more expensive all the way around, and there really is no need for it when the computer is intended to be an HTPC.

I steer clear of any AMD chips nowadays for two big reasons. One, AMD is wasteful when it comes to energy efficiency. Their low-energy offerings are pathetic and simply aren't worth considering against an Intel Celeron. Two, AMD's ATI graphics are horrible on Linux. I've run into nothing but problems trying to get their Catalyst driver working in Linux, to the point where I say "Never again." I won't even buy AMD chips for a Windows system, and why? Because eventually that Windows computer may one day be converted to Linux, and I don't ever want to have to deal with installing Catalyst in Linux. I don't think Catalyst runs that great in Windows either. The only video graphics I am willing to consider are Intel and Nvidia.

An SSD isn't really required for an HTPC in any way, shape or form, although I rather like using SSD for the operating system, simply because it allows fast booting. I consider an SSD a luxury.

Everyone should have an HTPC, and nowadays cost is not a barrier. Used computer components are amazingly cheap these days. There's only one component I will never buy used, and that's a hard drive. I have learned from hard experience to always buy new with a lengthy warranty. Refurbished or used hard drives just seem to fail at an extremely high rate in my experience, and I avoid them now. I think the main reason anyone would sell a hard drive is that the seller has doubts about its longevity. Well, the seller knows best. If he's selling his drive, it must be on death's door. Word to the wise.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Russia is HQ of Cyberwar

Most IP addresses I add to my blacklist nowadays originate from Putrid's tyranny, formerly known as Russia. Should anyone be surprised? That old rotten egg, Putrid, has instructed his computer hackers to attack web sites everywhere, big and small, no matter whether they are relevant or irrelevant, in an attempt to spread his evil tentacles all over the Internet and make everyone smell his foul stench.

In reaction to any attack originating from that blighted land, I ban the entire IP range, encompassing millions of addresses. With Putridity, "guilty until proven innocent beyond all reasonable doubt" is the rule of the day. Nothing good will ever come out of Putridity as long as the rotten egg holds sway.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

No More Passwords

In the not-so-distant future, people will wear rings containing a universal password--in a matter of speaking--for all their personal online services and data. This ring will transmit via direct physical contact to a computer or other device that has been granted access to that individual ring. Devices that have not been granted access will not be able to access the ring. The ring will allow browsing sites without logging in and with near-perfect security. Mobile phones and computers owned by the user will be inoperable and in lockdown mode, broadcasting their GPS location to their owner, should anyone other than the owner attempt to access them.

I say the ring contains only a password "in a matter of speaking," because passwords are insecure by their very nature, subject to brute-force attacks. People of the future will look at passwords as a primitive stepping stone to the next generation, which is algorithm-based. An algorithm encoded within a ring can decrypt any encrypted data owned by the user and log in to any web site instantly. This method of encryption cannot be defeated, because the encrypted data is not sequential and is not key-based, but deciphered using a complicated matrix-based algorithm which varies for each individual and which also varies depending upon the time of day and time of year, body temperature, and perhaps some other environmental factors as yet to be determined. To decode such data is impossible, regardless of available resources. . .

The ring functions as a unique key that can be stolen or copied, perhaps, but needs physical possession. Thus, hackers without access to the ring are without any luck at all. Theft will consist of old-fashioned robbery or burglary to obtain the ring. But a ring is relatively easy to secure, certainly easier than many alternatives such as passwords. If one's person is safe, then one's data is safe. This is both a natural and very simple method of safeguarding data, requiring little more vigilance than people ordinarily exercise in safeguarding precious gold and platinum rings. However, there will have to be a way for law enforcement to inactivate stolen rings following a complaint of theft and DNA confirmation that the real owner is who he says he is.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Security 101


1. Any competent programmer can devise a nonsequential, noisy encryption scheme that unlocks by algorithm, not key, and thus cannot be defeated by any method.

2. Such a run-of-the-mill coder can also devise a virus that cannot be detected by any method.

3. No complicated software can be certified virus, malware, and trojan-free with 100% certainty, even if the source code is exhaustively reviewed by a national security agency over a period of a hundred years and with a billion-dollar budget. (If you are in any doubt about this, review #1 & #2.)

4. No complicated software can be certified to be free of all present and future security vulnerabilities, intentional or unintentional.

5. People who download programs or operating systems from Pirate Bay are either kidding themselves or don't care because they have taken precautions such as running the software in a sandbox, etc.

6. People who think it is fine and dandy to install software from China, etc. are in the same boat as the #5 group.

The bottom line is this--and everyone using the Internet today needs to know this not now, but yesterday--computer programs are just as complicated, diverse, and potentially harmful and untrustworthy as human beings. Therefore, the same rules apply. Consider the source, reputation, and available references. Take precautions and reduce risk. And continue observing.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Be Safe on the Internet

Most people don't realize just how dangerous the internet can be, especially to Windows users. Everyone that is not a tech gets a computer virus sooner or later. The typical response is to discard the old computer or put it in the attic and buy a brand new one, an unnecessary waste of money. Where knowledge is lacking, the wallet must compensate.

To all users, I recommend the following. Use Firefox, and do not install any toolbars, but do install the addons AdBlock and NoScript. NoScript requires extra effort on the part of the end user, but the payoff in security is worth it. I do not install NoScript for clients unless specifically asked, because I appreciate the annoyance it can cause. For myself and loved ones, I will always install NoScript and train them how to work with it to have a safer browsing experience. Only scripts that have been specifically greenlighted by the user will be permitted to run. I also teach my users to be extremely skeptical of anything they read on a web site, in particular regarding their computer, but even beyond personal computer security, much of the information one finds on the internet is paid advertising or else people looking to "monetize" (the verb they choose) their web domain.

Also, backup an image of your Windows system to a separate hard drive--built-in Windows functionality available via the Control Panel--it only takes 20-60 gigs of space and will save your bacon in the event of operating system loss. I image my Windows systems every 3-4 months to capture any new program additions or removals. Be aware that backing up the system image is different than a complete backup. Microsoft does not make the differences quite clear to the user, but I discovered the differences through the time-honored method of trial and error. A system image backup captures the operating system and all files needed for Windows operation. A complete backup captures that as well as media files that may be stored on different drives. Everything should be backed up, but the system image is really important, because it allows very fast restoration of Windows in the event of a malware infection.

This is the best advice I can give to Windows users with my 30 years of experience, other than to consider giving Xubuntu a try for light duty such as Internet browsing. I use Xubuntu or SolydX on three different systems and consider it a worthwhile tool. It boots faster than Windows, is free, does not require much in the way of configuration, allows a high degree of customization, and requires very little in the way of system resources. Mine all run fine with 2 gigs of RAM in each box. The limitations of Linux have been described elsewhere on this blog.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Chrome Faster than Firefox? Horsefeathers!

I call horsefeathers on the Internet for all the claims that Google Chrome is faster than Mozilla Firefox.

Horsefeathers, horsefeathers, h o r s e f e a t h e r s !

Maybe Chrome is faster when watching videos. But I don't watch videos and don't give a monkey's tail about YouTube.

Firefox is fast where it counts--web sites that I must use to get work done. And it uses far less memory. Chrome opens up a new instance for every page, which makes about as much sense as paying a hundred dollars for a pack of gum. So not only is Firefox faster, but the system as a whole runs faster when the user has enough sense to steer clear of Chrome. More memory equates to a more responsive user experience on any properly configured operating system.

I used Chrome for a month at work. Then I switched over to the latest version of Firefox. The difference was like night and day. Firefox was faster all the time. The only tweaks I made were installing the AdBlock add-on and expanding Firefox's cache from the rather conservative 350-odd mb to 1 GB.

I really don't understand all the buzz about Chrome, unless Google has bought a lot of positive buzz, which seems likely to me.

I write my blog purely for pleasure--to vent and call horsefeathers--and receive no payment from anyone. Even Google won't pay me for ads due to some weird technical glitch on their end, so I'm completely unremunerated.

But the mainstream media is presumably in the game to make a profit somehow or another. Whenever I read something that sounds peculiar to me, the very first thing I think about is how much money changed hands for that article to appear on a popular web site, and who is it that wants to shape public opinion, and why.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

China Bans Windows 8

I don't think China's decision to ban Windows 8 from government computers has much to do with the end of support for Windows XP. Rather, I think this decision is fallout from the NSA spying debacle, which is very bad news for every tech company in the United States. Can China trust Microsoft after learning that U.S. corporations cooperated with the NSA in spying on people both at home in the U.S. and abroad? The answer is obviously no. The day when people placed full confidence in closed-source systems has passed.

I avoid Windows 8 simply because I find it overpriced for what it offers. I can get the same benefits from Linux, which is free. I also find that Linux boots faster and has fewer technical problems. Device drivers are installed automatically, which means installation and configuration of a Linux system takes about fifteen minutes, as opposed to fifteen hours on Windows. Also, Linux has much less risk of malware. Some people think that pirated copies of Windows are fine and dandy, but then again, some people don't read the news and don't understand what is going on in the world. Anyone who uses a pirated OS is asking for trouble. There's a reason that pirated copies are made available, and it doesn't have much to do with generosity or vanity. Somebody is making money. Just imagine the possibilities.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Firefox Wants to be Like Chrome

I was using Firefox because it did not look like Chrome.

With version 29, it is plain that Firefox wants to look just like Chrome. Fine. What's the advantage in using Firefox, again?

I think Mozilla has lost its way. If they would develop some real features for Firefox, it might regain market share. Instead, they just continue to make unfortunate design blunders that will drive existing users away from Firefox.

Cluelessness is evident here. Chrome will always be the best Chrome. If you want to become just like Chrome, guess what, users will choose the real Chrome.

I've made a decision.

Whenever I install a new system for my users, I'm going to install Chrome, whether the system is Windows or Linux. No need to mess around with Firefox anymore, because Firefox is just a Chrome wannabe, without the good Flash support.

It puzzles me why a big software company like Mozilla would go out of its way to render its flagship browser ugly and user-unfriendly. But then again, as demonstrated by their recent choice of CEO, clearly those people do not have the best judgement when it comes to strategy.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

I Like Google News

I like google news. That's the take-home from the whole Mozilla CEO brouhaha.

What a lovely word "brouhaha" is. It expresses so much with so little.

Oh, I've always been a fan of Google--just not crazy about their browser. I have a little suspicion that Google is good. Could be. But then I used to think the same about Mozilla. I'm not always right in my hunches. That's why I don't plan to join the Psychic's Union.

Using the wonderful options available at, I have deleted the New York Times, Slate, The Atlantic, and the Christian Science Monitor from my daily news feed and will never read them again. I don't need to read them in my advanced age. They are rather hysterical to say the least. Voices of wisdom, they are not. I have the strong suspicion their writers are told what to write anyway by their wealthy masters and that their opinions may play only a minor role, if any.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Firefox and Eich, the Anti-Gay CEO

I hadn't planned to boycott Firefox over Mozilla's anti-gay marriage CEO. However, OKCupid does make a good point. The CEO of a company is rewarded based on a company's performance. If Mozilla does well, then Eich is rewarded, and then he can spend more money opposing my civil rights and trying to make me suffer. The Mozilla CEO does not believe that my relationship should have ANY protection under the law. He would smile while my partner is deprived of all my assets after I die. The more I think about it, the more I dislike Mozilla's CEO. A thousand dollars is a lot of money to spend trying to hurt me and other people like me.

I've been a Mozilla evangelist since forever, but now, I'm thinking that maybe it is time to look into Chrome, Chromium, and/or Opera.

Mozilla's blunder in choosing their CEO is more than just ethically wrong. It indicates a high degree of social incompetence on the part of Mozilla's leaders. They do not understand the society in which they live. They do not understand the human beings that use their browser. They are social incompetents. This has been made crystal clear. Perhaps that is why the Firefox browser has been busy removing features I like, such as the navigational icons, and introducing features I dislike and features that do not work well. Firefox Sync is one example. It does not work well at all. It is not intuitive, and takes a lot of time to learn how to use, assuming in the first place that one is very familiar with computers. The new tab feature is another problem in Firefox. Opening a new tab presents a wall of garbage to the end user, and changing that behavior is both anti-intuitive and cumbersome. Probably the new CEO was behind all of these changes. Everytime I install Firefox, I have to tweak it for a couple of hours to mold it into something I want to use. The question is why should I bother, especially since Mozilla has now declared their hatred for gays?

April 2nd, 2014 Update:

I looked into Opera, but the Linux version hasn't been updated in a long time. That to me is a deal-breaker, so adios, Opera. Next on the list: Chrome.

Chrome has the latest version available for 64-bit Linux. When I installed it on my Xubuntu rig, it pulled in all the configuration info from Firefox automatically. I did not have to set my home page or the navigational icons. Very impressive. The only thing I'm missing is the History icon. It's something I use all the time, and I don't see it in Chrome. I really don't understand why Chrome won't support a History icon when there are 1680 pixels available for the navigation strip. I don't think many Internet urls are going to require anything close to my monitor's 1680 pixels. I see that Chrome expects the user to hold down the Back button to access History, but that's stupid. I want a button, and there is room for a button, so why isn't there a button? There also is no Bookmarks button or Downloads button. Chrome's solutions involve adding long strips that severely reduce the available browsing space, which is very bad for widescreen monitors. From what I see, Chrome is trying to capture the mobile gadget market and doesn't care about desktops.

I think I'm going to have to put off changing browsers for the time being. Chrome seems designed for a handheld device, not a desktop. Options and functionality are hidden away, compartmentalized, so as to look good on a screen with tiny resolution. Chrome does not offer any mechanism to customize the browser's toolbar. Chrome is permanently dumbed-down. Chrome is more tedious to use for an experienced, Internet-savvy user. Many more clicks and gyrations of the mouse will be required in order to get things done in Chrome. Am I willing to spend more time to perform simple Internet tasks in order to use Chrome? Not really.


Mozilla goofed big-time with their CEO appointment disappointment, but the other big browsers are snoozing in their easy chairs and aren't prepared to take advantage, which is to say market share. Chrome is designed for handhelds, and Opera and Internet Explorer are for Windows only. I'm a hardcore, cut-me-and-I-bleed-tech power user, and I don't intend to handicap myself by using handhelds or Windows. There really is no other contender for Linux on the desktop other than Firefox. Firefox is the nine-hundred pound gorilla in the ring. I think I'll just put a clothespin on my nose and endure the stench of their leadership choice for the time being, unless Opera decides Linux is worth supporting again. I'm kind of curious about Opera, but I'm not willing to mess around with a version that is several years old. Get with the times, Opera.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

What's Wrong with Wireless

Wireless is insecure by design. That's why I don't do wireless. If you use a wireless network, keyboard, or mouse, then a hacker can intercept that communication. Your implicit intention is to broadcast your computer activity to the entire world.

I've never understood why people will pay a premium for wireless keyboards or mice when extension cables are dirt cheap. Wireless keyboards and mice are inferior in every respect to their wired cousins. Wireless input devices are not only insecure, but require batteries, which is a huge hassle compared to hassle-free wired input devices.

I've also never understood the appeal of wireless networking for indoor use. I can understand using wireless when outdoors or in the car. I just don't get using wireless in a home or business. It is both slower and insecure.

Many of my neighbors use wireless. I know because my laptop picks up their home networks. I don't hack them. But someone with less morality could certainly attempt to hack them and at the very least use and abuse their internet bandwidth for his own purposes. I fault the local ISP's for promoting wireless internet services for their own convenience, merely because their technicians don't want to crawl around in the crawlspace.

Running ethernet cable under the house only takes an hour at most. A man has to have a powerful case of the Lazybones to prefer wireless. By doing so, he will have a slower and less secure network.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

I Use IP Chicken

I like the above service for determining the local IP address. Clean, fast, and simple, with a privacy policy I can understand. There are many competitors, but IP Chicken does IP-checkin' (chicken) the way it should be done.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

How to Configure Your Mail Reader When Switching from DSL to AT&T U-Verse

One of these days I'm going to pop a gasket. With me, the odds are higher due to Mitral Valve Prolapse and lack of medical insurance. Those with MVP can just drop dead any old time according to Wikipedia's wisdom. Well, I just hope it's later rather than sooner. If my blog stops having updates, then my readers can put two and two together. Even from beyond the grave, I will ensure that my blog remains a spam-free zone due to my security settings.

The latest irritant to elevate my blood pressure was AT&T technical support. I recently switched from DSL to U-verse. When I tried to check my AT&T email via the popular Thunderbird mail reader, I received an error message that indicated something was wrong with AT&T's mail server. I waited a couple of hours and tried again and got the same error. I called AT&T and spent about half an hour on the phone with a friendly guy who assured me that my new account was provisioning and all would be fine by the morning. Great, I said.

Trouble was, AT&T's guy lied. Through his teeth. Just outright lied. He had no idea what he was talking about. The following morning, I still got an error message, and twelve hours later, ditto. I called AT&T tech support again and got someone who sounded like she had been smoking weed and swigging tequila. She was giggling and talking to other people in the background, and the background noise was very intense, with people talking in Spanish and English, so much so that she did not hear half the things I said. I had to repeat every other sentence. In addition to this, the line went mute, cutting her or me off sporadically. She asked if she could call me back, and I said yes, but that didn't help. The same problem persisted throughout the call. We were talking on my landline, incidentally. The problem was certainly not on my end, because I have talked to other people on the same phone without any issue. My connection was completely wired, not in any way wireless. Her connection had the problem.

Between bouts of silence and background noise, she reminded me that AT&T does not support Thunderbird. Over the years, I have received the same scripted line every single time I call AT&T asking for help configuring my mail reader. AT&T gives short shrift to mail readers. Why do they hate mail readers? Well, let's think about that, shall we? It is in AT&T's interest to herd people through their web portal, isn't it? That way, their customers are exposed to all kinds of advertising.

Whatever. I'm not the type of guy to take "No" for an answer, not when I pay over a hundred dollars a month for the service. My mail reader was working yesterday, and after their guy installed U-verse, it stopped working. I had changed nothing on my end. I knew it was their fault and anyone with intelligence would know that too.

She asked if she could take control of my computer, and I said no, because I run Linux and I'm not sure how to grant that kind of access and don't want to, either, because I'm absolutely certain it would not help. Then she wanted me to reboot my computer, and at that point I went over the edge, because rebooting is something a tech tells people when he doesn't know anything. I started ranting about AT&T's contractual obligations, and then she muted me again. So I hung up. Clearly she knew nothing and was not going to help.

I called back, chose a different option on their phone menu, hoping to contact someone different, and got a tech rep that sounded nicer. She was in a different office, a quiet one. I guessed the water bong hadn't made the rounds at her office. There was no background noise, and she didn't sound like she was high. She wasn't giggling at obscene jokes her co-workers were sending in the office. She actually walked me through Thunderbird's set-up, but everything she told me about the configuration was already set. After all, the mail reader had been working perfectly prior to the switch to U-verse. Although she was nice, her advice was useless.
Here's the bottom line after about two hours of aggravation with AT&T's tech support. No configuration changes need to be made to the Thunderbird mail reader. Nothing needs to be done to the mail reader at all. The only reason the techs suggest that is because they don't know what they are talking about.

Thunderbird is a highly intuitive mail reader developed by Mozilla, the same company that develops Firefox. Thunderbird configures itself automatically. There is no need for the end user to input anything other than email address and password. There is little chance of an incorrect configuration. AT&T technical support does not know what time of day it is. It is aggravating to call up technical support and listen to pushy drunks that don't know anything other than what their script tells them. I have to teach them their job, because they do not know anything about computers. Meanwhile, I can't access my email.

There is only one thing a customer needs to do to fix the mail reader after the switch from DSL to U-verse. Log in via the web browser. Period. Yahoo has a serious bug or else an intentional, selfish annoyance (take your pick). The end user is required to log in via the web browser once in order to use the mail reader, even if he has been using the mail reader for years via DSL.

AT&T and Yahoo don't like mail readers. They wish to discourage their use, because mail readers do not add to their bottom line. They make the mail reader difficult to use because they want to push more of their crap products via the web site. They wasted two hours of my time with this nonsense for no other reason.

The mail reader still reports an error indicating a problem with their internal service when I first load Thunderbird. I have to press OK to accept the message, then click "Check Mail" to check mail again. This is because AT&T does not configure the U-verse mail server properly. I suppose they never will fix it, because they very nearly have a monopoly in my location. They treat their customers like dirt because they can get away with it.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Cable and Phone Companies are Robber Barons

The collusion of government and corporations, as in this case, makes me angry. Municipal broadband would be a dream come true for all Americans, and the cable companies want to ban it. I would be delighted if broadband were offered by my city.

The cable companies provide lousy broadband at extremely high prices, as do the phone companies. Broadband should be cheap and reliable today. The reason it is anything but that is because cable companies and the phone companies enjoy monopolies, and the reason they do is because they have put corrupt politicians into power. Why are my only choices cable or phone? Those are lousy choices. Each one wants me to cough up $100 - $200 a month just to access the Internet. I receive a letter in the mail every week with one of their "offers" that never vary from the week before. Always the advertised price is $100, with hidden fees, costs, fines, and contractual obligations that amount to $200 a month after the introductory period has passed. Municipal broadband can deliver faster Internet much, much cheaper. Cable and phone companies are not innovators. They should be recognized for what they are: robber barons, bribing politicians to entrench their monopolies in American society.

This article states that municipalities are being sued repeatedly by cable and phone companies to keep them out of the broadband market. Cable and phone companies represent a cabal opposed to innovation and opposed to choice.

Corruption is the greatest problem in our society, the filthy intersection between politics and business, or "the grease that makes the capitalist engine hum," as one of my Republican acquaintances put it. We are all on the business end of the exhaust pipe. I suggest building a better engine.
techlorebyigor is my personal journal for ideas & opinions