Category: Information Technology

The latest method of attack. #DisasterRecovery

The latest method of attack. #DisasterRecovery

 

As a matter of course, I try not to post too much about computer security, as I am certain that most have seen this before.

We know not to open attachments that are not expected as well as have good anti-virus software updated and running at all times.

This morning I received a different type of threat that I thought worth sharing, so here it is.

With the usual jargon about some sort of violation or someone suing me for something, open the attachment to see what it is, this was different.

The words included were, “for your security we use dropbox for the evidence against you. Please follow the link and respond within 3 days or a summary judgement will be made.”

Of course, the return e-mail address is bogus; the trick is to get me to open an attachment in this case on dropbox.  Once downloaded there is no telling what it would do but, most certainly nothing good.

No law enforcement or government agency would work in this way even if you were expecting something from someone in this manner; it would not come in from e-mail.

Unless you are expecting it and the e-mail address is correct only then would I make a call before opening anything as an attachment.

Ransomware is working with hospitals and even government agencies paying the perpetrators, which causes them to continue with more fervor.

 

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You do not want to see this so, practice safe computing.

 

Practice safe computing which includes a good disaster recovery plan.

 

-Best

(c) All Rights Reserved 2016

 

#Ransomware

#Ransomware

 

Just this morning I wrote about this topic; this afternoon we learn that a California hospital was hacked.

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You see this and you are screwed… 

Firstly, someone executed that ransom-ware in an e-mail or some other way. The payload most probably came in as an attachment through a phishing scheme, like the one that I wrote about.

  • Secondly, this tells me that they do not have a good disaster recovery plan.
  • Thirdly, this tells me that their firewalls were inadequate to block “zip” files.
  • Firewalls should be set to strip any attachments from messages. 

“You say, oh that is just great, my business uses attachments all the time!”

Most probably, attachments could be directed to a virtual machine, much like a bomb disposal box, where it could be executed in such a way that if it were a virus or worse its damage would be mitigated.

Fourth, what kind of anti-virus were they using? Were they using group policies stopping the execution of executable s?

Someone on his or her IT team messed up, and it starts with the “CIO!”

The bottom line is you never want to be a position where you have to pay money to terrorist.  Folks, make no mistake, people who extort money like that are terrorist.

I would be doing a serious root cause analyses to see how it happened, and why they paid the ransom.

The news tonight said it happened on the 5th.  Are you telling me that a hospital being down for 13 days cost less than a good disaster recovery plan and of course an audit of your system?

Do not open attachments that you are not expecting and if you are, make damned certain it is what you are looking for.

It might be a real good idea to keep a standalone pc that employees take their files to on a thumb drive and open it there.

Once infected you options are, pay the ransom or start from scratch.

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With a tested DR plan, you could be back up a lot sooner than being at the hands of the terrorist.

Lastly and I cannot stress this enough, don’t get cheap on your anti-virus software.  MailWareBytes has been working on software to mitigate this threat.

You would be surprised at the companies that I run into who use the cheapest damned software that they can find.  Often Free!  Whoever does this should be dismissed as they clearly dont value your data or your company.  This is a hill to die on folks.

You can take the cheapest CFO and argue or “negotiate” the need for the expense, or you should not be there.

Excuse me but that is like living in a high crime area using using a bathroom lock set for your protected, you know the kind, the one you stick a small pin in to unlock it…

To recap…

  • Education
  • prevention
  • disaster recovery plan

 

-Best

© All rights reserved. 2016

 

 

 

 

 

#fedex #phishing #Scam

#fedex #phishing #Scam

FedEx Scam

Every now and then a phishing scheme catches my attention.  Usually we know that there are no Nigerians that want to give you millions of dollars. Some fall prey to this each and every day hence the e-mails.

  • We know that the IRS does not E-mail you with important notices.
  • We should know that Inga from Russia is really not hot for you when you click on the file that contains her personal contact information.  Unless of course you personally know an Inga who is hot for you, best not click.
  • “Overdue Invoices” click here for details probably should be suspect as well.

This one came today which interested me in that we do so much with Amazon and Woot and of course eBay that we have no idea if there is really a package or not.

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Capture of e-mail…

The picture here is a copy of a phishing scheme that unleash who only knows what on my computer if I were foolish enough to click on the attached Zip file.

Some clues to look for are the senders address… Eurafrik.org  If it were truly from FedEx most probably if would be from a fedex.com or something similar.

They provide a tracking number, which you might actually go to the FedEx site and see what it does, I suspect nothing.

Bottom line, do not click if you are not 100% sure that it is indeed legitimate.  The damage you unleash could be anything from a key logger to ransomware.

Always Always Always have really good anti-Virus software running and updated.  Currently I like ESET Node 32… That is my choice for now, but your mileage may vary.. Free anti-Virus software is not worth what you pay for it.

I have no affiliation with Eset or any other software company…

-Best

(c) All Rights Reserved 2016

 

Dear #CEO #Recruiter #LinkedIn

Dear #CEO #Recruiter #LinkedIn

 

I find myself between contracts on occasion. If there were something, that is a good match for my skills and talents, I would love the opportunity to speak with them or you about it.

As a seasoned professional, I bring many things to the table.

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If I had a nickel for every time someone would ask me, “I got this C:\> on my screen, what do I do now?”  Family is the worst, you cant charge them!

I started working with computers when DOS was in its infancy; nobody knew who Bill Gates was and  Wang, IBM and Xerox were the major players with Atari, Tandy and the Commodore PET was in vogue for the affluent home user.

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Early hard drive which had to be in a really cool room.  The media was removable, the heads would stay inside the machine. 

Steve Jobs had just stopped being a criminal with his phone freaking hardware, but still was a nobody, while building the first apple in his garage.

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Alex Gibney’s newest documentary, “Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine,” chronicles the famed Apple founder. Courtesy photo
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Blue Box

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BBS’s or Bulletin Boards hanging off a POTS line at 300baud were the standard.  1200 baud was certainly not common as some were still using acoustical modems.

Al Gore had not invented the internet yet…

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Truthfully I think he had something to do with legislation allowing the public access to it. Somehow it got conflated with him as the inventor.

Main Frames were what most companies used complete with water-cooling.

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Networks went from different coaxial types for the physical layer.  Arc net was the least expensive, Ethernet was still in the works, and Token ring, IBM’s idea was the standard; but few could afford it.

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Starting on the ground floor of this industry, leaving a rather successful career in electronics was a valuable experience for me.

Witnessing the demise of the typewriter, dictation equipment, Gregg Shorthand and the secretarial pool replaced with high-powered laptops and smartphones has been quite the thing to see.

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Yes, I actually worked on these…Mylar belts were the media.

The cost of one business letter in the 70’s was well over $100 in 1970’s dollars.  Today a quick e-mail re-defined the way we communicate. In today’s 2016 dollar, that is $627.38…

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Before my time but not by much!

If you do not believe me about the price of a business letter, ask me about it.  I was there.

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Gregg shorthand

 

The first virus I fought was before there was anti-virus software.  The cleverest virus I fought was the “pong” virus.  Modeled after the Pong game, one would be working in some program and a ball resembling the ball in pong would appear.  As it struck a character, the character would fall to the bottom of the screen.  This of course was destroying your document but at least you had some entertainment while it did it.

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Pong or “ping pong virus”

Moving from the XT Based 8086 systems in the late 70’s up to the recent, has been a nice ride and I have enjoyed being part of that evolution.  As hardware hits the brick walls of physics and bigger better faster slows down, software must carry the advancements forward until such a time that chip manufacturers figure out how to get more speed and throughput maximizing everything from RAM to video and disc performance.  Embracing advancements while constantly positioning the company strategically ahead of the curve, but not on the bleeding edge is my long-standing history.

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These were great!

Once included in your world, seamlessly; I will become part of that world knowing your business and how technology fits.

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Every part works in concert to fulfill its intended purpose. Employees must necessarily “fit.” 

While focusing more on business applications vs wiz bang hardware, I specialize in providing an ROI to the people who have to pay for it.  Is this technology necessary? How will it help?  Will it prepare me to transition in the future?

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Spending much of my life with technology, I have run a business now for the last 10 years providing ad-hoc IT services, while performing disaster recovery services.

My specialties include, but are not are limited to:

  • Over 30 years hands-on IT projects.
  • Over 15 years in Management.
  • Data Center design and installation
  • Power
  • Placement
  • Controls
  • HVAC
  • Fire retardant
  • ADA compliance
  • Security design and audits
  • Physical security design
  • Disaster Recovery
  • Best Practice
  • Business Acumen
  • Compliance issues with SOX or other regulations, as the need requires.
  • Visionary and forward “out of the box” thinker.
  • Troubleshooter

From the desktop to the cloud, I have it covered.

Some of the typical calls I receive while on site. 

  • The internet is slow.
  • The server crashes.
  • We think we might have a virus.
  • This computer cant “see” the printer.
  • I don’t know what we have?
  • I thought we paid for that software?
  • Somehow this computer got hacked.
  • Cant get on the Internet..

If these sound familiar the underlying causes may surprise you.

Through best practice, a complete inventory of your hardware and software it usually does not take long to figure out why?

Lack of documentation is generally the common denominator.

From a startup that just needs things set up right the first time, to a company that let some family member set it up, and now needs help, I am your person. No sugar coating…

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This letter is meant for those of you who see my profile on Linked in and wonder if I am available. Drop me a note, I might be!

Unlike others who will blow smoke, I will not.  If you are seeking a trip to the moon with funding for the carnival, I will tell you. If I cannot help you, I will not waste your time.  I know many people in the industry, I might simply refer you.

As someone who has written many job descriptions, hired and let go more than I care to think about, I am a tried and tested realist.   I find options for you, and then you decide.

-Best

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HIPAA and other things that go bump in the night…

HIPAA and other things that go bump in the night…

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(HIPAA) Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act

Being and IT guy for the last 35 years, I am no stranger to HIPAA, SOX, FISMA, and many other regulations from the government, including the federal mandates as to how this is to be accomplished.

While HIPAA is designed to protect your privacy, I wonder if that is how it is actually being used.

From a DR (disaster recovery) standpoint, your data must be backed up and off site. Your data must be recoverable; meaning that you have successfully tested the process on a regular basis.

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The easiest way to do this is with CLOUD technology but, I am here to tell you that the hackers attack the cloud… If you’re data, and my data, and your competitors, is in some nebulous storage arrays out there in some data center…that is a central target for the bad guy…

You must have written policies and procedures regarding same… This would be part of your DR plan, run book; or even your living document that is your DR plan.

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SOX or Sarbanes Oxley is another set of rules that apply to all publicly traded companies that share many of the same tenants of a good DR plan.  E-mails must be stored and retrievable in the event the government wants to see them.  Stored off-site and recoverable…

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The government, for the government’s own use, has stricter policies and procedures which I wrote about some time back when the Hillary e-mail fiasco came to light…  That is why this whole e-mail scandal is laughable as there is no possible way that those e-mails should have been lost, just like there is no way that she should have had a server of her own, dealing with Top Secret Classified e-mails.  Why she is already not wearing orange, and living in Club Cupcake Penitentiary, is a testament to the corrupt policies and procedures that our wonderful government seems to enjoy for the rich and famous or in this case the political elites.

Calling and talking with any of the folks at your insurance carrier, you are told that your call may be recorded and monitored for security and training purposes…  Now please tell me how this does not violate HIPAA?

 

When visiting your doctors you had to sign a release, basically nullifying HIPAA so they, the office staff or doctors can talk about your case, health or anything that is needed to whomever that they have to deal with to get paid.  Again, how is this not a violation of HIPAA?  Working behind the scenes at these places I have heard many cases talked about from end stage renal disease, to genital warts complete with names. I was once working in a plastic surgeons office where his desk was littered with open pictures of nude women with before and after breast augmentation etc etc.   This stuff should have been put up before I was ever allowed into his office.

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The simple facts are, that we are living in an age of no-privacy; either expressed or implied.  The idea of HIPAA is great but, like the thousands of pages of tax code, it is virtually meaningless after the lawyers get through with it.  It’s like living in Chicago with all sorts of police vehicles, and one cop who lives at the donut shop.  There is the illusion of security, but it simply does not exists.

The airport is another place where you have no privacy but, still the TSA misses about 95% of the threats that their agents try to smuggle through, while testing their efficiency. 

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While we parade through scanners that strip us naked, and expose us to ionizing radiation, they still miss 95%…! How the hell is that possible?!

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While in the waiting room the other day I could hear the office staff talking about patients and their treatment options… That was not bad enough… One of the ladies at the reception desk was calling patients who owed them money between greeting people, taking credit card info… Yep, she read back the guy’s number complete, the billing zip code and expiration where everyone could hear it.  I take credit cards and I thought to myself… you did not get the CVV code… A few minutes later she called him back to get that…. And repeated it to where anyone in the waiting room could have heard.

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While I have since written a letter to my Doctor…it does not end here…

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This same doctor prescribed some meds that I went to CVS to pick up…  While in line, the cashier, after getting your name and date of birth, grabs the meds off the shelf, and tells you what they are so everyone in line and the immediate area can hear.

Name and DOB are nobody’s business and certainly what you are buying is nobody’s business…

While I may be over sensitive to this, I don’t really think so…

Either we have HIPAA or we don’t.  Either we follow the rules and policies set forth…or we don’t.

The illusions of security is not enough.  The illusion of privacy is not enough.  Collecting everyone’s Meta data without warrant, is wrong on many levels.

We need to look at and re-vamp all of these policies as we have given up so much of our privacy for the sake of laziness on the part of the employees.

Instead of me telling the lady behind the counter she should ask me to see my ID verifying who I am and my DOB without saying it aloud.  After she pulls my meds she can show me what they are without voicing them… Simple policy changes prevent unauthorized or in this case nosey people in line getting into your business.

There are simple answers for all of these things but one simply has to think… We are too damned lazy to think…

-Best

© Copyright 2015 All Rights Reserved

 

Hijack

Hijack

I spend a lot less time on FaceBook, and other social media, than I used to.

It is not that I don’t enjoy stalking my friends and family, looking at their vacation pics and what they ate for lunch…  Some of that is interesting and truthfully bespeaks to the reasons for their obvious weight issues…. I digress…

The reason that I do less and less of it is that those who control Facebook in particular have made such an advertising vehicle out of it, that just about everything you click on, every story hijacks your computer or other device.

Suddenly you are forced to watch some advertisement for something.  All you really want is to get past the “teaser”  (that line that made you click in the first place) and see what they are talking about.

Nope, you have to wait for the ad to load which is bandwidth, and your time.

Once you get there, you find that the teaser was flat and the story was written in such a way to get you to click.  Someone gets money for your click, so the writing worked.

You were manipulated by those that are smarter than you and someone got paid for your click.  If you are doing this on a data plan that charges you for your data download, you might very well be paying for the privilege of being manipulated.

When this happens to me, I close the story as I am certain that it was not that interesting anyway; and because of this, I have been on Facebook less and less.

If they want to sell advertising space off to the sides of the screen or even in the middle of the stories I can live with that, to hijack my browser and force me to find the hidden close button after I have watched the obligatory 15 seconds of the commercial is wrong and while I cannot affect change with the advertisers, I can kill the story, and I can find something else to do with my time like “read a book.”

Some of these pop ups and hijacks are eerily reminiscent of the pop ups that were indeed viruses.  “Click here to update your drivers, or scan your computer etc.”

Surfing the web one finds this type of thing and you can and should turn that option in your browser off.  If you want to see some video about the veg-a-matic, you can click on a link and be entertained in whatever way you choose.  To be forced to watch commercials before you can see what the teaser is about is “part of capitalism” that I don’t appreciate.

-Best

© All Rights Reserved 2015

RATS and Right to Privacy

RATS and Right to Privacy

rat

While some may find them cute and cuddly, and some, absolutely disgusting; this rat that I am speaking of is neither.

The rat that I want to educate about is really an acronym for Remote Access Trojan.

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Just about everything electronic today has a built in camera.  Not to mention a microphone.

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Some smart TV’s actually have them built in to allow you to voice command the TV.

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Your car may very well have something like this built in.

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I have long held that our government could if they wanted, under some obscure interpretation of the Patriot Act, access your camera and or microphone to peek into your home.  I have also thought that this could be done with the microphone and camera on most laptops and of course desktops that have them.

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Not only is there news of the Feds hacking your cell phones and either listening in or downloading your contact list and other information through something called String Ray but there are theories that your local police may be doing this as well without a warrant!  (1)

sting ray

It is not enough that we may have our government spying on us without warrant but, we have Trojans that copy your keystrokes and send them to some server in Russia, or some other obscure third world country looking for passwords and banking information now we have RATS.

Today we know that perverted individuals out there have in fact used the cameras in laptops handed out by the school to indeed spy on kids in their bedrooms.  While this made the news, little attention was really paid to this, as conspiracy nuts are everywhere.

SCHOOL-SPYING

(2) The Case in question

We now know that the Chinese among others have created Trojans that allow them remote access to your camera and or microphone in your laptop!  Simply click on the wrong thing and the writer of the software has access to your machine.

One couple received a picture of themselves lying in bed watching a movie on Netflix.  This came to them from someone using a made up name, via their Facebook page.

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(3) Naked Security Story

You really have to be smart when you are cruising the internet and checking e-mail as the crooks and other creeps are smarter.  I have often said that these folks are probably kids sitting around in their mother’s basement in their underwear, writing Trojans, seeing who can outdo the other via groups like Anonymous.

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I would like to see devices like phones have an actual on off switch or removable customer replaceable battery.  If you want to make certain that the thing is off, remove the power.  Apple has made this task about impossible for the everyday user and that is problematic.  Placing the device in airplane mode might be your closest bet to protecting your privacy but I would bet that there is a work around for that.

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I would also like to see on off switches on cameras and microphones that absolutely can be switched off until required.

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The simple truth is we have no idea what these phones are doing in the background and with viruses and Trojans, we have no idea when some remote access Trojan will activate or be activated by some creep in some basement somewhere.

Someone write an app that tells you what the phone is dong or has done.  

When you sit back and think that I am a crazy conspiracy nut, I would remind you of the porn scanners that are still in use at some airports today. 

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Yes, if you invert the negative with any cheap software you get a positive…

Who in their right mind would think that it is ok to use ionizing radiation to undress the public by the tens of thousands for the purpose of what, looking for weapons?  We are so politically correct that we can’t profile but we can strip search the public, grope grandma and feel up children!  Political Correctness is a way to control the masses and not something that we should be doing as a people.  We have free speech, and other than yelling fire in a theater or threatening to kill someone, I would not surrender the first amendment for anything!

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Did you read about the whistle blower who worked for the TSA and admitted that it was a big joke to watch people stripped of their clothing and then make remarks and jokes about what they saw? (4) (5)

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If I could have any job in the world, currently it would be to be in some position of authority at the TSA! I would love to clean that bunch of people up and while I am at it, assist them with security as currently they are loath to do much right, of course it is the government so …. What do you expect?!  They need folks who think outside the box and currently they have a bunch of automatons.

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The news media commonly carried stories about the TSA scanner as equivalent to being at altitude for a couple of hours.  The lying bastards however did not tell the truth.  While pilots do suffer more cases of skin cancers than non-pilots as cosmic radiation is more intense at altitude, it is not the same as ionizing radiation.  

To further exacerbate the privacy issue you are undoubtedly aware that cameras are everywhere.  You must assume that wherever you are, or whatever you are doing, there may be a camera watching you. Every red light contains cameras that I maintain can and do look at people in cars collecting bio metric data, looking for who is doing what when.  These are not the low end cameras that you can buy on-line, these are high end cameras that have good quality optics.

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How about some of these cameras:

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There is a wifi enabled camera in there. Have you seen these in your hotel room perhaps?

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These are just a scant few.  These things are tiny and easily concealed. Assume that you have no privacy.  If you scratch it in public, chances are someone saw you.

DAKS - IDIS DirectIP surveillance images

Orwell was ahead of his time, and you my friends need to be aware of this, and act accordingly.

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(1) http://thehackernews.com/2015/04/police-spying-cell-phones.html

(2) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robbins_v._Lower_Merion_School_District

(3) https://nakedsecurity.sophos.com/2015/08/14/webcam-spy-sends-couple-photos-of-previous-nights-netflix-snuggle-session/

(4) http://mountainrepublic.net/2012/12/24/ex-tsa-screener-officers-laughing-at-your-naked-image/

(5) https://takingsenseaway.wordpress.com/2012/12/19/letter-from-a-passenger-what-really-happens-in-the-tsa-private-room/

-Best

© All Rights Reserved 2015

The digital Era

The digital Era

The digital Era

One of my neighbors was talking via a group regarding cable and internet and what have you.  Since I took the time to write this to them I thought that I would also share this with you my “virtual” neighbors. 

Shopping Saves Money

I had Time Warner for years.  The bill had eventually reached $300 a month, the picture was hardly HD and often pixelated and too often went out.  The service technicians had been over too many times to fix it and I was over paying that kind of money for interference and snowy pictures. The Internet was slow 6mgb I think and, the two phone lines of course went down when the cable went down.

Truth be told, we don’t recognize the up time, we only really recognize and pay attention to the down time!  So when it went off or they had issues, it was an issue.  As things are “bundled” it is a real problem!

Howdy Neighbor!

Because the e-mail is also through Time Warner, now all of the communication other than the cellular is dead, if it dies for whatever reason.

While I would argue that this is a good time to pick up a book, or go sit on the porch with a glass of tea and say howdy to the neighbors, as we hardly ever meet our neighbors anymore.  We are too happy with our gadgets, and our air conditioning, another story.

Un-Bundle

The old adage about not putting all of your eggs in one basket is salient advice, and germane when it comes to communication.

Some of the easiest things to do is get another e-mail account that is not tied to your provider. Gmail, or some other freebie is a good start.  Yes there are security issues with this so don’t broadcast your banking information through un-encrypted e-mail.  I would argue not to put anything on there that you would not put on social media, but that too is another topic.

Next, as someone pointed out, who needs a land line.  POTS lines or ‘plain old telephone lines” are a thing of the past, much like pay phones.  If you really want a phone line that looks like a regular line, there are options.

First and the cheapest I have found is “Magic Jack.”  Yep, looks cheesy but for $100 for 5 years, pick your number and exchange, which is an easy choice.  Phone lines through your cable provider have all sorts of taxes and fees including *“universal fees” , which are fees tacked onto your phone line to pay for someone else’s phone.

I personally like to choose who I donate to and I don’t like to have it extracted from me, so that too was an easy choice.  No fees or other hidden theft of money with Magic Jack.

There are devices that you can get that utilize the Cell phone service and hook up to your home wiring that actually use a cell phone number as a home phone thus not doing business with the cable company in that regard.  More expensive and fees and other hidden charges will be there.  It still might be less expensive than the cable company.

There are other options for entertainment as more and more services are streaming online as someone else pointed out.  I still like the TV services offered by Verizon but, if that price gets too high, I will switch again.

Broadband is changing constantly and some say that you should get the fastest around including the company that sells it via some upgrade by some carriers on some channel.

Since most companies are using something called QoS (Quality of Service) they can actually throttle certain types of packets so, streaming video may be fast but other types of files may crawl.  This is what the whole net neutrality argument is all about.

Should NETFLIX for instance be able to pay the FCC or some other government entity to have priority traffic over some other streaming service?  Those that have a business like this lobby for it as it would make them more successful and those that think the internet should be unencumbered from government regulations lobby for neutrality.  Your online game packets should have the same priority as VOIP.  (Voice over IP)  I would argue that some companies are already doing it to some degree with or without regulations but proving it would be difficult.  Verizon has in its “fine print” an option to slow the traffic to your MAC address of your router, if you violate any of the rules on the internet such as downloading copyrighted stuff so trust me when I say this, they can do it easily.

My point to this is that I would not pay extra for faster or more bandwidth in that your “cable speed checker” may say that you are blazing but, in fact the traffic that you are interested in may be throttled back for something else.  There are other issues that could also slow down the traffic to your particular site that you are interested in so, before you buy a racecar, make certain you can use it.

Should your Internet be sold to you like water, or electricity?

There are, and have been arguments by greedy politicians and others who believe that you should pay for what you use or cause to move or transverse the internet.  Not only should you pay for your connection to, and the speed thereof, but you should also pay for the amount of data downloaded or uploaded much like cellular providers already do.  Even if the price was negligible, once they got the camel’s nose inside the tent, you would quickly find the whole camel inside the tent.  I would fight this at every turn of the road.

Network cable is not wire

Start with the basic and see if it is acceptable. Ramp up slowly and this is a biggie, make sure that the slowness that you are experiencing is not on your own home network.  Often I see companies that have paid big bucks for superfast internet access and have placed their network cables on top of fluorescent lights, or other em emitting sources.   Another huge mistake that I see often is the use of zip ties to keep them all neatly bundled.  Like building a home, make certain that your networks foundation (physical layer) is solid and installed per specifications.

Too many companies hire some handyman to install network cable thinking it is like any other kind of wire.  IT IS NOT.  There is a reason that there are so many different standards of cable and it has to do with shielding and something called TPI or (twist per inch.) Along with all of that, there is a spacer inside the cable that actually holds the different pairs at certain distances from one another as to not adversely affect the impedance of the cable.  Hire a cable specialist to do this for you; as not only does it need to be routed correctly, but it must be terminated correctly.

Threaten to Fire them

When the cable company gets too pricey call and tell them that you are going to “cancel” and change providers.  They will most probably send you to a “retention specialist” who is authorized to cut your bill, or offer you some free something or other for some amount of time.

Be prepared to cut the cable.

If you are just un-happy with the service and the retention specialist tries to low ball you, simply tell them no; and come get the stuff, or write the letter as some require etc.  I see many people bringing cable boxes and Satellite boxes and what have you to the UPS store or to the FED EX store as those folks have a contract with the provider to wrap the stuff up, and ship it for them.  Read and understand your contract before you engage the company and certainly before you terminate services.  The fine print in some of these contracts is ambiguous at best.  If I need a lawyer to look it over that is a red flag for me.  If I cannot within a few moments read the contract, and understand it completely; I am uninterested in the product.  That is sage advice that 40 years of dealing with vendors has taught me.

Important Information

A note about Magic Jack and or other VOIP services.  911 may not be a function that you have with it so remember if there is an emergency, use your cell phone.  911 is an emergency number (obviously) and when there is an emergency people often forget things like (that phone does not have 911!) when seconds count, you don’t have time to call 911 on a line that will not do you any good!

With Magic Jack they sell it with a network cable that plugs right into your router.  The problem is the cable is “flat.”  A flat cable picks up EM “electromagnetic” interference too easily and effects the performance and quality of the device.  Toss it and use a regular cat 5 or cat 6 jumper cable.

Alarm systems can be dicey with VOIP and certainly with some cable providers.  There are companies that offer cellular connected alarms and while I would not want that exclusively, I would want that as an option.  Crooks can be smart so one must be a step ahead of and smarter than them.  A good alarm company should have specialist that can make certain that if there is an issue that the police or fire or other emergency services will indeed get the call.  One other small pearl of wisdom I would pass on regarding this is simply to test your alarm once a month at least.  When you pay the bill, go test the alarm.  Make it a habit.  You don’t want to find out that it does not work, when or if you need it.

-Best

(c) All Rights Reserved 2015

CFL, LED Revisited

CFL, LED Revisited

CFL, LED Revisited

Dimmable_LED_and_CFLBig corporations really suck when they go the extra mile forcing one to buy expensive stuff.

Under the guise of “saving the planet” we have lost it!

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First off let me just rant a little about the planet. The Earth has been around 4.5 billion years.  Man has been around for about 6 million of those years but, we only have we been a “threat” to the planet the last 150 years or so.

When I say threat, not really.  One lucky strike from a meteor and we are done!  Toast, the next life form to take hold will hopefully be more evolved than some of our peers who think money is the answer to everything no matter who they screw!

Industrialization is claimed to be the largest threat to the planet along with the ever increasing population.  I agree that millions of people all creating waste emissions from gasses to solids, probably are not doing the earth any good but, do you really for just one minute think that one Volcano, or large fire does not do as much if not more damage to the eco-system than man?

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There is a super volcano that is due to erupt any moment in Yellow stone park.  When that bad boy goes off it will be a life changer!

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Then tell me about coal power plants or Gas guzzling SUv’s.

Despite High Emissions, New Coal Power Plants Planned in Germany...AACHEN, GERMANY - MAY 15:  Behind the open-pit coal mine Gartzweiler exhaust rises from cooling towers at the lignit coal-fired power stations Frimmersdorf, Neurath and Niederaussem May 15, 2007 near Aachen, Germany. The four German major energy providers Vattenfall, RWE, E.on and EnBW plan to invest more than 30 billion euros in construction and infrastructure of cole conducted power plants in Germany.  (Photo by Ralph Orlowski/Getty Images)
Despite High Emissions, New Coal Power Plants Planned in Germany…AACHEN, GERMANY – MAY 15: Behind the open-pit coal mine Gartzweiler exhaust rises from cooling towers at the lignit coal-fired power stations Frimmersdorf, Neurath and Niederaussem May 15, 2007 near Aachen, Germany. The four German major energy providers Vattenfall, RWE, E.on and EnBW plan to invest more than 30 billion euros in construction and infrastructure of cole conducted power plants in Germany. (Photo by Ralph Orlowski/Getty Images)

Yes, we are burning fossil fuels “dinosaurs” to heat and cool our homes and to drive our gas burning vehicles to and from the job and what have you.

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If you really want to solve global warming first you really need to get truthful with the numbers, and facts, as what has been published thus far is to push a “carbon credit agenda” to make the rich richer and in the end is simply another tax!

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Now, back to bulbs.

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Edison through trial and error “brute force” came up with an incandescent light bulb.

The typical light in your home burns 60 watts of electricity.

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It took me a few minutes to do the math for you, so here it is in a spreadsheet.

kw used for lighting

You can do any further multiplication you like, as in how many of these bulbs do you have and how long do you really leave them on.

The 100 and the 60 are representing incandescent “old school” bulbs.

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The 12 is representing a CFL bulb and the 3 watt is representing the LED variety.

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Basing the cost per kilowatt hour at 8.5 cents, this is what it would look like to run one bulb for a year never turning it off.

So, if you want to save the earth…or money, lets look at how and where you would put what kind of bulb.

defective GE bulb
Here is the bulb that failed prematurely. Notice the black around the inside of the plastic. This thing got hot before it stopped working and the important part of this is that the fuse did not blow!

I also think that we were pushed into using them by congress via some backroom deal with GE or some other maker of these things through the good folks at AVE K, you know lobbyist.  Like republicans or not, this was a GW Bush thing and I think it smells.

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CFL or any fluorescent bulb must stay on for a minimum of 15 minutes or you shorten the life of the bulb.  That means, don’t put them in places that you turn the light on for a few moments and then off again.  CFL or fluorescent tubes should go into places that you energize them, and then leave them on for hours, like a kitchen, family room or porch light.

This bulb died because the capacitor died.  If you look at it you will see that it has bubbled up on the top.  Checking the capacitor it is non functional.

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GE must have purchased a plethora of bad capacitors from China!

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If you look at the actual glass you will notice that there is no black around the base, this bulb died way too young…

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LED bulbs don’t just quit “usually” unlike an incandescent of fluorescent.  They grow dim over time as they age and one day you will notice that it is not very bright, and replace it.  I like them in bathrooms and closets, desk lights and lights in areas where I don’t want a lot of heat generated.

LED bulb replacing CFL bulb which replaced an incandescent bulb.
LED bulb replacing CFL bulb which replaced an incandescent bulb.

The average cost of a CFL or LED bulb however is much higher than its incandescent counterpart.

While they have come down in price, they are still no where as inexpensive as an incandescent.

A box of 4 or even 6 on sale, was around $1.  The CFL is around $2 each but that is now.  When they first came out they were about $4 each.  As other manufacturers entered into the arena the price came down.  

The same is true of LED bulbs.  These bulbs can get downright pricey!

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As far as function goes we have the incandescent with fewest complications.  A filament across the two electrodes sealed into a vacuum.  Apply the right voltage and suitable current that the filament will light and there will be light, and heat!

incandescent-lightbulb

Fluorescent is much more complex in that there is two filaments and high voltage applied which ionizes the gas inside.  This gas reacts to the phosphorescent coating inside the bulb making light,  And oh yes, they have mercury in them.

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The CFL takes in 110 or 220 depending upon your location and converts it into the voltages and currents needed to start the process as well as maintain the process while voltage is applied.  If you look inside the base of a CFL bulb you will see a host of associated circuitry to accomplish this task.

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LED Bulbs are less complex in that they use minimal components to convert the voltages into the needed voltages to run the LED’s.

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IMG_0389 There is not much heat and the circuitry is not complex.  LED bulbs should really be less expensive than CFL and I look for that to be the case as time marches on.  Currently you are still paying for the novelty much like the early adopters of flat screen TV’s.

Pay attention to these bulbs when you buy them as they must be set up for “dimmable” circuits if you intend to use them in a legacy lighting system that had incandescent lighting in it. 

A plug for these guys..
A plug for these guys..

It is up to you, do the math!

-Best

(c) All rights reserved 2015

Dash Cam

Dash Cam

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Not terribly long ago I was headed to lunch.  Pulling into the parking lot I was met by a lady screaming out of the parking lot in “hot pursuit!”  She was flying out of the middle of the entrance to the parking lot!

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The driver was a Dallas Cop who had setup her “speed trap” in the parking lot of a busy restaurant in Addison Texas.  Evidently someone went a couple miles over the limit and she was going to stop them and protect us all from someone going 40 in a 35!

Tracy Jones, K. Beth Burnside, Mia Shagena, Sarah Ramsey, Melissa Person
Tracy Jones, K. Beth Burnside, Mia Shagena, Sarah Ramsey, Melissa Person

Had I not stabbed on the brakes, we would have had a head on.

You see, when you leave a parking lot headed for a main road there is this “stop sign” either painted on the road or standing there or assumed.  Even if they don’t have one, you should stop and look both ways before screaming out of the parking lot!  The drivers license manual even tells you to stop, use your turn signal and then proceed when clear.  No where does it say if “you are a cop it is OK to go blasting out of a parking lot without looking, stopping, using a turn signal etc!  Stop hiding in parking lots!   Had she not been blasting out of the parking lot she would have most likely been to the right of the entrance and we could have avoided one another.   She was in HOT PURSUIT! 

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The wreck was narrowly avoided but, had we collided who would have been at fault?  Let me re-phrase that, who would have been blamed?!  Do I trust the police???  I would rather not have to.  We have seen too many times where if there is a possible way to cover your ass, these guys are good at it!

She would have hit me left front.  I was traveling between 5 and 10 mph, no telling what she was doing, as she was flying!

Without dash cam footage, we would have to depend upon forensics and “he said she said” and she is a cop.  Had there been a wreck we would have had to call the “cops.”  Do you think for a minute that they would have sided with me?  Even with the overwhelming preponderance of forensic evidence that would have been there, I can hardly think that it would have ended well for me.  Maybe I am jaded but I have been around a long time, you don’t screw with cops!  They are innocent until proven guilty, and you are guilty until proven innocent; which with cops, your evidence may never see the light of day.  Just saying….

Would she have said, “Oh, I screwed up” and accepted the blame, or would she have somehow blamed me.

She has more to lose than I do.  Her job could be in jeopardy where, I would have simply had a wreck on my record.

Dash Cameras take the mist out of mystery.

Dash cameras in theory are supposed to record in 3 minute increments, a loop of events.

When the car is running the camera is running and not only does it get video but, it also serves as a “cockpit recorder.”  That is right, your voice or radio are recorded for posterity.  If there is no event within that three minute window, that section of “tape” goes into the queue to be recorded over.

If there is an event, there is a “g” sensor in the camera that acts as a mechanism to flag that section of tape(1) as nonvolatile or protected thus, ignored in the subsequent record process.  You can also activate that process by pushing a button telling the machine to save the last 3 minutes of tape.

Problems

  • The button to control that function needs to be easily pushed as we don’t want to cause an accident by saving the tape sequence that is important.  “Someone does something incredibly stupid and you want to upload it to YouTube!”
  • Two cameras that I have tested thus far put out copious amounts of RF that “swamp” the GPS as well as the Satellite radio.
  • The camera plugs into the cigarette lighter socket or 12v power source and starts shortly after voltage is applied.  Problem, those outlets are “hot: when the key is off so there needs to be another form of activation.  Not all cars are like this but mine is.

If I were designing the perfect dash camera, I would tie it to GPS and have it actually encode the coordinates into the data stream.  Along with the coordinates, I would encode speed.  I would make the camera function dependent upon movement either of the vehicle and I would look for movement within the cabin.  If someone gets into the car, the camera starts recording.

I would include a rear facing camera as not all accidents happen from the front of the car.

I would tie the camera into the Automobiles security system so if the shock sensor or other sensor is activated, it starts recording.

If it were a commercial vehicle I would tie it onto the on board computer to let me know if the lights were on, were the brakes hit, was the turn signal activated, What was the RPM of the engine, was it going up or down, what was the speed of the vehicle?

I would also offer a version of the camera that incorporated cellular technology that actually sent a data stream up to the cloud for later retrieval.  I would do this on all commercial vehicles so at any point in time the person responsible for them could go to a web site and see were their vehicle is, what it is doing and possible retrieve other information like the status of the vehicle.

The creator of such a camera could offer “cloud storage” as part of a complete package, thus not simply selling a device, but a service with a constant revenue stream that goes into perpetuity.

The RFI issues need to be resolved as we have come to rely on GPS as an everyday thing, much like road signs.

Shielding the camera to contain the RFI needs to be looked at, in the factory.

What is generating RFI in the GHZ range?  Is it the on-board processor? Can it be shielded?

This is not rocket science, it is simply best practice engineering.

-Best

© All rights reserved 2015

(1) Tape is simply used here as  vernacular that the public would easily understand.  There is in fact no more tape, as everything is recorded digitally.  The storage in most cameras are some form of memory card.

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