December 18, 2002

I got through to their (NATN) customer service department and spoke with Justin Barnett. Mr. Barnett assured me that he would contact all of their offices to make sure that I was placed on their do not call lists (he stated that there may be newer offices that do not have me on their list). He stated he did not know why I was receiving these calls. At the same time, I also warned Justin that I was considering seeking legal counsel to stop the telephone calls and made him aware that the last time this happened, who I spoke with and how many times they had called me (I believe I estimated 10 in 7 days to him) and also that they had in the past called me after hours. I expressed my displeasure (pleasantly) and disgust with having to deal with the issue, and he assured me he would take care of it.

In other news, I finished up my two classes for Term 6 and signed up for two more classes for Term 1 of 2003. It was tough completing the coursework on time, but I did most of it (probably got a C or B in Psychology because I backlogged myself...but if I get a C, I'll be surprised - I know I did well on the non-subjective aspects of the midterm and final exams).

They're Baaaaa-aaaack - Received another call from North American Telephone Networks - offering me their deal of the day - if you recall, these were the people who would not stop calling me back in July (7-15th, I believe...). I called their CEO and spoke with their customer service department at length, and was assured (I PROMISE) that I would never, ever, hear from these people again. Well, they just called me again (or one of their representatives did...) - So, do I sue? I asked for a supervisor, and spoke with one, a Mr. Donald Patterson. He assured me that he would put me on their do-not-call list. Then he spoke with a supervisor about getting the change into their computer, immediately. I told Mr. Patterson that I may be considering legal action in the matter, since it seems that the company will not stop soliciting me. I told him about the previous incident, and he was doing his best to be very helpful. All I want them to do is to STOP calling us, and to go out of their way to do so, if necessary. Is that too much to ask?

December 03, 2002

Is anyone out there paying attention to our decaying privacy? It seems that recent events are allowing the McCarthyists out from under the rocks that they crawled under years ago. Look at this Wired News article and more to the point, this one: Wired News: Total Info System Totally Touchy. I don't know about the rest of you, but this latter system seems to me a crock of crap. Way back when the Social Security Number was created, the government promised us that it would only be used for social security, and would never, ever (we swear!) become a national ID number.

I'd like to see you get anything done from a governmental perspective without handing over your social security number. You can't - don't even waste your time. Regardless of the fact that it is basically illegal to use the SSN of an individual to personally identify them for anything except their social security benefits, every computerized system that needs to personally identify you uses this little number. Sure, there are people in Congress who will want safeguards for this new 'purchase tracking' system that they want to build. But you know what, the law sure didn't help with the SSN.

Our privacy and our personal rights are stripped away daily by well-meaning folks, and while we try to do something, there is almost nothing we can do about it. It's just going to continue to get worse. I don't have an answer...I just felt the need to rant about it.

November 11, 2002

Can we please speak out about automated bathrooms? They've just refinished the bathrooms here at work. The whole place is automated....automated flushers, automatic lighting, automated sinks, and even an automated door (big handicap button). You walk into the bathroom, and the door swings itself open all the way, and doesn't close immediately, exposing the hallway to a view of the men's room. Then you walk up to a stall, or what-have-you and relieve yourself. Sometime during this process, the automated flusher decides you're finished, even if you're not, and attempts to suck you down the pipes. As you turn around to leave the stall, one of the automated sinks turns on. Not the one you were going to use, but the far one at the end. You put soap on your hands, and wave your hands under the faucet. A sprinkle of ice cold water ensues, and you desperately try to bubble up and then get all the soap off before the sink decides that you are finished. Now, your hands are cold as ice AND still covered with a layer of soapy film.

What's worse? I think someone paid big bucks to have our bathrooms upgraded...and the stall doors don't even stay shut.....I'll bet if you don't move around enough while sitiing, the automatic lights would turn off on you....and then you think to do I know it's just a motion detector circuit and not a feel like you're being watched...

Too much automation is a bad thing. This is an example.

October 29, 2002

I was having a problem publishing here for a while - kept getting 503 errors on my template file at BLOGGER. But I finally figured it out! It had to do with my Archive template instead of the main template. Saved the archive template and Blogger is working just fine now. Perhaps now I'll write more often?
Found another interesting site on the net. Who says the free lunch is gone? Yahoo is the KING of the free lunch - and they prove it with LAUNCH - Your Yahoo! Music Experience. This site offers a heap of recent videos (and some not so recent) on demand, and a programmable music station. With the ratings system on the personalized music station, you can hear both the artists and genres you really love, while also hearing new artists that they recommend based on what you like. I've been happy with it so far, and with broadband at home it's fast and reliable.

October 21, 2002

Well, folks, I've decided to finally finish a degree program. I've started this semester at Limestone College. They have a distance degree program called Virtual Campus. I've signed up for CO201 (Introduction to Programming) and PS311 (Psychology: Cognition). One easy course and one hard course per semester. I should be able to handle that load. I estimate completion in Dec 2004, less if I can test out of some of these classes. If the load is light enough, I think I'll study on the side and CLEP out of the Calculus course, plus the college also offers credit by examination. I should be able to test out of the Networking courses, and possibly some of the others. Wish me luck! :-)

September 11, 2002

Mercury News | 09/09/2002 | Domain firm sets rules for children Internet zone - A news article points out an attempt to set up a kid-friendly zone on the Internet. Sounds like a great plan - set up a zone of the Internet that will be friendly to kids and be safe for parents to allow their kids to peruse. Unfortunately, I see such a zone becoming a prime target for hackers and other miscreants, and until the web becomes more technically mature and controllable, I don't see how such a policy will be enforceable. The FCC does a good job monitoring the airwaves (although I personally feel their 'family values' have slipped a great deal in the past 25 years), but how do you apply that same monitoring/censoring to a medium that is so easy to publish to? And what happens when trusting parents take the 'easy road' and put all their trust into the domain to babysit their children's Internet browsing? Just look at how many parents plop their children in front of the TV nowadays without monitoring what their kids are watching! What happens when they do the same with their kids on the 'net?

< >I really believe that setting up something like this will only lead to a false sense of security. If you care about what your kids are exposed to, there's only one way to enforce it - personal responsibility, and on the Internet, that means browsing WITH your children, because pornography and other 'not meant for Johny's eyes/ears'-material is likely only a click away.

August 26, 2002

Aren't computers the funniest things? We loaded up a new Xeon-MP multiprocessor computer with Windows 2000 Server. The Xeon MP processor has a special ability to emulate a second processor on each physical processor, giving up to 30-40% more performance in multi-threaded application performance. HOWEVER, because Windows 2000 Server kernel code works on up to 4 processors maximum, these virtual processors are not recognized in our new 4-way server. We would have to purchase Windows 2000 Advanced Server to make use of the additional capabilities afforded by our hardware. It doesn't seem quite fair, though, considering that when the second set of 4 processors come online - they'll only be 30% of the performers that the actual processors are.

What's interesting is that it's real hard to take sides on this. Microsoft can't very well just give away the Advanced Server kernel to anyone just because they have this virtual processor capability. On the other hand - if I licensed SQL Server by the processor, they wouldn't make me pay for an 8 processor why is it not the same with the OS. As for Intel, they gladly informed me that Linux doesn't have any restriction on the amount of processors that the OS uses out of the box.

It's a very interesting topic. It's called hyperthreading, and Intel has some whitepapers about it (and Windows vs. Hyperthreading) right here.

August 15, 2002

Do you use the Internet at all? Of COURSE you do! Well, as a user concerned with the security of your machine, you should be aware that patches for your Operating System and your software are constantly being patched and upgraded. For example, the Flash plug-in in your Internet Explorer (or Netscape) has an update out this week due to the following bulletin: Macromedia: MPSB02-09 - Macromedia Flash Malformed Header Vulnerability Issue

You're going to want to click on that link and follow the instructions so that you don't get targeted by the next 2 or 3 worms/viruses that come out. You see, new viruses tend to utilize fairly recent vulnerabilities (weaknesses) in the software you use, but may not realize you use. In this example, the Flash player is the software that allows you to view my 'typing text' animation at the top of my page. So, if at the top of the screen, you see some text typing across, you're using Flash player software, whether you knew it or not.

I've changed the minimum version for Flash on this page. It will attempt to force download the new one. If you clicked on Yes when the install box popped up, you've already been upgraded to the new version of Flash. If you clicked no, you're still vulnerable.

August 12, 2002

Why do people gamble online with money? There's places online you can go to and win cash without risking your hard earned greenbacks. Sites likeGamesville! are out there - play to win $2500 on some of their games, and the only thing you have to give up is your time (which you're going to give up anyway) and your attention (ad-driven site..).
Love stupid criminal stories? They're common in the weekly newsletter that Randy Cassingham puts out called This is True(�). Here's a story from last week that Randy's posted a visual on. You might find this story quite amusing. Sign up for Randy's newletter for free while you're at it. It's worth every penny and more..

July 29, 2002

Just say No! to Vanilla Coke. Ok, viewers and readers - I'm going to save you a trip. A trip to your local grocery store to buy the new Coke flavor, Vanilla Coke. I just bought one, you see. As most of you probably already know, I'm a caffeine addict, tried and true America style, but I prefer sodas to coffee. I drink Pepsi, Cherry Coke, Dr. Pepper, Mr. Pibb, Code Red, and a variety of other soft drinks. But NONE of these can compare with the horrid feeling of aftertaste that Vanilla Coke will leave you with. Drinking this concoction leads you down a false path of 'nothing wrong here' up until you stop your sipping. Then, and only then, the rush of actual Coke washes down your gullet only to leave behind the sticky and pervasive taste of vanilla. You know what? There's a reason that vanilla comes in those small little bottles. You're just NOT supposed to use that much of it. Ugh, what can I say? Yet another experiment gone sour, much like 'New Coke'...

July 24, 2002

Wanted: A broker that can respond to complex problems in market conditions. Must have Internet account management capability, and not have unwieldy requirements for small-time investors. Know of such a brokerage? Please, send me an email.

July 19, 2002

Finished the upgrade to RedHat 7.3 last night. The Anaconda upgrade script had bombed out when it got to the lilo/grub part probably because I didn't have a bootloader installed on the hard drive at all in 7.2. So, I copied over the new kernel and initrd code to my boot floppy and was good to go. For a window manager now, I use Xfce, which is a small footprint window manager kind of like KDE. It's only 3MB in size, and for my machine that has only 64MB RAM, it runs nice and fast. Last night I compiled my first 2 or 3 applications using the Gtk libraries to start learning how to develop X applications. With Mac OS X being based on Unix, and with Gtk having libraries available for the Microsoft platform(s), I should be good to go from a development standpoint. It's hard to program without a goal, though. So much software is already available for the Linux platform that I don't have any real goals as to what type of system I want to write, so it's gonig to be hard deciding what I want to write.

July 18, 2002

This article about how Yahoo edited email messages is just TOO funny for words. Not only did they edit folk's email messages without telling them, but they did a half-assed job of it. If the article is gone by the time you read this - here's the gist...

Yahoo mail replaced words that could be used by hackers to run email viruses on the HTML-enabled web-based email system that they offer for free. They changed words such as 'eval' to 'review'. But that's not the half of it. The bonus piece is that they didn't bother to do searches on full words..So, if you sent a message asking for something to be evaluated - it would be delivered with the word 'reviewuated' - YUCH! I'm sure there were other words too - searches on Google for 'reviewuated' and 'reviewuate' showed some interesting results - including the editing of some resume's of Educators...exactly the place you wouldn't want such gaffes.

Oh, and no more peeps out of North American Telephone Network...congratulations on getting it right finally!

July 15, 2002

Well, finally got through at 7:32 to Scott in Customer Service. He promised to add me to their do-not-call list. THEN, I got a call from a Katrina of NATN asking me about the voicemail that I had left in Mr. Wilkes mailbox (where I had not left a message, but I assume my number was recorded.) I was hunting down NATN's business number so that I could call them tomorrow during business hours if necessary, and Mr. Wilkes was the only name I had to punch into their automated dialer, so I did, but decided to wait until tomorrow to leave a message. Anyways, Katrina here knew about my foray into attempting to reach the CEO at home. Seems she wanted to make sure I had the phone number for his office. Yeah, I got it. Then she promised me no more calls from their sales team, and got Scott's name from me so she could follow up to make sure I was on the do-not-call list. She also mentioned that I couldn't possibly be receiving calls from their sales team since they all go home at 9PM. I don't know about her, but their sales team DEFINITELY called me last Thursday night well after 11PM, and there certainly sounded like a large number of employees in the background. That's a FACT. I told her this, and, robot employee that she likely is, she repeated her assertion. Sorry, brainwashing only goes as far as someone without the facts...I'll continue to blog the's a convenient place to put them.

Well, no more phone calls last night. Let's see if this keeps up.

Well, it's started up again. North American Telephone Network has once again started calling us on a regular schedule to attempt to get us to sign up with our service. We have told them numerous times to not call us, yet they persist. I could sue them for this hassling. I've spoken with them last Thursday two times, last Friday 3 times (my wife four times [I just asked her]), and now again today (6:55PM 15July for the record.) Now each call will be logged and recorded, perhaps in preparation for a lawsuit. I tried looking up their CEO and contacting him at his home. However, either I have the wrong number, or someone at his home (a woman) screens his calls for him. She told me that I need to 'find the right number' and call it. However, she didn't say he wasn't there. I don't want to bother her again (that's why I'm better than NATN is.) I'm now on 'permanent' hold with their customer service department. I've been on the phone with their automated attendant now for about 20 minutes. I wonder how they can afford to pay for this considering their low low rates and their free offers. The best part of this recording is the "Please continue to hold" that it requests every few minutes. Their dedication to customer service is wonderful.

In (past) thinking about this entry - I see what led me to being such a pain in the butt. You see, it was Friday night when I looked up Jack's telephone number at home. This was after bounced email to him at the web address [failed mail delivery for you non-geeks in the audience], and failure to be able to contact their company by any after-hour telephone number. It had me incensed because they had called me around 9:45 or so (PM) after 6 or 7(?) daytime calls. I just 'knew' they were going to call me at 10:45 (they never did...guess they went home early). When they didn't call, I figured that my last request to be removed from their call list was being honored. When they just called us again tonight, all I saw was red. And I still don't know that we won't get called tonight. They've promised, but until the night is out, I just don't know.

Wow, it's been a long time since I updated my blog - looks like about 2 months. I really should make some more time to do these things. It's interesting, now that I know who reads my blog, I find myself editing what I was going to say instead of just rambling. That is probably a bad effect of journaling in a public place. I think of all the people who have jobs or hobbies in the outside world that they might be ashamed of, and wonder whether they'd be doing these things if they knew their parents/friends/etc were watching them. Of course, there are folks that go on the Jerry Springer show who don't seem to have these qualms, so maybe I'm overestimating human nature. Of course, I'm only picking on Jerry because he's in the news so often. I don't necessarily have a problem with him. Ok, there I go rambling again. Look for more updates.

May 17, 2002

Fox MUD is undergoing big changes. One of them includes a site move! Watch this space for more coming up!

April 09, 2002

A commercial I heard on the radio this morning had me cracking up in the car. It's a commercial for Consumer Freedom, an anti-activist site that purports to weigh the truth vs. media-hype about things like caffeine, red meat and snack foods. I won't weigh or measure the web site's views for you...that's for you to decide. But I thought the commercial(s) was/(were) funny.

April 01, 2002

Just got back from vacation. One of the things we did on vacation was take a 2 day cruise with Imperial Majesty The cruise was fun. If you're going on a cruise, I would give you a few me. But apart from the minor dissapointments, I was overall pleased, especially with the service provided by many of those onboard, most notably our dinner waiter, Myknos, who was wonderful both days in whipping up something for my wife when she wasn't completely pleased with the dinner menu. The thing that suprised me but shouldn't have, was the international flavor of the crew. The entertainment on board was great, but Romanian accented Country and Western is still kind of silly sounding.

March 16, 2002

Annoyance of the Day - I was perhaps a tad tired, but I just had the most dreadful experience with the new Target store at Springfield Mall. In the electronics department, under video games was a posted sign for Tony Hawk Pro Skater 3: Game Boy Advance version. We were purchasing the game for our son so that he would have something new to play in the car on long trips. The sign read something along the lines of "Free Snack Pack when you buy this game, a Medium Icee, Small Popcorn and Hot Dog. Offer good while supplies last, no rainchecks - 3/10-3/16. See Electronics Department for details."

So, I asked the Electronics employee who was selling me the game. The employee appeared to have no clue. Neither did the other two who were working in that department. Finally, he hazarded a guess and told me to just take the receipt to the Target snack bar, and they would be aware of the promotion and give me the snacks. I asked him if he was sure, and he said yes. Further prompting him to attempt to get him to rethink his answer brought no additional incentive to actually attempt to find what I was hoping he would.

I walked to the Snack Bar with the fore-knowledge that this wasn't going to work. But I figured, I needed to work within their system, and perhaps the snack bar people really were less clueless than the electronics folks. I waited in line at the snack bar, and when I got to the beginning of the line, I communicated my desire for the promotional snack pack, complete with my receipt from the purchase. The cashier walked over to the snack bar manager with my receipt in hand. The snack bar manager looked at me like I was the Purple People Eater, shaking her head vigorously no at me while surely telling the cashier that I was some kind of thief after free goods.

This just sent me over the top. Putting on my disgusted customer face and tone, I told her that in no uncertain terms that either they should get their act together, or that the folks in Electronics had better. I asked for a store manager and made it perfectly clear within a 2 mile radius that "I do not like being made to look stupid", ignoring the irony that I was most likely doing a better job than they were at that particular task.

The snack foods manager offered to walk with me to the electronics department, probably to take those fools head on if necessary, for attempting to pawn me over on her department, under the guise of "Show me, sir, where this offer is". After arriving in electronics and showing her the display sign, which she read quite clearly and carefully, she repeats the offer aloud to the electronics personnel.

The same guy that sold me the game, and sent me to her department in the first place says aloud, "It's only if you buy THAT game, sir." I quickly supress the urge to jump over their brand new cashier station and kill the #!#@#!#! idiot where he stands. "I bought that game.." "Oh you did?" -incredulous looks from both of us, his likely from the realization that I would actually do that, and mine from trying to realize just what in the hell our creator was smoking the day He created this loser.-

Food center manager speaks up - She tells Electronics that they should take the sign down, because "of the date" (I hate to repeat myself, but I'll save you the backward glance - today is 3/16 and the sign says the offer is from 3/10-3/16). They argue that it IS in fact 3/16 and that the offer includes today. Too late, her shields are at full power - she claims it means UNTIL 3/16 and walks off toward her department with me close behind. She tries to explain some nonsense to me about how the computers (she never ONCE consulted a computer during this ordeal) remove the offer on the last day, and that is why the problem exists. By now, the vindication of being right has cooled me down. We get back to the food center, and I accept the goodies with just the slightest smirky smile. All the while she is putting together a snack pack, she is on the walkie-talkie with some manager, to see if she should take (or at least copy) my receipt in return for the snacks. Of course, the receipt itself had no mention whatsoever of any such deal.

Just had to get that off my chest.

February 28, 2002

February 27, 2002

Just a word on search engines and Usenet. If you've been around the Internet as long as I have (or longer), you already know about Usenet - the original message boards that predate TCP/IP and all this fancy network card stuff. - Plenty of primers on what Usenet is and how it can be accessed are out there. Dejanews at one point was the premier archive of old Usenet messages, then sold out to Google. Google has done amazing things with the archive, and if you need an answer to a question, you'll likely find the answer in an old Usenet post. Here is an example Google Search on pine reply-to how to configure that I recently did - and the answer was in the second message on the list. No way we could have had this kind of knowledge base in the 80s... The Internet continues to amaze me.

February 08, 2002