I’m a valuable Verizon Wireless customer…

Or so says an email an email I got from them last week asking me to take a survey on why I hadn’t taken advantage of my ability to upgrade my phone.

When the email came in I was on the phone talking to one of my friends; and besides, email is intended to be dealt with when it’s convenient…

About two hours after the email came in, things settled down and I had some time while I was waiting on the computer to finish a backup — so I clicked the survey link.

To which I got a web browser window (that adjusted down the size of my preferred browsing window) to tell me that the survey had been closed.

WOW — I’m glad I’m a “valuable” customer, I would hate to think how “un-valuable” customers would be treated.

Let’s see…

First, I never authorized Verizon to send me any type of email other than email specifically dealing with my account (a survey in no way deals with my account — and is clearly a marketing effort), so this email would be classified as SPAM (that’s UCE – Unsolicited Commercial Email).

Second, any legitimate survey sent out would certainly have more than a two hour response time; after all, it’s not like they would know I was anywhere near the computer.

Third, I’ve already told Verizon I’m not interested in a “free” phone since I’m not interested in a new two year contract.  And frankly there should be laws against calling something free when it’s got all kinds of strings attached.

Fourth, Verizon certainly doesn’t need to send me a survey to know how I feel about them — I consider them a crappy company like all cellular providers.  And obviously, Verizon know it’s a crappy company that is afraid it couldn’t keep customers without resorting to tricking and coercing them into long contracts by selling them equipment which is locked and crippled.

I say it’s time for an open wireless system with open handsets — where like the wire line market, wireless providers cannot force you to purchase a device from them, and they have to compete without all these tricks and fine print.

Certainly Verizon (like other cellular companies) have worked very hard to make sure that I as a customer will look out for my interests, and jump to any provider that offers me reasonable service at a reasonable price.

Customer loyalty?  Well, that’s about as rare as customer service in the cellular industry!

Verizon Wireless

NOTE: Verizon Wireless sent out a new survey email the next evening (even after I explicitly “unsubscribed” from the email list used to send the original one) with “CORRECTED LINK” added to the subject. Once again I got the message:

This survey link is no longer valid. Thank you for your time and consideration in trying to complete this survey.

Originally posted 2010-07-25 02:00:31.

Mega Church – Mega Sex Scandle

Bishop Eddie Long of the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Georgia (just East of Atlanta) has been accused by three young male members of his congregation for sexual impropriety.

It’s yet another example of religious figures potentially using their position of authority and respect to seduce individuals who trust and respect them.

In this case, apparently the church leader seduced the boys by providing them with cars, money, clothes, jewelry, international trips, and access to celebrities.

What is totally hilarious about this particular case of homosexual relations between Long and three boys is that Long had joined with Rev Bernice King (the youngest daughter of the late Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr and also a pastor at the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church) in a march in 2004 in Atlanta to support a national constitutional amendment to protect marriage as a union “between one man and one woman”.  Additionally not only does Long support a national ban on same-sex marriage, but his church counsels gay members to become straight.

One can only wonder what else might happen at the Longfellows Youth Academy, a tuition-based program for young men between the ages of 13 and 18.

Just another mega evil of mega religion.

Originally posted 2010-09-29 02:00:28.

Space – The End of an Era

Yesterday 220 miles above Australia the space shuttle Discovery docked with the International Space Station for the last time… and with the recent cuts to NASA budget (and cancellation of the Constellation and Aries programs) it effectively marks the end of the US space program.

I’ll underscore that most all the advances in electronics we enjoy today (micro-chips, micro-waves, etc) responsible for the growth of communications, computing, internet, consumer convenience can be traced back to the rapid push to put a man on the moon.

While this might not be the end of the technological advancements in the US, one really has to ask is it yet another sign of the decline of the US into the pages of history.

A staggering debt, unemployment by some estimates that effects one in five American adults, skyrocketing energy costs, the end of the middle class… I simply cannot imagine anyone truly believing “the land of the free and the home of the brave” applies any longer.

Originally posted 2011-02-27 02:00:52.

Disk Drill – Beta

Generally I don’t like to write reviews of software that hasn’t been released yet; and certainly in this case I’ll do another review of the product once it has been release — particularly since there is no pricing information available.

There are a number of utilities similar to cleverfiles Disk Drill available on Windows, many are free of charge, but I wasn’t able to find any free utilities for file recovery on the OS-X (there are a few more that are available for purchase; and this is the first of these types of tools I’ve looked at).

I guess I’m a power user, and I like to know a little more about what’s going on, and have more control over what’s installed on my machine, and what it’s allowed to do… from my perspective Disk Drill is just a little too “black box”.

While I don’t think it should necessarily require that everyone understand what it is going to do or install, it seems like it shouldn’t be such a task to figure it out.

Also, while most users will probably like that it just “works” (and it does) I didn’t care for the fact that it had no ability for me to actually have control over the recovery.

I will say that the developers haven’t rushed this product out and there has been a number of betas — though they haven’t don’t a good job about marking the images with a version (just a date on the download panel).

Finally, when I first looked at the product a couple months ago the web site was in horrible shape — the grammar was abysmal, and the clarity of the writing made me extremely leery of the “professional-ness” of the company; that has improved a great deal.

The bottom line, without a release product and a price-point all I can tell you is, I don’t know.

I’m hopeful that the product will be available at a reasonable price; and that the commitment the developers have shown in the quality of the Beta will not end once a release has been made.

Disk Drill on cleverfiles.com

Originally posted 2011-02-20 02:00:32.

Ubuntu – RAID Creation

I think learning how to use mdadm (/sbin/mdadm) is a good idea, but in Ubuntu Desktop you can use Disk Utility (/usr/bin/palimpsest) to create most any of your RAID (“multiple disk”) configurations.

In Disk Utility, just access “File->Create->Raid Array…” on the menu and choose the options.  Before doing that, you might want to clear off the drives you’re going to use (I generally create a fresh GTP partition to insure the drive is ready to be used as a component of the RAID array).

Once you’ve created the container with Disk Utility; you can even format it with a file system; however, you will still need to manually add the entries to /etc/mdadm/mdadm.conf and /etc/fstab.

One other minor issue I noticed.

I gave my multiple disk containers names (mirror00, mirror01, …) and Disk Utility will show them mounted on device /dev/md/mirror00 — in point of fact, you want to use device names like /dev/md0, /dev/md1, … in the /etc/mdadm/mdadm.conf file.  Also, once again, I highly recommend that you use the UUID for the array configuration (in mdadm.conf) and for the file system (in fstab).

Originally posted 2010-07-12 02:00:33.

Windows Mail (Vista)

Microsoft has several generations and families of email programs.

  • Outlook is targeted for the corporate market, and until recently the only viable choice for Windows if you wanted to keep “PIM” data (and still the only choice if you want to synchronize with a mobile device — but hopefully that will change).
  • Outlook Express became Windows Mail on Vista and Windows Live Mail if you want to run the same program on different operating systems (or you want to interface to Hotmail / MSN / Live accounts and don’t want to pay for enhanced services).
  • Entourage is the email program for the Macintosh.

I actually use all of the Microsoft email programs for different tasks:

I need Outlook to synchronize my Moto Q and Moto KRZR (actually I don’t have to use Outlook for the KRZR, but there aren’t any options for the Q).

I use Outlook Express, Windows Mail, and Windows Live Mail for various tasks; and I use Entourage on my Macs (I also use Apple iMail, but I’m haven’t drank Steve Job’s kool-aid, so I prefer to choose the program I like the best).

One of the downsides I’ve found with the Microsoft email programs in the Outlook Express, Windows Mail, Windows Live Mail family is that they’re so busy changing the name and interface that they don’t focus on making it work.

At one time Microsoft did IMAP much better than any other email reader; unfortunately, the bugs they had years ago, they still have — and most of the other email readers have gotten better.

The two problems I see over and over and over with Windows Mail (and the other’s in it’s family) deal with subscribing to IMAP folders.  Here’s some scenarios you might be familiar with:

You create a new mail folder and you get an error; you try to create it again and it tells you that it already exists, but can’t be shown.  I haven’t figured out what’s happening here, but I do know that the IMAP server creates the folder, and sets the subscribed FLAG (and that other email clients have no problem with the folder); but for some reason Windows Mail refuses to show it (and will continue to refuse to show it even if you delete the account and recreate it).

The only work around to this I’ve found is creating a folder with a single character in it’s name, and renaming it to what you want (that seems to always work — but if you recreate the account you might find that some folders aren’t listed any longer).

The other thing I’ve found that Microsoft hasn’t fixed is cleaning up the local message store (I have no clue what they do when the compact the database, but it doesn’t seem to really achieve the desired goal).  What I do here is I export my accounts, remove the accounts, shut down Windows Mail, then delete the left over message store.  Start up Windows Mail, import the accounts, and then let it re-download the information from the server.  This works well for me, since most of my messages are on a local server (for archival); and I don’t keep much on remote servers (so it really doesn’t take that long), and it keeps the size of the local cache down to something manageable (you will really notice what a poor job Microsoft does on cleaning up the local IMAP store when you defragment your disk with a tool that shows you what is going on).

To find your local data stores, you can use any of the following paths:

  • %USERPROFILE%\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows Mail
  • C:\Users\%USERNAME%\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows Mail
  • %LOCALAPPDATA%\Microsoft\Windows Mail

 The folder for the IMAP store should match the display name (well — it may be what Windows Mail originally chose for you, but the first time you do an export / import you will get the name you chose — and that’s a good reason to do this once right after creating the account).


If you want to know my opinion on which email program from Microsoft is the “best” — well hands down it’s Entourage.  Why they don’t use that as a model to build an email program for Windows is beyond me — and why they don’t use common code for all their email programs and actually fix the bugs they have rather than continuing to change the name and look is also beyond me.

I would say you’re better off using Mozilla Thunderbird, but it still crashes with an IMAP store as large as mine.

I guess I could just start using my Mac for all my email.  But seriously, if you know of good options I’d love to hear from you.

Originally posted 2009-02-09 01:00:35.

Earth Day 2010

Forty years after the first Earth Day, the world is in greater peril than ever. While climate change is the greatest challenge of our time, it also presents the greatest opportunity – an unprecedented opportunity to build a healthy, prosperous, clean energy economy now and for the future.

Earth Day 2010 can be a turning point to advance climate policy, energy efficiency, renewable energy and green jobs. Earth Day Network is galvanizing millions who make personal commitments to sustainability. Earth Day 2010 is a pivotal opportunity for individuals, corporations and governments to join together and create a global green economy. Join the more than one billion people in 190 countries that are taking action for Earth Day.


Originally posted 2010-04-22 02:00:38.

Customizing Windows XP and Vista Installations

Two tools you should know about are nLite (for XP/2003) and vLite (for Vista/2008), they allow you to customize the installation of Windows as well as “slip stream” in service packs, hot fixes, drivers, etc.

On interesting note, you can often build a slip streamed installation media and install from it faster than you can install, apply drivers and service packs!

It’s easy to use and can save a great deal of time and it’s free.

Originally posted 2008-12-03 12:00:06.

D-Link DGS-2208 Eight Port Gigabit Switch

I ordered a couple of these from Amazon last month to make  my temporary network wiring a little easier until I can do some permanent wiring throughout the house.

They were very inexpensive, and had a rebate (limit two).

The newer version of these switches (hardware revision C) are Energy Star certified — they consume very little power, and produce almost no heat at all.

The bottom line is they work, and work well — are affordable to purchase, and reasonably eco-friendly.

Originally posted 2009-08-02 01:00:11.

Windows – Desktop Search

Most people realize how valuable Internet search engines are; but not everyone has figured out how valuable desktop (and server) search engines can be.

Even in corporate environments where data storage is highly organized it’s easy to forget where something is, or not know that someone else has already worked on a particular document — but if you could quickly and efficiently search all the public data on all the machines in your organization (or home) you could find those pieces of information you either misplaced or never knew about.

With Windows Search it just happens.  If you have access to a document, and you search — you can find it.  Open up a file explorer Window and point it at location you think it might be, type in the search box — and matching documents quickly appear (and those that don’t match disappear).  Do the same thing against a remote share – and it happens magically (the remote box does all the work).  It’s even possible to  be able to search multiple servers simultaneously – and it doesn’t require a rocket scientist to setup.

Windows Search is already on Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 as well as Windows Vista (you’ll want to apply updates) — and easily installable on Windows XP and Windows Server 2003.  In fact, the defaults will probably do fine — just install and go (of course it will take a little while to index all your information).

A developer can fairly easily enhance search to include more document types using (plenty of examples, and it uses a model that Microsoft has employed in many parts of Windows)…   The search interface can be used via API, embedded in a web page, or just used directly from the search applet (which appears in auto-magically in Windows 7 and Windows Vista).

Very few Microsoft products are worth praise — but Windows Search is; and from my personal experience no competitor on any platform compares.

To those looking to write a “new” desktop search; look at Windows Search and understand what it does and how it works before you start your design.

Windows Search

Originally posted 2010-07-17 02:00:24.