Entries Tagged as 'Communications'

Smartly Made Smart Phones

I’ve owned a Windows based smart phone for around a decade; when I first saw and played with the iPhone I thought it was interesting, but it really brought little more to the table than HTC had already done with their UI on top of Windows mobile had… with one notable exception — the app store.

I’d probably have been willing to try the iPhone except for a number of characteristics I found totally unacceptable.

  1. The iPhone was only available on AT&T (I’ll choose my carrier, thank you very much);
  2. The iPhone didn’t have a keyboard (and I mean a real keyboard, not a virtual keyboard that takes two thirds of the screen);
  3. The iPhone was a closed platform totally under the control of Apple; and
  4. The iPhone was overpriced.

Any one of these would have likely prevented me from buying an iPhone, but in total it was a no-brainer.

Then, a little over two years ago (23 September 2008); Google released a handset manufactured for them by HTC running an open source version of Linux specifically designed for use on portable devices.

That was the T-Mobile G1 running Android (aka HTC Dream)…

Today there are a large number of Android based handsets on the market — and the number grows almost daily — and we’re not limited to just a single vendor or single carrier… almost every cell phone handset manufacturer has at least one Android based handset, and every US carrier supports Android handsets.

The official release of Android is version 2.2; and while some manufacturers have not provided that updates to older handsets, the open source community has put a great deal of effort into providing custom builds of Android that bring the newer features to older handsets (including many phones originally intended to run Windows mobile).

Android is a revolution in smart phones.

Not necessarily because Google has done everything right, but because Google has leveraged many parts of the development and manufacturing communities and allowed each to do what they do best.  These contributions push Android in multiple directions simultaneously; allowing Google to use the best and most promising along with their own ideas to pave a path for Android.

Now it’s worth noting that Google didn’t do this because they’re philanthropic and just want what’s best for everyone — they did it because having control of the smart phone market (and tablet market) or at least not being locked out of it; allows them to generate a revenue stream through advertising and collecting demographics to target that advertising.

But are they any different from cellular carriers and other companies offering smart phones — not really; but they are better at doing what they do (and I don’t mean developing technology, I mean making money with advertising).

As consumers we’re not really interested in the technology under the hood; we’re only interested in what it does for us, what it costs, and the eye candy it presents.

To me, though, what we should praise in Android is that it will not be a platform that limits, but rather accommodates.

Originally posted 2010-10-09 02:00:43.

SPF / DKIM

SPF (Sender Policy Framework) and DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail) are two methods to help indentify email which is likely not SPAM.  SPF was originally proposed in 2003 by Meng Weng Wong and Wayne Schlitt (SPFv1 RFC4408) as an open standard (SPF is backed by the Sender Policy Framework Council); DKIM originally merged and enhanced DomainKeys from Yahoo and Identified Internet Mail from Cisco (RFC4870 superseded by RFC4871) forming an open standard (DKIM is backed by an industry consortium).

Both SPF and DKIM attempt to provide information to receiving SMTP servers about whether or not a particular email message is authentic.

SPFv1 uses a very simple approach where a domain’s DNS server provides a root level TXT record that supplies information about SMTP mail servers that are permitted to originate domain email.

DKIM uses a more complex digital signature on each message (information about which is stored in a sub-domain in domains DNS containing self-signed keys).

You can read up on the specifics of each through the reference links provided below.


SPF (Wikipedia)

Microsoft SPF Record Wizard · OpenSPF Wizard

DKIM (Wikipedia)

Originally posted 2010-03-06 02:00:56.

No Facebook

As I’ve said more than once, I view Facebook as something people who don’t have a life who want to pretend they do use… people with lives are too busy living them.

 

No Facebook

Originally posted 2013-12-20 20:00:48.

HTML5

Both Apple (in an essay by Steve Jobs) and Microsoft (from the general manager of IE) have put a stake in the ground — the future of the web is in HTML5 and Adobe Flash is nothing more than a transitional technology that had no place in the future… of course with that, Microsoft has also indicated the IE9 won’t be supported by Windows XP, so it too obviously will have no place (in their minds) in the future.

I would agree that Flash has no place in the future; of course, I felt it had no place in the past either… but the glut of mediocre web designers and the masses need for eye candy seemed to give Flash a leg up in the past, and my bet is will continue to keep it alive long into the future.

Additionally, my guess is Windows XP will do just fine — after all, you can run Operate, FireFox, Chrome, and Safari today on that platform, and all of those will likely continue to develop for and support Windows XP in the future.  All of those are far better browsers than IE is today, and I suspect that’s a pretty safe bet for tomorrow.

In fact, Chrome, Opera, and Safari all support HTML5 today (and score 100/100 in the ACID3 tests)…

Apple on HTML5

Microsoft on HTML5

Originally posted 2010-05-05 02:00:07.

How To Bid On eBay

Let me start by saying this isn’t eBay for dummies — you should familiarize yourself with the basic operation of the eBay web site through another resource.  What I hope to provide you with is a rational for how to bid successfully on eBay to enable you to purchase items at a fair price.

Let me start by prefixing all of this with the statement that what eBay has tried to do is create the feel of the type of auction commonly refereed to as an “Open Ascending-bid Auction”, also known as an “English Auction” — though they have modified it slightly to have a time limit rather than just go until their are no more bidders.  You can read many resources on auction types if you’re interested; there’s actually a body of game-theory that covers auctions for those so inclined.

Before we digress too far off topic…

First you need a little background on how eBay’s proxy bidding works, and an understanding that if everyone were to just enter in the actual price they were willing to pay when they first bid that would be all you’d need.

What happens on eBay when you enter a bid is fairly simple — eBay records the maximum amount you’re willing to pay for the item, and then will automatically bid as much as needed to satisfy the bid rules.

So if there are no bids, eBay will place a bid for you equal to the minimum bid set when the auction was created.  If there is already a bid, eBay will place a bid for you equal to the lesser of the maximum you set for your bid or the current amount plus the bid increment (which varies based on the current bid — it increases as the amount of the current bid increases).

If two people were to set the same maximum bid, the person who placed the bid first would be the one to have his bid recorded.

Like I said, if everyone just entered in what they were really willing to pay then that would be it, and when the auction closed the person who was willing to pay the most would win the auction.

But, that’s not how it really works out.

You see, people aren’t always honest (even with themselves), and people like to play games (even with themselves), and people always like to get a steal (or read that as great deal if you like)… and of course, people are emotional (so they get caught up on the splendor of the train ride — even when it’s clearly going to wreck).

So, what many people do is record a bid for the amount that they’d really like to get the item for — even though they are willing to pay (significantly) more.  That means that lots of people are continually upping their bid as they get outbid, and because they see other people “wanting” the item, they get caught up in a frenzy that they often loose control of… and end up paying more than they actually are comfortable with.

Remember, no one forces you to keep bidding — and no one forces you to watch the train you’re on slam head on into another (in fact, you’re free to jump off).

If you’re head is spinning — or you’re saying that I would never do that (many call that doing the back-stroke in that famous river in Egypt — d-Nile, or denial if you like) then you’re just an average Joe trying to win an auction on eBay.

I’m not here to slap anyone on their wrist; if you want entertainment, excitement, need to fill your copious amounts of free time, and don’t mind spending more than you’re comfortable with — by all means, keep getting caught up in the emotions of “winning” a bidding war; but if you’re just looking to get things you want/need at a reasonable price — read on.

How to bid on eBay…

You could use eBay exactly as it’s designed.  Just place an initial bid for exactly what you’re willing to pay for the item and be done with it.  Don’t watch the auction, don’t enter in any more bids… be content with your honesty (and do something more useful with your time).  But you’re not going to win very many auctions — in fact you’re probably just going to fuel the fire because of the interactions of eBay’s proxy bidding and people who have got caught up in the frenzy of bidding.

So how to bid on eBay successfully…

The answer is easy, you snipe.  Basically sniping the auction turns the English Auction into something more resembling a First-Price Sealed-Bid auction (at least from your view point).

Wait, what is a snipe?

Well, a snipe is a bid placed at the last moment.  Sniping basically allows you to place the bid you would have right away at the very end of the auction, giving other bidders no time to respond to your bid — and forcing the eBay proxy system to do it’s job without creating a frenzy of bid-and-re-bid.

There’s nothing wrong with sniping; in fact all you’re doing by sniping helping prevent other bidders from getting carried away with bidding.  It doesn’t make it any more likely that you’re going to get an item (if there are wild bidders — they may have driven the item up well beyond what you’re willing to pay long before the last few seconds of the auction).  And the number one thing it will do for you is prevent you from getting caught up in the bidding war and paying more for an item that you’re interested in.

You can bid by hand; just open up the auction; actually open up two copies of the auction, one to watch the count down clock, and in the other enter the maximum amount you’re willing to pay and click to the confirm dialog.  When the count down timer reaches under 10 seconds, submit your bid (you may need to submit earlier if you have a slow connection — and you may be able to time it to less than 10 seconds if you have a very fast connect — but remember as long as the amount of time left is less than the reaction time of a human being you’re not going to be fueling the frenzy).

Obviously sniping by hand is tedious and time consuming… so there’s automation to help you out.

JBidwatcher is a Java based tool that you can run on Windows, OS-X, or Linux desktop (or server) that will attempt to snipe auctions for you from your local machine.  Which means you need a stable internet connection and you computer has to be on and JBidwatcher has to be running.  It’s totally free, and works fairly well.

GIXEN.COM is a web based system.  It’s totally free, and works fairly well.  There is no limit to the number of auctions you can snipe; but there is a $6 per year upgrade that will give you redundant servers to place your bids (decreasing the chance of not getting you snipe in).

There are also a number of other systems that charge — perhaps they’re better, perhaps they’re not… but these two certainly work well enough for you to use to develop an understanding of how to effectively bid on eBay.

While I’m giving you the 4-1-1 on sniping, I should mention that there are two basic types of snipes — individual item snipes and group (also called multi) snipes.

In an individual item snipe it’s easy to understand — you enter a bid for the item in question and your bid is placed a specified number of seconds before the auction closes.  If you have the highest bid at the end you win, if you don’t you don’t — and it’s over and done.

In a group snipe you actually bid on a series of items (generally related — but I guess you might also use it for budget constraints).  You enter a separate bid for each item of interest in the group.  The sniping system will place your bid on the first item — if you win, it cancels all the remaining snipes in the group; if you don’t win, it goes on to the next item in the group.

With group snipes you have to be careful that there is sufficient time between the ending time of two auctions for items of interest for the sniping system to handle it (most systems will flag auctions that may be a problem and allow you to decide if you want to take the potential risk of winning both… obviously that’s a bigger deal than missing the second).

Also, most sniping systems let you have as many individual snipes or group snipes as you want (you have to be careful not to have the same item in an individual snipe and a group; or in multiple groups).

Also, most sniping systems will handle auctions that have multiple items available (in other words, it will place a bid for the amount and quantity — eBay’s proxy bid does most of the work).

Sniping might seem like it’s a lot of work; but actually it makes bidding easier in the long run, and more effective.

Remember, if you don’t win an auction sniping it’s not (generally) because the sniping system didn’t do it’s job — it’s simply because you weren’t willing to pay as much as someone else… in fact by sniping you’re increasing your chances of winning an auction at the price you’re willing to pay.


Let me remind everyone that I am not a fan of eBay / PayPal — I consider them companies of questionable ethics at best.



eBay Sniper

http://www.gixen.com/

eBay Sniper
http://www.jbidwatcher.com/

Originally posted 2010-10-08 02:00:32.

AT&T, the death of Netflix

On 2 May 2011 AT&T will implement usage surcharges for their high speed internet services.  DSL customer will have 150GB included with their package, and U-Verse customer will have 250 GB included with their package.

AT&T maintains that only 2% of their customers will be effected…

As I’ve said before, if only 2% of the customer are going to be effected, AT&T wouldn’t take any action —  it’s easy to see that AT&T is doing this because they feel this is a way to produce a larger revenue stream for a service they previously advertised and sold to be “unlimited” — so you can view this as nothing short of radically changing the service after the fact, and charging more for less (remember, AT&T just raised their rates).

The effect of this type of cap is that if you used your internet service to watch movies, you’d better be careful — you won’t even be able to watch one per day; you’ll have to worry about watching one HD movie every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

I personally have always felt AT&T was a horrible company, and certainly from my view point it reenforces that view every day with actions like this.

 

Monthly Activity 150 GB 250 GB
Send/receive one page emails 10,000 emails

-and-

10,000 emails

-and-

Download/upload a medium resolution photo to social media site like Facebook 3,000 photos

-and-

4,000 photos

-and-

MP3 Songs downloaded 2,000 songs

-and-

3,000 songs

-and-

Stream a one-minute YouTube video (standard quality) 5,000 views

-and-

5,000 views

-and-

Watch hour-long TV Shows (high quality) 100 shows

-and –

200 shows

-and –

Stream full length movies (Standard Definition: SD; High Definition: HD) 20 SD or 10 HD movies 25 SD or 13 HD movies

Usage examples are estimates based on typical file sizes and/or duration of file transfer or streaming event.

http://www.att.com/internet-usage

Originally posted 2011-03-31 02:00:25.

Can You Hear Me Now?

And who else can hear me or can see my cellular phone records?

Verizon Wireless informed the Obama transition team, the US Secret Service, and law enforcement agencies that a number of Verizon employees had improperly and illegally accessed cellular phone records for a phone belonging to Barrack Obama.

The employees have been suspended without pay while the investigation is conducted.

So it’s great that a high profile individual like the president elect gets swift action from Verizon, but the question in my mind is why aren’t they just as quick to act when I call?

Over all I would say that Verizon’s customer service is better than most companies; but I don’t get this kind of attention when they screw up — and I dont’ recall seeing any clauses in my contract about getting a higher grade of customer service if elected to public office…

Originally posted 2008-11-21 18:00:44.

Linux BitTorrent Clients

I’ve been looking at bit torrent (BitTorrent) clients for Linux over the past few weeks — and to say there’s a huge number of candidates wouldn’t do justice to the number of choices a person has… but like so many things in life, quantity and quality are generally on perpendicular axises.

I set a fairly simple set of requirements for the client:

  • Open source
  • Stability
  • Simplicity
  • Configurability
  • Support protocol encryption (require it)
  • Light on resources
  • Ability to handle torrents via URLs

And I set some nice to haves:

  • Search integration
  • Daemon
  • IP black listing (though I use IPBlock, so this is only a nice to have for others)

So once again I set out to limit the field and do some real testing on Ubuntu 10.04LTS… and the ones I ended up really doing more than just kicking the tires are listed below (alphabetically).  Other failed because they didn’t meet my requirements, they were pieces of crap that should be expunged from the world (LOL), or I just didn’t like them enough to waste time and energy on them.  The links for each of the below are to Wikipedia; you can find links on there to the website for each client.  I installed all of the clients via the package manager on Ubuntu.

Deluge · Deluge is a fairly basic program, though has just about every setting configurable that you might want.  It does have a client / server model (use of it is optional); but a single instance of the daemon is unable to handle multiple users; but it does allow you to terminate your session and continue downloading, and it doesn’t seem to have any issue running multiple daemons (one for each user).   This client also offers a number of “plug ins” to provide a block list, a web ui, a schedule, etc — features most others just include as part of the base system.  I wanted to like this client more than I did; but in the end I can only call it acceptable.

KTorrent · KTorrent is a nicely done program, and it has just about every setting configurable that you might want.  Interestingly by default the queue manager is disabled, so it really doesn’t act much like any other bit torrent client I’ve ever used — but enabling it gives you the ability to download multiple torrent at once.  One short coming is you don’t seem to be able to limit the total number of downloads and uploads together — you can do them individually, but that means for trackers that limit your total active connections you could end up not using all of them.  I’ve also noted that this client seems to be a little “fat” and consume a significant amount of system resources (GUI in particular) when left running for extended periods.  I like this client; but there are better.

qBittorrent · qBittorrent is essentially a *nix clone of the Windows version of uTorrent (µTorrent); and it certainly does a good job mimicking it.  It seems to have all the features I wanted; and none of the downsides.  It has a web ui, a ip filter, etc.  It seems to be reasonably light on system resources and just works.  If I had to pick a standalone bit torrent client, this would probably be my recommendation.

TorrentFlux · TorrentFlux is actually a web ui for BitTornado.  There is a fork of the project called TorrentFlux-b4rt that looks like it will eventually offer more features (and support more bit torrent engines) but for the moment TorrentFlux appears to be much more stable.  It’s fairly basic, but has most all the features one might want.  While many of the others offer a web ui, I think this is probably one of the better “server” solutions for bit torrent clients.

Transmission · Transmission is a very simple bit torrent client; perhaps too simple.  It has all the settings you need, as well as a web ui.  It also has ports for just about every operating system (so if you only wanted to deal with one bit torrent client on multiple operating system this would be a good choice).  Transmission has a huge following; but personally I felt it just wasn’t quite what I wanted.

In the end, I guess I didn’t find a bit torrent client that I really liked… but I think TorrentFlux (or a re-incarnation of it) has good potential to be what I want; and I think qBittorrent is probably my favorite of the stand alone clients.  However, in saying that, let me underscore that every client on this list works, and works acceptably well — so I don’t think you’ll go wrong with any of them… and I’m sure that those with a religious conviction to one or the other will just not accept that their favorite client doesn’t top my list… but in fact, I’m holding the tops slots of my list open hoping I find something better.

NOTE: The use of torrents for downloading does not necessarily denotate that a user is breaking any laws.  That said, because many internet service providers will terminate a user that is using a torrent client, it is a good idea to require encrypted connections and use IP filtering software (with current black lists).

Originally posted 2010-08-16 02:00:55.

Comcast

Comcast consistently ranks in the top ten (almost always the top five) of companies with pathetic customer service in virtually every poll I’ve seen (they probably even do poorly in polls they sponsor LOL).

I received a unsolicited commercial email from a Comcast business customer; and I did exactly what I should do — report it to the abuse contact published in the ARIN database, and send them a plain text copy of the entire email message — including full headers (adding the word SPAM to the subject).

I got back an automated message that said I needed to provide them the headers of the email message and a link to a page that really didn’t have any useful information.

I resent the message; including all the tags that were mentioned on the page (including the one for harassment, since that was the closest thing that fit)… and I got back a message from “Fred CSAtech55” referencing case ID NA0000014230535; who tells me if I want to follow up as “Harrassment” (that’s his spelling, not mine) that I should “call Comcast Security Assurance (CSA) at 888-565-4329”; but if I want to follow it up as spam I should “then choose the opt out option that the email provides”.

I guess, poor Fred not only can’t spell, but doesn’t understand that the LAST thing you do from an unsolicited email from a company that you’ve never dealt with (and have no reason to trust) is click on one of their links.

Maybe if Comcast hired people who could spell they might get out of the top ten worst companies for customer service.  Even better, if they hired people with a clue, they might actually be able to provide reasonable customer support and be no where near the top ten worst.

Oh, and if you’re thinking that they only provide poor service when you’re not a customer — WRONG, I can tell you story after story about how pathetic their service was in San Francisco; and how much better AT&T’s service was (that should truly be scary, when a company with service as poor as AT&T can have far superior service).

Originally posted 2010-03-31 02:30:37.

STOP • THINK • CLICK

I’ve mentioned the Internet Crime Complain Centerbefore, but the US Government also sponsors OnGuard Online with the slogan

STOP • THINK • CLICK

While most savvy internet users should be aware of most everything on the site, there’s no harm in taking a minute out and visiting it to see if there’s any suggestions that might make your online experience safer.  You may also want to recommend that your bank, credit union, and credit card company link to them.

Originally posted 2009-01-07 12:00:50.