Entries Tagged as ''

Credit Card Game

So you’re looking to add another credit card to your wallet… here’s a few options and things to consider ad you play the credit card game and get the financial institutions to pay you.

Discover — promo offer, spend $500 and get $50 cash back; but you’ll only get 0.25% cash back in the first tier (but they do have on going special categories, and the cash back percentage goes up as you spend more; but certainly their are better options).

Walmart Discover — promo offer will give you $20 cash back if you spend $100 on it the day you apply at a Walmart store (you get a check with your first statement).  Keep in mind that the Walmart Discover isn’t actually issued by Discover Financial Service, but rather by GE Money Bank (so it has to be managed through the Walmart portal, not Discover; and it doesn’t have many of the features of a regular Discover card).

NOTE: Discover branded card allow you to get cash back at a Walmart or Sam’s Club (which is charged as a purchase, not cash advance).

Citi Diamond Preferred MC (or AMEX) — promo “5% bonus” on gas, drugstores, and supermarkets for the first year; if you spend $300 in the first three months you get a $50 gift card; 1% normally — virtual credit card numbers

Citi Dividend MC — “bonus” categories change; 1% minimum ($300 max rebate per year) — virtual credit card numbers.

Chase Freedom VISA — promo 5% on gas and travel right now, the “bonus” categories change; 1% minimum.

CapitalOne Platinum VISA — 2% on gas and groceries, 1% minimum — low rent bank; but pay your bills and you will be fine.

Costco AMEX — 3% gas and dining; 2% travel, 1% minimum (requires paid Costco membership; $3000 purchase limit on 3% gas, 1% afterwards).

Most all the cash back cards now don’t offer good cash back rates for long (you have to play the promo game)… one way to avoid that is get a “branded” card at a place you do lots of business (like if you bought Shell gas most of the time get the Shell VISA — but it only works if there’s a card from place you do a lot of business and it pays say 5% there and 1% elsewhere; Chase has lots of those types of cards).

My feeling is the right number of credit cards is THREE

  • VISA
  • Master Card
  • Discover

You can argue four if you like AMEX — and that would probably be either the Costco or Citi AMEX for the best deal.

I would say acquire a credit card no more often than every three months until you’re at the level you want… if you find a card you like better than one you have — acquire it and just don’t use the other card (you can close it as well, but that really doesn’t buy you anything). DO NOT apply for more than a single credit card per month; and be careful about opening a bank account AND applying for a credit card in the same thirty day window (do the credit card first).

NOTE: Use credit cards responsibly.  If you can’t afford to pay the balance off every month — don’t make the purchase.  While many people keep revolving balances on credit cards, the interest rate (even a good interest rate for a credit card) makes the cost of what you’re purchasing ridiculous.  If you feel you won’t use a credit card responsibly — look for a financial institution that offers rewards on their debit card.

If I were applying for a new card right now it would probably be the Citi Diamond Preferred; and I’m considering applying for a Citi Diamond once the Chase 5% gas deal is over.

NOTE: I have a Discover, Walmart Discover, Citi Dividend, and Chase Freedom (along with others that I have not included on the this list).  I do not have (nor do I want) any AMEX card; nor do I personally want to do business with CapitolOne.

Originally posted 2010-07-23 02:00:19.

EMail from my domains…

As of 1 March 2010 all of my domains should have both SPF and DKIM support in order to help receiving servers verify that the email is not SPAM.

If you are having problem receiving my email, or my email is ending up in your junk folder, please contact your email provider and query them about this.

Originally posted 2010-03-30 02:00:58.

Republicans Go Tea Party

So the Republican’s have come up with a new pledge — a pledge of empty words, suspect promises, vague historical references, and twisted ideas.  Action speak louder than words, and their actions have spoken — incumbents are part of the problem, not part of the solution — VOTE THEM OUT.

I’d poke fun at all of this drivel; but I’ll just re-publish it here and let you try and read through it without laughing so hard you have to wipe off your monitor (multiple times).


A PLEDGE TO AMERICA

America is more than a country.

America is an idea – an idea that free people can govern themselves, that government’s powers are derived from the consent of the governed, that each of us is endowed by their Creator with the unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. America is the belief that any man or woman can – given economic, political, and religious liberty – advance themselves, their families, and the common good.

America is an inspiration to those who yearn to be free and have the ability and the dignity to determine their own destiny.

Whenever the agenda of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to institute a new governing agenda and set a different course.

These first principles were proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence, enshrined in the Constitution, and have endured through hard sacrifice and commitment by generations of Americans.

In a self-governing society, the only bulwark against the power of the state is the consent of the governed, and regarding the policies of the current government, the governed do not consent.

An uncheckedexecutive, a compliant legislature, and an overreaching judiciary have combined to thwart the will of the people and overturn their votes and their values, striking down long-standing laws and institutions and scorning the deepest beliefs of the American people.

An arrogant and out-of-touch government of self-appointed elites makes decisions, issues mandates, and enacts laws without accepting or requesting the input of the many.

Rising joblessness, crushing debt, and a polarizing political environment are fraying the bonds among our people and blurring our sense of national purpose.

Like free peoples of the past, our citizens refuse to accommodate a government that believes it can replace the will of the people with its own. The American people are speaking out, demanding that we realign our country’s compass with its founding principles and apply those principles to solve our common problems for the common good.

The need for urgent action to repair our economy and reclaim our government for the people cannot be overstated.

With this document, we pledge to dedicate ourselves to the task of reconnecting our highest aspirations to the permanent truths of our founding by keeping faith with the values our nation was founded on, the principles we stand for, and the priorities of our people. This is our Pledge to America.

We pledge to honor the Constitution as constructed by its framers and honor the original intent of those precepts that have been consistently ignored – particularly the Tenth Amendment, which grants that all powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

We pledge to advance policies that promote greater liberty, wider opportunity, a robust defense, and national economic prosperity.

We pledge to honor families, traditional marriage, life, and the private and faith-based organizations that form the core of our American values.

We pledge to make government more transparent in its actions, careful in its stewardship, and honest in its dealings.

We pledge to uphold the purpose and promise of a better America, knowing that to whom much is given, much is expected and that the blessings of our liberty buoy the hopes of mankind.

We make this pledge bearing true faith and allegiance to the people we represent, and we invite fellow citizens and patriots to join us in forming a new governing agenda for America.

Originally posted 2010-09-24 02:00:13.

I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud

I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud
by William Wordsworth

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced, but they
Out-did the sparkling leaves in glee;
A poet could not be but gay,
In such a jocund company!
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

7-Zip Archiver

I was shocked to learn that everyone doesn’t know aobut 7-Zip!!!

Z-Zip is a very good archive utility for Windows; from the 7-Zip web site:

  • High compression ratio in new 7z format with LZMA compression
  • Supported formats:
    • Packing / unpacking: 7z, ZIP, GZIP, BZIP2 and TAR
    • Unpacking only: RAR, CAB, ISO, ARJ, LZH, CHM, MSI, WIM, Z, CPIO, RPM, DEB and NSIS
  • For ZIP and GZIP formats, 7-Zipprovides a compression ratio that is 2-10 % better than the ratio provided by PKZip and WinZip
  • Strong AES-256 encryption in 7z and ZIP formats
  • Self-extracting capability for 7z format
  • Integration with Windows Shell
  • Powerful File Manager
  • Powerful command line version
  • Plugin for FAR Manager
  • Localizations for 69 languages

Other than supporting almost any and every format a Windows user is likely to encounter, it’s support for LZMA compression (one of the absolute best general compression algorithms around — only BZIP2 is even a close competitor) gives you the ability to create small archives for upload, email, etc.

Originally posted 2008-12-18 12:00:21.

LibreOffice announced for Web, iOS, Android

The Libre Office project announced today that they will officially support web browsers, iOS, and Android according to The Document Foundation.

Libre Office which formed from the community open source of Open Office and the work done by go-oo.org has primarily focused on being an office suite for the current times rather than trying to compete with or take market from Microsoft Office, and expanding into venues to support phones and tablets is a reasonable path, and one that many have been asking for for quite some time.

No specific time line has been announced, but there had already been some work done on porting to mobile platforms.

Originally posted 2011-10-14 02:00:01.

eBay & PayPal – Poster Children for Everything Wrong With Corporate America

Several years ago eBay was won litigation in California over whether or not they were an “auction house” — eBay asserted they were a venue, not an auction house.  Why did eBay care?  Well, in California an auction house must stand behind the authenticity of the items it auctions.

While I have no problem with eBay calling themselves a venue — I do have a problem with them continuing to use the word “auction” all over their site.  You’re either a venue or an auction site… one or the other; oh that’s right, you’re a big company and don’t seem to have any problem skirting the law — you’ve got money, you probably feel you don’t have to play by the same rules.

And then there’s PayPal — clearly a financial institution, and clearly should be subject to all the regulations of financial institutions…

Oh yeah, they’re owned by eBay — they have money…

And to make it worse, eBay / PayPal are monopolies.

I’m tired of big companies that feel they need not care about the letter or the intent of the law; that feel they are free to confuse and mislead consumers; that are greedy and have no heart or soul.

I talk with my money, and I don’t spend my money at places I don’t support… each of you need to make your own minds up and decide what the cost of supporting tyranny in the world really is — or is it just something you talk about?

Originally posted 2008-11-06 12:00:21.

Cloning a VirtualBox Hard Disk

Sure it’s easy to install an operating system from scratch in VirtualBox, but it’s much easier (and quicker) to keep a base library of OS images and simply clone the disk and add the specific software you need (want).

You cannot just simply copy a disk file, all disks in VirtualBox contain a unique identifier (a UUID) and two disks with the same UUID cannot be in the media catalog at the same time.

VirtualBox, however, provides the ability to change the UUID (from the command line) using vboxmanage; the syntax is simply vboxmanage internalcommands setvdiuuid <disk file name>.

You can easily create a script for cloning a VirtualBox disk by doing something like this in windows (I put it in a file called clonevdi.bat)

@echo off
REM clonevdi <source> <destination>
set v=%ProgramFiles%\sun\virtualbox
copy %1 %2
“%v%\vboxmanage.exe” internalcommands setvdiuuid %2
set v=

or this in ‘nix (I put it in a file called clonedvi and it needs to be set to have execute [x] mode)

#!/bin/bash
# clonevdi <source> <destination>
cp -p $1 $2
vboxmanage internalcommands setvdiuuid $2

Then you just call it with the disk file you want to clone, and the new name for the clone.

Remember, if you’re cloning a Windows OS disk, you should download a tool like NewSID (from Sys Internals, now Microsoft) and run that after you boot your cloned disk to change the security identifier (SID).

NOTE:  Pay attention to the licensing requirements from Microsoft on duplicating Windows OS disks (even virtual ones) and as of Nov 2009 the only “official” way Microsoft supports changing SIDs is through the use of SysPrep (Microsoft System Preparation Utility for Microsoft Windows operating system deployment).

Originally posted 2010-04-08 02:00:30.

Malwareapedia

Blackhats. Hackers who use their skills for explicitly criminal or other malicious ends, such as writing malware (malicious software) to steal credit card numbers and banking data or by phishing; a.k.a. the Bad Guys.

Phishing. The practice of sending out fake email messages that look as if they come from a trusted person or institution-usually a bank-in order to trick people into handing over confidential information. The emails often direct you to a website that looks like that of the real financial institution. But it is a fake and has been rigged to collect your personal information, such as passwords, credit card numbers and bank account numbers, and transmit them to the Bad Guys.

Man-in-the-middle. An attack in which a criminal hacker intercepts information sent between your computer and the website of your financial institution and then uses that information to impersonate you in cyberspace. The hacker is able to defeat even very sophisticated security measures and gain access to your account.

Botnet. Botnets consist of large numbers of hijacked computers that are under the remote control of a criminal or a criminal organization. The hijacked computers-a.k.a. “zombies” or “bots” (short for “robots”) – are recruited using viruses spread by email or drive-by downloads. Worms are used to find and recruit additional computers. The biggest botnets consist of thousands and even millions of computers, most often unprotected home computers.

Virus. A malicious program that usually requires some action on the part of a user in order to infect a computer; for example, opening an infected attachment or clicking on a link in a rigged email may trigger a virus to infect your computer.

Drive-by Download. A kind of malware that installs itself automatically when you visit a booby-trapped website. Symptoms of a drive-by download include: your homepage has been changed, unwanted toolbars have been added, and unfamiliar bookmarks appear in your browser.

Worm. Self-replicating malware that, for instance, hunts down unprotected computers and recruits them for criminal or other malicious purposes. Unlike a virus, worms do not require any action on your part in order to infect your computer.

Fake Anti-Virus. Fake anti-virus software purports to be a helpful program than can find and remove malware, but in fact it is malware–the very thing that it’s supposed to eliminate. After taking over your computer, it pretends to do security scans, tells you it has found malware, and then asks you to pay to have the non-existent malware removed. Whether or not you pay, fake anti-virus is likely to install more malware.

Whitehats. Hackers who use their skills for positive ends, and often for thwarting blackhats. Many whitehats are security professionals who spend their time identifying and fixing vulnerabilities in software that blackhats seek to exploit for criminal or other malicious purposes.

Security suite. A set of software applications designed to protect your computer that consists of anti-virus, anti-malware and a personal firewall.

Anti-virus and anti-malware. Helpful software applications that scan your computer for certain patterns of infection. The patterns they scan for are the signatures, or definitions, of known forms of malware. Since Bad Guys are creating new forms of malware continuously, it is important that you keep your anti-virus and anti-malware definitions updated. See the “Patches and Updates” section below.

Personal firewall. Software that monitors incoming and outgoing traffic on your computer and checks for suspicious patterns indicating the presence of malware or other malicious activity. A personal firewall alerts you to these threats and attempts to block them. Like anti-virus and anti-malware software, personal firewalls require frequent updates to provide effective protection.

Updates. Security software relies on frequent updates in order to be able to counteract previously undetected forms of malware. Consequently, your computer may suffer a “window of  vulnerability” between the time a new form of malware is identified and the time when your security software can block it or remove the infection. Set your security software to update automatically.

Patches. Operating systems, like Windows and OS X, and software applications, such as Internet Explorer and Firefox, may be found to contain security flaws or holes that make your computer vulnerable to attack. Their makers release patches to plug the holes. The fastest and surest way to get these installed quickly is to use auto-updating via the Internet. Some software applications require manual updating. See the “Patches and Updates” section below.

Black Tuesday a.k.a. Patch Tuesday. On the second Tuesday of each month Microsoft releases security patches for Windows, Internet Explorer, Office and its other software products. You can have these installed automatically using Microsoft Update. See the “Patches and Updates” section below.

Auto-updating. A software tool built into Windows (“Microsoft Update”) and OS X (“Auto Update”) and many other applications which can download and install important security updates and patches for software installed on your computer automatically. See the “Patches and Updates” section below.

From SANS Institute

Originally posted 2010-11-21 02:00:26.

Windows 7 – Virtualization, Revisited

I posted yesterday on Windows 7 virtualization, and suggested that if you’d purchased Windows 7 Professional or Ultimate you’d probably just want to use the built-in Microsoft Virtualization (based on the Virtual PC 2007 code line).

However, after doing some testing, I’m not convinced.

Now if you have Windows 7 Professional or Ultimate and a machines that supports hardware virtualization, Microsoft will provide you not only a virtualization system, but also a copy of Windows XP to run under that virtualization system — so it might be a good choice from that standpoint. But…

Performance and features… well — VirtualBox has every feature in the Microsoft product, seems to run substantially faster, and supports more modern hardware emulation.

I need to do more testing to be totally sure, but at this point my feeling is just run VirtualBox on _all_ Windows 7 editions; and find an old copy of Windows XP to install in a virtual machine (you’ll have to read over the license agreement in detail from Microsoft to figure out if you can use the VHD they provide for XP Virtual Mode in another virtualization host).

Had Microsoft used the Hyper-V code base rather than the Virtual PC 2007 code base for virtualization in Windows 7 it would be a very different beast; but I guess the kids in Redmond can’t imagine someone actually wanting to do real virtualization on a desktop machine; but they can certainly justify raping you some feature in Professional and Ultimate verses Home Premium.

Originally posted 2009-11-18 01:00:29.