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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…

Netbook

I purchased a MSI Wind U100 a couple weeks ago for an “on-the-go” computer.

At $299 plus $99 for a 2.5″ SATA2 500GB Seagate hard drive and $15 for an additional 1GB of DDR2 it’s a fairly economical solution to use to browse the web on the go, send/receive email, mapping, GPS, music and videos, contacts, date book, etc.

I looked at all the options, but I choose this one because I wanted 2GB of memory (most of them come with only 512MB built in so you can only have 1.5GB total and a couple only allow 1GB total).

The Atom N270 processor is by no means a top performer, but it does a fairly good job and mine is running Vista Home Premium with no issues at all (it ships with Windows XP Home).

The only thing I dislike about it is the fact that the keyboard is so small; but if you want a small notebook you’re going to have to live with a small keyboard!

No one computer is right for everyone, so you’ll have to decide what’s right for your particular needs, what your intended use is, and your budget.  There are actually models of netbooks you can purchase with an AT&T wireless modem installed for $99 (of course you have a two year contract your saddled with).

Bigger than a PDA, but far more flexible!

Junk Mail

For a very long time now I’ve been trying to get my name removed from mailing lists at companies.

I’ve tried the DMA do-not-market lists, and the FCC do-not-call lists — as well as the US Postal Service PS-1500 (Application for Prohibitory Order); and while I recommend you try those approaches first, you’re going to find a collection of companies that just believe they can do what they want, and continue to send you mail after you have expressed your desire to have it stopped.

Three such companies I’ve found are:  Dish Network, DirecTV, and Medicom (a local cable provider).

Nothing seems to register with these companies — you can call and be polite, you can call and be abusive — and you will still get mail.

Now, though, I have a new tact — and this seems to work.

When you receive an advertisement from vendors who just won’t remove you from their mailing list, it likely says something like “Call Now” and provides a number… well, call it.

That’s right — call the number; and when they ask why you are calling it, simply politely say because I received an advertisement in my mail box from your company that ask me to — and since I’ve requested a number of times previously to no have anything from your company mailed to me, I can appreciate that it must be very important that I call.

Just continue to be polite, tell then you are not interested in their services; don’t answer any personal questions, and continue to remind them that you have repeatedly ask to be removed from their mailing lists, and state that you are convinced that it must be very important that you call, because they continue to send requests for you to call.

This will likely go on for awhile, just do it when you have something else to keep you busy (like answer email, write a blog post, etc)… be even toned and polite — don’t say anything, just repeat yourself.

If they say they can’t help you and offer another number — remind them that you haven’t ask for anything.  You are simply calling in as requested by the mail that they sent you against your wishes.

Eventually they will transfer you to a supervisor… and they may in fact transfer you again — but the bottom line is that this is the most effective way I have found to actually get your address and phone numbers removed from their databases.

Also, make sure you indicate to them that they do not have your permission to call or mail you… and that you will be happy to call them each and every time you receive a piece of mail from them asking you to do so.

You may find that the sales people on the phone will whine to you about they’re just employees trying to make a living… but they are, in fact, part of the problem, and they have the ability to offer you a solution — they just generally will not until you make it clear to them that you will call (as their companies advertisements request).

Also, you’re not breaking any laws…

The company could send you an order to stop calling them — but that order has effect only as long as they do not send you another request to call them (an advertisement)… so, bottom line, you will achieve your goal, on your terms.

Additionally, I encourage everyone in America to adopt this strategy… if someone keeps sending you mail that you do not want, just call them (like it says to do in the mail) and explain to them that you are calling because they have ask you to — and that you will continue to do that each and every time they mail you; that you have no interest in their services; and have asked on numerous occasions to be removed from their marketing rolls.

One last thing — you do not have to provide them with any more information than is on the mailing… so if it doesn’t have you name or your full name — you only need to provide what is on the mailer.  If it doesn’t have your phone number, you don’t have to provide it (though remember, when you call a toll free number they always get your caller id — you cannot block it).

I don’t recommend “The OEM Shop”

On 22-Sep-2010 I placed an order for a “Motorola DROID and DROID II 1300mah Standard Battery” from “The OEM Shop” through Amazon.

I really hate dealing with Amazon Marketplace Merchants since my personal history of such dealings indicated that the likelihood of being disappointed is very high; and this occasions was in perfect keeping with my expectations.

The item was to have shipped by 24-Sep-2010, so when I didn’t see a change in status by close of business that day I sent an inquiry to the vendor.  I received back an automated reply that indicated that they were “on vacation” — and that they’d been on vacation even before my order had been placed (so I immediately considered the “contract” for purchase of an item had been entered into under fraudulent terms — ie, they knew before accepting an order that they would not meet the shipment commitment).

I immediately sent another message via Amazon requesting that the order be canceled.

The following week I got a reply from the merchant indicating that they had shipped the item on Saturday (the day after I’d sent a message to cancel the order — but within the time frame of the first message of their vacation).

I wasn’t sure I believe them; but I told them that I’d been refusing the item and it would be returned to them.

I also contacted Chase to open a charge dispute on my Amazon VISA for the item.

The item never showed up — and two days after I got the replacement item I’d ordered from another Amazon merchant (the order was placed on 27-Sep-2010) I requested that they provide me with the tracking information (which they had never posted to Amazon).

I haven’t heard back from The OEM Shop, I haven’t gotten the item, and I suspect they never shipped it.  I have gotten a permanent credit from Chase for the item so after posting negative feedback and this BLOG article I consider the matter closed.

My advice — don’t do business with “The OEM Shop” — there are too many good alternatives to them, and absolutely no reason to support questionable etailers.  If my experience isn’t enough to convince you — read the other recent feedback posts on 5-Oct-2010 and 4-Oct-2010 on Amazon.

“The OEM Shop” Storefront on Amazon

NOTE: I was notified by Amazon late this evening that a refund would be posted to my account (actually, since the charge-back had already been made permanent there isn’t any change from my perspective).

SSH Login Without Password Prompt

Often you have a set of machines you trust implicitly and you’d like to make ssh logins and scp copies less tedious by not having the system prompt you for the password.  It used to be incredibly confusing to manually setup and install the keys on remote machines, now, though with OpenSSH it’s gotten a lot easier.

The first thing you need to do is create public and private keys; to do that you use ssh-key-gen on your machine (you’ll either need to be on the console or have previously made a ssh connection).

For this example, the “local” workstation will be superman, and the remote server will be aries.

roger@superman$ ssh-keygen
Generating public/private rsa key pair.
Enter file in which to save the key (/home/roger/.ssh/id_rsa):
[Press Enter Key]
Enter passphrase (empty for no passphrase):
[Press Enter Key]
Enter same passphrase again:
[Press Enter Key]
Your identification has been saved in /home/roger/.ssh/id_rsa.
Your public key has been saved in /home/roger/.ssh/id_rsa.pub.
The key fingerprint is:
de:ad:be:ef:01:02:03:04:05:06:07:07:09:0a:0b:0c roger@superman

Then we need to copy the public key to the remote host using ssh-copy-id

roger@superman$ ssh-copy-id -i ~/.ssh/id_rsa.pub aries
roger@aries's password:

Finally, we can log onto the remote machine without a password

roger@superman$ ssh aries
Last login: Sun Jan 2 12:12:12 2011 from superman
roger@aries$

You can take a look at the key files that were generated; you can use ssh-copy-id to copy the keys to as many machines as you want; and you can use the same private key file on each of your machines to allow for more seamless access; but you should be aware that you should only place your public key on machines you trust.

NOTE:  If you use ssh-agent (and ssh-add) to manage keys, ssh-copy-id will attempt to access the key from ssh-agent.

The Super-Sized iPhone

The iPad is no longer a rumor — Apple’s put a stake in the tablet market.

The one thing Apple seems to be very good at is coming out with an extremely weak offering and making the world thing it’s technology they created and it’s technology you can’t do without…

The iPad isn’t available yet — it’ll be over a month before the WiFi only model ships and over two months before the WiFi + 3G model ships (unlocked, UMTS/HSDPA and GSM/EDGE — no cellular support).

When I read over the press announcements and the specifications on Apple’s site (and looked at the price) my reaction was — it’s slow, has no substantial storage, uses an Apple proprietary processor (derived from an ARM core), has no USB ports, and it’s way too big to fit in my pocket and doesn’t have a keyboard.

I’ll pass.

The press is saying how it’s an Amazon Kindle killer — well, if that’s the best thing that can be said about it maybe Apple has really missed the mark this time.

iPad

Apple iPad

Microsegmentation

I’ve been reading quite bit on “microsegmentation”; both VMware and Cisco have written quite a bit about it as a core of a software defined data center (SDDC).

It has implications for security, performance, redundancy — you name it.

Microsegmentation has the potential to be a defining characteristic of the datacenters that make cloud computing a reality as well as traditional datacenters located on business campuses.

Right now I’m trying to figure what the best way to actually “play” with the technology is to try and understand the details, and what could be done to optimize the creation (and re-allocation) or segments.

All the news fit to print…

Hmm… maybe that should be all the bs that can be gotten away with!

When you read news articles or when people relay to you “facts” be sure and do your homework; read accounts of the same events on multiple un-related sources.  In fact it’s often good to get a perspective from an international source.

Take a look at any of the facts, figures, and claims — try and verify those against an authoritative source.

If the information reported is important to you; check to see if any of the “facts” it’s based on, or claims it makes are updated over time.

Most journalists report the news impartially from their perspective; but it is from their perspective.  Many journalists and news organization like to sensationalize the news or majorly spin it to suit their agenda.

Question everything.

Amazon Prime

I subscribed to Amazon Prime for several years when I moved (back) to Northwest Florida from San Francisco… mainly it was convenient living in the middle of nowhere to be able to click the mouse a few times before late afternoon and have something I wanted (generally) show up the day after the next (2-Day shipping).

However, one of the reasons I dropped my Prime membership was that I was finding that Amazon failed somewhere between 30% and 40% of the time to deliver my goods on the date they promised when I placed the order (often the changed the estimated delivery date on their website after the order was processed as well).

I complained about this a number of times to Amazon, and never really got any satisfaction other than I could get a refund of my Prime membership… what the agents failed to tell me is that for EACH occurrence of a late delivery, Amazon policy was to extend the Prime membership for one month — which they didn’t do with me…

So I’m a little pisses now that I’ve read their policy on that (which they made fairly clear because of the recent snafu with UPS delivering xmas packages).

Based on Amazon’s policy I would have probably kept my prime membership (hell — it’d probably be the next millennium before I’d own them money to renew it anyway)… but of course based on how they treated me as a customer and failed to honor their policy I would NEVER consider paying for Amazon Prime again.

The policies in place to keep customers satisfied are only useful if a company follows them — when they don’t it’s a good bet customers will be much harder to convince to come back.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

The three R’s of making a difference and helping to create a more sustainable world.

http://www.epa.gov/osw/conserve/rrr/

Reduce Reuse Recycle