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Virtual Credit Card Numbers

Virtual credit card numbers are numbers that you generate (through your credit card issuer) to use for purchases on line.

Most of the companies that support these allow you to set time and amount limits for charges against the cards, and allow you to terminate the card at will (you cannot prevent a charge that has already been authorized, but you can prevent any future charge).

These financial institutions support virtual cards:

  • Bank of America (acquired from MBNA)
  • Citi Bank
  • Discover

These financial institutions do not support virtual cards:

  • Chase
  • Most credit union issued cards

Citi Bank and Bank of America have very similar systems; the each allow you to set limits and the card immediately binds to the merchant who first authorizes a charge against the number (no other merchant can use the number, which can create issues on PayPal, Yahoo Shops, Google Checkout, and Price Grabber to name a few — the solution is create a new card each time you want to buy something on those sites and destroy the old one).

Citi Bank and Discover have an applet you can download to your PC which will create numbers and auto-fill web forms.

Virtual credit cards give you a great deal of control over your finances, you set the limits of who much a vendor can charge and for how long they can access your credit card account.  While your liability is always limited (zero liability with VISA, Mastercard, and Discover) virtual cards help you avoid hassles.

When you say NO MORE, you end it… you can’t be caught by surprise by horrendous shipping and handling charges, you can’t be over-billed… and you don’t have to worry about recurring charges.

I use virtual card numbers to pay my utilities (electric, water, gas, cable, telephone, cellular); tolls (FastTrak); purchases on line; basically any time I give someone a credit card number via phone, mail, or internet… and I encourage you to do the same.

For one time purchases, terminate the card immediately after the charge is authorized, and THAT IS THAT… for recurring charges, re-authorize the new amount a little before the charge, or go ahead and setup for a year at a time (you can always terminate the card before an authorization).

Limited

Tomorrow Apple releases it’s newest iPhone (it’s a 4G model, so it won’t be on AT&T — and is rumored to be on Verizon) and AT&T discontinues offering an unlimited data plan.

Yep — no more $30 unlimited smart phone data plan from AT&T…

While AT&T says they will decrease pricing for light users what’s likely to happen is that many users will exceed their data plan allowances and end up paying more than they used to.  Heavy users will probably be switching carriers.

Currently AT&T says that 98% of it’s customers use less than 2GB per month of data; I find that a little hard to believe, but I guess if they attract predominately “showcase” customers who don’t really have any reason to have a smart phone other than status — sure… but if that’s true, why would they have all the massive problems with over-subscription that they have and feel compelled to make a change?

And if iPhone users jump from AT&T they’re likely to jump to the 4G carrier that offers the newest iPhone — of course, they’ll probably need to do it soon, Verizon is also considering getting rid of their unlimited data plans — of the big three only Sprint has announced that they are not considering moving away from their unlimited offerings.

Seems fundamentally wrong to me when it appears that more and more companies offer unlimited voice services that companies would start pay-as-you-go data services (when they have traditionally been unlimited).

Oh well, yet another reason to hate your cellular carrier…

Why so many quotes?

I’ve been asked by several individuals why I publish so many quotes on my BLOG.

The answer is simple.

You gain new perspective by viewing an issue from another vantage point.

Good quotes are ones that make us think and reassess the conclusions we’ve drawn about a topic.

Even if you don’t change your view point, a quote is often good for a chuckle — or a shake of your head.

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
by Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Itsy Bitsy Spider

Itsy Bitsy Spider

The itsy bitsy spider
Climbed up the waterspout.
Down came the rain
And washed the spider out.
Out came the sun
And dried up all the rain.
So the itsy-bitsy spider
Climbed up the spout again!

The Anti-Green – Phone Books

Wasting natural resources and destroying the environment to produce and distribute phone books is simply unconscionable.

Ask yourself why a company would produce a paper phone book and distribute them to every household they serve.  In fact, there are multiple “yellow pages” produced and distributed.

Why???

Many, though admittedly not all, households in this country have broadband internet connections — and that enables them to locate up-to-the minute information online… none of these people really need a phone book of any kind.

Further, automated directory assistance actually makes it considerably less expensive for a company to do away with phone books entirely and just provide free directory service to their customers — and certainly there are a number of providers that offer free directory service to anyone (you do generally have to listen to an advertisement).

This country could greatly reduce it’s carbon footprint simply be eliminating much of the waste… and phone books are a good place to start.

I certainly don’t want a phone book or any “yellow pages” style book delivered to my house — and while I do recycle them, eliminating them entirely would save the trees, the paper, the energy required to produce and distribute as well as recycle!!!

Obviously American business isn’t going to change without encouragement (if they were going to change and do “the right thing” we’d see a movement in that direction by now)… so why don’t we as a country implement a recycling tax???  Simply put, each and every producer must pay a fee based on materials used in the production of goods and services — that get’s passed along and those who turn the items back in for recycling or re-use get a credit.

Obviously companies that send out “free” items have to bear the cost of the fee, and consumers who receive these un-wanted items get the credit.

My guess is even a modest fee would reshape the landscape almost overnight.


You might want to make sure you read the terms and conditions on the below link and understand that you’re disclosing information to a third party who you will have to decide whether or not to trust… I personally find the web site a little light on providing me with legal information to take serious.

YellowPagesGoesGreen.org

Comparison of Canadian and American health care systems

There are a number of comparisons between the Canadian and US health care systems; and like with any complex issue you can make the comparison show almost anything you want depending on the metrics chosen for the comparison and the facts included (or omitted).

Often the Canadian and American systems are compared since until the 1960s they were extremely similar, and Canadian and Americans share a large common history and to some extent culture.

This comparison on Wikipedia appears to be an honest attempt to compare and contrast the two systems, it includes a number of citations.  I recommend reading it, and considering what it has to say in light of the the current state health care in the US.

Comparison of Canadian and American health care systems

XenSever

When Citrix purchased the rights to XenServer™ they heated up the battle on the virtualization front by legitimizing (and commercializing) virtualization technology based on an open source code base.  Then they added enterprise capabilities to manager a virtualization farm and went head-to-head with VMware; they they struck an alliance with Microsoft to support Hyper-V based technology as well (and Microsoft added support for Xen based technology to their product).

Now Citrix has fired a new volley by making XenServer as well as XenMotion and XenCenter absolutely free.

These aren’t scaled down versions of the product; Citrix has adopted the model to sell support and maintenance contracts to enterprise customers as well as a few add on products.

XenServer was already a good value for enterprise virtualization, now it’s an incredible value for enterprise virtualzation as well as small business and even pro-sumer (home users who want or need more than simple desktop virtualization).

At minimum, any company looking at moving to or enhancing their virtualization platform would be totally irresponsible if they didn’t consider evaluating a product like XenServer before making a decision (and it’s very likely that they’ll find XenServer the most economical solutions since it includes essential components that would add considerably to the costs of a Microsoft or VMware solution).

xensource.com

There is another sky

There is another sky
by Emily Dickinson

There is another sky,
Ever serene and fair,
And there is another sunshine,
Though it be darkness there;
Never mind faded forests, Austin,
Never mind silent fields –
Here is a little forest,
Whose leaf is ever green;
Here is a brighter garden,
Where not a frost has been;
In its unfading flowers
I hear the bright bee hum:
Prithee, my brother,
Into my garden come!

Windows 7 – Multiple Displays

I have multiple displays on both my “high end” workstations.  The one I’ve been testing Windows 7 Ultimate x64 on happens to have two nVidia 9800 PCIe display adapters and three 22″ LCD display panels (I plan on hooking up a 37″ LCD TV to the forth output when I upgrade my 42″ Plasma TV).

The three panels worked great with Vista Ultimate x64, and I didn’t have any problem doing a fresh install of Windows 7 Ultimate x64 on the machine.  The monitors didn’t default to the same arrangement they did on Vista — but it was easy to reorder them.

One problem I’ve noted (and yes we can partially blame this on the PC BIOS) is that if I boot the machine without any of the monitors powered up, I get a different primary monitor and non of the other monitors are active (I can force them active).

This problem is all to reminiscent of the SATA drive problem I found installing on multiple drives — but there’s really no apparent way to force Windows 7 to always pick the same default monitor (whether they are on or off).

So yet another feature that worked fine in Vista that’s broken (or at least changed) in Windows 7.

Make sure you have all your monitors on; or at least your primary monitor; when you boot up Windows 7!!!

 

NOTE:  This problem appears to be related to multiple identical display adapters, and appears to not be an issue if you just have two displays on a single card.