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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).

Originally posted 2008-08-07 20:35:05.

OpenGEU – Luna Serena

Let me start by saying I like OpenGEU quite a bit; it’s a very nicely done distribution, it seems to be solid, and it seems to have most of what an individual would want loaded by default.

However…

It’s not really very Mac-ish.

So before I continue talking about my finding on OpenGEU I want to redefine the parameters…

In my mind it’s not necessary for an operating system to mimic Windows or OS-X in order to have a reasonably good usability, in fact we can see from the steady evolution of the operating system and the money and resources that Microsoft and Apple throw at the problem that they don’t have it right — they just feel they’re on the right path.

So… I’m not looking for a Mac clone (if I were I would have put Hackintosh on the original list); I’m looking for an operating system default installation that achieves a highly usable system that non-computer users will be comfortable using and highly productive on from the start.

Now I feel like I should find an attorney to write me a lengthy disclaimer…

OpenGEU may well be a very good candidate for non-computer users who wish to find alternatives to Microsoft and Apple (either because they simply don’t have the money to stay on the upgrade roller-coaster or because they feel they do not want their productivity and destiny tied so closely to a commercial software venture).

OpenGEU installs easily, it creates a simple, easy to use, easy to understand desktop environment.  Most every tool you might want or need is there; and of course the package manager can help you get updates and new software fairly easily.

While I cannot tell you that all the multimedia software that I would like to see are present by default, there’s enough to get the average user started.

The overwhelming characteristic of OpenGEU that I feel I must underscore is how clean the appearance is — a testament to the fact that a designer may in fact be much better qualified to create human usable software than an engineer is.

OpenGEU makes the cut; and deserves a thorough evaluation.

I’ll publish a much more extensive article on OpenGEU when I’ve finished going through the candidates and had more time to use it… but I’m excited at the possibilities!

OpenGEU

Originally posted 2010-01-06 01:00:41.

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…

Originally posted 2010-06-06 02:00:53.

This is a mistake that we will pay for for years to come!

Yes, today is Pearl Harbor day, but the title isn’t what Japan’s Admiral Yamamoto said after the attack (that was in fact, “I fear we have awakened a sleeping tiger and filled it with a great resolve”) — it’s actually what Richard Gephardt (of Missouri), then Democratic House Leader, said about the $1.6 trillion in tax cuts that then President George W Bush singed into effect after stepping into the presidency in January 2001.

Georgie and his buddies the conservatives taunted that the huge surplus amassed under the eight years of prosperity of President Bill Clinton was the result of the American government overcharging the average person in taxes.  So they concocted a tax cut (40% of which was targeted at the wealthiest 1% of Americans) which would reverse the projected $5.6 trillion surplus over the next ten years.

Well, ten years later this country is in the worst economic condition since the great depression — unemployment (even by government figures) is in double digits, and there’s really no sign of substantial improvement on the horizon and there’s a debate about renewing those tax cuts…

For the average American the tax cuts makes no difference; even for fairly wealthy Americans they don’t make much difference — it’s really only for the wealthiest of the wealthy that they tax cuts make a substantial difference; or put plainly, it benefits those who are doing fine — and in the long run may harm those who are barely hanging on.

We don’t have a budget surplus any longer (in fact, I’d argue we never had a budget surplus — we had a debt that we could have, and should have, paid down).

President Obama has proposed a tax plan that will give most Americans the same tax savings that the old Bush plan did, but it will remove the tax cuts that the richest Americans got… but I’m not sure we shouldn’t be finding a more equitable way to tax rather than continuing to convolute the tax laws so that those with wealth and power can twist the law to serve their needs.

Originally posted 2010-09-07 02:00:43.

Garmin GPS

Thinking of buying a new GPS?

I highly recommend you consider Garmin, or a device that can run Garmin’s GPS software.

Why?

Garmin does an excellent job of updating it’s GPS software and maps… and after all, current maps are why you probably have a GPS.

If the roads, speed limits, etc never change where you drive — it doesn’t matter.  Why would you even think of a GPS if you’re always in a place you’re familiar with that never changes?

Garmin has a fairly broad range of GPS devices; and they also offer software that will run on your cell phone (Garmin XT), Windows mobile devices (Garmin XT), and your Windows laptop (Garmin PC).

I run Garmin XT on my HTC Smart Phone, I run Garmin PC on my Netbook (using an external Bluetooth or USB GPS), and I’m going to play with hacking my GPS to see if I can get Garmin XT running on it (it’s Windows mobile based, currently runs Destinator software, I’ve played with Tom Tom software on it, but I’d prefer everything run the same GPS software).

Visit Garmin’s site for more information on their products, and do an internet search for more information on hacking an existing device with a copy of Garmin’s software.

http://www.garmin.com/

Originally posted 2009-06-11 11:00:14.

Health Care

On the eve of the shortest day of the year it seems to me that this might well be the darkest day of our era.

A year ago we Americans were at what we hoped was a nexus of change for the better.  With a new president, an outsider, a visionary about to take the reigns we hoped that we would step forward and take all Americans with us.

Health care was a promise, a major plank of the Obama platform, and it would be a test to see exactly what out new president was made of.

I put forward our new president is made of nothing; he’s a failure and a disgrace.

Obviously the Nobel Committee doesn’t share my sentiment, but then again you have to seriously question a peace organization that awards an individual dedicated to the proposition that peace is sometimes only achieved through war (last I checked, war was achieved through war — and all the great wars to end all wars only spawned new wars).

Why do I say Barack Obama is a failure?

Simple, a man who cannot stand up for values he purported to have during a campaign, a man that cannot lead his own party, a man that cannot charter the imagination and dreams of Americans, a man who calls himself a leader that has failed by every measure to promote the general welfare.

Hardly a success; and certainly not deserving of an “A” for effort.

I voted for Obama for president not because I liked him or trusted him or believed in him, but rather because I didn’t like, didn’t trust, and didn’t believe in his opponent (and I still don’t).

What a sad country we live in when we must choose our leader by eliminating the worst and only having one choice remain.

I digress.

The lack of a public option for health care reform is nothing but pandering to the health care industry and will in fact achieve nothing except kill the chances of ever having true health care reform.

I simply cannot understand why Canadians can have a health care system that works and provides for each and every Canadian while in the United States we have millions with no insurance, and millions with insurance that doesn’t provide any preventive care.

If the US adopts the health care reform that’s currently working it’s way through the legislative process without adding back a public option I fear that it will be many decades before we have another opportunity to start down the road of insuring that every American has access to reasonable, affordable health care.

Originally posted 2009-12-21 01:00:46.

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.

Originally posted 2010-03-14 02:00:15.

$35 Tablet PC

The government of India has unveiled a $35 tablet PC that they intend to use to replace text books in India.

The Laptop Per Child project (OLPC) developed a $200 durable notebook prototype in 2005 that’s designed use in schools in developing country and has plans for a $100 tablet.

India, though, has created a computing device that costs less than most text books, and the government will further subsidize the cost.

In a country where electricity is a scarce commodity in many regions (the tablets will have a solar power option for use in rural areas) they seem to have a much better grasp on the concept of leaving no child behind and creating a technologically empowered generation ready to perform the jobs of tomorrow.

The US leaves no child behind by simply holding everyone back to the level of the underachiever — easy to understand why we’re becoming a third world nation.

Originally posted 2010-08-01 02:00:31.

The Worst Company in America

I’ve long held that one of the best measures of how bad a company is is how much they advertise, particularly direct mail advertising, and how they build their mailing lists.

Clearly we have a winner by this metric…  DirectTV of El Segundo, CA.

Three to four times per week I get a direct mailing from them, and once per week I get an insert in a advertiser newspaper.

Additionally I’ve filed for countless prohibitory orders through the United States Post Office (and I still get as many or more mailings from them).

Obviously there service is so pathetic that they desperately need new customers to replace the ones who bail as soon as their misleading contracts are up.

Today I called Direct TV and attempted to have my address removed from their database — they seemed to have a problem understanding that because they had taken my name and address from the telephone company listings and it was under “Solicitation Prohibited” that they didn’t need my real name to locate the record, and why they needed any name was beyond me (no it wasn’t, they were attempting to collect more demographic information to target even more advertising — they have no intent of removing my address from their database, if they had they would have done it when the United States Postal Service sent them the first prohibitory order over a year ago).

I don’t understand why anyone subscribes to satellite TV services… but then again I don’t understand why couch potatoes sit around watching mindless television programs when they could be doing something constructive with their lives.

Again — those who support unethical companies like DirectTV are part of the problem… and you should be ashamed for enabling them to operate.

Help me help DirectTV go out of business — boycott them and every other company that thinks they can continue to barrage you with direct mailings after you’ve filed with the USPS or requested removal of your address.

Originally posted 2011-01-21 02:00:39.

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.

Originally posted 2017-09-30 12:00:47.