Entries Tagged as '! ALERTS !'

The Anti-Green – Junk Mail

Why does the United States Postal Service encourage companies to send “Junk Mail” by substantially reducing the costs of distributing it?

It just doesn’t make sense.

Sure, I understand that it may actually cost the post office a little less to distribute junk mail than it does to distribute first class letters and such — but take a look at how little junk mail you even look at… and how much ends up in your recycle bin (and I’m not even going to bring up the large number of people who probably don’t recycle since they don’t have curb-side recycling programs).

America needs to take action to reduce it’s carbon footprint — and as I have pointed out for the last few days it would be extremely easy to make a fairly substantial improvement without sacrificing anything most consumers care about — and in fact, it would probably improve the quality of life for most Americans not having a mailbox full of junk mail they have to sort through so as not to miss something that might be important.

Sure, the post office would probably have to raise the cost of postage, and possibly reduce the service level (hey — I have no problem with mail not being delivered on Saturday — of maybe being delivered only on alternate days or only a few days per week).  The overall effect would be a decrease in the waste (of natural resources and energy).

No Soliciting!

Last week when I was outside washing out the litter box I noticed a gathering of “strangers” getting ready to pass out leaflets.

I went back inside and finished preparing my dinner… no sooner than I’d sat down my door bell rang.

At the door was a middle aged woman with one of the bright yellow leaflets I’d seen who started to say she was from the XXX Baptist Church — I immediately told her that anything being peddled door to door wasn’t worth having, and closed the door.

SPAMmers, junk mailers, tele-marketers, and door to door peddlers seem to believe that they have every right to intrude on your privacy.

But they don’t…

I’ve been doing a fair amount of research and some where along the line people began to believe that “soliciting” required the exchange of money; well legally and technically it only involves making a request.

Interesting enough there have been tons of Federal District and Circuit Court rulings on the subject; including a few Supreme Court rulings.  It appears that all you need do to protect your privacy is post either a “No Soliciting” or a “No Trespassing” sign on your property (if your neighborhood has private streets it can choose to post signs at the entrances which have equal weight under the law).

Should someone knock on your door soliciting you, you have every right to file a police report, and require that the police take action.

While religious and political organizations have every right to distribute their information, their rights do not supersede your right to privacy and your right to control access to your property.

I encourage each and every one of you to take back control of your home, your phone, your mailbox, and your email… use the law to make it uncomfortable for those who believe their rights and greed circumvent your privacy.

The Anti-Green – Catalogs

Decades ago company after company mailed out or otherwise distributed large, printed, mail order catalogs.

The age of print advertising is gone, and the environmental cost of print advertising is horrific.

However, there appears to be many companies that don’t realize the impact of print advertising, nor do they understand that most (if not all) really don’t want (or need) a large mail order catalog.

Several months ago I ordered an item online from B&H Photo Video, and item which I researched online and located the “best” price using search engines.  I never requested to be subscribed to any postal mailing or email mailing lists — nor was there any obvious option to make sure that I was never subscribed to junk mail from B&H.

My feeling is that companies that do not believe that they actually represent a value to consumers are the companies that are quickest to force a subscription to any type of mailing list.  Companies who believe they offer something consumers want understand that consumers will come back and they don’t need to destroy the environment in order to attempt to promote future purchases.

For me, I’ll never purchase something from B&H Photo Video again.  I simply cannot support a business that engages in ravaging the environment [cutting down forests to produce paper, wasting energy to produce a catalog, wasting energy and polluting the environment to distribute that catalog, and further wasting energy to dispose of / recycle that catalog].

Do your part, take simple steps to make the world a better place — adopt more sustainable practices — join me in boycotting companies that don’t have a place in a sustainable world.

Vantec Quality

Before I left San Francisco I purchased six Vantec cases.

Two 5.25″ external USB2.0 cases for Blu-Ray ROM devices; and four 2.5″ external USB2.0 cases to put 500GB hard drives in.

I already had the Blu-Ray ROM drives and set out to put those in the cases right when I got them home from Central Computer, but I quickly found out that neither of the cases had the holes tapped for the bolts that held the case closed (and interesting enough, Vantec doesn’t shipped the cases closed up like most vendors).

It was a nightmare trying to deal with Vantec; they sent me two sets of bolts — they just never really could grasp the fact that the cases weren’t tapped — the screws were probably the right ones.  And even worse I’d already exchanged them once (and the second two cases also weren’t tapped).

Anyway, I gave up on trying to get satisfaction and just used some nylon fasteners that I had that seemed to do the job reasonably well — but of course the large white nylon fasteners sticking out the back of a black case was far from attractive.

The 2.5″ cases I packed away and didn’t need those (I actually had some SATA/USB2.0 cases that I was using at that point — but wasn’t willing to pay the ridiculous price to get more of those).

Last week, though, I ordered a couple 500GB Seagate drives on sale.  They arrived yesterday and I went to put them in the cases… The first package had the screw packet and worked great.  The second package didn’t have any screws and had a defect on the finish on the enclosure.  The third and fourth packages had no screws either.  So out of four drives only one had screws — and the screws are a small metric thread (and fairly long with a small diameter head) that I have nothing like.

I contacted Vantec; already knowing what they’d say… so once I dig up my receipt and send it to them I’m sure the fun will start again; the good news is I know that these cases are tapped (since I have two screws I tested all the cases).

It seems to me that Vantec has some rather severe quality issues; and simple things like insuring screws in the package that fit would be resolved by closing the case before packing and shipping it… obviously they want to save a nickle or so — and cost their customers hundreds of dollars in wasted time.

So I’ll not be purchasing any products from Vantec mail order for sure; and if I want to chance it, I’ll open up and inspect the item BEFORE leaving the store.

Off Shore Drilling

For years the oil and gas companies have been telling us (the American public) how safe off shore drilling is, and they’ve been trying to convince us that they have contingencies for anything that might happen, and that there’s no substantial risk to our environment.

Well, take a look at the Deepwater Horizon oil platform in the relatively tame Gulf of Mexico and the inability of the world’s largest oil company to stop (or even really slow) a huge oil leak and consider who ill prepared the oil companies would be to handle a spill anything like this is the Gulf of Alaska (or any place near the Artic) in the middle of the Winter — or what could happen in the Gulf of Mexico or Atlantic seaboard during hurricane season.

Yes, I think it’s a travesty that the Federal Government didn’t have any contingency plans for oil spills of this magnitude — but don’t point a finger at the current administration; you’ll find that’s been years and years in the making (and least you forget, we just had an “oil and gas man” in the Whitehouse for eight years), but in the end, it is the industry itself that is ultimately responsible for the impact of their decisions to use such a small amount of their profits to insure the safety of their endeavors — and it is the companies that should be made to pay for the damages they’ve caused.

Damages to the coastal ecosystem of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida are increasing hourly as BP does little to stem the disaster — except possibly try and contain the public relations damage.  While BP stock is down 40%, first quarter 2010 saw record profits — and in the end, I suspect BP will find a way to pass all the costs and loses onto consumers and reward their investors.  BP CEO Tony Hayward has already assured investors that the company has “considerable firepower” to cope wit the severe costs… but missing are statements to the world that they’ll commit the “firepower” it’ll take resolve this disaster.

Bottom line, perhaps rather than increasing the leases for off-shore drilling it’s time to pull back all the currently unused leases and start heavily fining the oil and gas industry for any and all violations.

NASA Satellites’ View of Gulf Oil Spill

Hybrid Vehicles

There’s been a great deal of “buzz” over hybrid vehicles being green… but for a very long time I’ve had some serious questions about just how green they are.

Yes, there’s no question that their carbon emissions are substantially lower than gasoline powered vehicles (but remember, hybrids do use gasoline).

Yes, hybrids are a significant step forward (though the modifications to hybrids that allow them to be recharged and ran totally from electricity certainly makes them far more green; and really shouldn’t cost any more in a production model).

But the reality is green isn’t just about the emission in the every day use of the vehicle — green also has to do with the environmental impact of the production of the batteries and their disposal.

Most hybrids use lead acid, a few newer ones use Lithium Ion / Lithium Polymer… neither of which is exactly eco-friendly (I’d prefer them not to be buried in my back yard, or any where near where my water comes from).

Lead acid batteries have a limit life; how long they last depends on a number of variables, and some of the materials can be recycled and reused – but you need to make sure that your community has setup to deal with those issues before you buy your hybrid.  My reading indicates that only California has implement stringent rules for the warranty and handling of lead acid batteries in hybrid (hopefully more states will follow suit).

Lithium cells appear to be a great solution.  They’re small and dense; but the downside is they have a three year life span from the time they were manufactured.  And Lithium is an extremely dangerous substance to release into the environment.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t buy a hybrid; they are good choices for many drivers (particularly commuters who can’t use all electric), but consider the impact of the improperly disposed of batteries, and even the properly disposed of batteries resulting from normal wear and tear as well as accidents.

Green isn’t something you should try and see under a microscope — it’s an end-to-end game.

Disclosing Personal Information

I find more and more companies attempt to get as much personal information on me as they can.

I also find more and more companies mishandle the personal information that they have collected.

I just got a letter today from a transfer agent one of my previous employers used; apparently they “lost” a data backup set that contained my personal information, of course they assure me that there’s little chance of any of my personal information being misused.  And offer to reimburse me for any expenses I might incur in obtaining a credit report, monitoring my credit, freezing access to my credit history — but I didn’t see in there any offer to compensate me for my time, or any loses that I might incur.

I think I’m just going to write them back, thank them for advising me of this information, and tell them that they may hire someone to manage and monitor misuse of information which they lost (most likely negligently); but that I will not incur any costs of money or time taking actions to protect myself from this incident, but I will hold them liable for any and all actual, consequential and potentially punitive damages should information they mishandled be used in any illegal activity.

My advice to companies that collect personal data is that they purge any at all personal data they have at the earliest possible time that they can legally do so.  Failing to take such action makes companies that maintain personal data liable for an unauthorized disclosure of information; and I would say potentially criminally negligent.

Seagate Firmware Issues

If you own a Seagate hard drive in the Baracuda 7200.11, or Barracuda ES.2 (SATA only), or Maxtor DiamondMax 22 series you might want to read on…

Seagate has confirmed that a number of issues customers have been seeing in 500GB, 750GB, 1TB, and 1.5TB drives is because of an issue with firmware (it also affects other drives, but apparently is seen most often in the “larger” drives).

There have been a number of write ups on the internet about this problem, and Seagate released firmware SD17 in December 2008 which they believed fixed the problems; and then SD1A in January 2009 which again they believed fixed the problems; but reports indicated that these firmware revisions may actually create one of the very problems Seagate is attempting to address.

The firmware issues can adversely effect the drives performance or it can render the drive totally useless (brick mode).

In an effort to prevent worse PR than Seagate is already suffering for this problem, they have stepped forward to assure everyone that they are working on the issues, that the drives have five year warranties (three for Maxtor), and that they will pay the costs for data recovery service if the drive bricks and cannot be used.

I’ll take this opportunity to remind everyone that Seagate is a California based company; and California has a “lemon law” and fairly strict consumer protection when a vendor advertises products that are supposed to have some feature and fail to deliver on that promise.  It’s unlikely Seagate will allow this problem to spin out of control, the financial liability is simply too high for them (we’re talking about potentially being forced to repurchase almost every drive they’ve sold for the past three years AT THE PRICE THE CONSUMER PAID for it if they don’t fix the problem soon.

You can view more details in the knowledge base article below, and subscribe to updates.  You can also view many rants on these issues by doing a web search.

GSM Hacked

Computer security researchers have reported that GSM phones (the cellular protocol used by most of the world — roughly 80% of all cell phones) can be cracked with a relatively small amount of hardware and free Open Source tools.

The weakness exploits the older 64-bit A5/1 algorithm not the newer 128-bit A5/3 algorithm.  However, it should be noted that most GSM providers have been slow to update their networks and do not currently employ the more secure 128-bit encryption standard.

The result is that conversations carried on GSM networks can be overheard and recorded.

No such weaknesses exist in the CDMA protocol; nor would this indicate a potential vulnerability in LTE.

Karsten Nohl, a German computer programmer, claims he demonstrated this weakness (and published the code) to encourage GSM carriers (and manufactures) to take serious the poor security that is currently in place.  ESTI (the standards organization behind GSM) claims that this hack (while legitimate) is too complex and would in fact not give hackers the ability to listen in on phone calls.

Promise NS4300N NAS (Update)

Looks like Promise has “fixed” the issue with Seagate 1.5TB drives in the NS4300N NAS…

They’ve replaced Compatibility List NS4300N_SR5_Compatibility_List_v1.0-20081031.pdf with NS4300N_SR5_Compatibility_List_v1.0-20081126.pdf on their support web site — the never revisions of the V1.0 Compatibility List omits the Seagate 1.5TB drive (interesting that they choose to call it V1.0 rather than V1.1 and remove the previous V1.0 list from their web page)… but the firmware release notes still contains the statement that they’ve added support for 1.5TB drives (the only 1.5TB drive I know of is the Seagate).

Promise’s actions are a little suspect… maybe it’s time for a trip over to Alameda’s Small Claims Court…  I’ve retained copies of both versions of the compatibility list as well as the firmware release notes.

And for the record, I have still yet to receive any update to my online support inquiry even though I’ve updated it a number of times with “additional” comments and information; and I’ve called Promise as well.