Archive for PEBKAC

Joystick optional

Computer magazines of the 1980s, as I recall, occasionally had difficulty differentiating themselves from the competition, though I’m pretty sure no one went so far as the Yugoslavians who published this mag:

May '89 computer magazine from Yugoslavia

Definitely gets one’s attention. And it’s been a long time since I’ve seen a package of Xywrite.

At the link: a couple of dozen more covers with similar intent.

(Via Jeff Faria.)

Comments (1)




Overheard and then some

If Amazon is listening, perhaps you should watch what you say:

A San Diego TV station sparked complaints this week — after an on-air report about a girl who ordered a dollhouse via her parents’ Amazon Echo caused Echoes in viewers’ homes to also attempt to order dollhouses.

Telly station CW-6 said the blunder happened during a Thursday morning news package about a Texan six-year-old who racked up big charges while talking to an Echo gadget in her home. According to her parents’ Amazon account, their daughter said: “Can you play dollhouse with me and get me a dollhouse?” Next thing they knew, a $160 KidKraft Sparkle Mansion dollhouse and four pounds of sugar cookies arrived on their doorstep.

During that story’s segment, a CW-6 news presenter remarked: “I love the little girl, saying ‘Alexa ordered me a dollhouse’.”

That, apparently, was enough to set off Alexa-powered Echo boxes around San Diego on their own shopping sprees. The California station admitted plenty of viewers complained that the TV broadcast caused their voice-controlled personal assistants to try to place orders for dollhouses on Amazon.

Lesson learned: voice-command ordering is ON by default on these devices.

Just one more precaution we’ll have to learn as we surround ourselves with the Internet of God Knows What.

Comments (5)




Worst ransomware ever

This is the message the victims get:

We are so sorry but the encryption of your data has been successfully completed

Bad news on two fronts:

  • The sum asked by the attackers is, at this writing, a ridiculous $270,000;
  • Said attackers do not in fact know how to decrypt your files.

Seriously:

No one has paid; this is a good thing, even for victims laden with cash, since the attackers cannot decrypt files because encryption keys are not saved locally or transmitted to command and control servers.

“Let us emphasise that the cyber criminals behind this KillDisk variant cannot supply their victims with the decryption keys to recover their files, despite those victims paying the extremely large sum demanded by this ransomware,” ESET researchers Robert Lipovsky and Peter Kalnai say.

Greedy and incompetent. I see a political future for these crooks.

Comments




Because you’ve had enough blue

If you’ve grown to hate the Blue Screen of Death, Windows 10 test builds offer something sort of new:

Windows’ infamous Blue Screen of Death (BSOD) is turning a shade of green for Windows 10 testers soon. A leaked preview build of Windows 10 (build 14997) emerged on the internet earlier this week, and it includes a number of new features and changes. One of the biggest is a Green Screen of Death instead of the regular BSOD. Microsoft employee Matthijs Hoekstra teased the change on Twitter, and MSPoweruser reports that it was eventually discovered by Twitter user Chris123NT.

Why bother, you ask?

It’s not clear why Microsoft has picked green over blue for its Windows 10 Insider builds, but Hoekstra confirms this new color scheme is only for preview participants. It’s likely that Microsoft wants to distinguish between genuine BSOD issues and problems and crashes that are more likely to occur during the testing of Windows 10 builds. A number of Windows 10 preview users publish issues like BSODs publicly on blogs or social networks, and turning the color green will help Microsoft identify them during the test phase. Microsoft last updated the BSOD with QR codes, years after adding a frowning face for Windows 8.

Then again, just using Windows 8 would precipitate a frowning face.

Comments




If it’s so smart

“It’s a Smart TV,” we are told. And yet it does dumb things like this:

The “letter,” ostensibly signed by FBI head James Comey, warns you about your wicked ways and imposes a penalty of $500, payable however they so specify. (Hint: It’s not going to the Feds in any way, shape, size or form.) If this be ransomware, it’s cheap; but I suspect it’s just intended for the lulz, not for the Bitcoin.

(Via @SwiftOnSecurity.)

Comments (1)




Yeah, good luck with that

A legislator in the Palmetto State doesn’t want you looking at those feelthy pictures on the Intarwebs:

People buying computers in South Carolina would be limited in their access to porn online under newly proposed legislation.

A bill pre-filed this month by state Rep. Bill Chumley would require sellers to install digital blocking capabilities on computers and other devices that access the internet to prevent the viewing of obscene content.

The proposal also would prohibit access to any online hub that facilities prostitution and would require manufacturers or sellers to block any websites that facilitate trafficking.

Chumley, a Spartanburg Republican, presumably did not offer a definition of “obscene.”

Both sellers and buyers could get around the limitation, for a fee. The bill would fine manufacturers that sell a device without the blocking system, but they could opt out by paying $20 per device sold. Buyers could also verify their age and pay $20 to remove the filter.

Money collected would go toward the Attorney General Office’s human trafficking task force.

“Step right up and get yer PORN LICENSE! Only twenty bucks!”

I have no idea how the South Carolina General Assembly, which is largely Republican, will vote on this thing, though undoubtedly there will be Republicans playing the Jesus card, and I can see several Democrats homing in on that twenty-dollar tax fee.

Comments (5)




An old hardware friend gives it up

For over a decade, through three different desktops, I have been pumping sound through the PC Works 2.1 speaker system — so old, it was never called “2.1” — made by Cambridge SoundWorks, which also made the Model 88 radio with the sacred name of Henry Kloss on the front. (I have two of those, of similar vintage.)

This weekend, PC Works, which I’d kept going through a series of cleanings — the little potentiometer that served as a remote volume control attracted desk debris — finally turned on me by refusing to turn on: the power button popped out whenever pushed. I have no idea if this was a bad switch or a circuit breaker, though I suspect the former, inasmuch as I was able to keep it running for a couple of days by taping down the switch.

Yesterday I replaced it with this apparatus, without the holiday bow. It does not sound quite as good, but it will do for a spur-of-the-moment sound system, especially at this modest price. Already its little potentiometer that serves as a remote volume control is decidedly wonky.

Comments (1)




Paranoia for journeymen

What are these people thinking?

In case you’re not up on privacy mode:

Privacy mode or “private browsing” or “incognito mode” is a privacy feature in some web browsers to disable browsing history and the web cache. This allows a person to browse the Web without storing local data that could be retrieved at a later date. Privacy mode will also disable the storage of data in cookies and Flash cookies. This privacy protection is only on the local computing device as it is still possible to identify frequented websites by associating the IP address at the web server.

“If you don’t let us track you, you can’t use our site.”

Okay, fine. Maybe I don’t want to use your damn site.

Comments (4)




Paranoia for beginners

I defy anyone to read this whole thing without busting out laughing. Here’s the question:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: 
How do I view content that was blocked by my ISP?

And here’s the rest of it:

I believe my ISP is actively filtering out certain materials from being viewed from my Internet service that could have been used as evidence by me in getting some other people prosecuted for slandering my name and image since 2010. I have had lies spread to neighbouring suburbs and businesses well before I signed up for a broadband service from one of my ISPs shop front located in a suburb where lies have spread to.

I am unable to locate chain-posts containing lies and pictures about me that random people have taken after bullying me, but the treatment I get out in public looks very much like someone has been posting lies about me while people choosing to believe in these lies and bully me are taking photos of me and publishing them somewhere (there’s always a trend of random bullying each time someone successfully takes a photo of me)

This is apparently what it’s like to be off one’s meds.

Comments




Alexa is coming

Notification from Amazon last night:

Alexa, the brain behind Amazon Echo, is now available on Fire tablets. Voice responses from Alexa are enhanced with visuals for certain questions. See your calendar, view the weather forecast, play music and Audible books, see sports scores, and more. When connected to Wi-Fi, just press the home button for 1 second and ask:

  • “How’s the weather?”
  • “Tell me a joke.”
  • “Reorder paper towels.”
  • “What’s my Sports Update?”
  • “Add laundry to my to-do list.”

If you really loved me, Alexa, you’d figure out some way to keep laundry off my to-do list.

(I think it’s time to watch Her again.)

Comments




Not one cent for hackers

San Francisco’s Muni Metro got hit, but they didn’t stay hit:

For all Muni Metro passengers knew, the free rides they were getting Friday night and Saturday were a holiday gift from the transit system. Little did they know Muni was under attack from a hacker trying to squeeze $73,000 in ransom to unlock the agency’s computer systems.

Muni refused to pay up. Instead, officials shut down the system’s ticket machines, threw open the fare gates as a precautionary move, and contacted the Department of Homeland Security and their own technology division to contain the attack, they said.

“Considering paying that ransom was never an option,” said Paul Rose, an MTA spokesman.

I like the sound of that.

The anonymous hacker used a ransomware attack — malicious software sent via email — to lock up employee computers at 900 workstations, shut down Muni’s email system and knock out the time-tracking portion of its payroll system, Rose said.

The hacker displayed messages on otherwise dark computer screens declaring “You hacked,” and asking for 100 bitcoins, a digital currency, or about $73,000. Muni never communicated nor negotiated with the hacker, Rose said. Instead, Muni officials relied on advice from federal officials and a backup system to restore the network.

Apparently the attack didn’t reach the Muni control systems or customer records; the hacker supposedly announced that he had customer records, but Muni says no chance.

Comments




Troll level: average

Credit for keeping a straight face, though:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: Why doesn't Elliot Rodger upload anymore?

Further:

I used to watch his videos but the supreme gentleman hasn’t uploaded since 2014! Has he quit YouTube?

Um, not exactly. The creepy little weirdo, in his one act of true selflessness, turned the gun on himself. So the guy with the first answer to this question was correct: “No wifi in hell.”

Comments




When help is no help

Roger Green, blocked from his own site:

[T]his will be my blog home until I get http://www.rogerogreen.com fixed, if I can. My provider says THEY can see my blog and people they know can, but I cannot, my friends cannot, in New Zealand to England to Canada.

The problem is, I am told, on my end. I’ve cleaned out cookies, cleaned out my cache, run a computer cleaning product, rebooted my computer (multiple times), rebooted my router (twice), and none of this has helped.

And I’m not enough of a techie to understand why it would anyway.

This is what was happening, as formatted for a phone:

rogerogreen.com after bad host configuration

How desperate was this man? He wrote me for help.

Then again, this was tech support’s response to him:

Its fixable its on your end, the site your being redirected too is a DNS switcher it uses your cookies to redirect you…

Download CCleaner check all the options but wipe free space and run it!

Once you run it once re-do it again one more time. Shut down and reboot your laptop or pc.

Then access your website./ blog

As you see by the screen caps rose and I can both see your blog.

If you look at the dns url its ww2.dns then your url something, once you hit that page it changes your cookies permission like hijacking your browser, so when you try and re-access your blog url it will always redirect you back to them

That’s why, once you clear your cookies you will be good. CCleaner will clear your cookies and history files…

Which doesn’t explain how it got to this condition in the first place. Best guess from this end: they screwed up the configuration at their end and failed to fix it in a timely manner.

Anyway, I flushed the local DNS cache, switched to Internet Explorer (!), dialed up the site, and waited for the new cookie to overwrite the old one. Success!

I duly passed this solution onward, and things have now returned to normal. But poor, unsuspecting bloggers should not be subjected to this sort of technical abuse.

Comments (2)




Yuge data

Yeah, sure it is:

Reince Priebus is running around saying it was the GOP data operations that got the Trump vote out on Tuesday. He was on the radio claiming that his team “knew what people ate for lunch, when they went to work and how they voted in the past” so they could target these voters and get them to the polls. He made it sound like they had studied all of us since birth so they could maximize their vote.

This is nonsense. Trump had none of this stuff in the primary and he poleaxed everyone in his way. His “ground game” was to go on TV and radio and be interesting. Then he went on Twitter to give reporters something to ask him. In the general, he preferred the old fashioned whistle stop tour. Instead of a train, he flew around on his plane and did stadium shows near airports. His campaign was lean and mean, avoiding the trap of hiring an army of experts. Trump was outspent something close to 5-to-1 when including outside groups.

I think Reince is trying to psych out the Democrats, who have been crunching numbers for a heck of a long time. And I think they will not be deceived.

Comments (5)




Worse than a wash

First, the good news:

The McRib is back at McDonald’s but only at select locations. Fortunately, you won’t only be left to call or drive around in search of it this time around as the company has put out an official free McRib locator smartphone app.

Now, the bad news:

Unfortunately for Android users, currently it’s only available for iOS off of the iTunes store. You can find it here.

The universe continues to find ways to screw me over.

(Via HelloGiggles.)

Comments (2)




Maybe they have a carbon-dating app

A bit of consolidation you probably wouldn’t have noticed (I barely did):

Internet provider Windstream today announced that it will buy EarthLink for $673 million in an all-stock transaction. The merger is focused on creating a stronger network operator for business customers, but it also provides a reminder that after all these years, dial-up Internet is still being sold.

EarthLink was founded in 1994 to provide dial-up Internet service and had more than 1 million customers by the late 1990s. But while dial-up has long been overtaken by DSL, cable, and fiber network technologies, EarthLink is still offering its original Internet service and boasts, “We’re the dial-up Internet experts. It’s what we’ve been doing best since 1994.”

EarthLink dial-up costs $9.95 a month for the first three months and $24.95 a month thereafter (or $14.50 a month if you prepay for a year). For that price, you’ll get “Unlimited 56K dial-up access,” e-mail, and “10MB of webspace for your own website,” the company says. EarthLink also advertises DSL, cable, and satellite service through reseller agreements that allow EarthLink to sell the services without building the networks itself.

And, since you’re going to ask, they’re one of the few ISPs who will let you keep an email address after you’ve terminated other services from them — for a price, of course. I kept an EarthLink dialup until about 2009, just in case.

(Via @JenLucPiquant. No, EarthLink has not sent me a notification.)

Comments




Bad, bad request

I was in the process of leaving a comment on one of those Blogspot blogs, and preview mode choked: it didn’t like the link I left behind.

On the basis that maybe I’d fouled up the link, I reformatted it just enough and sent it back through. The site disappeared entirely, replaced by Error 400:

The server cannot or will not process the request due to an apparent client error (e.g., malformed request syntax, too large size, invalid request message framing, or deceptive request routing).

Well, screw that.

In the meantime, this is the link I was trying to post.

Comments (2)




Well, you did ask

Baked beans, we assume, are off:

Spam ad dismissed as spam

In fact, I’d go so far as to say that it looks like Spam®.

(From reddit via Miss Cellania.)

Comments (5)




They’ll make it up in volume

This strikes me as one hell of a lot of email:

I can’t wrap my mind around 650,000 emails. Even before the next round of spam clearing, I have 55,617 emails on this box, and it took nearly twenty years to accumulate that much. Of course, I don’t have Carlos Danger’s propensity for hitting on every female within 20 ZIP codes, either.

Comments (2)




Macro version of micropayments

I don’t object to Web sites charging for access — it’s better than having them throwing you dubious ads from a dozen different sources every single time you visit — but there are few of them I visit often enough to justify paying the full rate. Is this the solution?

Everybody wants you to subscribe. I wouldn’t mind subscribing, but once you subscribe to one it’s much easier to justify subscribing to another, and then another and pretty soon you’re shelling out 50 or 100 bucks a month, and I ain’t gonna do that, so I don’t subscribe to anything. I wouldn’t mind paying $10 a month in order to get access to everything. I mean, if I have a subscription to one place, like the WSJ, I would spend all my time there. If I had two subscriptions my time would be split between the two, so I would be accessing each one only half as much. Likewise if I had ten subscriptions. The ISP should collect $10 a month from you and then dole it out to the websites on the basis of how many times you visit that site.

I’m pretty sure ISPs won’t like the idea, but hey, they have the information: they have to have it to figure how close you are to your monthly data cap.

Comments (4)




Overly Chromed

Our very own sysadmin circulated this warning late yesterday:

We have discovered today that a recent update to Chrome has caused it to have problems with the data it pushes through a print stream. It isn’t consistent, a reprint of the same screen report produced different results almost every time. If chosen to save as a PDF instead of written to a printer it would save the PDF correctly. The PDF would print without issue as long as you told the reader to print the page full size instead of fit to page. Be cautious if using Chrome for printed reports. If you notice any unusual blanks within the document you can save the document as a PDF and print it that way instead. Or try another browser. We have not verified but have no reason to suspect that the issue is across multiple browsers at this time.

This is, as the poet once said, a Known Issue. I have not encountered it personally, but then I hate Chrome. (How much do I hate Chrome? I print reports out of Lotus Notes, fercrissake.)

Comments (4)




You’re not getting enough fiber

Google Fiber, once believed to be coming to OKC, is apparently not coming to OKC:

Google parent company Alphabet has halted its plans to expand fast Google Fiber internet service to Oklahoma City and other cities throughout the country, the company confirmed Wednesday.

“Going forward we’re focusing on new technology and deployment methods to make superfast internet more abundant than it is today,” a Google Fiber spokeswoman said in a statement. “For now, that means we’re going to pause our operations and offices in Oklahoma City while we refine our approaches. We remain grateful to the city electeds and staff, and especially the communities, for their ongoing partnership and patience, and we’re confident we’ll have an opportunity to resume our discussions once we’ve advanced our technologies and solutions.”

Fiber guru Craig Barratt, then CEO of the Access subsidiary, did not explain, but perhaps this has to do with an earlier acquisition:

The future of Access, to a large extent, seems to lie in wireless. Access purchased the internet provider Webpass in June, giving it the technology to begin deploying over-the-air gigabit internet to homes. In theory, it provides the same service that fiber would, but without as many deployment hurdles.

What I want to know, of course, is whether this will delay Cox’s rollout of Gigablast.

Comments (1)




Geography by fiat

Adobe Photoshop/Premiere Elements v.13 arrived here yesterday, and there’s an FDA-ish Black Box Warning on the package:

ONLY FOR DISTRIBUTION IN NORTH AMERICA

Not for distribution anywhere else, including the EEA, Switzerland, Eastern Europe, Africa, the Middle East, the Caribbean, South America, Central America, Japan, or Asia Pacific.

Or, presumably, Mars, once Elon Musk organizes an expedition.

Comments off




Password-aggressive

Semi-nastygram received from Yahoo! this week:

We’ve noticed that you have not changed your password or adopted Yahoo Account Key since we sent you our first email about this issue. We strongly recommend that you promptly change your Yahoo password and adopt alternate means of account verification, as appropriate. For example, please consider using Yahoo Account Key, a simple authentication tool that eliminates the need to use a password altogether.

I’ve noticed that now and then, but mostly now, it’s impossible to fill in their damned input boxes because some laggard tracking component of theirs isn’t keeping up. But they are scolding me.

This seems like a good time to drop my Flickr Pro account.

Comments (1)




This shall not pass

From the This Can’t Possibly Be A Coincidence files:

The blocked site in question belongs to the Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco, a nonprofit that advocates for tenants. I wonder if this page linking to them is now going to be blocked.

Comments (1)




Just Dropped in

After several years of schlepping around thumb drives to move files from the home box to the work box or vice versa, I have installed Dropbox, which simplifies the matter considerably. So far, it’s worked admirably, though there’s still a distrust of The Cloud lurking in the back of my mind.

(And with good reason, I might add: over the weekend at the iTunes Store, I bought the BT album usually referred to as __, expecting that I’d be able to pick it up on the work box Monday morning. And indeed, the 25 tracks were queued for download, but in eight hours not one of those tracks was completed. If I can’t complete the task tomorrow, I’m just going to load my home copy into Dropbox. No, I don’t sync.)

If you’ve had experience, fair or foul, with Dropbox, or with Microsoft’s OneDrive (on the work box already), I’m wanting to hear from you.

Comments (5)




Cash-based solutions

When I ditched Windows XP in favor of 7, I ran into a couple of software issues, and the solutions turned out to be essentially identical: present plastic. Herewith, the original problems, and how they were subsequently solved.

Problem: Adobe Photoshop Essentials, though this is my fault: I can’t find the original installation DVD.

Solution: I eventually found the install disk, but it would not, you know, install. By 2014, Adobe apparently reasoned, I should be using a version newer than version 4. A reader offered me a legit copy of a newer edition, which was greatly appreciated; however, the ultimate solution came from Woot, which yesterday was offering the Photoshop/Premiere Elements bundle, version 13, for $49.99 (plus the de rigueur $5 shipping charge). This is slightly less than half what I paid for version 4 at CompUSA back in the Pleistocene era. Clearly I haven’t installed this yet, but I have no reason to think it won’t work.

Problem: Nero Burning ROM, which flatly refused my reinstall: “This serial number has expired.” This was a version-7 install; they’re up to something like 12 now. And I never could deal with the increasing bloat.

Solution: Apparently the Germans never throw away an email address. With Nero 17 on the way, they sent me a note to the effect that they were willing to cut a deal for a downloadable version of version 16, for $29.95. (Full package price is, and always has been, around $75.) The interface is much simplified, for which I am grateful.

Comments off




When your appliances know too much

Eventually, everything in the doggone house will be electrified and given additional functionality, whether you want it or not:

Although I admit I do sort of like that non-television television set.

Comments (1)




From the spammer’s toolbox

This curious item landed in my spam trap:

Great news everybody!

New updated XRumer 12 recognize and break Google Captcha again, during automatic registering and posting.

The author suggests that you Google for the program, perhaps being reticent to provide an actual link.

Comments (1)




It’s third party

And you’ll cry if they want you to:

On September 13, owners of HP OfficeJet, OfficeJet Pro and OfficeJet Pro X began contacting third-party ink vendors by the thousand, reporting that their HP printers no longer accepted third-party ink.

The last HP printer firmware update was pushed in March 2016, and it appears that with that update (or possibly an earlier one), HP had set a time-bomb ticking in its customers’ printers counting down to the date when they’d begin refusing to follow their owners’ orders.

HP says that the March update’s purpose was “to protect HP’s innovations and intellectual property.”

Because what can possibly be more innovative than preventing others from making accessories for your equipment?

This, incidentally, is why I don’t want computer-industry types building cars. God only knows what they’ll do to keep third-party gas out of the tank.

Comments (4)