Tuesday, 17 August 2004

MailFrontier, a company that makes a great anti-spam gateway package, has put together “The MailFrontier Phishing IQ Test.” The have assembled 10 real-world suspected-fraud emails as captured by their systems. You review them and decide, is each one legitimate or fraudulent?

Take the test now. What's your score?


A little phishing lesson:

Phishing is a term used to describe various methods used by scam artists to persuade you to send them your personal information, so they can fraudulently use it for their own benefit. Almost always, phishers use what appear to be legitimate business emails and web-sites to get you to submit your personal information to them. But in fact, the emails and web sites are not legitimate, even though they may appear to be.

The information collected in phishing scams runs the gamut, and includes credit card information, social security numbers, bank account information, and any other items crooks can use to clean out banking accounts or benefit from assuming some portion of your identity.

Never submit personal information via an email form or on a web site in response to an email or other communication you receive asking you to update that kind of data. If you ever suspect you are being phished, call the bank or other company that sent you the email at their standard customer service number (don't trust a number in the email, look it up in the book or on your statement) and ask them if it's a legitimate request. You'll find that at no time do banks or other reputable businesses call or email you asking you to provide personal information.




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IT Security | Tech
Tuesday, 17 August 2004 11:37:56 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Monday, 16 August 2004

Otis, Oregon is back up for sale. For $3 million you can own your own town, complete with a gas station and its accompanying mini-mart, the Pronto Pup hot dog stand, two houses, an empty 25-stall horse barn, a helicopter storage shed, a garage, an old grange hall and 190 acres of farmland, part of which is used for raising cattle and part of which is in timber conservation. The Otis post office, Otis Cafe and an auto-repair garage property and buildings are also included.

What you may not know is this: The Otis Cafe is one of the best darn places you can go in the whole state of Oregon on a lazy hazy morning. It has 28 seats and there's more often than not a line of people waiting to get in. What's so great about it? The food is very good, but their bread (especially the dark molasses bread they are famous for) is great.

3 million? I don't know about the property, but work in the rights to the bread recipe and you would easily make up for the difference in price. ;-)



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Random Stuff
Monday, 16 August 2004 20:32:12 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Does blogging consume a measurable portion of your life? Well, then - what are you doing on November 6th?

"BloggerCon is an unusual conference. We don't have speakers, slide shows or panels. Repeat that please. No panels, no PowerPoints, no speakers. We do have discussions and sessions, and each session has a discussion leader."

Now, BloggerCon III really sounds interesting. And the site design is cool. I'll have to think seriously about attending this. It also sounds like a good excuse to visit the bay area and see my dad - he lives just a few minutes from Stanford, where it's being held. I'll have to give him a call and see what he's doing that weekend. It's also a good opportunity to use some of my vacation time that's accrued to the point of bursting at the seams. I've gotten to the point where I'm close to "topped out" on hours, so it's becoming clear that it's well past time to start using some of them up.

Other potential time-off plans for this fall and winter include:

  • A week off work while hosting a friend who will be visiting from Germany.
  • Another week off work on a Tiger Cruise, where I will be on-board a nuclear aircraft carrier underway from Hawaii to San Diego, with a friend who serves on the ship.
  • An unknown amount of time off (probably a few days) getting my back operated on in one form or another, not yet determined.
  • A day or two off to go jump out of an airplane with a friend.
  • A few days off here and there to do house stuff.
  • A week off over the holidays to travel to England for my cousin's wedding and a big extended family get-together.

So, it's going to be a busy rest of the year. But I'll have plenty to blog about!



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Personal Stories | Random Stuff
Monday, 16 August 2004 18:56:18 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Sunday, 15 August 2004

I realized I've posted almost all tech stuff recently, so I figured its about time to write about something a little less technical: My garden.

With three and a half acres, I figured I should do something. Besides, with my job being what it is, getting unplugged (at least mentally if not literally) on a regular basis is a good thing. So I started a small garden this year, mostly above-ground beds in the back yard, and it's working out pretty well.

  • I have sunflowers that are 15 feet tall (not an exaggeration) and still growing
  • I have three tomato plants that have a combined total of well over a hundred green tomatoes growing on them right now.
  • I have more beets and radishes than I know what to do with
  • I had something like half a ton (well it seemed like it) of broccoli and cauliflower
  • The corn is growing pretty well (I think I have them too close together though)
  • Gonna be some huge freaking pumpkins pretty soon
  • Even the watermelons look like they're going to work out
  • Peas and carrots abound

And it wasn't really all that much work, once the beds were put together and ready (thanks in large part to help from my great neighbors). I just seeded, watered and kept on watering. I pulled a few weeds here and there, but surprisingly few. It's been pretty fun. I like being able to walk into the garden when I am a little hungry and eat right off the plant. I'm not an organic farmer or anything, but I have not needed to use pesticides or anything. I used Miracle Grow on the hose just once, right off the bat, and the rest was just plain water and a little composty stuff, but I think mostly it's the good soil and regular watering.

I grew up in the desert - making things grow there was a true art form. My dad was the artist - I can remember that garden in the back yard when I was a kid. He even got peaches to grow there. Here in Oregon you have to try to kill plants if you don't want them, and even that can be a chore. So I've got it easy.

What I am doing now is letting some of the early-season plants (like radishes and broccoli) go to seed, so I can see if maybe they'll work again from the seeds they produce. I know that some plants will and others won't, and that is I wanted to I could probably look them up, but I just want to see what happens - it will be an interesting test.

If only the grass was as easy to keep green as the garden is to grow. Although the other night the lawn, whether or not it's as green as I like, made a decent carpet to lie on while watching the meteor shower (which was amazing).

Oh, and if anyone needs any tomatoes in a few weeks, I think I'm going to a be a little overloaded. Just let me know. Oh, and if you happen to be in New Mexico and want to trade some frozen roasted chilis from there for some home grown tomatoes, just say the word. I'm told by friends that the best chilis in the world can be had over the phone, though, and I am going to call them soon:

Perea Farms (in New Mexico)
505-565-1897 - at the chili stand
505-261-5887 - their cell
505-450-2535 - the chili farm itself

They'll roast, peel, pack and ship them to you. If you're a green chili fan and you actually believe the stuff you buy in the stores here in the northwest is worth a damn, you're wrong. Give it up and call one of those numbers. You'll be glad you did.



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Personal Stories | Random Stuff
Sunday, 15 August 2004 12:44:50 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Saturday, 14 August 2004

Do you use TiVo? Or own a Windows XP Media Center Edition PC (and if so do you use the MCE features at all)? What about PC-based software that does TiVo/MCE-like functionality, such as SnapStream?

I'm a TiVo guy - I have one of the original 20GB TiVos that I "hacked" and now it has 240GB of storage in it, and I can't imagine ever running out of space. I've recorded (literally) every episode of the West Wing, and each and every day I record the Daily Show and Dennis Miller. I love Season Passes, and I still have tons of space left.

But there are certain things I wish it was better at.

I have been considering, for some time, going the route of a Media Center PC. I want and need a new PC anyhow (mine's dead in the water under the desk and I have been lap-topping it the past few months). Two things have stopped me, though. The main problem is the fact that I can't build my own - I have to buy a pre-built machine and none of them really meet my (very specific and picky) needs. The second is cost - I'm not interested in shelling out the premium that the system builders charge, when you consider what you'll end up with. Yeah, I know I could use the MSDN subscription to download it and build a "test" machine, but that's not really kosher. Point is, it's the restrictive nature of the operating system and how it's licensed that's stopped me. Other than that, I'm all game.

There are other options I may just look at. For example, I've played with SnapStream's software in the past. These days they are selling a product called Beyond TV, and they will soon be coming out with Beyond Media, which will will have some nifty features and will work nicely with Beyond TV, they say. It looks very promising, and it's affordable. Hopefully there will be a version of Beyond TV to test soon - I'll be interested to see what it looks like and how it works. If I can arrange an early test copy, I'll even review it here, maybe do a side-by side thing. We'll see.

But for now, I've got the TiVo. I just wish it did more. Yes, I have seen the Series-2 TiVo product with the Home Media option, and the ones that are built into a DirecTV receiver, and the ones that have the DVD recorder in them (yada yada), but it's just not all there for me. I want to detach from the central device and use media anywhere I like. Give me HDTV capability and network sharing and sync capabilities. What is I want to want to view a show or something on my PC? Quit dumbing down the hardware that's already in the box. Let me export my digital media files to whatever I want, and make it easy for gosh sakes.

In the "make-them-better" department, Thomas Hawk recently wrote "Ten things that Microsoft and TiVo must each do to win the living room," which anyone who is tracking the future of digital media for the home will be interested in reading. I think he's pretty spot-on.

What do other people use? Right now I am tied to a Dish Network receiver (but definitely not married to it and I'll change for the right feature set - I just have not seen anything else compelling enough yet). I can't get cable and have not even tried to receive broadcast HDTV yet out where I live (which is very rural, by the way - my broadband is over a wireless connection to a tower on a mountain I can see from here). MY home theater consists of a big cave of a room with a projector (resulting in a 110-inch projected television image in HD), pretty darn good audio and a DVD changer. It rocks, but there's no computers involved.

Hmmmm... Ideas?

(inspired by various content found via Scoble's experimental aggregator blog)



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Tech
Saturday, 14 August 2004 15:30:36 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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A few months ago I got excited about the forthcoming Motorola MPx phone - a PDA/mobile-phone unit running the Windows Mobile OS and sporting a true HTML browser, WiFi, etc. Well the story is even better now, by a long shot:

Research in Motion announced a couple of weeks ago (now how did I miss that?) that the MPx and MPx220 will include BlackBerry Connect capability, meaning the MPx will be a full-blown Pocket PC PDA (Windows Mobile OS), a telephone, and a Blackberry device. The MPx220 (the smaller SmartPhone that will get the software) is a quad-band device - I am going to have to assume for now that the MPx is what their spec sheet (PDF) shows: GSM 900/1800/1900 and GPRS.

I bet it costs a fortune, but I'll keep my fingers crossed. This is exactly the type of device needed for companies that have people who travel a lot, have to be constantly in touch, need the immediacy of Blackberry email but want to be able to kick a PowerPoint presentation onto the screen and have it really work, or view and make some simple edits to a spreadsheet, or browse the intranet or Internet. Who needs a laptop? The QWERTY keyboard is just right. I like the rumor of a dual-hinge capability - supposedly it can open hinging on either the long side or the short side, depending on what you want to do with it. The image look like that's true too, although they all seem to show it its long-side pose.

What the MPx will have:

  • GSM 900/1800/1900; GPRS
  • Dimensions: 3.9 x 2.4 x 0.9 inches; 99.7 X 61.2 X 24 mm
  • Weight: 6.1 oz; 174 g
  • Up to 180 minutes talk time
  • Up to 140 hours standby time
  • Integrated 1.2 megapixel camera with flash
  • 2.8” 240 x 320 color touch TFT screen for easy data input that also works with a stylus
  • Multi-function QWERTY keyboard with touch screen that also works with stylus
  • Opens in portrait view for phone use, PDA applications and games
  • Built-in Wi-Fi: embedded 802.11b wireless networking
  • Microsoft Outlook on the PocketPC
  • Integrated Bluetooth Wireless Technology
  • SD/MMC slot up to 1 GB
  • Compatible with all Microsoft Pocket PC applications
  • WAP and HTML browsing, streaming video and audio
  • Multi-Media Messaging Service (MMS)
  • IrDA (Infra red) and Built-in "ActiveSync" protocol
  • Connectivity via IrDA, USB, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth

If anyone happens to read this who know when and where it will be available (aside from “second-half of '04” that is), comment or email me.

What do you think? What would make the perfect device that could replace a laptop, phone and PDA? Comment your thoughts below.

(...by the way, companies that put search functions on their web sites should only do it if it works worth a darn. Compare this search with the same one in Google... Argh!)



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Mobile | Tech
Saturday, 14 August 2004 10:04:31 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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