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I did a couple technological things today.  One has shown itself to work, one is still in a test phase.

We were out last night, and after getting the mail, somebody forgot to turn off the dome light in the car.  I’m not naming names – he would probably just scratch his beard and look glaringly at me. We tried going out tonight.  No battery.  The dome light did its work well.  This is not the first – nor the second – time that this has happened to this car. The remediation after last time was to buy a little jump starter.  Specifically, this one from Amazon. Last time this happened, we burned a call to the roadside assistance company, and waited a half-hour.  This time, we had the answer in the glove box.  It worked great – the car started up and we were driving within 5 minutes.  I charge it at the start of each month, off the same type of charger as my phone uses, just to keep it topped up.  Highly recommended.

The other thing that is still in a “wait and see” mode is our home wifi.  Not content to stick with normal consumer stuff, I have a Ubiquiti Unifi access point.  I got the long range version to make sure we have good coverage, and we do. I can walk almost to the mailbox and still have usable signal.  What I messed up on was the placement within the house.  Yes, you can misplace something with long range like that.  The placement wasn’t wrong because of the output, but because of the input.  I was trying to get perfectly centralized placement within the house – in a pantry in the hallway.  We don’t have a wired connection there, so I was using ethernet over electric – something like this. And we were getting wifi disconnects on our phones, much more than we should have.  So I moved the access point to the office and now it has a hard-wired connection to our switch.  We’ll check it over the next week or so, see how it’s doing. Losing wifi can be frustrating.  I know it’s the wifi portion because my wired PC does just fine at the same time as my phone is having an outage.

Next up on the crazy list is setting up a home server, in order to run a house wiki (and provide some extra storage).  It’s a discarded HP  Proliant – a rack mount.  He’s going in the basement.

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Chipotle has been going through a rough time recently.  Multiple outbreaks of serious diseases traced to their doorstep.  Not good (although I have experienced shorter lines because of it – but that still isn’t a good business strategy).

Seems like the local media is piling on, and I suspect incompetence rather than malice.

WCPO has a Chipotle story that includes an interactive map, to let you see how your local Chipotle has done in food inspections.  I applaud this – journalism for the people, beneficial, encourages improvement in the failing restaurants.

Here’s a shot of the map this afternoon:

chipotle

Hmmmm – up near where I work, there’s a lot of red – the one closest to me is green. So I should eat Chipotle from the one closest to home, right?

Nope.  Look at the legend – green is a critical violation, red is a non-critical violation.  Why would something as obvious as the color indicate the severity?  Just because traffic lights and stop signs have red meaning stop/danger/no!, why should other people follow the same silly convention?  Just because green means yes, go ahead, growth – why shouldn’t they throw off the shackles of conformity and – well, you get the picture.

Gently, Steve.  Maybe the colors were chosen automatically by Google and are unchangeable.  Well, maybe, yes.  And if that’s true, then maybe they could have sorted their data so the red indicates badness.

I really do suspect ineptitude, not thinking about the consequences and implications, rather than a malicious attempt to steer people towards a less-safe restaurant.  That’s a guess, not a fact, and is based off Hanlon’s Razor.

Still, guys, you had one job to do . . .

I didn’t do this because it’s a new year – they just happen to coincide.

I won’t mention names, but several of my parents donated some liquid funds to my account at Christmas.  Thank you, unnamed parents!

That, and a little bit of recognition money from work allowed me to browse the SSD recommendation page of my never-met friend and technical adviser Dave Farquhar.  I ordered through his links, splashing him a bit of the money that Amazon collected.

The drive came in on the last day of the year.  I let it warm up overnight (winter finally arrived – we’re in for a swing of freezing nights) and dropped it in today.

I had downloaded the Windows 10 disk image and installed it straight to the new drive.  You will need the old license key (I got mine in Cleveland) to activate it.

It went smooth.  I had worked on my church’s new Win10 computers, and I use Classic Shell, and I turned off a lot of Microsoft’s telemetry.

Downloaded a lot of programs fresh, and I know I still have some setup to do.  Overall, a nice way to spend a few hours – and get Microsoft to quit bugging me about upgrading.  That wasn’t the only reason, but now I don’t have to deal with the nags anymore.  Caving in?  Practicality?  You decide.

Not me, not this blog – what’s new is the computing platform I am using to write this blog entry on.

I have a Chromebook – a Toshiba Chromebook 2, with the fancy screen.  Out of the box, it is nothing more than a piece of hardware that enables a web browser.  It is very good at that.  The afore-mentioned screen does its job very well, and the supporting hardware runs a web browser quite nicely.

It is still getting good reviews as “the best Chromebook available“, which doesn’t surprise me, based on the small sample size I have seen.

But I can’t seem to leave well enough alone.  I have switched over to the developer channel (yes, I can say “OK Google” and have the Chromebook answer me), and I have added Ubuntu running in a window (pretty cool technology – not dual boot, but running concurrently, with Linux piping its screen in to a Chrome window).

One of my goals has been to get Laridian PocketBible software running on this thing.  First attempt was to get the Android application running here – which failed.  Second attempt was to get Wine running on the Linux side, with the Windows version running inside the non-emulator.  This also failed, though I am not done with beating on it.  Other people have gotten it to work, and I want to as well.

The one hardware upgrade I have done is to add a trackball.  Never been a trackball kind of guy.  I was using a mouse (I really like alternate mouse buttons, and pasting by clicking in Linux), but the big use case for this cool toy is for me to be sitting on the loveseat as I type.  We have a towel down to protect the cushion, and the mouse was jumping based on the loops in the fabric of the towel.  Trackball removes those randomizations, while providing buttons.

The last thing I wanted to add, but probably won’t, is a sticker.  All the cool kids have stickers on their computers, and I have one in mind that summarizes my priorities:

Screenshot 2015-01-19 at 11.42.37 PM

The problem is that the surface of the Chromebook is ridged and bumpy, almost pebbly, as opposed to smooth.  So it isn’t the content of the sticker, but the attachment to the hardware.

And maybe the content attaches more easily to people because computers got no soul, regardless of how much fun they are to use.

Finally, a big shout-out to my Mom, who provided partial funding for the new toy, as long as I would supply technical support on her new Chromebook.  Which I have been doing, and will continue to do.  Thanks, Mom!

I am an extremist.  I read Linux Journal, and the readers of that magazine have been labeled by the NSA as extremists.  And not only am I a reader, I subscribe to the magazine.  I’m paying to support extremism!

So, since I have been granted the label, I may as well put the tattoo on my blog.

LJ-Extremist-black-stamp

My esteemed technical cohort Dave Farquhar also has some wise words on the subject.

My “never-met-her-before-and-probably-never-will” friend Sophie used my email address to get a copy of her recent chat with Staples.  Sophie isn’t very talkative – but Staples isn’t too responsive.  This is verbatim, with just the session ID changed and bolding added for Sophie’s name.  My guess is that Sophie entered her request during the 8-minute hold, and was gone before “Amanda” showed up.

This is an automated email sent from the Staples Live Chat department. The following information is a log of your session. Please save the log for your records.
Your session ID for this chat is 0000000.
Time Details
08/26/2013 07:00:36PM System: “Welcome to Staples.com Live Chat. We will be with you shortly.”
08/26/2013 07:00:40PM System: “We ask for your assistance: please do NOT send credit card information through chat. Should credit information be required for a transaction, a Staples associate will contact you for the required information”
08/26/2013 07:00:46PM System: “You will receive a transcript of this chat via email at the conclusion of this session.”
08/26/2013 07:01:06PM System: “Sorry for the delay, your business is important to us. Please continue to hold.”
08/26/2013 07:01:36PM System: “Thank you for your patience. Please continue to hold, we will be with you shortly.”
08/26/2013 07:02:06PM System: “Please continue to hold, the next available agent will be with your shortly.”
08/26/2013 07:02:56PM System: “We appreciate your patience, please continue to hold.”
08/26/2013 07:04:36PM System: “We are sorry; please continue to hold for the next available agent.”
08/26/2013 07:05:36PM System: “Thank you for your patience we will be with you shortly.”
08/26/2013 07:08:40PM Session Started with Agent (Amanda A)
08/26/2013 07:08:40PM Sophie: “How do i find out if you have a product in a store near me?  “
08/26/2013 07:08:54PM Agent (Amanda A): “Hello, Sophie! Thank you for contacting Staples. I hope today finds you well!”
08/26/2013 07:09:11PM Agent (Amanda A): “I see you have questions about items in store, and I will be happy to assist today!”
08/26/2013 07:09:25PM Agent (Amanda A): “Is there a particular item I can check for you today?”
08/26/2013 07:11:26PM Agent (Amanda A): “Thank you for contacting Staples Live Customer Support. I have not received a response from you. If you need further assistance, I would be happy to help you. Please reply within the next 30 seconds to allow the session to continue. Have a wonderful day!”
08/26/2013 07:11:28PM Check Customer Status
08/26/2013 07:12:03PM Session Ended
08/26/2013 07:12:03PM Session Ended after Check Customer Status

HP did a booboo, and left an admin ID in one of its systems.  Shame on HP.

Then they didn’t respond to the white hat guy who found it and tried to tell them.  So he went public.

Going public with these findings, after giving the company time to respond and fix them, is a good thing.  Three weeks might be fast – companies are not as nimble as individuals.

What I find interesting is that the researcher hinted at the password without providing it.  He gave the hash of it – the non-plaintext version that gets stored instead of the password itself being stored.  So the technically curious (including me) wanted to find out what this 7-character password is.  There are sites that work backward from the hash to the password – not necessarily doing the math, but using rainbow tables or something similar to do the one-way translation, so they can do the reverse search.

So I found out what the password was.  Nothing significant to me, nothing obscene, nothing outstanding – just a simple, slightly obfuscated password.

The part I find most interesting is the level of interest in the hash.  I’m seeing an awful lot of that 4c50 listed.  If I owned the system that HP sold, I’d be shaking in my boots right about now.  Even non-malicious hackers will want to get in and look around, and some of them will accidentally change something.

Last20hashes

But they still aren’t getting it.

The addle-brained spammers from yesterday corrected the spelling of Netflix.  They dumped the wrong person from the emails.

But they still don’t have it worked out that maybe a multi-billion dollar company would have their own domain name.

 

Dudes!  Wisconsin Worms?  Seriously??!!  Interrobang

I don’t want to admire brilliant bank robbers.  Regardless of how smart and clever they are, they are still doing wrong, and should not be put up on a pedestal.

It’s a very fine line.  Is it acceptable to appreciate the effort that went into a nifty crack without giving approval to the act itself?

On the other hand, it is not difficult at all to mock people who don’t put in that effort.  These are the spammers who count on picking up those customers who ignore all the warning signs and indicators that something is wrong, that .0000001 percent of the billions of pieces of junk email they send out.

Like the one I got today:

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Today was the first day at my new job.

Same office building, same desk and chair, same phone number, but today my division was taken over by a US subsidiary of a large Japanese conglomerate.  No changes yet, although those will be along.  Right now, they are reassuring people, giving some insight to our new corporate overlords (whom I welcome), and ensuring stability for our customers.  Pretty much what I’d do.  And not hard – I work with a bunch of high-class professionals.

As opposed to some spam I got recently.

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