Friday, December 24, 2010

Goodbye POTS : POTS = Plain Old Telephone Service (or Landline); I'm so annoyed at the dishonesty of AT&T. They keep hitting me with junk email, junk postal mail, and junk phone calls, despite assuring me after each complaint that I'm opted out and it won't happen again. Then everyone of their web sites hit you with SPYWARE, and they totally dishonestly deny that they're doing that. SO I had to do something to vote my displeasure. So I've now connected OOMA to my U-Verse Internet, and in another 2 weeks, if OOMA works as well as its seems to after hooking it up, I'll port my AT&T phone number over to OOMA, and GOODBYE POTS.

OOMA was a pleasure to hook up. Take it out of the box, plug an Ethernet cable into a free Ethernet port on the U-Verse Wireless Router/Modem, plug a phone into the OOMA,; go online and register the OOMA, and then power up the OOMA, and wait for it to check for firmware updates, and Bingo, you're good to go. Only gotcha is OOMA's Getting Started Guide omits the go online and register requirement. I bought it online from Costco, at a sale price, with free shipping, and a $50 credit on my OOMA account for Foreign phone calls (about 2 cents a minute). In the unlikely event I decide I don't like the Ooma, Costco is excellent about taking returns.

FOLLOWUP: I'm now informed that my AT&T number will be ported (transferred) to Ooma on January 7, 2011.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Your smart phone is spying on you: Both Browsers and Apps, and unlike Computer Browsers, at present there's no way to stop the total breach of your privacy. Story here:

Monday, December 13, 2010

84% of Web sites track you with spyware:
USA Today has good article on the subject
Read it here:
Read my Dec. 4, 2010 Blog post for how to stop it
on your computer.

Friday, December 10, 2010

BLOCK Txt messages on your AT&T cell phone: ATT has a secret web site that allows you to block email addresses from sending you txt messages: . You’ll need to register there, even if you already have an AT&T login for your regular account. One can block all SMS messages and/or multimedia messages sent to you as email. This is how spammers can get to you — they send junk txt messages to or Its probably best to block both of them.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

DO NOT TRACK : USA Today had a story on how most websites put spyware on your computer, and even commonly used techniques (some previously mentioned here - see my Oct. 25, 2010 post) do not fully stop it. The way to fully stop it, AND IDENTIFY WHO IS USING WHAT SPYWARE, is to install Ghostery for the Firefox Browser, and only use Firefox as your Internet Browser, unless another Browser allows Do Not Track add-ons. Tracker Block says their program should be used too, with Firefox.

AT&T, I discovered, despite claiming not to use Spyware, uses Webtrends. Go to the WebTrends website and see how they advertise their Spyware to companies.

Even USA Today, which ran the story, uses Spyware, one discovers after installing Ghostery.

I have been running Norton Anti Virus Quick Scan a few times a day to remove Spyware, but after installing the above mentioned Firefox Add-Ins, instead of finding and deleting its usual 4 to 12 instances of Spyware, Norton found Zero ! And an added benefit, my Uverse 12mbps Internet connection tests 10% faster than before I installed Ghostery, since any speed test is no longer competing with Spyware. speed tests result of 11.4 to 11.9 mbps download speed depending on location of test were obtained, and distance had no correlation to speed.

I've tested Firefox with its privacy add-ins on Windows 7 - 64 bit, Windows XP, and Windows Vista 32 bit and Mac OS X 10.5.6 - 32 bit; so I expect it'd work most any other OS.

Followup - Default settings for Ghostery do next to nothing. It must be manually turned on after Install. : FireFox Tools> add-on's> Extensions> Ghostery> Options button> Blocking tab> "Select" All & "ON"> Options Tab Enable Auto Update> Performance Tab - Enable all Scans but NOT Lite mode.>Save.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Thanksgiving Leftovers: To do something with leftover Turkey meat: Today I'll make chili, using a modified Consumers Reports recipe. CR came up with a chili recipe to have to compare against canned chili many years ago. I omit corn, and use more beans amongst changes.

12 oz Ground turkey
4 strips bacon
1/2 Garlic Bulb
2 Medium Onions
1/2 Green Pepper
1 TBS Garlic Wine Vinegar
1 tsp salt
5 Tbs Chili Powder
2 16 oz cans Pea beans
1 Tbs Dark Brown Sugar
16 oz Hunts tomato Sauce
3 Tbs Olive Oil

In large skillet for over an hour heat coarsely chopped onions, garlic and pepper on low heat in Olive Oil, stirring frequently. Separately brown bacon, real or turkey bacon. Add ground turkey,
cooked bacon, to onion mix and cook for 10 minutes. Add drained beans, tomato sauce, spices and heat covered on low heat for 30 minutes. Add extra water, chili, salt or brown sugar to taste.

Good with Fritos, or fresh home-made bread.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Going to 12 mbps Internet: ATT dsl maxes out at 6 mbps; so if I wanted faster through ATT, I was forced to go to Uverse, not a happy prospect knowing how disorganized Uverse is (they totally fubarred a UVerse TV installation last January, so I upgraded my DirecTv instead), with half of ATT Broadband/Uverse support in the Phillipines, and the rest usually giving out Bogus information. I had to use an ATT supplied Uverse Modem, a 2Wire model 3600HGV, which none of the Uverse CSRs Level 1 or Level 2 know squat about. They make up answers. Phillipine support is stumped by most any question. ATT sent me email, snail mail, phone calls, and cell txt messages reminding me about my impending UVerse TV Install (I was getting only Uverse Internet)
CSR BOGUS made up answers:
1. You don't need dsl filters any more.
BOGUS The box from 2Wire, sent by ATT has a full set of dsl filters
2. It may take hours for the "order" to float through the system, wait till 8 PM before activating.
BOGUS I tried activating as soon as my line was lighting up the 2Wire modem (green at Broadband), 5 minutes later I was on the Internet again. (At 11 AM), but still got an automated phone call from Uverse at 6 PM, reminding me to try to activate at 8 PM.
3. I was told there was no way to reconfigure the modem to a 192.168. 0.1 IP# to match my existing network, and I was stuck with its default address; and any change would negatively impact the ATT network anyway. One CSR said use another router behind the 2Wire, another said that's not supported; don't do it. I was almost ready to cancel my Uverse order.
Again, Totally Bogus, I went to SETTINGS, LAN, DHCP in the modem setup; and there is the Menu for changing the modems default IP. Couldn't be simpler, once you knew where to go. I found that menu by trial and error. And apparently CSRs are trained to lie.

Although ATT supplies dsl with no fees or hardware charges, the same is not true for UVerse. I negotiated away the SETUP fee and hardware charge for Uverse Internet before I would accept it.

No proper manual is supplied with the "Self Install" kit, luckily I set it all up while I still had dsl,
and Google is one's friend.

I had to reconfigure the Security on my 2Wire modem for my existing network, a new SSID (from my existing Network) that didn't broadcast , and a new 26 character WPA password to match what my network already used. That worked well for all devices (Printers, Laptop, 2 Desktops, iPhone, DirecTv DVR) except my Linksys WET54G Bridges that connect my Sony model 460 BlueRay player to the Internet. It uses older WPA encryption, and it had to be reconfigured to match what the 2Wire would accept. Good thing I have 20 years experience with TCP/IP and 10 years experience with WiFi; and lots of Networking experience, one needs to know about subnets and masks.After my phone line was switched over (My Voice line was only down for a few minutes, 2 separate times).

I tested my new Network Speed. Generally as expected and hoped for, double of what I got when I had 6 mbps dsl. Now 10 mbps or better actual download locally, somewhat less when farther away websites are chosen. 8 mbps on WiFi with my iPhone, faster from another desktop on wifi. Need to download again Windows 7 Service Pack release candidate to test speed. Desktop speed tested at

Followup: Early Sunday morning my iPhone tested at 10.95 mbps download WiFi speed, using the free App. "Speed Test".

Now to see if my next ATT bill credits me for having my dsl shut off on November 27, 2010, and doesn't "forget" to credit the sales tax that was charged on it. Then to make sure a friend who "referred" me to Uverse gets his $50 referral credit.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Engineering for Prosperity: Seems like all too many items are now only "Made in China" and are of poor quality, designed to fall apart in a few years so they can sell you another.

Case in point: A 40 year old Rival Electric Can Opener Model 765. Sturdy, Solid, large thick chromed metal lever, weighs enough to stay put; made in the United States (K.C., Mo). Was starting to act like it had a problem with the gears moving, making sounds like it was struggling. I went to a local High End Hardware store, and all they had were the same cheap $20 Can Openers one could find in Walmart; light weight, plastic piercing lever, small blade, or as I describe it: JUNK. I expressed my displeasure to them and kept looking, but never found an Electric Can Opener even close to the quality of my old one. So I unplugged my geriatric unit, removed 6 screws from the back to reveal the insides, and as I had finally guessed the grease on the gears had congealed over the years. So I sprayed everything in sight with WD-40, reassembled, and tested. It was acting almost as good as new! So then I re-removed the back and put some Lubriplate grease on the gears. Now acting better than new, Good for another 40 years I figure. In the meantime, I have an instant savings of $50 plus tax and shipping.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Check is in the Mail: I was notified today that my payment for trading in my 2006 MacPro is on its way from Powermax. I wasn't pleased with their taking 6 plus weeks to process my trade, but all seems to be ending well. They offer trade-in values exactly inline with eBay values, so it saves the grief of the eBay process to sell to them. When I Googled to see if anyone had any complaints about Powermax, I found none, although when someone asked how they could afford to offer relatively high trade-in prices, the answer was "Have you seen their selling prices for used Macintoshs?" Indeed their selling price is like 20% off new, and roughly double their trade-in price. Must be more of a demand for warranted used Macs than I knew. I however am in no position to warrant a used Macintosh of mine for 3 months when I sell it. I had upgraded over the years (more memory, 2nd Optical Drive, better Video card) that had increased its value.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Windows 7 Service Pack 1: Release Candidate 1 is now available for downloading here:
If you installed the earlier beta version it needs to be uninstalled first before installing the Release Candidate. Instructions here. Thank goodness for Google as Uninstalling the Beta is not at all intuitive. I have a 6 Core 3.33 Ghz Intel Xeon processor, but it still, as Microsoft warns you at beginning of the Release Candidate install, takes over an hour to do the install.

Followup: Windows 7 SP1 RC is set to expire on November 30, 2011. The platform will begin to highlight the coming expiration date on August 30, 2011.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

MS Office 2011 for Macintosh : When a reviewer (David Pogue, NY Times) who 90% ++ of the time writes glowing reviews writes a scathing review of a product, it has serious credibility.
The review in question is MS Office 2011 for the Macintosh. The review is so well written that
my copy of MS Office 2011, due in today from Amazon, will be returned unopened for refund.

Followup 10/27: Office 2011 has now been shipped back to Amazon. Thank you David Pogue.

Followup 11/1: Amazon has now issued a full refund, including shipping.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Staples giving you Spyware ? I received a $20 off coupon in the mail from Staples. Valid only today, only at a new Staples. So I went online to double check the address as the map on the back of the coupon was poor. I entered my zip code, and up came an error message telling me to enable cookies. However I HAVE COOKIES ENABLED. What is disabled is 3rd party cookies, and Adobe Super Cookies, usually used only to leave behind spyware or tracking cookies.

So I conclude STAPLES needs to track me it thinks. NOT GOING TO HAPPEN.

FOLLOWUP: After several emails back and forth to Staples, Staples confessed to using Spyware: Read it and decide:

To further improve your shopping experience, Staples partners with third party vendors to evaluate how the Website is used and to provide continuous improvement for our services. Like most websites, we use "cookies" for a variety of purposes to improve your visits to the Website.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

MS Office 2010 : Most PCs now come with Windows 7, 64-bit preinstalled. You'd think you ought then install the 64-bit version of MS Office 2010 for best compatibility. You'd be wrong. If you manually find the x64 folder on the DVD, and then run the Setup from within that folder, a Setup Warning appears:

You cannot install the 64-bit version of Office 2010 because you have 32-bit Office products installed. These 32-bit products are not supported with 64-bit Installations:

Microsoft Office FrontPage 2003
Microsoft Office Single Image 2010
Microsoft Enterprise 2007'

If you want to install 64-bit Office 2010, you must uninstall all 32-bit Office products first, and then run setup.exe in the x64 folder. If you want to install 32-bit Office 2010, close this Setup Program, and then either go to the x86 folder at the root of your CD or DVD and run setup.exe, or get 32-bit Office 2010 from the same place you purchased 64-bit Office 2010.

Strange, I could have sworn the same company wrote amd published all versions of Windows and Office, and no such conflicts should exist !

I followed a suggestion on the Retail packaging and downloaded the Installer from operating under the incorrect assumption that Microsoft would slipstream a newer Install version of Office 2010 with all currently available updates and patches installed. WRONG. Further that website only transferred the 32-bit version, and hid the option to obtain the 64-bit version.

Elsewhere on the Microsoft website they state the following:

Office 2010 products are available in 64-bit versions; however, for the best productivity and user experience, Microsoft recommends 32-bit Office 2010 for both 32-bit and 64-bit operating systems. Office 64-bit is optimized for advanced data analysis scenarios that most users don’t require, and existing 32-bit add-ins are not supported on Office 64-bit.

Seems like they're admitting how incompatible the 64-bit version is.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Your Computer / browser is likely spying on you. In addition to "3rd Party Cookies", which have zero relation to the web site you are at, there are also "Super Cookies", used because most browsers now easily let you Block 3rd party cookies. To Block 3rd party cookies in Internet Explorer, Instructions are here. For Firefox, instructions are here.

For Firefox, there is an excellent add-in to stop Super Cookies, called SuperPrivacy. It can be downloaded for free here, once installed it can be configured using their instructions. For Internet Explorer its a tad more difficult, you should go into Adobe Flash, and not allow it to store Super Cookies. Instructions here.

For a Macintosh: Use NoScript (for Firefox and you can block google analytics with it, as well as anything else)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Whither Apple: I may no longer buy anything sold by Apple. I was helping a colleague set up their iPhone 4 and they got so frustrated with iTunes, they returned the iPhone for refund after 5 days. To get refund for AppleCare the only thing the Apple web site says is to call 1-800-SOS-APPL, if you tell the automated menu system you have an Apple Care question, you get connected to a typical 3rd world support CSR in the Phillipines that doesn't under stand spoken English satisfactorily, and refused to connect one to the United States.
When did Apple reduce their support so?
This is the Electric Car I want: Already in production in Japan. See it here:

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Newsday App for iPad - Better than a Newspaper. See it here.
Apparently Apple had them pull the advert.

Friday, September 17, 2010

MS Internet Explorer as Unsafe as ever: Read here and then go get Firefox

Monday, September 06, 2010

MS Money: For unknown reasons Microsoft abandoned MS Money. However one can download for free a "Sunset" version of MS Money 2008 here.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

2nd DVR drive in my MacPro: Bought a 2nd Drive at Frys today. I use Pioneer Drives, as they always work well with Macintosh, and firmware updates are easy to find. Makes duplicating a CD or DVD much easier and faster to work with 2 drives. I had to return the PATA drive I bought and get a SATA drive, as Apple has changed its internal configuration in the new Mac Pro.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Minor slip-up by Apple: No drivers available for Broadcom 802.11n on my new Mac Pro to use under Vista 32 bit. Not on the BootCamp drivers section of the supplied 10.6.4 Install DVD. Luckily I found the drivers I needed on a 10.5.6 Install DVD from a MacBook.
Symantec Norton Internet Security : The 2011 Version is released. If you're running the 2010 Version its' Activation Key will work on the 2011 Version which you can obtain by clicking through here:
2011 NIS

Friday, September 03, 2010

New Mac Pro: Easy to set up for Macintosh, just put the Macintosh HD from my 4 year old Mac Pro on a new Drive sled, and mount it. In 2 minutes after it reboots all I need to do is enter the 26 digit WiFi security code, as the new Mac has 802.11n built in, old Mac didnt. Works great.

Not so simple for Windows 7. Same insertion of old drive but.....After booting, it takes 5 minutes "Loading Device Driver", and is too stupid to ask for the SSID in the WiFi connection script, so I have to dig into it to get that before 26 digit PSA code will connect me. Then Windows 7 wants to be re-authenticated as its married to the hardware, and I have new Hardware. Automated authentication fails. Luckily it provides an automated 888 number to dial in and enter 9 sets of 6 digits from screen, which it rejects at last three digits, and connects me to India where its almost impossible to understand them, and their computer keeps freezing. So I read them 9 groups of 6 digits, and they eventually read me back 9 other sets of 6 digits, and I'm authenticated. Took 20 unnecessary minutes.

Monday, August 23, 2010

PC Updates: How did a beta of Windows 7 Service Pack 1 sneak past me? I must have been vacationing too much this summer. You can find it here. Use at your own risk.

Norton Internet Security 2011 is about to be released this week they say. A beta good till Sept 27 is still available from

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Free iPhone 4 Case: Finally received my Free iPhone Case (A Belkin Shield Micra). It's one piece Clear Plastic so it covers back and edges. SO the Shiny Stainless steel external antenna is shown.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Mac Pro: Today I placed an order for the new Hurd-Papermaster model of the Mac Pro.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

iPhone Jailbreaking: The Library of Congress has just ruled Jailbreaking the iPhone legal. I remember my first smart phone, a Treo 300. Having software from anywhere and anyone with no restrictions can be a disaster. Manufacturers publish SDKs so software publishers will know how to properly write software that doesn't conflict with the Operating System or each other. With no restrictions, publishers may (and often do) give in to the temptation to take shortcuts (ie use protected memory they shouldn't, or directly address the hardware rather than going through the operating system). Apple strictly enforces its' SDK rules, and won't allow improperly written software to be sold in its App store; and as a result you NEVER hear of the iPhone crashing. The Treo however didn't have that discipline and after loading a few 3rd party applications, would often lockup, or need to be rebooted so it could refind the Sprint network, after losing it. No such grief with the iPhone. So even though I could gain some additional functionality (ie Tethering) by Jailbreaking, I have zero intention of doing it.
Here's a news story with more downsides of Jailbreaking.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Free iPhone 4 Case: I just ordered mine from Apple. They designed a very nice iphone application that uses your iTunes Account to know who you are. Details here.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Case for iPhone 4. I just ordered a case for my iPhone after earlier buying and then returning cases to ATT and to BestBuy. The one I ordered is a Griffin Reveal, recommended to me by a former NASA colleague. Based upon temporarily using 3G Griffin hard shell polycarbonate cases shoe horned onto an iPhone 4, I believe this will at least 80% reduce the antenna problem. Read about it here:

Sunday, July 11, 2010

iPhone 4 issues: If you hold the iPhone 4 in a normal way a
right handed person would, in the palm of your left hand, thats "Wrong".
But even Steve Jobs holds it that way. Steve's answer
"Don't hold it that way". Such total arrogance.
Not the Apple I knew and loved.
Lots more pictures of Steve and others in Apple's ads here:

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

iPhone 4: Just got my iPhone 4 yesterday, older iPhone 3Gs will be sold on eBay. Used the
Free App, and got the following results from the ATT 3G Network.

Download Speed >3000 kbps

Upload Speed >1200 kbps

Not too shabby. None of the problems reported online here:

Monday, June 21, 2010

Off to Barcelona, and a new iPhone when I get back.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Buying an iPhone 4: Since the AT&T stores are shut down for ordering, I just ordered my iPhone 4 online at It's now listed as "Ships by July 14". I didn't want to wait any longer, or I wouldn't be eligible for "best pricing" next year, as initially one is eligible for reduced pricing after 17 months in contract at AT&T, but in the past 2 years ATT has shortened it to 12 months for anyone that would have had to be be in iPhone contract for 13 to 17 months.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

ATT is the BP of Phone companies: Obviously cutting corners in the wrong places when for the 4th year in a row its computer systems crash when trying to authorize orders for iPhones on the first day of sales of a new model. And to add insult to injury ATT wants to charge you an $18 activation fee for this unacceptable service level?

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

3-D TV : My best TV only does 1080i, and its certainly not capable of showing the new 3D. Then new 3D TV sets cost double what non3D TV sets cost, manufacturers trying to pull in extra bucks from early adopters. I'll pass for now.

However, last night at 2:28 AM CDT, DirecTv updated my HR24 HD DVR Receivers firmware to version 0x3e0 from 0x3da , and it is now 3D capable.

Monday, May 31, 2010

DirecTv: I've been a DirecTv customer for 13 years, and especially liked the years where I had a TiVo DVR from DirecTv. They currently broadcast ~150 full time National Channels in HD, far more than Dish or Comcast, but 2 months ago they turned off HD broadcasting using MPEG2 which uses 50% more bandwidth than MPEG4 which they now use for all HD broadcasting. The one TiVo model (the HR10-250) that received HD broadcasts was thus crippled, and although DirecTv offered to replace it with a model capable to receiving MPEG4 HD broadcasts, I held out for their current top-of-the-line model, the HR24. I'm glad I did. While the HR24 doesn't have a User Interface as simple and elegant as a TiVo, it performs better than their earlier HR20, HR21, HR22 and HR23 models. The HR24 feature set is listed here: I like its larger hard drive, and it has capability to use SWM (one cable to feed two signals rather than two) and DECA (allowing that one cable to also carry Ethernet. While it doesn't change channels as fast as a UVerse receiver, in all other aspects it's better. My HR10 has now been sold on eBay.

DirecTv claims a TiVo MPEG4 unit will be available in about 6 months. But they've lost all credibility on that score, as that promise has been in effect since September 2008.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Flying to Europe: I'm flying to Barcelona at the end of June, and hope the current lack of issues there from volcanic ash is the case then.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Good Luck flying to Europe: Here is a nice map
showing the spread of the ash:

Double click on map to enlarge.

Click here for a list of airports and their status.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Twitter Security: As with Buzz and Facebook, default Security settings open you up to the whole world and can create bad situations. Read the following for suggestions here.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Facebook Security: The New York Times recently had an article on how to secure your account so you're not giving out information to everyone that you hadn't intended to. Read it here. Other takes on the subject are here and here.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

QUICKEN 2010 - On Tuesday August 14, 2007, I blogged on the literal impossibility of moving MS Money data into Quicken 2007. I am thrilled to report (especially with MS Money 2008 being the last Version of MS Money) that its now transparent and trivial to convert an MS Money data file into Quicken 2010. One clicks Convert, waits a couple of minutes and its done. ABOUT TIME.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Google's New "BUZZ" will Invade your privacy:

Read This, then


Log into GMAIL

In upper right hand corner, select Settings

On next page on right most menu item, select Buzz

On next page for "Display following lists", select lower button ""

Click on Save changes


Monday, January 18, 2010

No ATT U-VERSE for me !:
Turns out the U-Verse whole house DVR is no such thing. In other than the room of the DVR one can not perform most standard DVR functions while watching live TV, particularly Pause or Rewind.

ATT wants to charge $7/month for dumb receivers after the DVR. DirecTv charges $5/month for addtional DVRs, so if 3 rooms are wired up, with ATT I could record 4 programs, only 2 of which could be HD. With DirecTv, I could record 6 programs at once, all of them HD.

I could never get confirmation of the promotions attached to my account, and too many folks have posted on the web that ATT tries to cheat them out of promised promotions. I could never get written confirmation that my Install would truly be free, and my DirecTv wiring would be left intact.

Then had I wanted just U-Verse Internet and Phone, all promotions would drop off, and I was promised at least a $149 Install fee. Not acceptable.

I was particularly annoyed at the heavy migration of ATT Call Centers to third world locations with unintelligible agents.

It was unacceptable to have so many customer support offices keeping "Bankers Hours". Basically ATT still thinks it is and/or acts like it is a monopoly. Luckily it is not.

So I have cancelled my U-Verse Install