PhillipBlanton.com

"Save me, oh God, from people who have no sense of humor."
— Ludlow Porch

The password as a security mechanism is long dead.

Your password must be at least 18770 characters long...

That is a real warning message I got some years ago. I saved the screenshot and while looking through old images in my computer, I came across it. It was obviously a programming error, as it was not the real password requirements, but it got me thinking about passwords and how totally broken the idea of securing computer systems with passwords has become.

Why do people shop at Ace Hardware?

When I'm shopping for things online, I occasionally I see Ace Hardware show up in the listings, and I'm ALWAYS offended as hell at their prices. For instance today I'm looking for a gas griddle grill and I see that Dick's has the best price. Too bad I don't ever buy anything from Dicks. I always steer clear of retailers who engage in politics.

Another good price I see is from Ace. Only slightly higher than Dick's, so I click on it and BAM!!

Are you kidding me Ace? $750 for shipping?!

That's the kind of thing that inscrutable Ebay sellers do. Attract you in with a nice price then REAM THE HELL OUT OF YOU with inflated shipping. I certainly don't expect a "reputable" retailer like Ace Hardware to engage in tactics like that.

Also. How come you charge THREE TIMES as much sales tax as Dick's?

Never shop at Ace Hardware.

Red Hat Linux 8 is Available!

Red Hat Linux 8 has been officially released. If you are a developer and want to use Red Hat, but don't want to pay the $99 developer licensing fee, go register for a free developer account at https://developer.RedHat.com.

Follow these instructions for creating a RHEL 8 x64 Hyper V VM on Windows 10.

If you're not using Windows, or you already have VMWare or Fusion, or Parallels, or VirtualBox that you'd rather use, then skip the Hyper V part of the instructions and  follow the rest of them to create your RHEL8 development environment and configure it with the software development suite.

Don't forget to Have a Lot of Fun! --- that doesn't seem right ;-)

Foxit's PDF to Word Convertor Seriously Misses The Mark

Today I was working on a PDF document that needed some changes. For instance, the part where you are supposed to enter your name and address looks like this...

...and the form is not editable. If I were to just print it out, I'd have to use White-Out to cover that up, then find my old typewriter so I can fill in the right information.

While looking at the document in Foxit Reader, I see a link at the top, advertising their "Free PDF to Word Covertor!" so I bonk on it and upload the file.

The resulting *.docx file it returned to me contains the result of taking a screen-shot image of each of the PDF pages, and pasting each one into a word document. It made absolutely no attempt to actually convert a simple text-based PDF document into editable text in a Word document. Purely useless.

I noticed in the botton-right corner of the web page, a little javascript chat window asking me if I needed help. I clicked it and typed "I really don't need help, but since you're asking... your PDF to Word convertor sucks."

They replied, "Great!".

Does anybody actually test any of their software?

 

Microsoft Abandons the Edge Browser.

Microsoft building Chrome-based browser to replace Edge on Windows 10

https://thehackernews.com/2018/12/edge-browser-anaheim-chromium.html

Why is Microsoft spending ANY money on building browsers? Why does Microsoft *NEED* a browser? They've NEVER been good at making them. Let Firefox and Chrome have the browser "market".

I simply don't get why Windows NEEDS to have a "default" browser. Especially one so deeply ingrained into the operating system that it cannot be removed. The only thing the people that I know, use Edge for is to install Chrome and Firefox on a new Windows machine. I wish I could uninstall it after that. It seems a tremendous waste of money for Microsoft to keep investing in browser development. ANYTHING Microsoft deliver will be thought a joke, and only used to ... download Chrome and/or Firefox in a new installation.

In the corporate world eight to ten years ago, ALL websites only had to be IE compatible. Now I regularly see corporate websites that say "Do not use Internet Explorer. This site will only work on modern browsers like Chrome or Firefox." No mention of Edge EVER.

Microsoft. Focus on creating a stable, high-performance, secure operating system that doesn't spy on its users, and let other people worry about building the application stack.

The best things you've  ever done application-wise is the Office Suite (except for Outlook) and the Visual Studio development tool stack. Your servers like SQL Server and IIS are great too, but your other client software has always sucked - Microsoft Bob anyone?.

Your browsers have been garbage for so long that they are perceived as a slightly off-color, mildly offensive joke that just makes people roll their eyes and quietly wish it would just stop. Edge may be a technologically superior application, but nobody is ever going to use it in any real numbers, and whatever you replace it with will be treated the same way.  You've lost the browser war so thoroughly, that you're like Hiroo Onoda; the Japanese soldier found in the Philippine Lubang jungle in 1974, not having been told the war was over. At least that fine man was driven by an overwhelming sense of honor.

Stop fighting a war that's been over for years, and go do something you're good at.

Warby Parker - Crazy, Broken, Bad Experience

I am experiencing one of the things my father warned me about when I was a cocky, know-it-all kid. "Someday that 20-10 vision will fade, and you'll have a hard time seeing things. You'll have to wear glasses and glasses suck." Well, here I am; and I've been here for a while now.

I normally get my eyes examined every three years or so, and that's when I get two new pairs of glasses. One pair of sunglasses and one pair of what I call, "Night-Vision glasses". They're really just clear-lensed versions of my "Day-Vision" sunglasses. I recently got my eyes examined, and armed with my shiny-new prescription, headed to $39 glasses .com

$39 Glasses Dot Com

The last time I bought glasses, I got them from $39 glasses Dot Com and it was a good experience overall, aside from the fact that on the first pair of sunglasses they made for me, the lenses were polarized oppositely from each other, making the world appear a surreal, shiny thing. I sent them back and they fixed it for me, but it did take about ten days to get it remedied.

Of course their name is misleading. My glasses cost about $250 each and NOT $39.

Unfortunately they no longer carry wide frames and I have skull that is a little wider than normal at my temples. Since their site is not equipped to let you search by frame size, I wasted about an hour there before hit the chat button and was told that they no longer carry frames wide enough for me. Dismayed, I moved on to Warby Parker.

Warby Parker

I'm not a hipster, doofus, millennial but Warby Parker has some nice frames that are priced well, plus they offer a "Try Five For Free" deal where you pick five frames that you like, and they mail them to you for a personal fitting session. Plus, they let you search frames by size. They also have a quiz that you can spend about a minute on, that will narrow down the frame selection to only things you'll like. We were off to a good start! I picked five frames and "checked out".

The frames arrived yesterday and none of them fit well except one. The Gilbert in Mission Clay Fade. It was like they were custom made for my head. They sort of "snapped" into place when I put them on and rested lightly wherever they touched me, without slipping in any direction; plus they looked good on this old cowboy-hippie-hacker's face. They were perfect. I packed up all of the test frames and headed to the Warby Parker website to complete my order.

I selected the Gilbert in Mission Clay Fade, and went to select my lens package. I prefer prescription lenses with a standard, lined +2.25 bifocal in both dark gray sunglasses and clear lens packages. I was prepared to buy two pairs of the Gilbert, with different lens packages.

The first hint of trouble was when I noticed that they don't offer regular lined bifocals. Apparently Warby Parker customers are more about vanity and ONLY wear progressives. I tried progressives once and HATE THEM! I'll ONLY wear lined bifocals. They are the perfect multi-vision eyeglasses and I really don't care what others think of the lines. I thought, surely this can't be true. Surely I can get regular lined bifocals from a hugely popular eye-wear company like Warby Parker!? So I chose the Progressives and moved forward, hoping I could change it later; but I cannot.

No Lined Bifocals Available = FAIL

The next choice was the lens color. I was going to order two pairs of glasses. One in clear and one in dark gray, polarized sunglasses. Unfortunately the only choices I had at Warby Parker is clear, and "Light Responsive". I don't like Light-Responsive sunglasses, because I mostly need my sunglasses while driving, and the UV protection in windshields prevents the light-sensing / auto-darkening feature in those from darkening. They're fine for outside, but they are mostly useless in a car.

No Polarized Dark Lens Option for Sunglasses = FAIL 

Disappointed, I moved on to GlassesUSA.com

GlassesUSA.com

I ended up buying two pairs of new glasses with Oakley frames from GlassesUSA.com. When you first hit the website, they will offer you a 60% discount coupon code if you enter your email address. I did that, and then later learned that the discount doesn't apply to "premium" frames. Since I ordered Oakley frames, the discount code didn't work. I called their customer service line and the lady on the phone suggested a few discount codes until I was able to find one that took $100 off of the glasses I chose. I ended up paying $180 for the sunglasses.

By the way, their "Keyword Search" box is useless. I tried entering "Crosslink" "Twoface" and "Oakley" into it but the results were as if it were totally ignoring my search term and randomly showing me things.

The ones I chose were Oakley Twoface Steel with my prescription in lined polarized, dark-gray bifocals with silver mirror tint. I searched through a lot of frames before I realized that you must limit your search to those that will accept bifocals.

The next pair I selected for my clear glasses, were the Oakley Crosslink 0.5 Black. I got them with my prescription in lined bifocals with all of the coatings, and a new thing called "Digital Block Lenses". I'm not sure about that. It may be hokum, but I paid $30 for it because these are the glasses I'll use while at the computer. We'll see how it turns out.

Here's what GlassesUSA says about "Digital Block Lenses"...

Overall I highly recommend GlassesUSA.com. Before you checkout, be sure to call their customer service line and ask for the best discount code. The operator will work with you to get you the best discount she can.
For posterity, in the event that those links go down, here are the glasses I chose...

 

Stitcher is abusing its "Player Controls" permission to show ads.

I just got a "notification" on my Pixel XL phone. It was from Stitcher and it was the normal "Player Controls" that are allowed in the notification area when you're playing a podcast, except this time it was for an audio program that was clearly marked as an ad for something called "Threedom".

I immediately checked the app's ability to send me notifications, and noticed that the permission it apparently used was "Player Controls" which it used to provide podcast controls in the notification area, which is useful. If Stitcher is going to abuse that permission to show un-wanted ads, then it will be a fatal error in their judgement and the application is going to be DELETED.

I know that Stitcher is free, and if the product is free, then you're the product; but abusing a permission to slide an ad into the user's notifications is NOT OK. Free or not.

   
 

Admittedly, this is a knee-jerk reaction. I have no proof that Stitcher is doing anything untoward. I recently downloaded a photo montage app that behaved normally for exactly one week, then started tossing full page ads up over my phone's home screen even when the app wasn't running. Luckily for me, I don't install apps very often so I knew EXACTLY which app was the offender. I deleted it and ripped it a deservedly bad review.

My daughter has the same phone as I do, and is plagued by ads that cover her phone all the time. Since she installs apps often, she has no idea which app is the offender. My knee-jerk reaction to this perceived slight by Stitcher may be an overreaction based on these events, but I will be keeping an eye on the app's behavior.

Amazon Only Allowing Positive Reviews.

I am beginning to seriously mistrust Amazon reviews. There have been a number of times recently where I went to put in a review on a product that I have purchased and I got this...

I understand things like the Comey book, where people with differing political opinions may deluge the item with negative reviews, but I still think that Amazon should allow anyone who has actually purchased the item, to review it in any way he/she feels.

That said, there is NO WAY that the PowerLix milk frother that I was reviewing, had any "unusual reviewing activity".

My complete review is here. It is too bad that Amazon is doing this. I used to value their product reviews, but now I have no reason to believe they are anything less than shill-driven BS.

Don't Forget About the Disgrace!

I have received a couple of these emails lately. Two to be precise. I have obscured the bitcoin address, and the key the scammer put in the subject line, just in case any of you were to get any ill-advised ideas of actually sending an email to "tellthemaboutjesus.com".

Ironic email domain huh?

I did a cursory reconnaissance on it and it is a live domain but is serving nothing particularly interesting on port 80. In case you don't know, the scammer doesn't need to ever actually receive email at the email address he lists, as long as his bitcoin address is valid and he can receive payments, his scam can be lucrative.

         

If you are the kind of person who engages in things on the Internet that, ... could cause you concern if you were to receive such a message, fear not. This is a bullshit attempt to separate a random person (you) from your money. Most of the time, these scammers acquire your email address from a bundle of breach data on the dark web. Commonly when websites are breached, their data is posted on the dark web for just this type of nefarious activity. To be notified whenever your personal data is made available in this manner, sign up for a free account at "Have I Been Pwned" (https://haveibeenpwned.com/).

I was talking with a friend recently who got one that had one of his old passwords in it. This is NOT an indication that the sender is in any way more attached to your computer. most of these breach postings on the dark web contain your email address and password to whatever site got breached. This is another reason that you should use a password tool like 1Password, or LastPass and NEVER use the same password on more than one site. If you do get a message like this and it has your password (or a recent password that you recognize) that's no more reason to fret than the scammer having your email address is.

These messages prey on the very large percentage of people who engage in this type of behavior online and aren't particularly tech-savvy; but let's assume for a minute the scammer is telling the truth (he isn't), and you do pay him. What's to prevent him from sending the video of "your disgrace" to your email contact list?

The inherent trustworthiness of internet scammers?

The rule of thumb for these masturbation threat scams, is the same as it is for all of them. Delete the email and forget about it. NEVER engage an online scammer or you will identify yourself as a naive, mark and you'll never hear the end of it.

If the idea of this type of hack (which is possible by the way) scares you, then you can do at least some of these things to protect yourself online...

  1. Unplug or cover your webcam at all times unless you're using it.
  2. Use a good malware / virus software package like eset NOD32.
  3. Use something like Mac OSX, or Linux. ANYTHING other than Windows.
    Microsoft Windows has the largest installed user-base on the planet, making its users the most attractive targets of malware and hacking attempts. Avoid it.
  4. Install a Pi-Hole on your network and use it as your router's DNS resolver.
  5. Use OpenDNS for the Pi-Hole's DNS resolver and enable all of the OpenDNS filters that shut down malware, adware, and pornography.