PhillipBlanton.com

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

The FBI's new Vault.

The FBI just opened up a new website at http://vault.fbi.gov. Then they released thousands of previously classified documents under the freedom of information act.

I logged in and searched for myself. I am not in any FBI docs... whew!

Then I searched for UFO, and UFO related stuff. This is the most compelling document of all that I have read...

http://vault.fbi.gov/hottel_guy/Guy%20Hottel%20Part%201%20of%201/view

Go read it and make up your own mind. Remember that this isn't a kooky, new-age website. It is the FBI! 

"Rejected ACH Transaction" NACHA Spam

I have been receiving about two of these per week. They often point to different domains, many of which have been shut down by the time I receive the message.

<http://nacha.org/images/nacha_logo.gif> 

The ACH transfer (ID: 283291090211), recently initiated from your checking account (by you or any other person), was rejected by the other financial institution.

Rejected transaction
Transaction ID: 	283291090211	 
Reason for rejection	 See details in the report below 	
Transaction Report 	report_283291090211.pdf.exe <http://witheld>  (self-extracting archive, Adobe PDF) 	

13450 Sunrise Valley Drive, Suite 100 Herndon, VA 20171 (703) 561-1100 

2011 NACHA - The Electronic Payments Association

Research indicates that most of these lead to a ZEUS infected website with the goal being to infect your machine with the ZEUS malware. ZEUS is a very dangerous trojan that is designed to steal banking information from you as you log on to your bank accounts. ZEUS contains an advanced keylogger and phones home with your banking login information, username, and password. If you have followed a link in a NACHA message, it is likely that you are infected with ZEUS. You should immediately take steps to rectify the situation. A good antvirus like ESET's NOD32 is an absolute MUST! 

If you haven't received one of these yet, you will. When you do delete it immediately. DO NOT follow the links. NACHA.org will NEVER send an email like this to you. If you receive an email from NACHA, IT IS A SCAM! DELETE IT!

Dang! I Wanted GMail Motion to be Real.

Last Friday, I was sent the link by a coworker and was initially fooled by GMail Motion and I wanted it! The further I got into the video though, the more I realized that the date carried an ominous message.

Microsoft's April Fool's joke was easier to spot, but didn't make me cry, "WANT!" like the gmail one did.

I now DEMAND that Google make a GMail Motion product that at least allows me to gesture in order to manage my gmail messages. The part about actually typing messages using gestures is stupid, unless it can learn American Sign Language. A great first step would be the ability to open, reply, reply all, delete, etc..

Google... GET ON IT! You pranked me and it tuned into work. MAKE IT SO!

Update: 4/7/2011
A hobbyist took his Kinect module and wrote up a little code that allows him to control GMail with gestures. Mostly like in Google's April Fool's day joke! See the video here.

BlogEngine.net 2.0 Upgrade

A couple of months ago I noticed that the BlogEngine.net guys had released the 2.0 version of their excellent and free blog software. I had decided that since the new version has awesome SQL Server integration, I was going to switch from XML-based data storage to SQL Server 2008 R2. 

Yesterday I took the plunge and upgraded my site. Here's how I did it...

Before starting, log in to your existing website as administrator and export your blog contants to a BlogML file as follows...

  1. Log in as Admin and click "Settings" from the administration links.
  2. Scroll to the bottom of the page, to the Import & Export section and follow the wizard to create a BlogML export file on your local machine.

Now it's time to install the new BlogEngine.Net 2.x

  1. Download the latest version of BlogEngine.net (which in my case was 2.0.0.36) and install it into a separate directory alongside your exiting 1.6 installation.
  2. Follow the steps to create the new database and run the database scripts.
  3. Set up directory security using "Network Service" and set up the security properly on your SQL Server database.
  4. Copy the .NET 4.0 SQL Server web.config file from the proper setup directory, and modify the connection string to point to the right database, and use integrated security.
  5. Delete the contents of the App_Data folder, since we won't be needing those files.
  6. If you are storing any imagery in a local folder on the old site, you'll need to move that folder over to the new site as well. If you are using Flickr or some other service for images, then that's not necessary.
  7. Edit the website settings in IIS as follows...
     - Edit the ApplicationPool, so as to enable .NET 4.0 and run under the "Network Service" identity.
     - Point the website's home directory path to the new installation.

You should be able to hit the site now, set up basic site settings and change your admin password. If everything works right, let's import the blog contents from the old site as follows...

  1. Log in as admin.
  2. In the administration menu, click on "Settings".
  3. On the settings page, there is a set of tabs along the right hand side. Select "Import & Export".
  4. Click the "Import" button and browse to the BlogML export file you created earlier.
  5. Follow the prompts to upload and install it.

That should have merged your content with the default content from the new installation. This will ONLY import the blog content. None of the users, or settings from the old site will be migrated. Delete the sample posts and you should be all set.

In my case, I noticed that the pages didn't get migrated, so I switched IIS to the old site (which ran under .NET 4.0 without a hitch!), copied out the contents of each page and then switched back to the new site and manually re-created each one. It was kind of a pain and something I didn't expect, since I was led to believe that the export would get the pages too. 

Note: Themes from the older version of BlogEngine.net will mostly work, but if they have a link to the login page in the theme, then you will need to edit that to point to the new login page location on BE.NET 2.0.

Qwest DSL blocking port 25 without notice.

In early February I noticed that I could no longer send email from my home computer. It is a Windows machine and as far as I knew, the rest of the family on Macbook Pros, had no issue. I also seemingly had no issue on my Macbook Pro. The problem seemed to be isolated to my Windows 7 Desktop machine.

I uninstalled my email client and reinstalled it to no avail. I finally removed the hard drive and installed a new one, upon which I reinstalled the operating system from scratch. Still no e-mail. I was stymied.

Then last night, my wife said she hadn't been able to send email for a while. My daughter piped up and said, "Oh yeah... me too". I got to work troubleshooting in earnest. I started by trying to send email from my Macbook Pro. No dice. Then I turned on my wifi app on my Android and connected my Macbook to it's internet connection and was able to send without worry. Turns out I was using my Macbook email only while at work on their wifi network connection. I just hadn't noticed the problem on the macbook while at home.

After a little more debugging, (telnet 63.247.203.244 25) I discovered that port 25 was being blocked by my ISP. Apparently Qwest had just decided to block that port for me, with no notice, or warning or anything. Just BAM! blocked.

I called them and informed them of my displeasure. The tech apologized and said that the FEDERAL GOVERNMENT MADE THEM DO IT! Well of course that was a lie. The federal government doesn't regulate them to that degree. They decided to do it on their own in order to block spam from customer's computers that had been infected with a virus. I understand the policy, but what I don't get it the decision to just block port 25 with NO WARNING!

They were kind enough to remove the block for me and after resetting my router, the problem was fixed. If you are on Qwest DSL and don't have a static IP address, and can no longer send email. Port 25 filtering has likely been activated on your account. Call Qwest and ask them to remove the filter and they will.

Update May 10, 2011:

My eighty year-old neighbor came over the other day, describing problems he was having with his email. I went over and had a look, and sure enough. Internet connection was fine, he could receive email, just not send it. After a call to QWest to have them turn off the port 25 block on his account, he was back in shape. Apparently QWest is applying port 25 blocking to groups of people at a time. Clearly my next-door neighbor and I are on the same subnet, but my port 25 was blocked months before they blocked his.

What is an eighty year-old guy supposed to do if he doesn't have a techie for a neighbor? Shame on you QWEST!

Blog Comments

I checked this site today and noticed that there were over FIFTY THOUSAND blog spam comments. In fact, during the hour I spent deleting them, about twenty more came in. Therefore I have temporarily disabled the ability to leave comments on this website.

I will look into getting a CAPTCHA control and maybe beefing up my spam handling, but for now, the process of deleting the spam is so painful that I am just leaving commenting turned off.

Free Telephone Conferencing

I have a small startup software consultancy, (www.phasepoint.net) and often times need to hold conference calls with clients. I was using the conferencing service provided by our telephone system, (www.Freedomvoice.com) but they were charging me 14 cents per minute per attendee. Last month I used 1300 minutes of conferencing and it cost me $112 (I get the first 500 minutes free each month); so I did a little research. I found two companies that provide free teleconferencing service.

Free Conference Call   http://www.freeconferencecall.com
Free Conference   http://www.freeconference.com/

FreeConferenceCall.com Reservationless Service

  • Maximum Number of Callers: 96
  • Maximum Length: 6 hours
  • Free Call Recording and Playback: Yes
  • Web Controls: No
  • Access from any phone: Yes
  • No computer needed: Yes
  • Toll Free Number: No
  • Account Management Services: Yes
  • Maximum number of conferences per month: Unlimited 

FreeConference.com Reservationless Service

  • Maximum Number of Callers: 150
  • Maximum Length: 3 hours
  • Free Call Recording and Playback: No
  • Web Controls: No
  • Access from any phone: Yes
  • No computer needed: Yes
  • Toll Free Number: No
  • Account Management Services: Yes
  • Maximum number of conferences per month: Unlimited 

I signed up for an account with the first one, FreeConferenceCall.com and tried it out last night with one other caller. It was perfect. The sound was crystal clear and I wasn't subjected to any ads. To sign up, I only had to give them my name and email address. I still don't know what the "catch" is, but there has to be one, right?

So far, I highly recommend these conferencing services. Especially if you have a small busines on a shoestring budget. Maybe their business model is to help you get off the ground, then hope you upgrade to their paid services for more functionality. I will update this post as I learn more.

Setting up Windows 7 and Visual Studio 2010 for WCF development

I have been looking for the definitive article that tells you how to set up Windows 7 and Visual Studio 2010 for WCF development and I haven't found it yet. I did however find the information I need; most of which can be found here...

http://www.schnieds.com/2008/10/setting-up-iis7-in-vista-for-aspnet-wcf.html

Once I get some time, I'll write my own article. For now, go there and pick and choose the information you need.