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July 27, 2009

AT&T Unblocks /b/

AT&T has unblocked /b/ claiming the initial block was due to a suspected DDoS attack coming from a 4chan.org IP address.

 

Beginning Friday, an AT&T customer was impacted by a denial-of-service attack stemming from IP addresses connected to img.4chan.org. To prevent this attack from disrupting service for the impacted AT&T customer, and to prevent the attack from spreading to impact our other customers, AT&T temporarily blocked access to the IP addresses in question for our customers. This action was in no way related to the content at img.4chan.org; our focus was on protecting our customers from malicious traffic.

Overnight Sunday, after we determined the denial-of-service threat no longer existed, AT&T removed the block on the IP addresses in question. We will continue to monitor for denial-of-service activity and any malicious traffic to protect our customers.

 

http://www.att.com/gen/press-room?pid=4800&cdvn=news&newsarticleid=26970

 

Time will tell if this is true or not, but it seems unlikely that that 4chan.org was the source of a DDoS…in fact, by definition, a single IP CANT be a DDoS, either way, the ban is lifted and it was smart of AT&T to do so.

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July 26, 2009

A War is Brewing…

In what might be one of the companies biggest mistakes, AT&T has decided to block /b/ for many of its customers.

/b/ for those who don't know, is a dark corner of the  internet that only the brave should venture, (seriously, not for the faint of heart), and it the epicenter of 4chan.org and home to anonymous.

Moot, founder of 4chan, has acknowledged the issue:

 

It's come to our attention that AT&T is filtering/blocking img.4chan.org (/b/ & /r9k/) for many of their customers. There is no remedy at this time.
If you've been affected, I would advise you call or write customer support and corporate immediately.

 

Calls for Pizza Delivery to AT&T store, attacks on the AT&T network, and many other actions (most high juvenile, other highly sophisticated) are being called for.

Think about your next steps very carefully AT&T. You are a very large company with billions of dollars to lose, these are a group of internet users, with little to nothing to lose, and have a history of doing damage to those who they dislike, imagine what they will do to someone targeting them…

 

Will AT&T be the next Hal Turner, Scientology, or Kenny Glenn? Time will tell.

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July 20, 2009

A Hero’s Final Journey

This is not something I normally do on this blog, in fact I try to stay about as far away from politics as I can, but this is something I felt should be shared. Ask 10 different people how they feel about our current or any past administration and you will get 10 different answers. Some would complain until they are blue in the face about policies and law put in place, others will proclaim their greatness given the lightest of chances, but love our administration or hate them or their policies, including policies about the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, we need to support our troops.

Our troops are in the desert to defend our country, they are here on our bases, the bases I have grown up around, to ensure I get to wake up every morning and have the freedoms that I do. They risk their lives to defend these freedoms, and anyone who doesn't recognize the sacrifice of these men and women, the courage and honor in all of them, do not deserve and ounce of the freedom they protect; the same freedom that allows you to criticize the president, and speak poorly about these men and women. Hate the policies if you must, that is your right, but please remember who has died to give you those rights.

Below is a video of Sergeant John C. Beale’s final journey from Falcon Field in Peachtree, Georgia (just south of Atlanta)  to his final resting place; McDonough, Georgia. Sergeant Beale was killed in action in the first week of June, and people gather along the roadway to show their respect for this fallen hero.

I grew up, and currently reside in Hawaii, a state with one of the highest military populations in the country, we have a base for every single branch of the military here. Much of my family has severed in the military, and while I decided to take a different route in life, I have respect for those men and women who wake up every morning, put on that uniform and know that it their duty to protect us. Many close friends have been deployed to Iraq, Kuwait, Korea, and Afghanistan in the last few years, some are their right now, and posts like this are dedicated to all of them.

Thank you for your sacrifice, and please remember, you are always in our thoughts.

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July 17, 2009

A Joke…

A man in a hot air balloon, realizing he was lost, reduced altitude and spotted a woman below. He descended further and shouted to the lady "Excuse me, can you help me? I promised a friend I would meet him an hour ago, but I don't know where I am" 

The woman below replied, "You're in a hot air balloon, hovering approximately 30 feet above the ground. You're between 40 and 41 degrees north latitude and between 59 and 60 degrees west longitude." 

"You must be in I.T . ," said the balloonist. 

"Actually I am," replied the woman, "How did you know?" 

"Well," answered the balloonist, "everything you have told me is technically correct but I've no idea what to make of your information and the fact is I'm still lost. Frankly, you've not been much help at all. If anything, you've delayed my trip." 

The woman below responded, "You must be in Management." 

"I am," replied the balloonist, "but how did you know?" 

"Well," said the woman, "you don't know where you are or where you're going. You have risen to where you are due to a large quantity of hot air. You made a promise, which you've no idea how to keep, and you expect people beneath you to solve your problems. The fact is you are in exactly the same position you were in before we met, but now, somehow, it's my fucking fault!"

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June 26, 2009

Windows 7 Pricing Announced!

Windows 7 is an amazing OS, and I highly encourage everyone to get it. Ill be getting the Pro version for work, and Ultimate for home. Unless you need the domain connectivity and security benefits of the professional version, or the media features of the ultimate edition, home basic is what you want.  

Also, starting in mid July, all new computers purchased with Windows Vista, will be eligible for a free upgrade to the equivalent version of Windows 7 when it is released, and as much as I like Vista, after using Windows 7, I have to say, your computer will probable run even better after the upgrade.

 

For the home user: Windows 7 Home Premium

Full Version: $199.99

Upgrade from XP or Vista: $119.99 $49.99- Limited time pre order offer.

 

For Business Users: Windows 7 Professional

 Full Version: $299.99

Upgrade from XP or Vista: $199.99  $99.99 – Limited time pre order offer

 

For those who want it all: Windows 7 Ultimate

Full Version: $320.00

Upgrade from XP or Vista: $219.00 (sorry guys, no special here)

 

Special Pricing ends July 11, 2009

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June 24, 2009

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

So last night was the premier of Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen, and as someone who loves movies, I was totally down for a midnight showing. Before going, I read up on a lot of the reviews, and was very disappointed with what I saw, I mean Rodger Ebert called the movie “a horrible experience of unbearable length, briefly punctuated by three or four amusing moments.” All I can say to Mr. Ebert is, Suck it.

Now, if you decided to go see Transformers and thought you would be walking into a hear moving, and deeply touching film, then 1. You are an idiot 2. You have no idea what the hell Transformers are and were basically setting yourself up for disappointment. If you went to the movie expecting some awesome giant robots shooting, punching, kicking and stabbing, then you got exactly what you wanted. I thought the movie was great. It was exactly what I wanted, a plot that was only there to tie together giant robots fighting, no more, no less.

Awesome things about the movie:

1. Giant Fighting Robots

opt 

2. Sexy Women (*cough*Megan Fox*cough*)

 

3. Sexy Cars

transformers

Seriously? Do you need more?

Bottom line: No, “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” is not the next Citizen Kane, but it is a decent action flick, and if you want big explosions, fighting robots, and good looking women, go see the movie. If you want a deep, heart warming movie, go see something else.

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June 23, 2009

Apple’s MobileMe Helps Owner find “lost” iPhone

I am about as hardcore of a Microsoft/Windows fan as you can get. I love the company and the products, but I can also recognize when someone has made a great product,  and Apple has done that. The iPhone is a fantastic device, and with the release of the 3.0 firmware, it has gotten even better, and Kevin (www.happywaffle.com) has found this out first hand.

Kevin and some friends went to have a drink at a bar after a Lego convention (yea, he is THAT awesome), but unfortunately, left his precious iPhone behind when they left. Like any good (and by good I mean addicted) phone user, Kevin noticed his error very quickly, but by the time he got back to the bar, his phone was gone. Of course, Kevin was bummed, but then it came to him, not only did Kevin have an iPhone, but he had set up the “Locate your iPhone” feature on apples MobileMe! And so Kevin’s journey (hunt) began.

Multiple unanswered texts, several ignored calls, some luck, and a high speed chase brisk walk through a crowded urban neighborhood, and Kevin, with friends, was able to track down the person who *found* Kevin’s phone! And while I don't necessarily recommend chasing down bad guys, you can help but cheer on Kevin.

Read the full tale on Kevin’s rarely updated blog

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June 22, 2009

Virus Harvests Confidential Banking Info from ATMs

A new virus has been discovered on ATMs throughout Russia and the Ukraine. The ATMs; running Microsoft’s Windows XP operating system, appear to have had been infected with a 50Kb piece of malware. The malware, which ran under the guise of lsass.exe, an executable which is normally used to cache users credentials to make accessing data easier, evaded normal virus scans and security checks.

As the piece of malware sits undetected, it gathers not only the card number of any card used on the machine, but also the start and expiration date of the card, the pin, and the 3-digit security code. All of this information was stored on the ATMs hard drive until the person controlling the virus decided it was time to collect. The method for retrieving the data was also very smart and likely contributed to staying undetected for so long. When the thief was ready to collect, they simply went to the ATM, inserted a preprogrammed “trigger” card, and all of the data was printed out via the ATMs receipt printer. So far, the malware has been found on 20 ATMs, and the experts at SpiderLabs, the company that located the bug, has said that it is likely it if more wide spread, and likely to continue to spread. It is up to banks to now tighten up their security procedures as well as pay careful attention to the audit trails that up until now have been used to make sure customer data was being transmitted securely.

As a bank user, the best thing you can do is pay careful attention to your bank and credit card statements and your credit report. You can get a free credit report for the Big 3 credit agencies by visiting https://www.annualcreditreport.com/, or check with your bank/credit card company to see if they offer free/cheap credit monitoring.

 

 

See the article on New Scientist for more info.

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June 19, 2009

FBI agent looks back on time posing as a Cyber Criminal

A good Q&A with FBI Special Agent J. Keith Mularski (AKA: Master  Splynter), the agent who went undercover for 2 years pretending to be an infamous hacker and spammer to infiltrate "Dark Market"; an online group of cyber criminals.

"It was like a soap opera. There was constant drama going on. A lot of people were accusing one another of being cops."

After spending 2 years undercover, the sting ended with over 60 arrests in Germany, Turkey, The UK and the United States, with charges ranging from Identity theft to kidnapping.

Q. What sorts of crimes were they doing on Dark Market?
A. They were doing all sorts of identity theft. They were hacking into companies and stealing credit card numbers and selling them. They were selling counterfeit drivers' licenses and other photo documentation, as well as manufacturing fake credit cards. They were selling harvested bank accounts and brokerage accounts and selling different types of malware or spyware programs or Trojan horses that you could infect peoples' computers with. The whole gamut of the cyber underground was available there. If you needed it you could get it there on the site.

"The attackers have changed with the emergence of organized crime into these cybercrimes...It's all about the money now and not just about how elite my hacking skills are to get into this Web site. Profit is driving these groups."

Q. How old are they?
A. The average guy is in his mid-20s or so. We've seen guys in their 40s. Ages range from 17 to 40something, typically. A lot of the guys who we arrested were in their mid-30s.

Q. The stakes are higher now for everyone?
A. Definitely.

Read the Full Q&A on CNET

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April 2, 2009

More Warranty Services Calls…

More fun…

This time the calls came from: (269)768-2200

scam_alert_big

Call 5: (co-worker3’s work phone) 3:35pm
*blahblahblah press 1 to talk to a sales person*
Kiko:
Hi, this is Kiko calling from Warranty Services, are you interested in a warranty for your car?
Me: Hi Kiko, may I have your corporate offices number please?
Kiko: I’m sorry, I can’t give you that, I hope you have a good day *click*

*This call actually gets somewhere*

Call 6: (my work cell again) 3:46pm
*blahblahblah press 1 to talk to a sales person*
Caesar:
Hi, this is Caesar calling in regards to your automobile warranty expiring, can I have you first and last name as well as zip code please?
Me: zip code is 96813
Caesar: Thank you, and your first and last name?
Me: John Smith
Caesar: out records indicate that you have never bought a warranty from us.
Me: nope
Caesar: Thank you, and what year, make and model of your car?
Me: 1950 Ford Model T
Caesar: Do you have a newer car?
Me: no
Caesar: I'm, sorry, we cant process your warranty today.
Me: WHY NOT?!
Caesar: Unfortunately, its too old.
Me: How old can the car be?
Caesar: The car must be from 1983 or later, have fewer than 150k miles, and cannot be a commercial vehicle.
Me: Do you have a subsidiary or affiliate that can warranty commercial vehicles?
Caesar: No
Me: Well, I’m looking at buying a new car soon, can I have your number so I can call back and get a warranty?
Caesar: We don’t do that.
Me: You don't let people call to buy things from you?
Caesar: No, this is your final notice, if you don’t buy it now, we wont ever call you back, and your number will be deleted.
Me: But this is the second time you’ve called this number today.
Caesar: That is because our database takes 24 hours to update, so tomorrow your number will be deleted.
Me: Well, good luck on the not letting people buy things. Talk to you tomorrow.

Call 7 (co-worker3’s personal cell) 4:01pm

Call got disconnected before we could get to a person.

Call 8 (co-worker2’s personal cell again) 4:05pm

Call got disconnected before I could talk to somone.

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Dear Warranty Services…

Today has been a day full of fun with telemarketers. Now, normally, I simply answer the phone and let them know I am not interested. I scam_alert_big know the guy on the other line is just trying to earn a pay check, so I’m not about to start screaming at them. But this is getting ridiculous (well for my co-workers, I find it hilarious). I missed a couple of their calls yesterday because I was on the other line, but I made sure I was ready today.

The Number that has been calling so far is: (571) 431-1262
They Claim to be from Warranty Cervices, which is a well known Scam

Call 1(this was to my work cell): 11:36 am
*blahblahblah press 1 to talk to a sales person*
Girl Caller: Thank you for responding to your final notice, to ensure accurate information, can you please confirm the year, make and model of your vehicle? 
Me: How do you know the warranty is expired if you don't have the car’s info?
*Click* call ends

Call 2 (co-worker1’s work cell): 12:42p
*blahblahblah press 1 to talk to a sales person*
Girl Caller: Thank you for responding to your final notice, to ensure accurate information, can you please confirm the year, make and model of your vehicle? 
Me: Thanks for calling about this. Is this for the Bentley or the BMW?
Girl Caller:*sounds excited* What year is your BMW sir?
Me: So this is for the BMW? I thought the Bentley was the one out of Warranty?
Girl Caller: “uhhh…*click*

Call 3 (my personal cell): 12:47p
*blahblahblah press 1 to talk to a sales person*
Guy Caller:
Thank you for responding to your final notice, to ensure accurate information, can you please confirm the year, make and model of your vehicle?
Me: I’m sorry, who was this?
Guy Caller: Warranty Services
Me: And your name?
Guy Caller: Rick
Me: Rick, may I have your corporate office’s number please?
Guy Caller: I cant give that to you, I’m sorry.
Me: No problem, may I speak with your supervisor?
*Click*

Call 4: (co-worker2’s cell phone) 1:01pm
*blahblahblah press 1 to talk to a sales person*
Girl Caller: Thank you for responding to your final notice, to ensure accurate information, can you please confirm the year, make and model of your vehicle? 
Me: I’m sorry, I didn't catch your name
Girl Caller: “Mu…mu…My Name?”
Me: Yea, so I know who I’m talking to
*click*

You would think these people would have more persistence, but nope, one question and they crack. Oh well, hopefully they call more, this is getting fun.

As always people, think before you give out your information. If someone calls and asks for your info, its probably a scam. Ask where they are from, and ask for a call back number. Then, if it is someone you do business with, go find their corporate number, and call that to get back in touch.

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April 1, 2009

First Conficker Attack? or Worst April Fools Day Joke Ever?

It looks like Time Warner Business Class for Oahu is going offline. Several clients are reporting outages, their phones and website are down, and TW Corporate live chat is not working. I will post updates as we get them. Anyone with info, feel free to contact me via the "Contact Me" link.


0919 HST

TW is back online... Just a power outage

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March 31, 2009

What's a Conficker?

What is the Conficker Worm?

Conficker (also known as Downup, Downadup, and Kido) is a worm that has been spreading across the Internet since around October of 2008, of course, this is just an approximation, and the actual origin is not known for certain. Conficker specifically targets the Windows operating system (Windows 2000 Pro, XP home, XP Pro, XP Media Center Edition, Windows Vista, Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2008). It spreads via malicious web sites, emails, and sharing infected files via P2P software.

What does Conficker do?

As of now, all that is has done is install itself, break your antivirus software, and modify some system files to make itself very hard to remove. It is also likely that if you got the Conficker Worm, you got other malware as well that causes the common symptoms (pop ups, slowness, etc). In addition, it creates false URLs in order to spread it self, and also downloads more malware to your system.

The big concern with this worm is that is has spread so much. Current estimates indicate that it could be installed on as many as 15 Million computers world wide. Now, if it stay dormant and does nothing, that's not that big of a deal, but experts don't think that it is going to stay dormant. Analysts who have looked into the worm believe that on April 1st, 2009 (tomorrow) the worm is programmed to "phone home" and update it self with new instructions, and that is a major concern.

The potential for a worm like this is massive, and the update could make the worm do anything from delete files, download more malware, turn your computer into a spam bot (a computer that sends out massive amounts of spam) or all the infected computers could be combined to form a massive botnet, which would be leased to the highest bidder.

A bot net, is a network of computers, usually lots of home systems spread across the world, that are controlled as a single unit and used to either send out massive amounts of spam, or to DDoS targets. If used as a botnet and the target is a bank, a utility company, or even a few large organizations the results could be crippling. If they target ISPs, the Internet could come to a crawl, if they target a company, they could lose massive amounts of business.

The problem is, at this point, we don't really know what will happen, and that is scary. But not to worry, we are not helpless.

Symptoms of Conficker:

  • Users being locked out of directories
  • Access to admin shares denied
  • Scheduled tasks being created
  • Access to security related web sites is blocked.

How to stop Conficker:

This worm uses a known exploit in Windows that Microsoft has patched a long time ago. The problem is, many people don't update their computers, so the fix is never installed. So the first step is to update your computer.

  1. Go to update.microsoft.com and install all of the latest updates for your computer. Once they are installed, reboot your computer, and go back and run the updates again. Keep doing this until no more updates show as needing to be installed.
  2. Update your anti virus software. Open up the software and run the automatic update. If your subscription is expired, either renew it right now, or uninstall it, and download and install a free anti virus like AVG
  3. After the updates, run a full system scan, and delete any threats that have been found.
  4. Restart your computer, and run the full system scan again.
  5. You can also use an online scanner like Trend Micro's HousecallSymantec's Removal Tool, or
  6. Microsoft's Malicious Software Removal Tool


For more information about the Conficker Worm See the following:

Microsoft Malware Protection Center

Microsoft Help and Support

McAfee Conficker Information Page

Symantec's Conficker Information Page

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    March 28, 2009

    A Response To "Why Can't Windows Shutdown Properly"

    An article written by Larry Magid and posted on CNET today complains about a problem with the Windows Operating system  win95taking too long to shutdown and start up. And while I agree that there are times Windows moves too slowly, I also have to point out that the reason is rarely Windows.

    The first thing you have to understand is what actually happens when Windows is shutdown. If the only thing installed on a computer is the Windows Operating system, then all that needs to happen for the computer to shutdown is:

    1. Anything in RAM that will be needed later is written to the hard drive.
    2. All open files are closed
    3. All Services required to run the computer are stopped
    4. Power to the hardware is stopped and the computer is now shutdown.

    This process doesn't change very much even after other software is installed, but what does change is what files need to be closed, what need to be written to the hard drive, and what services need to be stopped. This is where the problem comes in.

    Think about what is running on your computer right now, you probably think "oh...just my Internet browser", and chances are, you are probably wrong (at least, you should be wrong)

    On a typical computer the following types of software are installed, and at least a portion of them are running in the background (i.e. they aren't being actively used by the user)

    1. Antivirus software - this is a good thing by the way.
    2. Instant messaging software (I have 2 different IM services running, 1 for work, 1 for personal use)
    3. File indexing software (things like Microsoft Desktop Search or Google Desktop)
    4. Quicktime/iTunes services
    5. Software update services (used to update various pieces of software installed, and there can be several services depending on the software)
    6. Viruses (most computers I work on have AT LEAST 1 piece of Malware or a virus)

    So when you shutdown a computer, Windows must go through each one of these and stop them from running, when they are told to stop, they all go through their own processes to store data, close files, and end services. If there is a problem with the software, it may hang, and you will see that wonderful "Program not responding" error. This happens frequently when several things are trying to close at once because they are trying to access similar resources. If any of these programs have trouble closing, Widows can't shutdown.

    So why can't Windows just force a program closed and move on? Well, it is because if Windows just started forcing applications close, files that are being written to, or things that have not been saved yet can become corrupt or deleted, and that would cause even more problems.

    Windows being slow to start is caused by the exact same thing. All of that stuff you have auto starting can cause problems, and many of the hang ups experienced are caused by other programs not starting properly.

    The number 1 cause of these slowdowns are viruses and malware. Most software like this is not written to be efficient, they don't take standard coding 'rules' into account and are very rarely thoroughly tested. Because of this, they cause all kinds of problems, and the authors don't have to answer to anyone since the software shouldn't be installed in the first place. Pirated software that has been tampered with is also a major cause of these kinds of errors, as well as running software when your computer does not meet the required hardware specifications. Now, this isn't to say that Windows is always perfect, because it is not, but considering how universally used it is and how much different software can run on it, it is almost impossible to make sure it is 100% perfect all the time.

    Oh...and if you are thinking about comparing it to a Mac, please think about the total combinations of hardware/software available to work on a computer running Windows, and what's available for your Mac. There is no comparison, and because of that, you cant fairy compare the problems they have.

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    March 26, 2009

    Writing an Effective Email

    Email communications are a big part of most peoples day to day lives. I use email to keep in touch with friends and family, to get email_icon2 updates on things I am interested in, and of course, as my primary form of communications.

    On any given day, I will receive between 100-150 legitimate emails; and by legitimate, I mean I need to at least look at them to see what is going on, of those, I actually read about 40-50 in full because I really don't have the time (or need) to read through every single one in its entirety. I am able to go through a lot of the emails because they are well written and formatted. If an email is properly written, I am able to easily determine if the email is meant for me, if I need to reply to the email, and am able to get the info I need quickly. So lets talk about how an email should be composed, we will start from top to bottom.

    Determine who is going to receive the email:

    To: - The 'To' field should only be used for people who the email is directed at, and who you may want a response of some type from. If you want others to get the email as an 'FYI' don't put them in the 'To' section.

    CC: - CC stands for Carbon Copy, and that is exactly what this field is for. You add people to the CC section because while the email is not directed at them, you do want them to have a copy. Many times I will CC my boss or others who need to be kept in the loop on an issue, but don't actually need to reply to an email. They will get the email and have the information they need if asked about it, but really don't need to read it typically.

    BCC: - BCC should be used for 1 thing, and 1 thing only. To hide who you are sending a message to. This is a helpful feature when sending out company or department wide emails because it prevents people from replying to everyone by accident (or on purpose), or can be used to send a copy of emails to superiors, or departments like HR or Legal if they need to be aware of an issue, but you don't want to let the recipient know.

    The Subject Line:

    Every single email you send should have a subject line, no excuses no exceptions. Subject lines give the person who receives the email an idea of what the message contains,it makes it easier to follow conversations via email that include multiple people, and makes it easier to find the email later when searching for it.

    You Subject should be brief, and contain the primary topic of the email. I personally hate subjects like "a question" or "hey..." when I get them at work. Those are fine for emails between friends etc, but if you are emailing a client, or a business, don't use those. I also dislike subjects that are the start of a sentence then continue in the email, like "I was thinking about that car...." and then the body starts "...and it looks like a good deal". The subject is fine, but the body needs to be able to stand on its own.

    Email body:

    While everything above is very important, it is mostly just used for organizational purposes. The body of the email is where the meat is.

    Your email should be well written, clean, and concise. If it is in a work environment, it should be treated as semi-formal (formal if to clients, or is a serious topic) writing. This means punctuation and grammar should be correct, thoughts should be complete, and the tone should be professional. Anything less than this makes it harder to read and hard to understand. An important thing to remember when writing an email is that meaning of things can be misinterpreted if not made clear. When talking to someone, you have things like tone and body language to help get your point across, you don't have that in email. Sarcasm is harder to detect, as are small jokes about things, so be careful, as a few poorly chosen words can turn something funny into something offensive.

    Attachments:

    Name attachments appropriately. Like any file, there should be a descriptive name to indicate what it is. Scanned documents typically have a generic letter/number combination as their name. Do the recipient a favor and rename it for them so they know what it is. Also, don't attach things that don't need to be attached. I have gotten emails from people that are word documents as attachments, with the only thing in the body saying "See Attachment". While this is ok sometimes, it usually isn't. Attachments should be in addition to the info you are providing.

    Also, use common formats for attachments. If a document doesn't need to be edited by the recipient, send it as a PDF so they can open it on any computer they want instead of only opening it on one with your word editor installed. Images should be JPEG of GIF files when possible as they are highly compressed and can be opened in just about all software (this can always be done since sometimes the higher quality of TIFF or RAW images are needed).

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    March 23, 2009

    The Ultimate Steal Is Back

    A lot of people like to hate on Microsoft, but they do a lot of good, especially when it comes to helping students. Right now, you can get Microsoft Office 2007 Ultimate Edition, which usually sells for over $600.00 for only $59.99 through a program called The Ultimate Steal, which is put on by Microsoft. The only stipulations to the program are that you must be a student, and you much have an email address ending in .edu.Other than that, this is a completely legit deal, so if you need MS office, and you are a student, there is no better choice.

     Buy Microsoft Office Ultimate 2007!

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    March 20, 2009

    NIN|JA 2009

    2 of my favorite bands, Nine Inch Nails and Jane’s Addiction, along with Street Sweepers have released a free for download compilation album as a preview to the up coming NIN|JA 2009 Tour.

    ninja

     

    Stream it to your computer, or download the Album for free at www.ninja2009.com

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    March 19, 2009

    When Life Gives You Lemons...

    When you are busy, that 30 seconds your computer takes to do gmail something can seem like an eternity, and for anyone who uses Gmail, the wait from when you click send, to when you can do anything else seems like forever...even though in reality, its only a few seconds.

    So Google, being the totally awesome company they are have decided to do something with that 5 seconds. They have added a new feature (currently available in Google Labs) which allows you to stop a message from sending. It has happened to all of us, you click send, and you realized that you had selected Reply All instead of reply, or that there is a glaring mistake that you had missed, now you can stop the message from being sent!

    To activate the feature, log into Gmail --> Go to Settings --> Labs and scroll down until you see the "Undo Send" feature. Choose Enable, and save your settings.

    undosend 

    Now, when you send a message, you will see a message along the top that gives you the option to undo the sending.

    undo 

    But you have to be quick, the message is only there for a few seconds. If you do click undo, it takes you back to the message edit screen, and you can discard the message completely, add/remove recipients, or alter the message.

     

    test

    I know ill be leaving the feature turned on. I do my best to not make mistakes, but if I have to wait the 5 seconds anyway, I may as well add a benefit to it.

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    March 14, 2009

    This Email Confirms You Don't Want Email...

    Yesterday JC Penny was having a sale on some decent Santoku Knives, so I decided to check it out and pick a set up for my girlfriend and I. During the sign up, I was asked if I wanted to receive promotional email from JC Penny, and of course, I said NO!

    Not 60 seconds later, I get this in my mailbox

     

    jcp

    The first part of the email says:

    "While registering as a shopper with jcpenney.com, you chose not to receive our promotional Email. This is being sent to confirm that **********@gmail.com will not receive Email from jcpenney.com."

    They sent me an email, to confirm that I told them that I didn't want to receive emails from them. Of course, the email also includes a link that allows me to opt into getting emails, you know, in case I change my mind.

    Now, I understand sending an email confirmation if I have previously been receiving things from a business, and then I unsubscribe, but this is not the case. I was a brand new customer, who said right from the start that I do not want email from you, I had to change the selection to "do not want" as the default is opting you into getting these messages.

    And to top it off...the knives I wanted we sold out by the time I added them to my cart. What a waste. This is why I set up junk email accounts, so when I register for something that I deem unimportant, its not big deal when they send me crap after I tell them not to.

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    March 10, 2009

    Guest Blogging: 5 Rules For Life

    5rules

    Check out my 5 Rules For Life on the Five Rules for Life Blog.

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    Your Digital Legacy

    In a world where protecting your online identity is as important as protecting your credit cards, car titles, and home deeds, it onlylegacy makes sense that if something happens to you, there is someone you trust to take care of it. 

    A company called Legacy Locker has now made that task a little easier. According to their website Legacy Locker is

    "a safe, secure repository for your digital property that lets you grant access to online assets for friends and loved ones in the event of death or disability."

    Essentially, legacy locker gives you a place to store all of the information that makes up your online identity. Email account information, online banking usernames and passwords, online bill pay and stock trade account information. In addition to providing a secure and easily accessible place to store all of this information, they allow you to select a beneficiary (or multiple beneficiaries) and in the event something happens to you, the information will be released to them. This can potentially save your family days, if not weeks of grief while trying to hunt down this information.

    I love this idea...but am hesitant. Not only are you putting all the information necessary to access your online life in a single place, but you are putting it in place that really has no reputation, and this for me is a major concern. Now, there are security risks any time you are storing valuable information anywhere, so to mitigate these risks, people spread their information around, but this means more time spend managing information.

     

    The Bad:

    1.  No real reputation: While founder Jeremy Toeman is known in the blogging and marketing world, he is not a security expert, nor is he an expert in estate management.
    2. All of your information is in one place: Never put all your eggs in one basket. Not only does it increase the risk of loss if there is a breach, it also increases the chance of a breach because they are now a high profile target.
    3. Website is not up to par: Their website lacks a lot of information, their ToS, Privacy Agreement, and Conditions of use are very cookie cutter, and not specific to the service they provide. In addition, there are A LOT of spelling errors, and other mistakes in terminology which indicates a lack of understanding of the service itself.  If they can't pay a proper copy editor, how can we trust they are paying someone to properly secure their site.

    The Good:

    1. They make it clear that they will share your information, but only with affiliates who will be working with them on the service you bought, not 3rd party services.
    2. They have a proper SSL certificate in place through thawte, inc. Who is a trusted source in security
    3. They claim to have been audited by both thawte and McAfee.
    4. Data is encrypted at a higher level once stored than it is during transmission. Now this may sound bad, but they are using a 256 bit encryption during transmission, which is what banks use. Data is stored with a 512 bit encryption on the server, which is exceptional.
    5. It really is a good idea, and with the proper backing and effort it can be a great product.

     

    My Opinion:

    I think it is too early to pass judgement, especially since the product doesn't go live for another month. I like the idea, and I like that they are working with known security experts. I am however highly skeptical of storing so much information in one place, especially online. I wont be one of the first to sign up, but I will be keeping an eye on this product.

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    March 5, 2009

    The Happy Computer Checklist

    Computers are great tools and awesome toys. They do the work of thousands of people, allow you access to more information than anyimages single person could ever need and let you play awesome games. And after all this, many people still treat them like crap, and its time we put a stop to it. A happy computer, is a great computer, and a computer you will love to use.

    The key to a happy computer is maintenance! you clean up your house, you clean your car, you clean you favorite sun glasses, why wouldn't you clean your computer?

    To keep your computer running like a champ, I recommend the following:

     

    • Anti-virus software - This is a must. AV software comes in all shapes and sizes, and in all price ranges, find one that fits your needs and get it. I use the free version of AVG on my home computer, and my company manages over 1200 desktops and servers that use the paid for version. The software is clean and easy to use.
    • Updates - Many updates that are released resolve bugs found in software. Bugs in software usually mean less efficient software, so keeping all of your software and hardware drivers up to date, will help keep your computer running smoothly. To update Microsoft products, you can use the built in update tool, most other software also comes with an update tool, but if they don't, just check the manufactures website from time to time.
    • Elbow Grease - Once every few months, it is a good idea to look at what you have on your computer and get rid of what you don't need. Uninstall software you don't use, archive documents or photos you don't really access anymore to an external drive or DVD. This will keep hard drive space free, and that means faster responses when your computer is looking for other data.
    • General Clean Up Tool -  With everyday use, computers are bound to get tons of files that really aren't needed. Temp files from viewing websites, residual files from software that you uninstalled, and numerous other things. And while Windows comes with tools built in to get rid of them, there are better solutions out there. I like to use a tool called CCleaner. CCleaner will remove all of the junk that gets on your computer during day to day use, and it will do it in a easy to use way. And best of all? IT IS FREE. I like to run a tool like ccleaner about once a month, you can do it more frequently, but once a month is what I find to be a good balance.
    • Disk Defragmenter - When you save data to a hard drive, it will search for the first open space available to write that data. As you write more and delete more, the free space becomes scattered around (fragmented). When drives become fragmented, your computer starts running slower because it takes the computer longer to find what it is looking for. Windows comes with a disk defragmenter tool, and it will get the job done. For more advanced users, you can use a tool like Defraggler (free and made by the same people as CCleaner). You should run disk defragmenter each time you do any major clean up (like running ccleaner or manual clean ups like the ones listed above)

    If you do these things, your computer will be happy for a long time. I've seen way too many people throw out perfectly good computers because they were "running slow" and had they followed the above, they could have saved themselves some money.

    And as an added bonus, doing the above also helps keep your computer secure!

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    March 3, 2009

    Deleted a file by mistake?

    At one time or another, everyone has mistakenly deleted a file from their computer, or deleted a picture from the memory card of their  frontscr camera thinking that they had another copy or that they no longer needed it. And while many of these files end up in the recovery bin and are easy to get back, sometimes you need something just a little better. Pirform, Ltd, the makers of awesome software such as CCleaner, has released a new piece of data recovery software called Recuva.

    Recuva was released a few months back, but up until about an hour ago, I had yet to try it. Yes, even I delete things by mistake....but that's not what happened tonight. It was a nice quiet night, and my phone rang... an emergency call from a client. She was trying to move some files from a thumb drive to her desktop, but along the way, the files were deleted. What better time to try a new piece of software then in a crisis?

    Recuva worked like a champ. I downloaded and installed it in less than 2 minutes. Then with an incredibly clean and simple interface, I was able to select the location that the files were originally located, the types of files I was looking for and where I wanted to recover the files to.

    A minute later, I had a folder full of recovered files. My client is happy, I am happy, and my future clients will be happy because we now have a new tool to help them when mistakes happen.

    So the next time you accidentally delete an important folder or file, give it a try, it worked for me.

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    *FREE* Achieving Information Security *FREE*

    Hey everyone,

    I put together a white paper entitled "Achieving Information Security". Is is a compilation/rework of a series of blog posts I had done that got some good feed back.

    It is now free for download, so check it out.

    Feel free to pass it along to friends, colleagues, and whoever else you want, and as always, feed back is always welcome, just use the contact me link.

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    March 2, 2009

    New Ways To Get Your ThinkSmarter Fix...

    Over the last few months, I have been putting together great ways for readers to keep tabs on ThinkSmarter.

    You can now:

    Subscribe and get emails via email:

    Enter your email address:

    Delivered by FeedBurner

    Subscribe using your favorite RSS tool

    Subscribe in a reader

    And most recently, you can follow ThinkSmarter on Twitter!

    twitter / thinksmarter

    I will also being trying to update twitter through out the day if i have any small interesting things to say, so check it out!

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    March 1, 2009

    Jamming Cell Phones

    In the United States it is illegal for anyone other than the federal government to interfere with licenses radio communications, this includes cell phones. But with cell phones being more popular than they ever have been, many businesses are trying to change this rule.NoPhoneSign1

    Many people think that cell phones should be jammed in places like schools, hospitals, libraries, movie theaters, and restaurants because of the potential to disturb others. The biggest argument against this type of action is that in the event of an emergency, a call cannot be made out, and no calls can come in. I believe this is a reasonable argument.

    Personally, I think that individuals should be responsible and have some common decency. If you are in a place like a theater, library, or basically any other place where a sudden ring would cause an interruption, then put your phone on silent, and obviously don't talk on your phone. Unfortunately, many people don't seem to get this.

    This is very different then people talking loudly in public places, while it can be incredibly annoying to hear a guy 20 feet away screaming into his cell phone, it is out in the open, I am not paying to be there, and I can move 10 more feet away without really being put out any. But in an enclosed place, where I am paying for an experience, I expect others would respect that and be courteous, after all, I'm sure they would hate me sitting next to them and talking while they are trying to watch a movie or enjoying a nice dinner.

    So do I think anyone outside the federal government be allowed to use jammers? NO.

    I responsibly use my phones (I carry up to 3 phones at a time because of work) daily. If I am in the movies, and feel my phone vibrate, I get up and leave so I can see what is going on. I expect everyone else to do the same. I rarely use my phones in public (its hard for me to hear my clients, and for them to hear me), and my phones are on vibrate 99% of the time. I should not be punished because others are irresponsible. The one exception to this is on an air plane. I REFUSE to give my business to any airline which allows people to use their cell phones in the air. I can leave a restaurant if someone is being really annoying, I can leave a movie theater if it gets that bad, but I cant walk off a flight halfway through, and while I am a very controlled individual, I don't think it would take more than an hour of someone talking loudly in an enclosed place before their phone met the business end of my boot.

    I am however ok with the federal government  using jammers in emergencies or for security purposes. Id rather not have cell phone service then a bomb explode, and id rather emergency services have all the bandwidth they need then get an email.

     

    See PC Worlds Article for more about Jamming cell Phones

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    Acceptable Usage Polices

    An important step in preventing inappropriate use of computer equipment and time at work is to define what types of activities are acceptable. Sure, it may seem like common sense to you and I that browsing MySpace or Facebook at work is not appropriate when you are on the clock, but unless you define the behaviors that are acceptable and unacceptable, you cannot fairly expect the staff to know for sure, nor can you fairly punish them since no rule was technically broken.

    A good acceptable usage policy will cover several aspects of computer usage, not just what web sites are ok to visit and which aren't.

    Some things you need to remember to cover are:

    • What information can and cannot be released to the public
    • What permissions must be obtained before releasing any data to media or the public
    • Who is authorized to release data
    • Who is authorized to speak on behalf of the company
    • What type of information can be transferred or discussed via email or instant messenger.
    • Policies on employees posting on web forums about the company, or in association with the company.
    • Where can company information be stored
    • What kind of work can be taken home
    • Are USB thumb drives or other external storage devices allowed.
    • Policies on changing computer settings
    • Policies on personal data on work computers.
    • What types of web sites are appropriate
    • Acceptable usage of company equipment on personal time.

    All of this needs to be discussed, and written out in a way that is easy to understand. If an employee is not told what they can and cannot do, especially when it comes to things like releasing data to the public, or speaking on behalf of the company, it can lead to mistakenly releasing information, which can lead to much bigger problems.

    • In addition to noting what type of behavior is acceptable and not acceptable, try to explain why the rules are in place.
    • Why is talking to the media a liability?
    • Why is posting on a forum while trying to defend your company dangerous?
    • How does this directly affect he employee?

    If an employee has a person interest in making sure data stays secure, they are going to be much more cautious about it.

    Once the rules are set, you also need to list the consequences of breaking these rules. Consequences may be applied on a case by case basis, as not all violations are equal, but there must be standards and they must apply to everyone equally, or they are useless. Once consequences are in place, they must be enforced. Having consequences in place, but only selectively applying them confuses employees, and makes it look like you are playing favorites, and this will quickly lower the respect your employees have for you.

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    February 27, 2009

    Common IP address Questions

    Q. What is an IP address?

    A. An IP address is the Internet's equivalent to a street address. Every device that connects to the Internet needs an IP address to do so. There are not enough IP addresses currently for each connecting device to have its own, so IPs are broken into two groups, Internal and External IPs. External IP addresses are assigned by Internet Service Providers, internal IP addresses are assigned by routers or servers on a given network. Each device that assigns internal IP address has an External IP address that it uses to connect all the other devices to the Internet with. Doing this allows hundreds of computers to connect to the Internet with only a single external IP address.

    Q. How do I find my IP address?

    A. To find your Internal IP address do the following:

    Click on Start -> Run -> enter "CMD"  and click ok -> in the window that pops up, type in ipconfig and press enter. You should see results like this:

    ip-address

    A. To find your external IP (the IP address all of the Internet sees you as) you can use a web site like www.showmyip.com

     

    Q. Can I be tracked by my IP address

    A. See My Post Here about tracking people by their IP address

     

    Q. Can I change my IP address?

    A. You can change your internal IP address as often as you want, although there is almost no point in doing so.

    A. You External IP is controlled by your ISP. Many External IP addresses are assigned dynamically, so if you unplug your modem for a while then plug it back in, you may be assigned a new one.

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    The Recycle Bin is NOT a place to file things...

    Ill never understand the apparent surprise of people when the files that they moved to their recycle bin, or the deleted items folder in Recycle_Bin Outlook disappear. You wouldn't be surprise if you put some mail in your rubbish can at home, and then days later that bin was empty, and you certainly wouldn't put something you had no intention of getting rid of in a trash can. So why is it, that people think the recycle bins on their computers are a storage space? Or that if they deleted emails, they should expect them to be in the deleted items folder instead of being gone?

    Now I understand that Microsoft (and every other Operating System developer) has trained people to think that deleted really isn't deleted, and they have done this so people who accidentally delete something aren't screwed, but really, you should not depend on these recycle bins as a storage place, and here is why.

    • If you are in a corporate environment, and their mail server begins to run low on space, one of the first things an admin is going to do is flush the deleted items folders (assuming the don't already have them configured to automatically delete email after a specified period of time)
    • If you run any software to "clean up" your computer, one of the things it does is empty the recycle bin to clear up space.

    Rather than using the deleted items folder or the recycling bin, you should Create and Use Folders to Organize your Mail and Windows files.

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    Rouge Admin or Dedicated Employee

    Over the last several month, there have been many articles published about Terry Childs; the San Francisco network administrator who is img_50191_laptop_theft_wb now in jail after being accused of 'network tampering' during his tenure as Lead Network Administrator for the city of San Francisco.

    For those who have not been following the story:

    • Terry Childs was the lead network administrator for the city of San Francisco, and managed a very large network responsible for the majority of government data traffic.
    • The unofficial reason for him tampering with the computer network was that he was trying to create an insurance policy of sorts for himself after he got a poor performance review and his supervisor tried to have him fired.
    • Childs' allegedly configured a single administrative username/password that only he had access to on several key pieces of equipment, and when asked for the credentials, he gave wrong info, then refused to give the correct info.
    • Child's is also accused of deleting the startup configurations on several pieces of equipment, so in the event the power went out on the device (required to reset passwords sometimes) the configuration would be lost. Password recovery features were also disabled.
    • Childs' also allegedly install data monitoring software on several supervisors computers, and was found with lists of usernames and passwords, including those of his superiors.
    • And finally, Child's is accused of setting up 'rouge' devices across the network to provide him remote access to it.

    I know, this looks bad. But lets consider what his job was, the man was a network administrator, and much of the above can easily be seen as part of his job.

    Things Terry did, that I do daily.

    • We have 2 administrative accounts on each computer, 1 master administrator account that stays un used, and 1 administrator account that we use for admin tasks. We do this, so in the event something happens to the one we use, we have a backup that is not used. Only we have these passwords, our clients do not. It is not rare for them to request this info, but we explain that if we provide them administrative access to servers and other equipment, we cannot be held responsible for it any longer. If they need changes made, we can do it for them. If they insist on access, we reevaluate them as customers as it is not worth our reputation to allow an untrained person admin access to a server when they have no reason for needing it.
    • Part of the service we provide is installing an application on each computer that monitors event logs, runs maintenance at night, monitors anti-virus software, provides us remote access to computers, and several other things. Monitoring computers is part of our job.
    • Configuring remote access to sites. Any network admin who has to support multiple locations sets up ways for them to access things remotely, otherwise they cant do their job. It is not rare to set up multiple methods of remote access, so in the event one fails, you have another option.

     

    How do I feel about this case?

    My feeling towards this are mixed. I understand that sometimes an IT admin needs to protect a company from itself. Too often company executives think that because they are high up in a company they should be allowed to do what they want on a computer and access whatever they want. This is not true. Executives are targets in the hacking world. Their information is all over the place on the web and on their company web sites because they want to be known. Because so much data about them is available, it makes it easier to exploit them. This means their accounts need to be even more tightly controlled than the average user, but this is the exact opposite of what they want, and sometimes demand.

    When a CEO demands access to something, an IT professional is put in a tough position. They can give the access, and the deal with any problems created by it (and trust me, problems occur frequently when people have unneeded access), or you can stand up to the person and risk backlash.

    I have been in this position in the past. A position where executives come up with inane ideas and requests, and despite the IT department explaining why the idea is bad, and the risks involved, and the potential for problems, we are pushed into making the changes. When something goes wrong, we are then looked at like we caused it, and that is not fair. I have left jobs because of situations like this.

    The networks and computers we build and maintain as administrators are like a living resume. If you are named as the admin on a network with a major security breach, it can dramatically hurt your career, so when you are faced with these decisions, you are being asked to put your reputation on the line. So with every decision, you ask yourself, "is this risk worth my career?"

    However, as a professional, there is a point where you just need to cave and give the boss what they want, and let them deal with the problems. When he was faced with arrest, Childs' should have left the job, and turned over all credentials and information in a proper way, there is no if ands or buts. The data belonged to the city, and while I'm sure he wanted to protect it, and while he may have thought he had been wronged, he had no legs to stand on when it came to that.

    I am very interested in seeing how this will turn out.

     

    More info about the case:

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/07/14/BAOS11P1M5.DTL

    http://www.infoworld.com/article/08/07/15/IT_admin_locks_up_San_Franciscos_network_1.html

    http://www.infoworld.com/article/08/07/17/IT_administrator_pleads_not_guilty_to_network_tampering_1.html

    http://weblog.infoworld.com/venezia/archives/020956.html

    http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/career/?p=555&tag=nl.e101

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    February 26, 2009

    What Causes Delays in Email Delivery?

    Email is one of the most handy tools available to both individuals and businesses a like. It provides nearly instantaneous communication with friends, family, colleagues, and even that friendly Nigerian E-mailPrince who said he wanted to give me a million dollars.

    For the most part, when you send an email, within a few seconds, the recipient has it, but sometimes, that email that you really really need doesn't show up when you expect it, and you don't know why. To understand why emails get delayed, you have to understand how an email is sent from one person to another.

    When an email is sent, it doesn't just go from your computer, to the recipients computer, it follows a path along the Internet, and along the way has several stops.

    1. An email is created on your computer using a email authoring tool like Outlook or by using a webmail service like Gmail.
    2. Once you click send,the message is sent to your mail server.
    3. Your mail server then looks at the email, determines where it needs to send it according to DNS records the recipient company has set up.
    4. Your mail server then sends the message to the place listed,
    5. Many times, the server listed isn't actually the recipients mail server, it is an intermediary server set up as a spam filter or an archive server.
    6. The receiving server then forwards the message off to the real mail server
    7. The recipient then connects to their mail server and grabs the message.

    This process seems simple right? not exactly. The Internet really is a series of computers, connected via wires, fiber optics, and other computers. An email must travel long distances, and a break down at any step, or between any step can cause a delay.

    Some of the most common causes for delays and failed delivery that I see are the following:

    1. User Error: It is very common for someone to mistype an email address. If you are missing an email, get in touch with the sender, and have them read you the email address they are sending to (don't ask "did you send it to youremailaddress as they will just assume they did)
    2. Spam Filters / Grey Lists / Black Lists: Spam filters are meant to block spam, but sometimes they are wrong and block a legit email, which means the recipient doesn't get it, check your junk mail folder, or ask your admin to check the spam filter if you are missing something.
    3. Internet Connectivity Problems: Sometimes things break, and broken things causes delays. A bad connection between your computer and mail server, your mail server and a DNS server, your mail server, and the recipients mail server(s), or the recipients mail server and the recipients computer can all cause delays in email delivery. Because of this, email servers have rules on the configured to retry message delivery several times before you ever get an error that says the message could not be delivered.

    The bad part about most of these delays is that there is little you, or your IT department can do about it. People make mistakes, computers make mistakes, and things break. The good part is, at least now you have a better understanding of how email gets to you, and are more forging towards your IT guy a little slack when he says there is little he can do to find that missing email for you. In fact, most times, I cant even look into email delays until the email actually gets there and I can take a look at the message header to see where the email has been and when it got there. But Ill talk about that another time.

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    February 23, 2009

    Microsoft Elevates America

    Microsoft announced today that they will be partnering with governments, private, public and community organizations to launch microsoft_logo Elevate America; a free and low cost resources that provide the skills, training and certifications needed for people of all ages who are preparing for job opportunities in today's changing economy.

    "As part of our ongoing investment in education and workforce readiness, Microsoft is providing additional support through governments and designated partners to accelerate the workforce readiness of Americans through the most relevant training and certification programs we offer."

    Some of the things Microsoft will be assisting with are:

    • Expanded access to basic technological literacy and skills training.
    • Intermediate technology skills training courses, instructor-led and online, plus selected certification exams.
    • Access to a new web portal that will help guide individuals to training that positions them for success in the economy today, and tomorrow.

    One of the programs I am looking forward to is an expansion on the Microsoft Second Shot Offer. In addition to Microsoft giving test takes a free retake in the event they do not pass their exam, they will also be offering a highly discounted price on e-Learning material to study for your exams. If you have not taken any of your exams yet, DO IT NOW. Check out the new ThinkSmarter Store for some recommendations on study material. As for me? Its time to get back to grinding away at those certifications.

    To read more about this amazing program, or to learn what resources will be available to you, see the Elevate America Website.

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    The ThinkSmarter Store is now open

    I have decided that since I spend a lot of time recommending cool products and gadgets, I would give you an easy way to also buy them.

    The ThinkSmarter Store, powered by Amazon, is now open, and available via the sidebar below the RSS sign up section of the Blog.

    store

     

    I will be adding product to the store as I review things or find things that I think you would like. Right now there are some books, movies, software and hardware that I like, and the prices are pretty good (it is amazon after all), so check it out, as I will be adding more stuff frequently, and of course, if you have any recommendations of things I should check out, feel free to send me an email, and Ill take a look, and add them to the store if I like them.

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    Don't Feel Bad...Even Banks Get Scammed.

    The New York Times has reported that Citibank may have fallen victim to none other than a Nigerian Scammer.

    "Swindles in which someone overseas seeks access to a person’s bank account are so well known that most potential victims can spot them in seconds.

    But one man found success by tweaking the formula, prosecutors say: Rather than trying to dupe an account holder into giving up information, he duped the bank. And instead of swindling a person, he tried to rob a country — of $27 million."

    Luckily (For CitiBank), it looks like the scammer has been caught.


    Read the Full Article on the NY Times Website.

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    February 22, 2009

    Live CDs...The Swiss Army Knife of the Computer World

    Life Hacker Posted a pretty good article about the Top 5 Live hivefivedicsCDs and you should definitely check it out if you work on computers for a living, or just like tinkering with technology.

    Basically, a Live CD is a CD (obviously) with a full operation user environment on it. So rather than booting into Windows (or what ever other Operating System you use) you pop the CD in, and the computer boots to that.

    The uses for them are pretty much limitless as they can be customized to do pretty much any computer task you want. I use them for Hardware troubleshooting, Virus clean up, general testing, anonymous computer usage, and many many other things. Check out the article on Life Hacker, and check back soon. I have a post in the works about how to be be anonymous on a computer.

     

     

    Photo by bulinna.

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    DOLLHOUSE

    I'm a big fan of awesome TV shows, and while my taste is eclectic (I love House MD, but am happy to sit back and enjoy some Top Chef) I limit what I allow my self to sit down and watch so I have time for other things (Like this Blog), but recently a new show hit fox, and it get my attention...Ok Eliza Dushku got my attention, but the show still looked cool.

    elize

    I missed episode 1 and 2 when they premiered (Its rare I watch things at their scheduled time) but I really wanted to give this show a shot, so I headed over to Fox.com and watched it online. (God I love online episodes)

    Episode 1 was interesting, a little background on what is going on, a little character development, and an ok story line, and of course Ms Dushku front and center. So, I watched the second episode. Now that was some good stuff. More store, more kick ass Eliza. I think next week, Ill be watching this thing live (yes, we need to do that to the makers get their Ad money and keep making good shows.)

    So why am I mentioning this on a technology blog? Well....its my blog, so I can write whatever I want AND the show is based on technology that allows you to program a person to do what ever you want. They image people, like I image computer...and that's cool (albeit a bit creepy).

    So check out the show, its looking to be pretty good, and from what I here, it shifts from good to totally awesome in episode 6, so im looking for ward to it.

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    Instant Messaging in the work place

    No No No, this is not some blog about how instant messaging is a waste of company resources, or how to do it without getting caught. This is a blog about how great a tool instant messengers can be for instant-messengersa  company.

    As a tech, instant messaging has been a tool that I have used in the work place for as long as I can remember. It, along with email, are the primary way I contact other techs. Recently, many clients have thought about implementing a good instant messaging software for their employees to use, but are concerned about the risks IM software poses, as well as the loss of productivity that may occur is people can just chit chat all day.While both of these concerns are valid, there are solutions in place for both, but before we worry about the risks of using Instant Messaging software, lets look at some of the benefits.

    The Benefits:

    1. Fewer Interruptions - A lot of the work I do requires me to concentrate on several things at once. Because of this, other interruptions, big or small can cause a problem. If I'm "in the zone" and get a phone call or even worse, someone comes over to talk to me, I usually get distracted and then have to take the time to regroup my thoughts before I can get back to what I am doing, some times it takes only a minute, but sometimes, it takes longer depending on the task at hand. If someone IM's me, I can wait until a natural break in my work occurs, like when I complete a thought and write it down, I can then look at the message, respond, and then move on. And lets face it, most things can wait a couple of minutes, so that delay usually isn't a big deal, and if it can't wait, you can still call.
    2. Convenience - For me Instant messaging is easier and more convenient that making a phone call. I have a list of names in front of me so I don't need to look up a number, and most times I only have a  quick question, so its just simpler to ask. It also gives the other person a minute to look up and answer if they need to, and you aren't wasting that minute sitting on hold. You also aren't interrupting the person like mentioned above.
    3. Tracking Employee Conversations - Yes, I know, most people absolutely hate this, but it is a perk for a business. My company logs all conversations held via IM for every employee, the boss will occasionally read through the logs just to see what we are up to. Do we stop joking around, sending funny links and pictures, nope, and he doesn't expect us to. Then why does he do it? So he can see what we are up to. If we are asking each other a lot of questions, or a lot of people are asking about the same thing, maybe its time for an email explaining something, or a training. If we are all complaining about a customer, maybe its time to reevaluate them as a customer. It is also helpful for when we ask a question to a superior and then do what we are told and it turns out to be wrong, we simply pull the log and say "I did ask, and was told to do this" or if a dispute occurs between what was said and what was done. It gets resolved quickly.

    The Risks:

    1. It is Informal - People sometimes forget that not everything should be discussed via IM. Confidential client information, or confidential company information usually shouldn't be discussed over IM. IM should be an unofficial communication channel. Things that need to be "on the record" should be communicated in person or in formal writing, like email.
    2. Data Security - There are some risks when using IM. Most are not encrypted by default, because they are meant to be informal forms of communication. The logs are also not encrypted in many cases, so information that shouldn't be shared may be. Depending on the software you use, this data could also get out of the company (although much of the IM software available currently has the ability to make it internal only)
    3. Viruses and Malware - There are a lot of viruses and Malware that target popular IM software. If you allow communication with outside users, this can be an issue. To prevent this, make your IM internal use only and have a good AV software running.
    4. People will use it for Chit Chatting - Yes, people will chit chat with one another and talk about non work related things. As long as it is within reason, its no big deal, they are going to do it anyway, and there are far worse things your employees can be doing aside from communicating with one another.

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    February 20, 2009

    Update From Yelp.com

    Yelp.com has replied to the allegations that they are trying to sell a service of removing bad reviews from their site. They attribute the report to miscommunications regarding the services they do offer (the ability to highlight a good review) and also the algorythims used to sort the reviews that are listed.

    "It appears that a key source of confusion is our anti-spam algorithm which makes
    a small number of reviews come and go from a typical business' page.
    We
    realize we need to do better at communicating the why and how of this
    counter-intuitive "feature" and we will."


    Read the Full Response on Yelp's Blog.

    I hope this really is all just a miscommunication. The idea Yelp.com is trying to bring to life (and has been) is a good one. Consumers need a place to voice their opinions, and if a company is manipulating those opions, then there is a problem.

    See the comments left on The Consumerist, apparently several users there agree with the assesment that Yelp is a scam.

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    Don't Keep Personal Data on Work Computers

    ThinkSmarter is guest blogging on Dumb Little Man. Check out the post HERE

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