Archive for the ‘Computers and Technology’ Category

Dear Microsoft

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

Dear Microsoft,

In the past I have placed your Microsoft Points on my son’s account for him to make purchases, mainly music. With the retirement of the Microsoft Points the points on his account were converted to “local currency”.  At first I thought no big deal, points/local currency, all the same in the long run as local currency was used to purchase the points. How naive I was to think that.

When my son last tried to purchase music through your store his purchase was declined. Why? No balance. No balance? His points were converted to local currency which can be used to purchase apps and games, but not music. Why not music? Is Microsoft a hatter of music thinking it leads to the degradation of society? No, something else according to the support agent I spent time chatting with today. The reason is the various Microsoft services are not synchronized between each other.  What a wonderful idea! Move people off one system was working between the between apps, games, and music to another one that doesn’t work.

But no worry, Microsoft has a solution. Again according to the support agent the solution is to purchase an Xbox One when it comes out, this will allow the purchase of music once again. What a deal, upgrade for several hundred dollars so I can use $50 in credits for music purchases.

Did anyone at Microsoft take a moment to say “How will these changes impact our existing customers?” Or was it decided to ignore existing customers, if they want what they already paid for they can fork over even more money.

Pretty pathetic on your part Microsoft.

 

Bad Password Security

Tuesday, May 28th, 2013

Twice recently I had to use the “I forgot my password” feature on websites. Normally I keep my login information in Password Safe but forgot to add these two sites. The two sites I am talking about are The Great Courses (aka The Teaching Company) and University Alliance. Why do I mention these sites? Because of bad password security.

When I used the forgot password option on both of these sites I received an email, in clear text (no encryption) with my password. Sensitive information should NEVER be sent via clear text email, and passwords should be stored as a hash+salt. I sent emails to both sites, but not expecting them to do much. Any component programmer or IT security person should have know this was bad and never allowed it to take place.

Bad companies, BAD!

Dear T-Mobile

Sunday, November 7th, 2010

It is great that you are pushing your “4G” network. I use the quote marks as most people know your network doesn’t meet the definition of 4G, but it is fast. While you are rolling out this new network, what about those of us stuck on your older network?

I’m not referring to your 3G network but rather your 2G network. Some of us T-Mobile customers would love to move up to even to 3G network speeds. Now I could upgrade to a 3G network if I wanted to switch to AT&T,  Sprint, U.S. Cellular, or Verizon, all which offer 3G service in the area where I live.

I’ve placed calls, contacted your online support, and even wrote letters asking when I can expect an upgrade in my area. I would expect just a standard boilerplate answer of “we are continuously upgrading our network to bring you better service” but I just get silence.

Well T-Mobile, when can those of us that live in areas that could get 3G service from your competitors get it from you? Or is your silence a hint we should just switch carriers?

Nook Review

Monday, August 30th, 2010

I got an early Birthday gift last month, a Nook from Barnes and Noble. So far I love the Nook. My reading time has increased because of it, mainly I find it easier to read in various places then a traditional book or magazine. I’ll out forth the pros and cons as I see them.

Pros

  • Light weight
  • No problem not charging it for a week even with 3G/Wi-Fi enabled.
  • Uses the ePub open book format, no vendor lock-in as you have with the Kindle
  • Plenty of books available.

Cons

  • Could use a better way to organize your books, such as by genre
  • e-Book prices can still be high
  • Magazine prices for the e-readers tend to be higher then a regular subscription.

The last two cons apply to all e-book readers, so not just a knock against the Nook. I know people that have the Kindle and love them, but I prefer the open format of the Nook. No problems getting books from Barnes and Noble, Borders, etc.

In my opinion, if you are a reader an e-book device is worth the money with the Nook being worth a serious look.

Thoughts on computer security

Thursday, August 5th, 2010

Having helped more than one person with computer issues after their system became infected with a virus, malware, or spyware, I’m giving my thoughts on what steps you can take to help protect your system.

First, make sure you have an anti-virus program installed and keep it up to date. For Windows systems I prefer Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE). It may not have a lot of features that power users are seeking, but for a good anti-virus program that is easy enough for anyone to use, it is right up there.

Next I like to have an on-demand malware/spyware scanner handy. The one I reach for is Malwarebytes. Like MSE it is easy to install, updated frequently, and does a good job.

The last line of defense I like using is OpenDNS. With OpenDNS you replace the DNS servers from your Internet Service Provider (ISP) with ones from OpenDNS. This one does take a bit to setup, but the instructions are pretty easy to follow. Create an account, setup the the type of sites you want to block and you’ll stop many threats from entering your system.

The best part of the above solutions? They are all free. So what are you waiting for?

You Can Do It Apple Fanbois!

Monday, February 8th, 2010

Apple is getting all the ducks in a line to release the iPad. The iPad struck me as an over-sized iTouch and tightly locks you into Apple. Funny how those Apple fanbois complain about Microsoft lock-in…

Back to the point I want to make. Apple is showing signs they may have priced the iPad too high even for its lemmings of fans out there. In this Wall Street Journal blog post it is hinted that Apple may cut the iPad prices if the sales aren’t there.

“Shope also wrote that despite the seemingly aggressive pricing of the iPad — the lower-than-expected price points range from $499 to $829 — Apple seemed to indicate it would respond with price cuts if demand for the device wasn’t revving up the way it liked. “While it remains to be seen how much traction the iPad gets initially, management noted that it will remain nimble (pricing could change if the company is not attracting as many customers as anticipated),” Shope wrote.”

So want to save some money on an iPad? Just sit back and wait. Seeing how many fanbois are already wetting themselves over the iPad I don’t think Apple will be cutting the prices anytime soon.

The Barnes and Noble “Nook”, A Kindle Killer?

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

I don’t have an Amazon Kindle, but have been eying one. I enjoy reading and an ebook reader would be perfect for me. My plan was to wait for the prices to keep dropping then pick up a Kindle.

Now Barnes and Noble has released their ebook reader, the Nook. Reading the features I’m glad I didn’t purchase a Kindle. Seeing the pictures, looking at the features, all I can say is move over Kindle.

Of course my goal on the Kindle was to wait for it to hit the $200 price point. I’m going to wager that the Kindle will come out with a new version and prices will continue to drop. So right now I would purchase a Nook, but once that $200 price point nears I’ll have to re-examine the market.

Capitalism is goo.

Microsoft Security Essentials

Friday, October 2nd, 2009

I’ve been a big advocate of AVG anti-virus as a free solution for home users. Now I’ll tell people running Windows to go with Microsoft Security Essentials.

I’ve installed it on both computers here at home and now issues. One is an older computer running XP and the other a newer one running a 64-bit version of Vista. Installation was easy, the GUI is simple, much better than AVG’s GUI, and the independent reviews have been good so far. Ignore the press releases from Symantec and McAfee, they have a vested interested in Microsoft failing in offering a free anti-virus/anti-spyware product. Bill Mullins has a nice write-up on MSE, go check it out.

Good-Bye CompuServe

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

All good things must come to an end, and so it does for CompuServe. CompuServe is where I cut my teeth in the online world. I even worked as a Sysop and later a Wizop in moderating some of their tech forums. If looking for technical information, or wanted a good discussion, CompuServe is where you would find it.

My CompuServe ID was 71702.1330. Haven’t used it in ages. R.I.P CompuServe.

How To Get Past A Password Protected VBA Project In Excel

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

Had this come up at work recently. Someone left the company, report they created in Excel needs to be changed, no one knows the password he used to protect the project. So what do you do?

I found some instructions on Schmitti’s page on how to do this. This describes how to get pass, i.e. crack an Excel 2000/XP/2002 where the VBA module has a password you can no longer remember (or someone left the company and didn’t tell you the password). This will not work on Excel 97 and has not been tested on versions of Excel newer then 2002.  BE SURE TO SAVE A COPY OF THE EXCEL FILE BEFORE TRYING THESE STEPS

  1. Get a hex editor. A couple of free ones are Free Hex Editor Neo or HexEdit.
  2. Open the Excel file with the hex editor
  3. Search for the bytes 44 50 42, or for the chars DPB. Be sure there exists after these chars the strings “GC=” and “[Host Extender Info]. Some programmers try to protect projects with a dummy-row within a sheet. Several programs for breaking VBA passwords find this dummy-row, consequently a wrong location. So you should find the right locations above “[Host Extender Info]”
  4. Change the chars DPB to DBx After that, save the file and close the hex editor
  5. Now open the file with Excel. You receive a corresponding error, click “Yes”
  6. Click “OK” to any other error messages that come up.
  7. Access the VBA editor and enter a new password. You must enter a new password.
  8. Confirm and save the file. You can then remove the password if you like.