May 14

To lock down or not lock down

A while back I did a post about making sure that you lock down your wifi so that people do not do nefarious things on your connection and get you into trouble. Well, apparently that was not the best “legal” suggestion. Apparently, if your wifi is open and someone does something wrong then, well, it could have been anyone that was using your IP. But if your wifi is closed and something is done wrong (beginning at your IP address) then you are viewed as that much more likely to be the target of an investigation. Afterall, who could have been using your IP? Your wifi was closed!

According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), keeping your router OPEN may offer more legal protection than having it closed.

If you run an open wireless network, you may be able to receive significant legal protection from Section 230 of the CDA (against civil and state criminal liability for what others publish through the service) and Section 512 of the DMCA (against copyright claims based on what others use the service for). While these protections are not complete, EFF regularly engages in impact litigation to help ensure that these laws offer as strong protection to network operators as possible.

The fact is that wireless router security is often viewed as something you just set up and then leave alone and it works to keep the bad guys off your line. However, wireless security is relatively weak and much of it can be broken. It won’t be long before the bad guys have access to your locked router and start making trouble. When they do, it will look like YOU are the one making trouble. On the one hand, you hate to give the bad guys a free ride, but on the other hand you would hate to get punished for what they do if they stole your ride and did something inappropriate with it.

I continue to go back and forth on this one. I have gone months with my router open, and then some time with it closed. I usually have to close it due to too much bandwidth being used. My netflix will start lagging (don’t mess with my Sarah Conner Chronicles!) or whatever and I know that someone is getting a little happy with my bandwidth.

It makes me nervous both ways to be honest. I have several houses with teenagers that live around me, all with wireless reach. Do I want them going to sites or performing illegal activities over my router? Nope. Do I want them using up all my bandwidth? Nope. Do I want to be nice and allow for free access? Yes. Do I want to have someone crack my WEP, gain access to my router, and then do unruly things so that it appears it was me? No way! So what I do? What would you do?

My plan is to in general go open wireless. Sometimes I’ll close the open access if I have bandwidth hogging issues and then I’ll open it back up once I think they’ve gotten the point. If you come around and don’t find an open network currently available don’t be discouraged. I have likely gone into non-sharing mode for a short time in order to get the bandwidth hogs to move along and will reopen for public use soon enough. Really, this isn’t much of a change. I like to provide a needed service, and I understand the need for open wireless points. Now that I see there are even legal “goodies” to go along with having it open I feel even better about the way I’ve operated historically and will continue to lean towards open, available wireless.

Mar 29

Context Clues (why is there a lion on the radio?)

Kids are so awesome… they’re just missing the filter that most of us have that keep us from asking silly questions. I mean, after all, maybe there are special situations where a lion might actually be on the radio!

The other day I was driving my 5 year old home from ballet class. We were chatting about class and when we were done I started my Dave Ramsey podcast up. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Dave Ramsey I’ll just tell you that he is someone who helps people become financially secure by providing them with a plan for paying off their debts and getting their finances / investing in order. He does a radio show, live events, has some books, and more I’m sure. I may have done him a great disservice with that super brief description, but, to be honest this post isn’t about him… it’s about my kiddo and her use of context clues.

She hears Dave talking on the radio and says “who is that”.

Daughter (5 yrs): Who is that?

Me: On the radio? That’s Dave Ramsey.

Daughter: Who? Is that a man or a woman?

Me: Well, the caller was a woman. But the person talking now is Dave… and he’s a man.

Dave just finished with the previous caller and now a new caller is getting started.

Radio: … Hey, Dave. Thanks for taking my call. I was just wondering….

Daughter: What!? Why is there… Is there a lion on the radio?

Me: Huh? What did you say?

Daughter: Is there a lion on the radio?

Me: A lion? I thought that is what you said.

Now, at this point I’m not sure what is going on in her head, but I’ve learned that this one doesn’t generally ask goofy questions for no reason. There is usually some thought that actually gets her here. So I try to figure out how we got here.

Me: So…. why would you think there was a lion on the radio.

Daughter: He has a paw. (very nonchalantly)

Me: Ummm… I don’t understand. He has a paw?

Daughter: Yeah, he said “Hey, Dave. Thanks for shaking my paw”.

Me: Ahhh… I think you misheard him, kiddo. He said, “Thanks for TAKING MY CALL”.

This idea made much more sense to hear than the idea that there was a lion on the radio, but her little mind made sense of what it thought it had been presented with and didn’t skip a beat. Well, maybe enough of one to ask why a lion was on the radio, but not enough of one to rule out the possibility.

Of course, the next question was “what’s a call?”… and why is Dave taking it from this other guy (who we now know not to be a lion). I gave her the answers she sought as we continued home, all the while chuckling to myself about the lion on the radio who was thanking dave ramsey for shaking his paw.

 

Jan 21

I cut the cord (part 2)

This is a followup to a previous post in which I listed my notes relating to how to get rid of my cable service. So how did it work out? Pretty well, actually, so far. We’ve been without cable for 3 or 4 months now and we’re doing alright.

I definitely miss NBA on TNT. I missed Monday night football. I’m certain I’ll miss all the NBA playoff games that only come on TNT. Sports is by far the biggest thing for which there is simply no good alternative location or service that has as much coverage as cable TV. Actually, xbox recently partnered with ESPN3 and you can stream ESPN events directly through you xbox. There are often things worth watching and they look just like regular TV (or better).

We have basically been unable (or unwilling) to keep up with our regular TV shows. We used to watch TV in our “downtime” when we just played it off of our DVR. Live TV just never happened except for sports. Having the DVR was convenient. However, going through hulu and those other options is a really big pain in the butt. Well, actually, it is just an inconvenience, but it is enough of an inconvenience to make it mostly not worth while for me. It is NOT the same as DVR. My wife, however, still manages to watch her shows when she sees fit via hulu, etc.

Netflix (I should be getting paid for this, but I’m not) has a great set of options of children’s programming and children’s movies. My kids even love the idea of getting something from Netflix in the mail. About half the time it is a grown up movie and half the time it is something the kids will like, but they’re always excited when that red envelope shows up. However, it is certainly not limited to dvds. You can stream tons of videos and tv shows. I actually watched some old episodes of “she-ra” (my wife wanted to watch this) and “inspector gadget” streaming through my xbox.

So, between Netflix and hulu (and clones) we seem to have found a winning option. We save about $100 per month and end up with extra time as well. On the downside there are some significant shortcomings when it comes to sports coverage, but as more options become available I think this will also to become less significant.

Jan 04

I cut the cord – how to give up cable (part 1)

Not too long ago I got a huge bill increase from my cable company. I was coming off of the 1 year introductory pricing so it wasn’t actually a huge increase in rates, but practically, that is exactly what it was. I was paying $80 or so and then I was asked to pay $135 or so.

It immediately occured to me that even though I liked having access to so much and LOVED my DVR I really didn’t watch but 4 or 5 shows and the same movies over and over (or “whatever” was on). So, I went about the process of researching exactly how I could do the same thing for less money. Below are the notes I came up with during my search. You will want to read part 2 to see how all of this worked out and for something that will be a little more clear. Below is literally my notes I was taking while researching with a slight bit of proofing so I wouldn’t be totally embarrassed for it to make it on my site.

First I sought out people who had done the same… here are some:

 

Then I went about trying to determine what would get me most of what I already had… basically, I needed to show my wife that she would still have access to most of her shows and the kids would still have Dinosaur Train. So here’s some of your options to cover those things:
·         YouTube,
·         Hulu,
·         Amazon,
·         AppleTV / iTunes,
·         Netflix ($8.99 cheapest)

Other Notes:

  • You can view fox shows at fox.com (link to ‘Glee’ for example): http://www.fox.com/fod/play.php?sh=glee
  • I assume 24, Glee, House, Fringe, Bones also.
  • “I also have the privilege of access to my beloved out-of-market NY Giants games each week with DirecTV’s online Supercast service. It broadcasts all of the Sunday Ticket NFL games over the internet, but access to the online content requires DirecTV service and the full SuperFan package that runs a ridiculous $400 per year (Manhattan residents can access Supercast without DirecTV service). However, if you know someone with a Supercast account, you can piggyback.
  • If baseball is your thing, MLB.com offers a service similar to Supercast for around $100 per year depending on the package—although it only includes out-of-market games. Live golf can be viewed for free on PGATour.com; college sports, baseball, tennis, soccer and more is free on ESPN360 (if you are affiliated with an ESPN-approved broadband provider) and streaming sites like Justin.tv offer plenty of free sports viewing options, including live ESPN. Windows Media Center owners can also get SportsLounge, with Fox Sports.”
  • NBA – http://www.nba.com/leaguepass/index.html?x=1 (broadband version – not sure about the cost)
  • NFL- Could not find a comparable other than those listed above… Will ask Mike what the UofM video streaming site was that he was using… might be a solution.
  • http://nbcsports.msnbc.com/id/26393211 (a sunday night nfl streaming site)
  • PBS is over the air (Dinosaur Train, Word World [is this pbs], etc) (Can also buy on itunes 1.99)
  • iTunes has TV episodes for 2.99 (current season) and various prices like 1.99 per or discounted packages (previous seasons)

Stay tuned for part 2 where you’ll find out how it worked out.

Oct 01

Peeve worthy: Unsavory links that don’t tell you they are unsavory

I want to mention one of my newer peeves to you folks and see if people agree.

I do web stuff. Sometimes I look to buy websites. If a website makes some money then maybe I buy it for 10-15 times that amount and eventually I make my money back. There are ALL KINDS OF SCAMS involved in this so it’s a messy situation sometimes, but when everything is on the up-and-up it can be a win for everyone. But when someone does something shady or just inconsiderate then it can be frustrating. This post is about an inconsiderate person. What follows is the story.

I’m was looking over at digitalpoint for a website to buy. I spent a few hours looking and finally settled on this site that is supposedly making a couple hundred bucks a month. It’s and image related site pix-ol-something-or-another… doesn’t matter. Really, that’s would cost like $2500 to buy and that is out of my budget, but if it was a GREAT deal I’d have to atleast consider considering it. So anyway, I read the description, the price, check out the analytics, etc. There is a lot of traffic so I’m thinking “this might actually be a good deal”. Then I decide to go to the site to see what it is. Standard operating procedure. The first page just basically asks if you want to upload an files. I say no… and BAM… nakedness all over the screen. That’s right, apparently guy was selling an “adult” site and didn’t bother mentioning it in the ad. Jerk.

So what bothers me? Well, I do this same type of research during the day sometimes on the weekend and possibly even at work. It just so happens that while, in this case, it was the weekend the kids were already in bed and not goofing off where they can see over daddy’s shoulder. That was a relief at least. Also, there are people that have legitimate problems and addictions to those types of sites and by linking to them without warning people may be unduly caused to stumble in their efforts to heal. What if I had been at my day job? I could be in the unemployment line because some putz didn’t bother mentioning the site he was selling was “not safe for work”. It’s definitely not a thing to play around with.

Who knows… maybe I’m just an old fogy and should get over it, but it just seems like people should have a little more respect for one another and IF a person might be taking someone down path that could cause issues they should at least be warned about what lies ahead.

Jul 18

lock down you wifi! and an overview of things to come

I had a birthday recently. On my birthday I made a sort of “resolution” to try to write atleast one post per week. This is week 3 (or 4 maybe) after that birthday and I’m just writing the first one. Sounds about right for a resolution, eh?

So here’s what I thought I would do. I’m going to make a list of some things that I plan to write about so I can reference it and have quick ideas in the future.

One of the things I want to write in depth on is the dangers of leaving your wifi open. I’ve read some really scary stories lately that in retrospect could probably have been predicted. I’ll give you the short version of my recommendation right now… lock down you wifi. No matter how altruistic your motives for leaving it open to whoever wants to use it allowing them to do so is not worth the potential legal issues. I just added security (or attempted to anyway) in the last couple of weeks, and I just hope no one did anything too shady before then. I’ll give a full writeup at some point in the near future.

Another thing I’ll be writing about will be some things I’ve learned business related. It’s been another year that I’ve been running a website that COULD make money and I will share some of what has and has not worked for me along those lines. The things that didn’t work were either due to being a poor idea in general or perhaps due to poor execution. I’ll talk about advertising on Facebook, google adwords, arguing with your customers, plans for revenue streams.

I might talk about kids. They are certainly a never ending source of material. The same parents can have kids that are opposite in so many ways it can be almost comical if it wasn’t so frustrating. One child knows exactly why they do everything… the other child believes “I don’t know” is an answer to why they did anything wrong. Bill Cosby would be proud of the second.

May 04

Do it yourself… atleast once

Not too long ago my wife and I purchased a new house. Well, actually, there’s nothing new about this house. It’s about 40 years old and full of “issues”. Some of them are purely a product of neglect (it was vacant for almost 2 years prior to our purchasing it), some of them are due to the house’s age, and some of them are simply “things I wish were different”. I’ll be learning a lot of new skills on this one…

I have a tendency to avoid paying someone else to do something until I myself have done the same thing. For example, when I was 19 or so I decided I wasn’t going to take my car to get the oil changed. I’d change it myself. It did not end well…  I emptied the wrong fluid. I dumped the manual transmission fluid when I pulled the plug ( which explained why my oil was purple) and before I knew it my car was in the shop anyway… for a more expensive fix. I went ahead and finished the oil change myself though first.

So why did I decide to do it myself? Is it because I like working on cars? Nope, not really (though I do like to understand how they work just in case). It’s because I wanted to know (1) can I do this myself and save some money and (2) If I can do it myself for less money, can I save enough money to make it worth my time. If there answer to (2) is “no”, then I simply won’t do it anymore. I’ll pay someone else, but I want to know what I’m paying them to do.

I felled a tree with an axe last weekend. It was very satisfying. The tree was approximately 40ft tall with a trunk diameter of around 10 inches. It was a lot of work. And despite the satisfying feeling of watching the tree fall to the ground caused by my sweat and determination I now know WHY I would pay someone to cut down any tree bigger than that one. It is simply not worth my time / pain / equipment / etc to do it myself. Previously when getting estimates I might have thought “200 dollars for that tree… is this guy trying to rip me off?” or “I have to get 5 estimates just to be sure everyone is in the right ballpark”. But now, having done it myself, I know what I would quote myself, and I know that it likely takes me two or three times as long as a “pro” so I can adjust accordingly. I also know that I can spend the time I would spend on the tree working on a new computer program… or doing some house maintenance I’m actually good at… which is likely a far better use of my time. Heck, I might be able to make the $300 working on computer stuff in the amount of time it would have taken me to cut down the tree and haul it out to the curb. In that case, I can rest well knowing that both the contractor and I win. I can write that check with confidence and without regrets or hesitation.

When possible, I suggest doing the things you would pay someone else to do atleast once. Maybe you’ll find you like it and are good at. Maybe you’ll just reaffirm your decision to let someone else do it. Either way, odds are you’ll learn something useful.

(I pay someone to change my oil. I can get it changed for about $13 at the right time of day and it only takes about 10 minutes. I can barely buy all the supplies for that price, and it would likely take me an hour. I know how, just in case, but for now, it’s worth my time and lack of frustration to write the check and rest well knowing that it truly is the right decision as opposed to the “easy” decision.)

Jan 14

Website color charts

Anyone creating websites has come across a need for color charts. Whether picking a background, a font color, a border color, or any other colored control / feature it is crucial to have some sort of reference to work from. I’m not that artsie (sp?) so I don’t have the color codes memorized due to high use, but I also hate going and looking for decent ones.

As I find decent charts, I’ll add them here.

The main reason I like this first one listed is that it has not only the codes, but it shows me pictures of each of the CSS standard color codes. I am often coding away and am trying to pick a color but the intellisense only has the color NAME… not a sample next to it. Now I can whip out my handy dandy color chart via the link below, find the color I want visually, and then use the name specified next to it. Life is good.

Color Chart: http://www.neopets.com/~triflot

Dec 26

Link checker – Bad neighborhood

I often get requests for me to add links to my sites. Usually it is just someone looking for something simple that will deliver them some relevant traffic.
What I have found though is that one should ALWAYS verify that the link destination is okay. It should not be in a bad neighborhood. In addition, it should not link out to bad neighborhoods. These bad neighborhoods will get sites that link to them penalized in the search engines.  That’s right – the sites that you link to can get your site penalized. Not only that, but the sites THEY link to might get your site penalized.
The link below has a bad-neighborhood checker. It will scan a URL and determine if there are questionable links. Then it will scan the linked to pages to see if any of their links are questionable in nature. It’s a great little tool and I highly recommend using it.