Reviews and links for April 2010

Updated on Friday, May 22, 2020

The Spire by Richard North Patterson

3/5

A good enough holiday read and nice to see Patterson return to a straight psychological thriller rather than the last few OpEds loosely wrapped with some plot.

 

Advanced .NET Debugging (Addison-Wesley Microsoft Technology Series) by Mario Hewardt

5/5

Comprehensive introduction to low level .NET debugging - when you need to fire up WinDbg to check out the state of the managed heap, or debug a crash dump from the field you'll find this book invaluable. I wish it had been available when I started figuring out how to use SOS.

 

The Complete Stories of J. G. Ballard by J.G. Ballard

5/5

Wonderful collection of all of Ballard's short stories. It's a huge book with surprisingly few duds. My favorites include The Illuminated Man, clearly the inspiration for The Crystal World, which includes meaning bombs like "It's almost as if a sequence of displaced but identical images were being produced by refraction through a prism, but with the element of time replacing the role of light." and The Ultimate City (which isn't using ultimate in the sense of being good...). I've read most of Ballard's novels but not many of the short stories before. They're well worth the time.

 

Links

- Microsoft Agrees With Apple And Google: “The Future Of The Web Is HTML5″ from TechCrunch (Which makes it all the more tragic that a huge number of clients will still be running IE6 :().

- Comedian criticises BBC 'rebuke' from BBC News | News Front Page | World Edition (The problem isn't that it was anti-Semitic, it's that it wasn't funny.).

- UK 'has a high early death rate' from BBC News | News Front Page | World Edition (That'll be the deep fried mars bars and chips.).

- Oklahoma, where women's rights are swept away from All Salon (Competing with AZ to be the most fucked up state? Sigh :().

- Cameras capture 'Highland tiger' from BBC News | News Front Page | World Edition (Tabbs was bigger than that (a house cat)).

- MI5 dumps staff lacking IT skills from BBC News | News Front Page | World Edition (MI5 has staff without computer skills?).

- The Internet Provides. from jwz (Disturbing).

- Who Really Spends The Most On Their Military? from Information Is Beautiful (Click through to the Guardian blog post, interesting reading.).

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Is Intuit Insane?

Updated on Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Yes.

Some more color. I use Intuit's assisted payroll service, which is fantastic. You run payroll straight out of QuickBooks and Intuit handles all the tax disbursement and filing for you.

I got an email today with an attachment called securedoc.html claiming to be a message from Intuit. The idea is that you open the attachment and then login to view the message.

It really couldn't look any more like a phishing email, however I called Intuit and remarkably it's a real message. They seriously expect me to open an email attachment and provide account information. The support person at Intuit was able to read the message to me and it was just a routine acknowledgment that some tax rates had been updated.

Intuit is seriously training its customers to fall victim to phishing attacks. The right approach would be to say that a message is available and to log in to your account to retrieve it, or better still to send a message through the existing system in QuickBooks. Securedoc.htm is just begging customers to provide their account information to the bad guys.

Intuit's payroll service stores bank account information, employee Social Security numbers and other data that you really don't want to expose. If you're an Intuit Payroll customer please call and complain. If you've received one of these messages I'd also recommend forwarding it to [email protected], their address for reporting phishing attacks. 

 

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MMS Photo Upload to Facebook

Updated on Sunday, May 9, 2021

Does Facebook now hate MMS? For the past couple of weeks every time I tried to send a photo I got the following error message:

You have uploaded from an unrecognized address. For instructions on how to upload photos to Facebook, go to http://www.facebook.com/mobile"

I got this sending to both [email protected] and 32665. The referenced page is no help at all, and my phone number is registered with Facebook Mobile.

It turns out that there's a new secret email address. On the Facebook site click the icon to share a photo:

Facebook MMS Upload Step 1

Then click Upload a Photo:

Facebook MMS Upload Step 2

Then click upload via email:

Facebook MMS Upload Step 3

Your personal email address is finally revealed and can be used to send a photo via MMS.

Facebook - update your error message to point this out!

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How many people don't read this blog?

Updated on Sunday, May 3, 2020
This is a joke metric that I first proudly displayed on Catfood Magazine back in 2007 1997 (it's broken on the archive of the site). Everyone had a hit counter back then, but as far as I know we were the first site with a non-hit counter.

The dirty secret was that the counter just showed the world population. The readership was a rounding error.

My new count of non-visitors uses the US Census Bureau's world population estimate and subtracts unique visitors from the Google Analytics API. The count is cached for an hour so it doesn't slow the page down too much.

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How to get technical support without spending hours on the phone

Updated on Sunday, May 3, 2020
Them: Hello, my name is Phil, how can I help you today?

You: My DSL connection is slow.

Them: Okay, I can help you with that, have you...

You: My first thought was that the Linksys router that's been working perfectly for five years has gone wrong. So I connected my computer directly to your off-brand modem with the same result. I then thought that the problem must be with the computer, so I reinstalled it from the manufacturer discs and rebooted about seven times.

Them: Let me connect you to my supervisor...

Them: Tap, tap, tap, oh, we seem to have switched your service back to the basic package. Tap, tap, tap, fixed.
Sometimes it's fun to argue with support. Sometimes you just need to short-circuit the idiot script to get through to the person who can fix the problem.

I think it's time for CAPTGUAs or Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Geeks and Users Apart. A quick puzzle or two that bypasses the first couple of levels of support.

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Overvalidation

Updated on Saturday, July 18, 2020

Overvalidation is unhelpful error checking, usually caused by an over-zealous engineer with insufficient domain knowledge. My blood pressure has suffered from two cases of overvalidation this week.

I bought a new NAS — the Linksys NAS200 to set up RAID 1 with a couple of 1TB drives.

I was delighted to discover that the NAS could send email when it detects a problem or starts running out of disk space. Except it couldn't because someone decided that an email server could live at port 25, or at port 1024 or higher.

My ISP blocks port 25 - maybe to cut back on bot spam, maybe because their support staff are bored and lonely. This is far from unique and it's common for email providers to offer an alternative port. Which is almost always port 587. I tried to put a bug report into Linksys but their support pages effectively said "dude, you paid $89 for this box, go talk to other losers on some forum".

Linksys NAS Email Alert Fail

The NAS problem can be solved by redirecting a port on my router. I haven't figured out how to deal with Technorati yet. After spending seemingly months moving their datacenter they've evidently done some work on their blog claim process. I created a new blog yesterday (Webcam Updates, to remove some clutter from the main Catfood Blog) and went over to Technorati to claim it.

When you enter a URL like "http://www.site.com/blog" it's automatically changed to "http://site.com/blog". Which is a different URL. I 301 redirect any "catfood.net" url to "www.catfood.net" to prevent getting dinged by Google for duplicate content. Technorati's claim process fails if there's a 301 redirect.

Technorati Blog Claim Fail

I guess I could remove the redirect, complete the claim and then hope that I can put the redirect back without breaking Technorati. Possibly when my blood pressure is back to normal.

Please, by all means do some validation – "giraffe" is most certainly not a valid TCP/IP port – but don't overvalidate, and don't assume that your mail server port or preferred URL convention is some kind of universal constant.

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