Monday, December 27, 2010

Why NORAD tracks Santa.

"The tradition began in 1955 after a Colorado Springs-based Sears Roebuck & Co. advertisement for children to call Santa misprinted the telephone number. Instead of reaching Santa, the phone number put kids through to the CONAD Commander-in-Chief’s operations "hotline." The Director of Operations at the time, Colonel Harry Shoup, had his staff check the radar for indications of Santa making his way south from the North Pole. Children who called were given updates on his location, and a tradition was born."

Some people can be awesome on the fly.  The rest of us marvel.  Thanks for being awesome Colonel Shoup!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Netflix on Linux:

It's time to pay it back Netflix.  Using FOSS to leverage a profit is fine. Using it for PR but sticking it to the users is NOT!

Shannon VanWagner has an excellent post on the topic.

Posted via email from ninjahippie's (pre) posterous

Friday, December 24, 2010

GTOW Email (Password) security

I know - I haven't written a GTOW in a long time.  Maybe this is my GTOQ (quarter).  This may be the most important one of the year though.

Over the past month or so several of my friends have had their gmail or hotmail accounts "hacked".  I've been lucky enough to avoid this peril and being the IT security guy in residence among my circle of friends, I get asked about this quite often.  How it happens, and how to prevent it.

How it happens is 90% caused by password re-use.  Most people have very few or even just one password that they use for almost everything.  From their Gmail account all the way to their bank.  The best of us normally have only a few.  The recent leak from the Gawker sites really highlighted this for many people.  Many use the same password on sites all across the net.  In Gawker's case it was just passwords used to comment on stories on their various sites.  Not a lot of attention was placed on security (by both Gawker and their users) as this doesn't seem very important.  The problem is that when these accounts were leaked  - they contained email addresses and Internet handles where the same password was used.  From that seemingly innocent password leak thousands of email and twitter accounts were compromised. I in fact have an account on Gawker but since it has a different password than any of my email or social sites I was OK.

How to prevent this:  Don't use the same password.  Seems simple but no one can remember different passwords for every site.  What I recommend in order of increasing security are the following:

  1. 4 or 5 different passwords of increasing security level.  One that is "open" - you use it only for things like the Gawker comment system.  Then a step up - sites that have a little personal info on you but nothing that could really be used to steal your identity or money.  Then a step up - social network sites.  Another for shopping or sites that keep your credit card info on file and finally one for just your bank and one for health info.
  2. A mnemonic algorithm.   Such as this one
  3. A password safe and individual, highly secure, random passwords for every site.  This one sounds like a crazy pain in the butt doesn't it.  Actually - it's not at all.  Here's the recipe:
I highly recommend Keepass.  Mostly because it runs on everything.  I mean everything - Windows/Mac/Linux - plus every smart-phone, PDA and some things I've never even heard of.  This way you can have the app on your phone, work and home computers and even a USB stick.  I also recommend it because you can store the encrypted password data file anywhere you want.  I store mine on my Dropbox account.  I use Dropbox for the same reason I use Keepass.  It works everywhere.  This way my current password data is available to me everywhere.

Keepass also does two other things that make setting all this up worth the work.  First it generates really great passwords at the click of a button.  Second - it types in your user name and password for you on all of those sites.

Since setting this up I've taken to using a different random password on every site and system.  Oh, the other thing I forgot to mention - both Keepass and Dropbox are FREE.  Dropbox is also awesome because it copies your files to your local system whenever they are updated online.  That way even if you don't have Internet access you have the most recent copy available.

Also - on top of all this password security - make sure that you fill in and regularly update the recovery options on your email accounts.  I can't overstate this.  I've had at least two friends that had ignored these items and had an amazingly hard time getting back control of their accounts.  Both Google and Hotmail allow you to specify another email address and/or a phone number where they can securely send you account recovery links - after you answer some security questions. 

For gods sake don't use your mother's maiden name (or any other personal data that can be looked up) as your security question!  The famous Sara Palin email hack - her security question was "Where did you attend high school?".  That took some real hacker skill to guess didn't it. Even if you aren't famous - disgruntled employees or acquaintances can easily look up your home town, birth date, and have probably heard stories about your dog.  Don't do it.

Happy holidays!

Posted via email from ninjahippie's (pre) posterous

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Don't F*ck with a hacker's computer

Loved this session at this year's Defcon:

Posted via email from ninjahippie's (pre) posterous

Monday, December 20, 2010

Dual Screen Kno - The coolest device I've seen. For students

I am SO going to look into this for my college bound son!  Fantastic use of tech.

The has a bunch of video with real beta testers on real devices.  It's not vapor.

Posted via email from ninjahippie's (pre) posterous

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Charlie Stross explains it all:

Best explanation I've ever read.  It's all been an alien invasion.

"We are now living in a global state that has been structured for the benefit of non-human entities with non-human goals. They have enormous media reach, which they use to distract attention from threats to their own survival."

Trust me.  Read the post.

Posted via email from ninjahippie's (pre) posterous

Another EFF Victory: Email Privacy Protected by Fourth Amendment

Friday, December 03, 2010

Full Body Scanners: What's Next?

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Opt Out! TSA parody

First the airports.  Then the bus and train stations.  Next:



Posted via email from ninjahippie's (pre) posterous

The most ridiculous motorcycle ever built.

Ladies and germs, I give you the Tron Lightcycle.  Made real.


Posted via email from ninjahippie's (pre) posterous

Close the Washington Monument

The man that wrote the book (literally - actually several) on cryptography and information security opines on the dilemma of what to do with the Washington Monument. It speaks volumes and should be read and considered by everyone:

Schneier on Security

A blog covering security and security technology.

December 2, 2010

Close the Washington Monument

Securing the Washington Monument from terrorism has turned out to be a surprisingly difficult job. The concrete fence around the building protects it from attacking vehicles, but there's no visually appealing way to house the airport-level security mechanisms the National Park Service has decided are a must for visitors. It is considering several options, but I think we should close the monument entirely. Let it stand, empty and inaccessible, as a monument to our fears.
An empty Washington Monument would serve as a constant reminder to those on Capitol Hill that they are afraid of the terrorists and what they could do. They're afraid that by speaking honestly about the impossibility of attaining absolute security or the inevitability of terrorism -- or that some American ideals are worth maintaining even in the face of adversity -- they will be branded as "soft on terror." And they're afraid that Americans would vote them out of office if another attack occurred. Perhaps they're right, but what has happened to leaders who aren't afraid? What has happened to "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself"?
An empty Washington Monument would symbolize our lawmakers' inability to take that kind of stand -- and their inability to truly lead.
Some of them call terrorism an "existential threat" against our nation. It's not. Even the events of 9/11, as horrific as they were, didn't make an existential dent in our nation. Automobile-related fatalities -- at 42,000 per year, more deaths each month, on average, than 9/11 -- aren't, either. It's our reaction to terrorism that threatens our nation, not terrorism itself. The empty monument would symbolize the empty rhetoric of those leaders who preach fear and then use that fear for their own political ends.
The day after Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab failed to blow up a Northwest jet with a bomb hidden in his underwear, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said "The system worked." I agreed. Plane lands safely, terrorist in custody, nobody injured except the terrorist. Seems like a working system to me. The empty monument would represent the politicians and press who pilloried her for her comment, and Napolitano herself, for backing down.
The empty monument would symbolize our war on the unexpected, -- our overreaction to anything different or unusual -- our harassment of photographers, and our probing of airline passengers. It would symbolize our "show me your papers" society, rife with ID checks and security cameras. As long as we're willing to sacrifice essential liberties for a little temporary safety, we should keep the Washington Monument empty.
Terrorism isn't a crime against people or property. It's a crime against our minds, using the death of innocents and destruction of property to make us fearful. Terrorists use the media to magnify their actions and further spread fear. And when we react out of fear, when we change our policy to make our country less open, the terrorists succeed -- even if their attacks fail. But when we refuse to be terrorized, when we're indomitable in the face of terror, the terrorists fail -- even if their attacks succeed.
We can reopen the monument when every foiled or failed terrorist plot causes us to praise our security, instead of redoubling it. When the occasional terrorist attack succeeds, as it inevitably will, we accept it, as we accept the murder rate and automobile-related death rate; and redouble our efforts to remain a free and open society.
The grand reopening of the Washington Monument will not occur when we've won the war on terror, because that will never happen. It won't even occur when we've defeated al Qaeda. Militant Islamic terrorism has fractured into small, elusive groups. We can reopen the Washington Monument when we've defeated our fears, when we've come to accept that placing safety above all other virtues cedes too much power to government and that liberty is worth the risks, and that the price of freedom is accepting the possibility of crime.
I would proudly climb to the top of a monument to those ideals.

A version of this essay -- there were a lot of changes and edits -- originally appeared in the New York Daily News.
I wish I'd come up with the idea of closing the Washington Monument, but I didn't. It was the Washington Post's Philip Kennicott's idea, although he didn't say it with as much fervor.
Posted on December 2, 2010 at 10:41 AM

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Technology I'm Thankful for.

Being that it's once again Thanksgiving day - I thought I'd remark on the tech that has made my life better this year.

Number one has to be my Droid.  I've had it for a year now and I have to say that it is definitely the tech that has changed / made my life better on a daily basis.  From allowing me to keep in near constant contact with my distant sons to making me absolutely addicted to instant information at a level I never thought possible.  Oh and Angry Birds too...

Second is my Xbox.  Being that I generally avoid anything Microsoft like the plague (writing this via one of my Ubuntu systems) - I have to give M$ big love on the Xbox.  Great games, Netflix (can't wait for Hulu), DVD player, and the ability to play games and talk with my sons from across the country.

Third - begrudgingly goes again to Facebook.  Even with it's privacy issues - stupid games -and censorship.  Done correctly it allows you to re-connect with old pals and keep up with current friends and yes - even family. 

Third - Ubuntu.  Best-OS-Evar!  Better than Windows and OSX combined! (see my previous review)

A special mention this year goes to Skype.  Thanks to Skype and my droid I had the weird experience of a conversation from the back of a car with a friend in Australia very early on new year's morning.  I troubleshot a problem on another friend's pc (via screen sharing) and most recently made possible a visit for my hospitalized mother from her grandsons that are half a continent away.  Very, Very awesome.

That's it.  As a tech blogger of sorts on this day set aside for giving thanks.  Thanks to all of the people that make these technologies possible.  You rock!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

No. Your Government would never lie to you...

In a nutshell:

1) TSA puts in porno scanners and punishes you for opting out by "grabbing your junk".
2) US citizens that don't like this (i.e. everyone with an IQ above 85) protest with an "Opt out" day.
3) TSA just quietly turns off the machines and passes everyone through so they can say there weren't any opt outs and lines moved like normal...  Move along nothing to see here.

Can't wait to see what the news media reports since they have been quoting 4 month old surveys in their stories so far.

Posted via email from ninjahippie's (pre) posterous

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Porno Scanners

I think most people - and certainly the media are missing the larger point about the "porno scanners" and "grope searches".  Unless you are a pilot, steward(es) or very frequent flyer the radiation risk isn't really that high.  I'd also include children and expectant mothers in the list that should never be asked to go through the scanners just to be safe...

The real issue is civil rights.  Specifically the 4th amendment:
  The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and Warrants shall not be issued, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
They can scan me - with a warrant.  They can pat me down - with a third party as a witness.  That's my line. Don't cross it.

Rights must be protected.  It's our job as citizens to do that.  If you believe in this country and it's constitution then draw the line and protect your rights.  Start by refusing this illegal intrusion into your privacy.   To borrow / paraphrase from the protectors of our second amendment rights - they can have my privacy when they pry it from my cold dead fingers!

In my opinion, so far, the terrorists have been allowed to win.  We as a country have lain down and allowed our freedoms to be trampled.  Not only do we allow the TSA to grope our daughters and grandmothers.  We accost photographers and other artists.  We allow our own government to tap our personal communications and even allow our leaders to torture.  Mr. Bin Laden won't attack again - he doesn't need to.  He won.  In fact he predicted this:

“I tell you, freedom and human rights in America are doomed. The U.S. government will lead the American people in and the West in general into an unbearable hell and a choking life.” - Osama Bin Laden

 Think that says it all.  Get involved.  Boycott flying this thanksgiving and refuse the porno scanners.  Tell your congressmen your opinion and suport any legislation to remove these dreadful intrusions to our rights.

Enough is enough.

Image via Boing Boing

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Dog Walk Green Musings

Walking the dog tonight I was taken aback by the number of homes with piles of plastic bags full of fall yard waste.  The yards looked nice and neat (the bags not withstanding) but...

My city like most offers yard waste composting.  Very nice use of the yard waste and the landfill isn't filled with leaves and plastic.   Where I live, to take advantage of composting you have to haul the yard waste to the landfill yourself.  With that in mind it's pretty understandable that some folks would not take advantage of this service.   Even here in redneck Wyoming where everyone - even grandma - has a big frickin truck (and a shotgun).

Whats better is so simply logical that you will probably facepalm when you hear it.  I first read it when I purchased a house with a HUGE yard.  I have an acre of grass and trees...  At that moment I panicked a little and purchased a lawn tractor and a book on lawn care.

The two things in that book that stuck with me the most - cut the lawn as long as possible and leave the clippings.  I'd spent my whole lawn mowing life dumping clippings into those black plastic bags and always thought mulching was for some far away places where it actually rains.  Then I realized - that's what the city does in all the parks and what all the large lawns (including golf courses) do.  (with the exception of the greens)

I've been living here for more than a dozen years now and I constantly - well often anyway - get asked how I have such a green lawn - and I almost never fertilize.

The "secret"?  Leaving the clippings (mulch).  It keeps moisture in the lawn so you water less.  You are also not removing (throwing away) biomass (fertilizer and other soil nutrients).  You want green?  Stop killing the grass and throwing away all the good stuff.

The same holds true of fall leaves.  The trees worked hard all year to pull stuff up from the soil and store it in the leaves.  Now you are putting it in plastic and filling the local dump with all the goods from YOUR soil.  If you want rich dark soil and healthy trees - stop throwing it away.

You don't even need to do any fancy composting.  Just rake it up around the base of the trees.  Even better if you can run the leaves through a mulcher first to start the breakdown process.  If you have it - cover the leaves with pine straw and you will even make your mowing easier because weeds and grass won't grow around the base of the trees.   By late spring the leaves will be black, wet, and well on their way be being the best soil you've ever seen.

You will most certainly end up with piles bigger than you want to leave around the trees.  The rest of the leaves - just go over them with a mulching lawn mower and just forget that fall fertilizer you were going to put on.

See how simple it is to go green - and save yourself work and money too.  I guess that's a green geek tip.

The Goon:

Atheists Don't have no Songs:

Monday, November 08, 2010

Nice to see the TSA (totally stupid administration?) is not letting us down:

Now they have banned toner and ink cartridges from aircraft.  No I'm not kidding.  Wish I was.

Posted via email from ninjahippie's (pre) posterous

"BP Spill Probe: No Sign Money Put Before Safety" - What this says to me:

"BP Spill Probe: No Sign Money Put Before Safety" - What this says to me: Deep water drilling is too crazy dangerous to even consider!

From the article: "the spill commission said that challenges in drilling the well, which led to the worst offshore oil spill ever, are common in the oil industry."

No shit! Well then lets stop doing it!

Via: Wall Street Journal

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Ubuntu 10.10 review

Going on 3 weeks with the new Ubuntu release and I have to say that I'm in love. In one of my previous tweets I mentioned that using Maverick is almost as satisfying as Android. Says it all.

I guess that's the difference for me with operating systems. Windows always feels like a compromise. Yes I can get work done but it's always a struggle. Nothing in windows comes easy. Examples: If I need a program to do something it takes research on software and then time to locate and actually risking money to find out if the program will work for me. The same with Mac. On Ubuntu – especially with the new Software Center I just do a search. Read the description and click install to try the program. If it doesn't work I just un-install. No risk, and instant gratification.

I've done that many times over the last 2.5 weeks. The amazing thing is that I have only once or twice found that the program didn't do what I expected. The quality of software in the Software Center is amazing – even for the normally higher quality of open source.

Second example: It just works. Over and over I find that I need to do a specific task – pull up the included program and, well, it just works. No muss, no fuss. In many cases better than the specific commercially developed windows program. On leaving for a recent trip I decided to equip my laptop with software to work remotely – just in case the shit hit the fan back at the office. I installed the first VPN client that caught my eye (Shrew) from the software center and it worked the first time. It in fact does things better than any of the commercially available solutions I've found (like allowing you to set your DNS to an internal server while the tunnel is active).

My company uses Novell's GroupWise email, calendar and instant messenger and Avaya's PBX and voice mail. Evolution pulls together my personal Google mail / calendar / contacts seamlessly with Groupwise email, calendar and contacts and my Avaya voice mail. Something I cannot do at all on Windows. Period. No matter how much software I purchase.

I did run into one snag. There is a bug getting the standard Empathy IM client to work with GroupWise Messenger. It's a simple bug that will almost certainly be solved in a future release and was simply solved in my case by installing Pidgin from the software center. All of my instant messaging is tied together and amazingly Pidgin – even though it's not the default IM app (why) – is still integrated with the “me menu” - looks and works great.

Installing Linphone even lets me connect with our SIP server and have an extension on our office telephone system. And thanks to the much improved UI I was able to install a very specific and vertical firewall administration app under Wine without indecent. Wine used to be a nightmare of tweakerdom. Not any more.

All of this with the beauty of the Ubuntu improved Gnome based interface giving me 4 workspaces, my calendar/appointments, network status, IM, social network, email, and even current weather. Out of the box with no tweaks, downloads or software to buy. I also don't have to give up memory and processor (and money) to run anti-virus and anti-spyware software.

I did replace the default panel with Docky. Yes it seems a little Apple-ish but I think its one of the things that they got right in their UI. This is another thing to love about Ubuntu. I can make the desktop work the way I want it to. Out of the box without purchasing anything. Take that Apple and Microsoft.

Performance: In a nutshell – kicks butt. My laptop boots cold in 38 seconds. Something that took almost 8 min. with XP and almost 11 with windows 7.

Granted most of this is available with any Linux distro out there. What makes Ubuntu special?

Several things. First the time that was spent for 10.4 in shaving down the boot time. Wow! Effort well spent! Second – the Software Center. This goes way beyond a simple package manager. Admittedly this has been getting simpler in Linux in general the last few years but Ubuntu has taken the time to take it to a new level and do it right. Getting software is as simple as the app store on Android or the iPhone.

The installer is brilliant and the ability to do in place upgrades (I did from 10.4 to 10.10) is really convenient and something that Microsoft seems to have forgotten with Windows 7. In fact on the system that had XP previously installed, Ubuntu actually pulled over my documents and settings from windows.

Lastly – it's simply beautiful. Even in comparison to OSX. Yes it's really that polished and nice. 10.10 came complete with nice touches like it's own font. The integration of software into Gnome – like the “me menu” is fantastic and makes the admittedly pretty Windows 7 interface seem clunky.

Where I used to somewhat struggle making Linux desktops work in a windows world I've found that Ubuntu 10.4 and 10.10 make fitting into today's business world less of a task than running windows itself and the advantages of being able to integrate disparate systems AND work with my *nix AND windows based hosts, networks and servers incredibly satisfying.

In my opinion Ubuntu is the first Linux desktop that has not only met but exceeded both Windows and OSX in almost every category. It sets the bar very high and is way ahead of the other distros in the areas of polish and integration. So far that I don't think any other community has the resources to catch up. That is the real secret behind Ubuntu. It's developer and user community is hands down the strongest out there.

Downsides – as I've said in previous posts. Lack of continuity of major applications. When your users love and invest time in data and configuration of things, they have made a choice. Time to put your resources behind those projects and not just jump to the latest widget out there. Kudos to continued support of previous apps however. I was pleasantly surprised that even though Pidgin stopped being the default IM app in 10.4 that it was still so tightly integrated with the “me menu”.

The other downsides are those common to any Linux. Lack of drivers for newer hardware and lax support by some software vendors. The most visible example being the lack of hardware acceleration in Adobe Flash and the lack of support by game authors. This is rapidly changing however.

Even if you are a die hard Windows or Mac user. It's time. Make the move. Ubuntu will not only save you money and allow you to extend the life of older hardware – you will find the experience to be something you have been searching for. The experience that has been promised for years is finally in your grasp. A computer that is fast, simple, cheap, and above all satisfying.

Download and install here:
Or buy shiny and new here:

Friday, November 05, 2010

EPIC has filed a lawsuit to suspend the deployment of body scanners at US airports.


On my last two trips it's gotten increasingly hard to avoid these demon spawn machines.  For example - in late August at DIA there was one.  You could avoid it by choosing any of the other security lines.  As of last week they now have at least two of the beasts and funnel 4 full lines through them.  It looks like they are making room for two more which could in therory handle all of the remaining queues, so that you wont be able to avoid them by carefully choosing what line you stand in.

Add to that the following: Beginning on Oct 31 the TSA has been instructed to "enhance" it's pat down searches for anyone refusing the scanner.  Basically make you regret not appearing naked on a screen somewhere...

Posted via email from ninjahippie's (pre) posterous

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Monday, October 25, 2010

Consistancy, conSistanC, Kinda Similar...

News today is that Ubuntu is making their Unity shell - now only standard in their netbook remix - the standard for the desktop in next year's release.  Several other blogers, like always, are reporting the death of the Linux desktop.  As they have for the last dozen or so years.  Geeks like me continue to marvel at computer users that keep buying Windows and Mac products over free and much more capable open source.

The answer lies in two human behaviors that open source never seems to get.  The first is the herd mentality. Second is the simple principal of consistency.  

People want to belong to a group.  Look at Harley Davidson.  99% of Harley owners have never been more than 50 miles on their bike.  They don't change their own oil and probably don't carry a single tool other than the included kit (and probably don't even know where that is).  Basically they don't know and really don't care at all about the actual motorcycle and know even less about other brands. However, they will defend to the end that Harley makes the best bike in the world. 

Every one of them owns a HD leather jacket, chaps, boots, gloves, underwear, bandana, key fob, and stickers for their truck and trailer.  But not a helmet in sight.  Because that's what the herd does and they so want to belong.

The same is true of Mac owners.  Apple's hardware is a generation behind, all looks the same, runs the same software (which is probably about to get even worse with the announcement of the app store).  But Mac users will extol the virtues of  "Thinking Different".  Just like the rest of their herd.

Windows - well that's the suit and tie herd.  Why Windows?  Because it's what the "serious business" herd runs.  Do any of the decision makers have a clue about simple things like file formats or even know how to attach photos to an email?  No.  But they defend Windows as the best OS - because Microsoft is the biggest and most importantly, the richest of the computer companies so it's products have to be the best - right?

Reason number two.  Consistency.   This is a big one.  I think it's probably the biggest reason Linux has so little traction in the desktop OS market.  Every version of Windows works essentially like the last.  Install Windows 7 and you still have a start menu.  You still have media player, control panel, Wordpad and all the other crappy little apps you have come to expect.  The same with OS X.  You don't boot up a new version of OS X and find that all of your programs have moved to different menus - the dock is now on the side and that the iLife suite has been replaced with something totally different.

Ubuntu - which seems to be the distro with the most promise for gaining desktop market share - is supposed to be the Linux for everyone.  It's easy. Runs on everything and is quite frankly beautiful. Even in comparison to OS X.  But download the update from 10.04 to 10.10 and suddenly the program you have come to love for managing your photos is gone.  Replaced - not by an upgrade but by a totally different application.  WTF!  The program you used to edit those photos - gone! The music app you liked so much - gone! etc etc.  And you know that it will probably happen again with the next version. (I know the upgrade process doesn't delete the old app - but install it on say a new notebook and go looking Fspot to import your photos.)

Open source problem one.  Herds.  Windows has the Armani suit herd.  Mac has the Hipster/Creative/Beautiful Person herd. Linux has the nerd/freak/conspiracy theorist herd.  Maybe we should all start wearing leather jackets and get Tux tattoos...

Second problem - definitely no consistency.  Even in a single distro between point releases.

I'm not saying that there shouldn't be changes.  Improvement is good.  Improve the user interface - sure.  Update the photo manager program with new features - fine.  But if Apple changed from iTunes to Mplayer and from Keynote to Impress between versions 10.5 and 10.7...  Lets just say I don't think things would be going as well for Apple.  If Microsoft dropped Word for WordPerfect in it's suite and forced everyone to convert file formats.  Just imagine.

The first distro to get these two things is popular beyond belief.  In fact it looks like it's the ruling OS in it's market.  You know what it is?  Android.  Think about that Ubuntu.  Android improves from version to version but you still know where your apps live. You just get more screens!  Android continues to widen choice when it comes to software but I don't have to wonder if I'll be using a totally different application to get my email when Gingerbread arrives.  Plus there is a definite herd.  The "I'm smarter than an iPhone user" herd.  I want to belong to that! 

Consistency - Some things in an OS are sacred.  They differ depending on platform of course but for a desktop - in general, if you include default apps where people will spend a lot of time and trust their data to a specific format.  You have just set a standard.  You can't simply switch standards mid stream and expect people to be loyal followers - at least not more than once.

Develop a herd.  How about the "I bought a new big screen with the money I saved and I'm still smarter than a Windows user" herd.  I like being in that group.  But if you change the photo manager again...

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Fall Riding

With the arrival of Fall full on and morning temps in the low 40's I've got to sing the praise of my favorite cold weather item (outside of a good coat and gloves).  The Aerostich Wind Triangle. 

Anyone that's ever ridden on a cold day can tell you that the coldest thing on them is that gap between helmet and coat.  So cold it's actually painful.  The wind triangle is simple and brilliant at at the same time.  Its basically a half bandana made of fleece and a wind proof layer of GoreTex under a soft cloth shell.  There is a strip of Velcro at two corners.

You hook the thing around your neck / chin (I put mine around my chin and double fasten it under the chinstrap of my helmet).  Tuck the rest into your jacket and no more cold neck - no more cold wind leaking up into your helmet from the bottom.  As a bonus - you don't look like a dork in a space suit either.

Available from Aerostich of course.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Friday, October 15, 2010

Monday, October 11, 2010

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Yesterday at the grocery store as I straightened the shopping carts so that mine and several others could fit in the corral, the woman behind me made the comment: "That was nice of you". 

Yes.  I guess it was.  But it bothers me that it was out of the ordinary enough for someone else to notice.  It's been bugging me ever since.

The last time I was at the store some Jersey shore knockoff with her two progeny forced their way in front of an older woman in line and then in the parking lot one of the two girls kinda pushed the shopping cart in the general direction of the corral as her mother blabbed on her phone and threw the Escelade into reverse without looking.

Every day I do things like taking a cart in from the lot, holding doors for people, helping to carry things and turning my cell off in meetings and movies - only to have doors slammed in my face, oblivious morons standing in the way as I carry heavy loads, and self important a-holes treating the theater like it's their living room.

I'm not saying I'm Mr. Perfect manners but my mother raised me to be polite and even sometimes helpful.  Didn't yours?

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Greater than 1%

A new "Linux counter" is out to prove that Linux users comprise more than the 1% of workstation users out there claimed by some (mostly in the business of selling windows or telling us why they won't write software for Linux).   Even Steve Ballmer doesn't believe it.  From OSnews:  Ballmer: Linux Bigger Competitor than Apple.

Personally I think that W3S is probably the most accurate.  It's based on web server log files and reflects what's actually seen.  It feels correct for the number of Macs to me as well.

In any regard this can only help our cause, so go here and be counted my friends in freedom!

Posted via email from ninjahippie's (pre) posterous

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Open Source 3D animation

This is incredible.  Embedded below is the movie Sintel.  Created entirely in the open source 3D animation suite Blender.  Watch and be amazed at the power of open source software:

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Never before seen Hells Angels photos from 1965

Gorgeous. Intriguing. Historic.

Tell Your Senator: No Website Blacklists, No Internet Censorship!

Welcome to China... 

From EFF's page: "The bill would allow the Attorney General and the Department of Justice to break the Internet one domain at a time — by requiring ISPs, domain registrars, DNS providers, and others to block Internet users from reaching certain websites. Chillingly, the bill also allows the Justice Department to create a blacklist of sites "dedicated to infringing activities" that ISPs and others will be encouraged to block."
 Go tell your senator NO!

You know you want to see this...

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Xmarks Sync closing in Jan.

This sucks.

I've used Xmarks literally for years.  Moving on to Firefox Sync I guess.

Posted via email from ninjahippie's (pre) posterous

Friday, September 24, 2010

Postcards from the Pledge

 I'm so glad that we have our comedians...  Jon Stewart on the GOP's Pledge to America.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Postcards From the Pledge
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Silence is golden...

Sorry for the long period of, well,  Nothing.  I've recently made the transition to again working in an office after several years of working remotely.  The loss of several hours a day rushing around in a hurry trying not to be late is having a much larger effect on me than I expected.

I promise - the release of the pithy, useless posts you have come to despise will increase in the near future.  As soon as I can figure out how to fit what my mind says is a day's worth of crap into a day again and still get a few hours of sleep.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Obama is Gargamel and he's killing all the Smurfs!!!

...and... "The planned "ultra-mosque" will be a staggering 5,600ft tall – more than five times higher than the tallest building on Earth – and will be capped with an immense dome of highly-polished solid gold, carefully positioned to bounce sunlight directly toward the pavement, where it will blind pedestrians and fry small dogs."

-Charlie Booker - The Guardian UK. 

Just go read the Op-Ed. Too good not to share...

Monday, August 23, 2010

Patriot Hackers

Editor's note:  I began writing this the last week of July.  Today I decided it was as good as it's going to get - added a little, edited a bit and pulled the trigger.  I hope it gets the point across. 

I haven't posted in a while - a week or more.  I know, bad blog etiquette.  I apologize.

Quite literally I've been rattling around my own head reeling from the experience of Def Con.  DC is like a drug to someone like me. The pure outlet of creativity and just being among others (about 10,000 by best estimates) afflicted with the same kind of analytic thinking I have.   Non-hackers don't see the world the same way.  When I go to the grocery store I choose my parking space according to it's closeness to a shopping cart corral.  When I see a nifty mechanism - like a bus door - I take it apart in my head and try to discover it's weaknesses.  When I get a new tool or gadget I take it apart, improve it where possible, exploit weaknesses where I can.  Everything is like that in my mind.  Nothing escapes hacking.  I even hack food.  It's crazy.  It tends to drive the normal people around me crazy too.

Anyway - back to Def Con.  It was beyond cathartic to know that I'm not alone.  Not by a long shot.  I now understand why hackers make the pilgrimage every year and why the con grows every year as more of us discover it.

One of the overriding things that I came away with was the concept of the patriot hacker.  I attended a couple of sessions of "meet the fed".  This has traditionally been an interesting meetup of hackers and their supposed nemesis in law enforcement.  The truth - It becomes really obvious that for the most part the hackers and the feds are on the same side.  Sure the hackers complain and make jibes and directly inflammatory comments about the feds methods.  But the overriding theme is how do we do this better?  Protect our country that is.

I'd say that 90% of the questions had to do with what can we do to help? or How do I come work for you? or Will you stop doing this the dumb way and listen to us?

The feds I have to say were great.  The tops of most of our organizations get it.  They are frustrated by government regulations in areas like hiring.  All but one agency (the Navy) lamented that it takes at least a year to become an employee and that there was almost no leeway for those that have a "colorful" past.

I've seen this first hand as a good friend of mine went to work for the federal government a few years ago.  It took him about a year - traveling to DC on his own dime for multiple interviews and testing. Then the FBI background checks and more interviews.  Then months of training on how the government does things. 

With recent developments of the Chinese, Russian and middle eastern countries taking advantage of their own patriot hacker ranks the US is like a third world country hoping to someday become a nuclear power.

Anyway enough rambling.  The point - if there is one to this post - is that it's time to take advantage of the patriot hacker in the US.  In order to do that we need to change business as usual in DC.  Get these agencies the talent that they desperately need.  Where do we start?

Geeks v Normals

Monday, August 02, 2010

Even "tech" media gets it wrong.

Everyone - most especially late night hosts and comedians are always down on "the media" for reporting on fluff stories. Justin Beiber or Lindsey Lohan anyone?  But they aren't the only ones.  The so called tech media is equally full of crap.

Case in point.  I just spent the weekend at Def Con.  You know the hacker conference that happens in Vegas every year.  Def Con is aptly named.  In a word it's Awesome, Awesome, Awesome.  Several times sitting in presentations I took a bite out of my chair due to the magnitude of the exploit being shown. 

Scary stuff - like a new exploit of WPA2.  This is the gold standard of wireless network security.  It's now useless.  Done. Over.  The industry will have to go back to the drawing board and try again.  Every wireless network out there is vulnerable.  WPA2 is totally broken.

What gets reported in the "news":  Well everyone from my local paper to CNet reported on the talk where a guy (with amazing skills and knowledge) built a device that can intercept GSM phone calls in the immediate area.  Yawn.  It's an amazingly cool hack and will be really useful for exactly NO ONE.  Think about this.  Anyone that's anyone will be using secondary encryption. i.e. government.  Anyone doing something nefarious will be subject to legal wiretaps that are a whole lot simpler to implement and everyone else is talking about picking up milk on the way home or Jaquita's new doo and how her booty looked in that purple and gold skirt.  Couple this with the fact YOU HAVE TO BE IN THE IMMEDIATE AREA.   Like I said,  YAWN. 

The other "big story" was a guy that hacked ATM machines.  The vulnerability is bad and the companies need to fix it,  but the access to the ATM that is required will make any actual exploitation of this bug very rare.  Much rarer than card skimmers - and this can be fixed by the vendors with a software patch.

Meanwhile the new vulnerability in the LAMP platform (i.e. the platform that runs 80% of the internet) goes completely un-reported.

These omissions are just as grave as choosing to publish photos of Ms Lohan's cleavage over reports from Iraq (remember that little war anyone).  Sure, boobies and ATMs make for great headlines and attract the drooling masses to your rag in line at the supermarket but these are hardly the important stories.

Then again if all the outlets reported on this stuff and everyone understood them - the world wouldn't need guys like me and I'd be out of a job.  Way to go Cnet!  Keep reporting fluff!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Best new iPhone accessory

Hero of the day... (or how to tether your Droid to Ubuntu)

Hero of the day ... is Shannon VanWagner  - Another long haired geek.  His post and mostly his script to tether a Droid to an Ubuntu laptop is awesome.
And this is why Linux / OSS wins every time.  The best I could do prior to this required me to A) use windows and B) Spend $30 on software.

Find his posting HERE

Posted via email from ninjahippie's (pre) posterous

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

On Vacation

Ninjahippie is on vacation this week so it's not likely there will be a GTOW.  Maybe some random crap - semi lucid thought though is out of the question...

Posted via email from ninjahippie's (pre) posterous

Friday, July 16, 2010


Diagnose your connections like a geek:

A couple of tools that every geek should know how to use.  These are the bread and butter of troubleshooting network issues.  These of course require that you are at least moderately comfortable with the command line on your system.  If you call your ISP or your IT department armed with info from these commands you will not only greatly speed up the solution you will also garner geek points and win a lot of favor - and probably a lot less attitude - from the person on the other end of the phone.

First up - ping.  Ping does two useful things.  First - it will do a dns lookup for the host you are having problems with.  If you type in  "ping"  it will first return an IP address.  If it does not and you get an error this narrows down the problem to one of three things 1 you don't have an internet connection at all. 2 your DNS is miss configured or 3 your DNS server is down or un-reachable.

If ping is successful at a DNS lookup it does the second of it's usefull things.  It sends a request (ICMP Echo) to that host to echo back the packet it sent.  If the other host does - you know you have a good connection.  If it does not respond that DOES NOT necessarily mean that you can't reach the system in question.  For example most firewalls will not return pings, and most servers on the internet are behind a firewall.  If you are trying to reach a server on the same network - on your office network for example and it does not return a ping - chances are good that either 1 the system is down or 2 you have no network connection.

Next up - nslookup.  This command is misunderstood and not used often enough.  Nslookup is useful in several ways but mostly to verify that there is a DNS entry for a host.  The two most useful ways of using nslookup are to find the IP address of a host or to find out what the DNS entry for a host is (reverse lookup).  To verify that there is an entry for a host enter the command nslookup with the fully qualified name of the host.  For example:  'nslookup'.  On your office network it may be tempting to just enter the name of the host by itself but this will only work if you have DNS on your workstation correctly configured with a default search domain AND the host is on the same domain you are.  So to reiterate:

'nslookup myserver'  - WRONG   'nslookup' - Correct.

To find the DNS entry for an IP address - or what is called a reverse lookup you do the opposite:  'nslookup'  This will return the DNS entry - for example.

Nslookup also works interactively.  That is if you just type 'nslookup' without anything else it will tell you what server it's currently using (which will by default be the first server configured on your workstation) and go to a prompt where you can try as many queries as you like just by entering the server name or ip.  There are a bunch of other options for nslookup.  It's a pretty powerful tool in the right hands.  If you are interested I suggest reading the man pages for it on *nix or by typing 'nslookup --h' on windows.  (by the way you hit CTRL-C to exit back to a system prompt)

Finally the most useful tool for testing where your packets are going... 

Traceroute, or tracert on windows systems.  When traffic moves accross TCP/IP networks it must pass through routers.  Routers are devices that work alot like telephone exchanges and make sure the packets go where they are supposed to.  Sometimes the instructions (called routes) on these systems get deleted or are miss configured.  To a network engineer the output of a traceroute will tell him precisely the path taken by traffic from your computer and lead him to the router with the faulty or missing route.

Let's say you can't get to but you can get to  You attempt a ping and it gets an address but none of your packets are returned.  You have just verified that you have an internet connection (you can get to yahoo and a ping successfully got an answer from your DNS server) so you try a tracert  As you watch it goes about 12 hops and then you start getting lines that look like:

13 * * * * * * *
14 * * * * * * *

Cut and paste this output into an email for your tech support and they will immediately love you.

Output like this usually means that the routes have gone off the rail or that you have gone as far as anything will answer.  Again most firewalls will not respond but if your network engineer looks at it they will know what systems answer and what do not.  Or they will know who to call that will.

Go try out these commands.  You wont hurt anything.  Stick them in your toolkit and become the darling of your IT department.  Ok at least you won't feel stupid when you call.

Posted via email from ninjahippie's (pre) posterous

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Top Secret Moto-Camping Tips

This being the week of the BMWMOA national rally - and simply rally / camping season in general for most motorcycle adventurerers I thought I'd throw together my list of motorcycle camping tips.  Stuff that no-one tells you straight up and you learn the hard way.

  1. Never wear cotton underwear on the bike if your trip involves leaving city limits.  Your butt will be pressed up against a leather seat in 90 degree heat for hours.  Cotton will get soggy with sweat and you will be miserable with the adult version of diaper rash.  Invest in a pair or two of underwear made for motorcycling or bicycling.  Both work.  I really like the products from LDComfort.  Also Anti Monkey Butt Powder sounds like a joke - but it works for the same reason that baby powder works.  I never travel without a can.
  2. Get a chair.  Anyone that's spent any time camping or back packing will tell you that one of the things they miss the most is a chair with a back on it.  Having a comfortable camp chair will raise your campsite comfort level immeasurably. I have one of the famous Kermit chairs and never leave without it. There are several other popular models that fit on a bike but whatever you do - get one with a back on it.  And preferably a drink holder.
  3. Pack light.  You don't need all of those clothes.  Find clothes made from material you can wash in a sink or even in the shower. I'm fond of coolmax - the fabric found in running and bicycle gear.  Wash it in a sink. Wring it out. Put it back on.  One pair of jeans. One pair of shorts.  One long sleeve shirt.  Buy T-shirts at the rally.  Take old underwear - wear it and then throw it away.  If you need something there are WalMarts everywhere.
  4. Invest in a single versatile jacket.  Mine goes from waterproof/winter weight all the way to mesh.  The liner works as a wind breaker.  See #3.
  5. Get a bike cover.  Beyond the obvious protection for your ride - it will also make a nice tarp for your gear at the campsite while you are out having those adventures.  Makes a passable emergency shelter and is really nice for keeping prying eyes away from your bike when you wuss out and rent a room for the night.  Wake up to frost on your saddle once and you will wish you had taken this advice.
  6. Coffee.  If you are a coffee drinker - don't even think of relying on the free "stuff" at the rally.  Work out your system at home before you leave.  Remember - you will be cleaning with limited water in camp.  The two systems I've used with great success are, my current favorite - the Jetboil coffee press and my second favorite - simple paper filters.  In most camping supply stores you can get a package of filters with holes punched in the sides and a little stick.  You use the stick to suspend the filter in your mug.  When done you just throw the filter away.
  7. The pee bottle.  Every experienced (male) camper has one.  No one talks about it.  Basically the worst thing about tent camping is having to extract yourself from your tent in the middle of the night or race to outhouse in the morning.  Get one.  Don't be embarrassed.  I personally recommend the smaller size laundry detergent bottles.  Nice flat bottom and a good handle to avoid any accidents...
  8. Water bag/bladder.  Get a water bladder - even one made for a hydration pack.  Fill it with water before bed.  In the morning you have your coffee / cleanup water and probably enough to even wash your face without a trip to the pump.  When done just roll it up.
  9. Baby wipes.  They can be a miracle when a shower isn't possible or just to get the crusty sweat off your face before grabbing lunch on the road.
  10. Air mattress.  Yes the kind you inflate.  I suffered with a Thermarest for years.  They are great for back packing but hey - you aren't carrying the weight here - your bike is.  Plus they pack smaller.  Get a good one and a pump you can run from the bike battery.  I'm currently testing the Aerobed Pakmat.  I'll let you know how it sleeps and holds up.
There are the 10 that came instantly to mind.  Have a safe ride and have fun at the national.  I can't be there this year but I'll be thinking about you all.

Friday, July 09, 2010

GTOW (Geek tip of the week)

Post photos online like a geek.

This can be a hugely complex subject.  My reccomendation:  Sign up for a Picasa account and then download the Picasa software for windows / Mac or even better get that Ubuntu pc I have been touting and use Fspot.  There are direct and simple "share" or "export" options in these programs that will automatically create albums and resize photos for you.  Also the default Gallery app on Android 2.1 and higher has awesome integration with Picasa. 

All three also make quick work of resizing and emailing photos. For other sites like facebook and that other Yahoo,  Fspot and the Android gallery are just as simple as they are with Picasa.

Simple and sweet.  Have a great weekend - go out and support some live music wherever you are and post your pictures.  If you do send me the link!  I'd love to see em.

Posted via email from ninjahippie's (pre) posterous

Review - The Droid as a Motorcycle GPS and Entertainment device

A couple weeks ago I took the droid in place of my beloved Garmin 2730 on about a 600mi round trip.  The verdict.  It's ok.

Google Listen for podcasts and Slacker radio (cached stations) for music worked beautifully.

Since I don't like the idea of ripping my ears out in a sudden "get off" - I initially attempted to use a Motorola bluetooth "pendant" to allow me to use my custom ear molds and not be tethered to the bike.  I got almost 2 blocks before it started acting up and I just plugged the headphones directly into the phone.

I got a usb-12v adapter to keep the phone charged and put the phone in the map pocket on my tankbag.  It worked just fine with one big exception.  You cannot control the phone without stopping, taking off a glove and pulling the phone out of the tankbag.  Also - in rural WY and CO there is no 3g and often no service at all.  Navigation becomes useless out here.  However truth be told I rarely need navigation on the highway though.  Once in cities that changes rather drastically - right along with the 3g service conveniently. 

If you have a smart phone like the Droid and have not made the plunge to purchase an on-bike GPS or music setup the phone will work until you do.  However if you have gear - I'd wait until someone comes up with a hack to allow at least control of the Droid on the fly... Stick with the traditional GPS and music gear for now.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Review - Jetboil w Coffee Press

Jetboil Flash PCS Java Kit with French Coffee Press

In a nutshell - this thing ROCKS!  I used to carry a butane stove AND a tea pot  AND  a coffee filter gizmo - AND a coffee mug.  Plus a pan, bowl etc.

What I noticed is that during bike trips I normally eat most of my meals in a restaurant or at the rally site.  When I do end up cooking at a primitive campsite I normally just need boiling water for a freeze dried meal, to heat a can of something and to make the all important morning coffee.

The Jetboil is perfection.  The entire stove, fuel can and coffee press stow in the cup.  It's about 9 inches long.  It boils a quart of water in under 2 minutes (that's almost 3 times as fast as my 1000w microwave) and you can eat / drink directly from the unit.  It also self ignites so you can even leave the lighter / matchbook at home.

Here's how it works for me.  I heat a full container of water to boiling - then I take the black plastic cup (see photo) that doubles as a guard for the heat exchanger on the bottom of the container and use it as a bowl for two packs of instant oatmeal.  The remainder I turn into a large (American size) cup of coffee and drink directly from the cooking container.

A quick rinse when I'm done and the whole thing packs back up.  There aren't even any worries about rust if you don't get the unit totally dry as the unit is made from titanium. Many people ask about the coffee press and how hard is it to clean in camp.  In short - not hard at all. With the proper technique. The cool thing about the Jetboil coffee press is that it comes apart so that it all fits in the container.  There is a threaded rod that comes in two parts and the filter basket has a threaded hole in it's center where you attach the rod.  Because of this threaded hole, you can use the press basket upside down.  Huh?  Stay with me.

When you have your boiling water - instead of adding your coffee and then pressing the grounds to the bottom - do the opposite.  Put the basket on the rod upside down and press it to the bottom of the container.  Then add your coffee.  When ready simply pull the grounds up and out of the container and flip them in the trash.  Season to taste.

The container was apparently designed with back packer style freeze dried meals in mind as it makes about a quart of boiling water.  It's also just the right size for a can of Dinty Moore to fit and heat in a hot water bath.

I've had my unit for about a season and a half which makes me a fairly early adopter.  Jetboil had a problem with the gas valve on early units and organized a recall.  My unit was included.  The Jetboil company sent me a notice both electronic and snail mail of the recall.  I responded, and they sent me a pre-paid box to pack my burner / valve unit in and return it.  Less than a week later I had a new unit at no cost.  Great service.

I love this product!  Get one!

Aerobed Pakmat Review

Note:  With the warm months upon us, this will be what I hope to make a continuing series of posts about motorcycle products. camp craft and maybe adventure / overland travel in general.  

AeroBed® PakMat Sleep System from Aero The Pakmat is a new product from Aerobed.  Having slept very comfortably on a full size version for 6 months I have been pretty impressed with their products.  Also I've been trying to find that perfect match-up of size vs comfort for my motorcycle sojourns.

Previously I've used a large Thermarest coupled with a closed cell foam pad underneath.  Pretty comfy but the resulting bag is HUGE and rack space on the bike is very limited.  Add to that, I'm a side sleeper so my hips tend to press through the pad and my legs end up getting more sleep than I do...

I started to consider standard air mattresses but the idea of carrying batteries or a pump that runs off the bike battery seemed un-attractive.  The Aerobed seems purpose built.  The mattress stores inside it's own pump (the tube looking thing in the photo) and it's relatively compact.  The whole thing packs up to just a bit larger than the 3/4 length Thermarest I use for backpacking.

I have yet to spend a night on it so consider this my preliminary review.  So far, on the living room floor it performs as advertised.  The bed itself is comfy and my hips come no where near bottoming out the mattress. (For reference - I'm over 6' and tip the scales a little north of 200lbs)  The dimensions say that the pad is 24" wide.  I thought it was going to be too narrow but it seems to be plenty wide enough. It seems to "sleep cold" just like it's bigger brothers which is fine as I will be using it during the summer when I normally roast anyway.  With the included pump it's possible to make the mattress so firm that it becomes somewhat uncomfortable.

So far I'm not sure about the construction of the case/pump.  There are two one-way valves near the handle.  twice I've had one pop off.  Once when I removed the packaging and again when I put the mattress back in the container.  I think I'll be looking for a way to make sure I don't loose these.  Second there is a short "nozzle" that pulls out and clicks into place on the bottom of the storage tube/pump.  When the mattress is in the tube it pushes this nozzle so that it sticks out of the bottom.  Third, the pump works but it's not an airtight affair.  It takes about 2.5 times as long to inflate the bed as you are expecting given the obvious volume of the pump.  This may be in my pumping technique though.

The unit comes with a 2 year warranty so I'm hopeful that if problems do develop (like loosing one of those valves), I'll be able to get replacements easily.

I'll update this post after I've used the bed on an actual trip...

Update:  I've now had about 5 nights on the Aerobed.  It sleeps well.  Holds air better than the other two more traditional mattresses on the trip.  It is narrow however.  There is no simple rolling over.  One must resort to the old "lift and twist" method or you end up on the ground.  I give it a solid B+

GTOW (Geek tip of the week)

My tip this week is "handle your phone like a geek".

If you are still paying for long distance and actually find the phone book useful - this is for you.  It will require some serious paradigm shifting though.

First of all - phone stress and how to deal with it.  If you get so many calls that it makes you crazy or if you check your v-mail more than a chain smoker coughs it's time for an intervention.  STOP the INSANITY!  Stop checking your v-mail.  That's step one.  Step two - if you don't recognize the number, let it go to v-mail.  Even better - learn how to instantly send those calls to v-mail and stop your phone from ringing. 

V-mail rules. 1) Check your v-mail no more than twice a day.  When you do - handle the whole inbox in a batch.  2) Never return a call that just asks you to call back.  3) Return calls asking for your expertise no earlier than 24 hours later. 4) Your immediate family, closest 2 friends and your boss are/can be exempt from these rules. 

How does this work?  If you are getting enough calls to make you crazy - you are either a Paris Hilton wannabe, a bad manager that doesn't trust your employees or an overprotective parent.  If you are a consultant / sole proprietor answering your business line, it's time to outsource your phone calls to an assistant or answering service. This isn't as expensive as you think.  In fact if you are in this boat - go read "The 4 Hour Work Week" by Tim Ferriss.  It will revolutionize your thinking.

Rule 1 sets it up so that you batch process your messages.  You set aside time to return calls and don't let them interrupt or rule your day.  If you have a call that meets rule #3 - put the callback reminder into your calendar for the next day as you process the calls.  Call back the ones from yesterday with this batch.  If you already use an assistant or service - call them at pre-arranged times only.  This makes the best use of your time and insures they are prepared for you.

Rule 2 - If all they do is ask you to call back it's not important / urgent.  They don't need an answer and often just want to talk.  The people in rule #4 are usually the biggest offenders.  Call them when you have time to waste.  Co-workers that do this are simply self important douchebags. They are the same ones that always use the speaker phone.  Your time is too valuable - if it is truly important they will call back and leave a real message.

Rule 3 - This may be the hardest.  The truth is that people are good problem solvers but they are also lazy and impatient. This rule takes advantage of those tendancies.  Most people will try asking an "expert" for help first. i.e. getting someone else to solve the problem (you).  When that fails to work immediately they will call someone else or finally work to solve the problem themselves.  If the latter is the case then they will have educated themselves in a way that they will no longer need to call you for that problem.  When you call back the next day they will appreciate that you called but 99.999% of the time the problem will have been resolved.  Managers: If you have the right people working for you - there is no such thing as an emergency.  Let your people do their jobs and stop being the mother hen.  Parents:  You will need to wean the kids.  Start by taking an hour to call back - then three etc.  If you aren't instantly available all the time, the kids will learn to plan ahead and have their ducks in a row when they do call.

Next - the only people that actually pay for long distance service are medium to large business and anyone that still wishes they could go back to rotary dial phones.   If this is you - call your local cable company or any of hundreds of VO/IP providers like Vonage.  (tip: Magic Jack sucks and is not what you want).  Better yet - get an all inclusive cell plan and ditch the land line / home phone altogether.

Even if you are a small business - call the cable company or your ISP and talk about phone service.  Normally one flat rate will get you all the services you have now plus long distance and Internet service - and probably more. 

Lastly - I cannot recommend Google Voice highly enough.  Now that it's open to the general public go sign up and take advantage.  I won't attempt to list the possibilities as they are nearly endless.   Personally I give out my GV number to everyone - only certain circles of people know my direct cell number.  I use it exclusively as my voice mail and take advantage of the automatic transcription feature all the time.  I hate nothing more than re-playing a message over and over trying to get one chunk of information.  Having GV route calls is also a godsend.   If you have an Android based phone GV is wonderfully integrated.

That's it for this week.   Sorry it took till Friday.  Have a safe holiday!

Posted via email from ninjahippie's (pre) posterous