Sunday, May 25, 2008

Time Waster Alert: Jigsaw Puzzle

I decided I needed a break this Sunday morning and came across a link from a friend that sucked me in for a little time:

I have never been a huge jigsaw puzzle fanatic, but I found this interesting and really think the technology and code behind this site has to be interesting. You can link to puzzles on your own site or blog, and even load up your own pictures. Fun idea.

Keep enjoying the Memorial Day holiday weekend if you are here in the USA, otherwise, keep enjoying your weekend {g}.


Thursday, January 31, 2008 Deception

I am busy. Really busy. But my dad called me this afternoon and is frustrated because his email has not worked in a couple of days. He is able to get email, but not send. The same problem is on my mom's computer. He is also worried because he knows I am really busy and did not want to bug me, but he thinks he as a serious problem because Comcast sent him an email noting his email is getting blocked because he as a virus.

Virus?!? Really? Possible, but very unlikely. Each of their computers are stacked with AVG and ZoneAlarm with email protection, and I run regular scans for spyware every time I visit, and there has not been a single problem.

So I read the email and Comcast wants to configure email through port 587. They have blocked port 25 because their customer is being bad with spam. More interesting, the email states to click on a link in the email and it will automatically configure your email client to use this new port. I don't know about you, but this immediately sets off the warnings for me. How they heck is this not a virus waiting to be sprung?

So I call Comcast tech support. I tell them I am the tech for my folks and I want to confirm that Comcast really sent this email. "Yes, your parent's account has been flagged because they have some sort of virus on their machine that is sending out email and we need to protect ourself."

Thanks bud, you just made me look bad in front of my parents (customer) telling them my plan to protect them failed. I press a little more. Can you tell me exactly what triggered this message? Can you tell me what machine and what virus is lurking for me to fix? The customer support person hesitates, "I am only trained to change you to port 587."

So I push more and ask, is the only fix I need to do is to change to the new port? He responded affirmatively. Seriously? Seriously?!? What about removing the alleged virus. "Well, it could be someone reported abuse against the IP address, or your email address. It might not be a virus that triggered the alert. It could be that your parents emailed out to a distribution list of 100 people." I directly asked them if this was a general email or one sent only to my parents because of the situation. They received it because they were flagged.

How deceptive is this?

I called the Abuse/Security department and asked for details. They basically told me they could not because it was proprietary information. I see, they can claim the customer has a virus, but cannot explain exactly what it is. The rep was downright obnoxious. Customers are guilty without any real proof.

BTW, it does not matter what port you connect to, if the client is configured to the port the email will get sent. The only thing this protects against is direct port 25 access of the virus. All they need to protect against this is require authentication to send the emails.

I googled "Comcast 587" and see this is not unusual with their other customers to lock down the port. While this can be a pain if you use another email provider who is only set up for port 25, all Comcast had to do is be upfront with the customers and say we are being extra careful to protect against spam. Ameritech/SBC/AT&T also blocked port 25 years ago, but they allow customer to waive the block. Still a pain in the neck, but more customer oriented than Comcast.

If my parents did not have a geek to call they likely would have had to hire someone to fix a non-existing virus. They would have taken three computers to the local Geek Squad and spent money on nothing and it still would not have fixed their email.

Bonus time waster: the link to automatically fix their email client brought up a page of ASP script code dumped in the browser. I mention this to the tech who told me to click on the link in the email. I figured it would not work. The tech said they were having some problems reported with this. Really?!? I'm shocked!

Comcast - thanks for wasting an hour for me today, I needed the break. You truly have extremely poor customer service, a horribly abrasive Abuse department, and treat your customers to deception that is wasting a lot of time and likely money on support costs. Pathetic.

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Thursday, January 03, 2008

Michigan Wonders Why Companies Leave

This is slightly off topic, so if you don't want to read a rant about Michigan and the idiots who run this state: move along to the next blog. If you want to understand how hard it is to run a software development business or get a better understanding of what your employer faces from time-to-time, read on.

Running a high tech business in the state of Michigan is hard enough without being impacted by people in government who most likely never ran a business. Companies are closing up all over Michigan and a lot of the reason is Michigan is suffering through a one state recession. While the leadership in Lansing cannot be blamed for the decisions of companies like GM, Ford, and Chrysler for laying off more than 100,000 people, I do blame them for the decisions made that are further hurting the state economy. Here is a fine example.

White Light Computing has been in business for nearly four years. During this time the company has paid unemployment insurance at various rates based on the length of time the company has been in business. The first two years the rate was 2.7% for the first US$11,200 of salary, and last year it dropped to 1% based on the fact my company has not pushed a single person on the unemployment line. As a reward for this, as White Light enters its fifth year (according to the state 2008 is year five) the company gets a 50% increase on unemployment insurance. This means an extra US$56 per person on the payroll. While the impact is minor to White Light Computing, imagine being a restaurant owner with lots of lower wage employees and getting a 50% increase just for surviving the first four years in the nations worst economy. How about automotive supplier who already has the slimmest of profit margins to work with and a huge staff on the assembly line?

The people who run this state are complete morons. I called the agency in charge of increasing my rate and their only defense was "it is only a half percent increase, not a 50% increase." And people say they will never use the math they learned in school. Sheesh.

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Sunday, December 30, 2007

Time Waster Alert!



Thursday, November 01, 2007

Time Waster Alert!

OK, normally I avoid stuff like this, but the local computer club I belong to has a newsletter with links to interesting sites. This site is interesting: 3-D Pong.