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Tag: stupid stuff

VeeServers.com is awful

I don’t normally trash companies online, but this one deserves it. VeeServers.com offers Minecraft servers at great prices, but is not worth even their low cost. Ordering a hosted service (other than domains, which take about 24) should take no more than 6 hours. My server wasn’t setup for FOUR DAYS! During that time, I haven’t received a single reply to any of my emails.

I’m now in a PayPal dispute to get my money back, as I’m not paying a full months prices for less than a month of (crappy) service.

TL;DR: Avoid VeeServers at all costs.

Why SOPA and PIPA Are Bad for the Internet

Today, many of the Internet’s most popular websites (including one of my own) have blacked out their sites in one way or another in order to protest against SOPA and PIPA. But many people, as I discovered this morning, have absolutely no idea what SOPA and PIPA are.

What Are SOPA and PIPA?

Wikipedia says:

SOPA and PIPA represent two bills in the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate respectively. SOPA is short for the “Stop Online Piracy Act,” and PIPA is an acronym for the “Protect IP Act.” (“IP” stands for “intellectual property.”) In short, these bills are efforts to stop copyright infringement committed by foreign web sites, but, in our opinion, they do so in a way that actually infringes free expression while harming the Internet. Detailed information about these bills can be found in the Stop Online Piracy Act and PROTECT IP Act articles on Wikipedia, which are available during the blackout. GovTrack lets you follow both bills through the legislative process: SOPA on this page, and PIPA on this one. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to advocating for the public interest in the digital realm, has summarized why these bills are simply unacceptable in a world that values an open, secure, and free Internet.

What’s Wrong with Combating Piracy?

Nothing. It’s simply the way these bills attempt to do so that we find abhorrent.

Under the current wording, the US Attorney General would be granted the power to order Internet Service Providers to block access to sites suspected of trafficking in pirated and counterfeit goods; order search engines to delist the sites from their indexes; ban advertising on suspected sites; and block payment services from processing transactions for accused sites. That’s a lot of action without due process.

SOPA and PIPA’s proponents say that enforcement will be done responsibly, but trust in the system is not a substitute for legislative safeguards.

Due to the outcry from the IT community, some changes to the House bill have been made which remove some of the technically ignorant portions, but these changes do not redeem it.

SOPA and PIPA put the burden on website owners to police user-contributed material and call for the unnecessary blocking of entire sites. If your site has any links to an infringing site, you could be forced offline. This blog, for example, gets spam comments including links to all sorts of sites. Without the protection I currently have enabled, these comments could place my blog (which has nothing to do with piracy) in jeopardy of being blacklisted.

For more information, please read this article from the EFF.

EDIT: I just found this post on Slashdot, which does a nice job of explaining things, too.

Verizon Charges for Paying Your Bill Online

According to geek.com and droid-life, Verizon will begin charging its customers a $2 “convenience fee” to pay their bills online or over the phone. Reading the article at Slashdot might cause quite a stir, but basically, this is only happening to people who don’t have auto-pay.

Obvious moral of the story: setup autopay if you have Verizon.

Not-so-obvious undertone: move to someone else.

EDIT: In a press release today, Verizon announced that they would not be introducing these fees. I guess they were getting flak from not only customers, but the FCC as well.

Facebook Integration Removed

Based on my personal feelings regarding facebook and the privacy concerns expressed by numerous tech blogs, I have decided to remove facebook integration from the sites that I control.

Open Letter to SPAWAR

To Whom It May Concern,

As a service-member who has been in the Southwest Asia theater of operations for 24 of the last 48 months, I have been well exposed to the services offered by your organization. While it is nice to have free (albiet low-speed) Internet access and low-cost calling options, the reliability and quality of your network is questionable.

My first issue is regarding the lack of Quality of Service (QoS) policies on your routers. At least at the distribution/access level, QoS policies do not exist. While I have not seen your routers’ configurations, this is obvious for a number of reasons:

  • When the MWR is empty, the Internet speeds are manageable and could even be considered good for a satellite-based link.
  • During the afternoons, when the majority of traffic appears to be data (web pages, instant messaging, etc.), access speeds are still usable, even when all of the computers are in use.
  • In the evenings, at least fifty percent of users are using voice and video applications, such as Skype, with little to no degradation of video quality. Attempting to use data services, however, is nearly impossible, as pages (even quickly loading ones such as Google’s home page) will time-out before being displayed.

Quality of Service policies prevent any one type of service from dominating the available bandwidth and preventing others from working. While the telephone services you provide are Voice-over-IP (VoIP) and QoS policies may be in place segregating VoIP from other traffic, no restrictions are being placed on computer-generated VoIP and video services (i.e. Skype, Yahoo! Video Messenging, etc.).

These policies could be easily created and implemented, as they are in use throughout the IT world (including the Army’s WIN-T architecture). At bare minimum, ensure that each station is allotted a dedicated portion of the cafe’s overall bandwidth, so that it is usable.

Second, the images placed on the cafes’ computers are bloated, outdated, and just plain awful. While I applaud the wide-array of Instant Messaging clients (on this machine, there is Google Talk, Skype, Windows Live Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger, AIM, and MySpace IM), no one uses MySpace IM. Also, the version of Google Talk installed doesn’t support Google Voice, which would be the only reason to use that over Yahoo!, AIM, or Windows Live.

The Start Menu is littered with items like Creative Product Registration, two versions of OpenOffice.org, two icons for Internet Explorer, and a number of other applications that your cafes’ users should not be using or seeing. If the cafes’ techs are installing software onto your baseline, then my statement regarding your image should be withdrawn and my comments be redirected at your techs. Windows XP (the OS used in your cafes) is too easy to keep tidy, especially when users only have access to one account.

Lastly, your network is owned by the Department of Defense. As such, access should be limited to ID Card-holders only. Third country nationals should not be permitted access to such systems. I do understand that the network is not directly tied into NIPR net (the Department of Defense’s Unclassified network), but the use of MWR facilities outside of SWA is limited to ID Card-holders. It should be no different here.

The people working the front desk (TCNs) give priority to their “friends” with regards to time limits on the phones and computers. Soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines should not have to wait in line behind TCN contractors that should not even be allowed MWR access.

Please do not take my criticism as an attack. I am grateful for the free Internet and appreciate its availability. My hope is to bring a few glaring issues to your attention, so that future deployers can experience even better services with little effort on your part.

Respectfully,

Sean Callaway
United States Army


SPAWAR, or the Department of the Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, provides Internet and voice services in Iraq and Afghanistan. You can visit the SPAWAR homepage here.

Buying A Laptop from Best Buy, or The Second Circle of Hell

My wife recently got a new job with an insurance company and will no longer be able to get by using my desktop for work, as her job will have her visiting clients (and trying to work during my gaming time). So, we decided to get her a new laptop.

Her requirements were fairly modest: she’d need to use Microsoft Office, stream video from the web, etc. Basically, a modern mobile processor, a fair amount of RAM, and an integrated video card would suffice. I looked around for specials from the usual suspects and then turned to weekly ads from the brick-and-mortar retailers in the area.

I ran across an add for an ASUS computer that I though fit the bill and it was even burgundy, which my wife thought was neat. It was one of the few laptops that had 4GB of RAM and was still upgradable [8GB max]. So, we loaded up into the car and drove on down to Best Buy.

After telling the sales person that no, I did not need his “expert” assistance in choosing a laptop, I found the model on the floor fairly quickly. That’s when I noticed something interesting: Best Buy stores its laptops on a shelf just under the display model and all of them have been opened by Best Buy and–more than likely–loaded with bloatware and tons of other crap that I/my wife will never need/want/tolerate.

I asked the salesperson if they had any boxes in the back that hadn’t been opened (to which he responded in saying they hadn’t been, forcing me to show him both the broken tamper-proof tape and the giant sticker on the side noting that the laptop had been “set up by the Geek Squad”). After trying to convince me that I wanted one that had been “tainted” (my word, not his), he finally admitted that all of the one’s in this store were like that. To his credit, he did check the stock in other local stores to see if they had some without asking.

We drove to the Tustin store and found that the exact model we were looking for was not on display. After standing in front of the ASUS machines fro 10 minutes or so, the rather busy salesperson came over and asked if we needed help. After giving him the SKU and model number, I was able to explain that I wanted a factory-sealed box and he ran off to the back to try and find one.

A few minutes later he returned, a factory-sealed box in his hands. He still tried his Best Buy overselling on me, but quickly caught on that I was having none of it and was actually quite agreeable from then on. He explained that I’d have to sign a paper declining all of the extra setups, Geek Squad service plans and warranties, which I didn’t want. He still had to give me an anti-virus disc (Kaspersky, I believe) and a Geek Squad FAQ disc. They make nice coasters.

Other than the initial wait inside the second store, we were in and out fairly quickly. While I still agree with xkcd that there should be a code word for professional techs that gets you past the defaults, I was lucky enough to get a salesperson that figured it out fairly quickly.

Offering Service Blocks At Verizon = Pink Slip

Bad, Verizon. Bad.David Pogue of the New York Times is reporting that Verizon has implemented a company policy of punishing employees who recommend certain service blocks to customers who are looking to avoid accidental fees. According to a Verizon customer service representative, offering a mobile web access block or an SMS block without the customer asking for it can lead to termination.

Customer service representatives have also been told to avoid issuing credits for accidental charges. “We are to upsell customers on the $9.99 25MB/month or $29.99 unlimited packages for customers. Customers are not to be credited for charges unless they ask for the credit.”

Why Twitter (as the World Knows it) Is Dumb

Twitter was a nice idea. You could keep up with people you actually know and care about as they do what they do. But somewhere along the line, celebrities got involved and everything went down-hill. Whose life is fulfilled by knowing what movie your favorite celeb is watching? Seriously.

That’s not to say the celebrities hold all the blame. People are posting absolutely everything they’re doing, not just the noteworthy, significant events in their lives. Letting your friends know that your plane was delayed 2 hours: good tweet. Letting your friends know that you just hit on another girl at the bar and are misspelling everything because you’re drunk: not-so-good.