Friday, August 11, 2017

How to Program a Motorola M1225 radio for COR Active Low

I setup a GMRS repeater using a pair of Motorola M1225 Radius radios. I wanted to use the ID-O-Matic IV controller, but I ran into a problem.  The Id-o-Matic was send the CW identification, but the receive radio would not key the transmitter.

I learned the solution was to program the M1225 for "COR Active Low."

This was easier said than done. Nowhere in the Motorola software did I see an obvious place to program COR Active Low.

A little trial and error revealed the solution.

In the Motorola software, go to External Accessories
Program PIN 8 as "CSQ Detect",  "Output" and "Low", as shown in the image below.

Program PIN 8 like this to achieve COR Active Low
Now your receive radio will signal your ID-O-Matic to key your transmitting radio.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

The "Corn-Fed" Slur: Why it's insulting to be called Corn-Fed

I was reading

"In person, surprisingly, Jenny McCarthy comes across as corn-fed cute rather than overwhelmingly beautiful."

It made me wonder to myself what it means to be referred to as one that is "corn-fed."  It didn't appear to be as a complement in the context it was presented.  What does it mean to call Jenny McCarthy corn-fed cute? 

As a Mid-western American who has lived in the East and South, I've fielded the occasional good natured "corn fed" comment after my Minnesota roots were revealed.  Typically I took the comment to mean that I appeared healthy, strong, farm-boy vigorous.

Today, Corn-Fed seems to have taken on a less complementary dynamic.
Urban Dictionary defines Corn-Fed as:
"Your typical midwesterner. A white guy or girl who is large and stocky but in a healthy way. Corn fed women have child-bearing hips and corn fed men play football. Not attractive, but not ugly either, just plain. They're simple, friendly folks, sweet as apple pie, but lack complexity. Make good husbands and wives, but will bore you to death if you try to have an intelligent conversation with one."
If Karl Taro Greenfeld agrees with this definition, then Jenny McCarthy is just a simple, large, stocky, plain woman with big hips.  But in a "healthy way."

Hardly flattering of such a beautiful woman who gave her time to Greenfeld to discuss Autism.  Why an article about autism need begin by commenting on McCarthy's (presumably) big hips is beyond me.

I needed a second opinion, so I consulted The Free Dictionary.  According to them, if you're corn fed, then you're "Healthy and strong, but provincial and unsophisticated."

Maybe Greenfeld thinks that McCarthy appears healthy and strong, but that she is also stupid.

Anyway I look at it, by today's definition of the term Corn Fed, it's difficult to tease out a complement that is anything other than backhanded and rude.

Sure, you're healthy, but you're dumb.
Sure, you're strong, but your hips are big.
Yes, you're not ugly, but really you're plain.
You're from the midwest, so you're unsophisticated

My conclusion:  Pigs and cows are corn fed, as are 100% of the US population who only have to look to the corn-syrup ingredients in their cereal and Coke cans to know that this is true. The idea that somehow only midwesterners are fed corn is untrue.

The simpleton stereo type of the midwestern farm boy or girl is harmful, geographically bigoted, meant to demean  the country simpleton and elevate the big-city resident to a more prominent position in a relationship.

If someone calls you corn-fed, you're correct to take it as an insult.  

Monday, July 29, 2013

Problem Installing An Email Certificate In Outlook 2013? Try This Fix.

To protect my email from snoops and spooks, I wanted to setup an email certificate for signing and encrypted my messages. I use Outlook 2013, and signed up for a free Comodo email signing certificate.  Using Firefox browser, I installed the certificate.  I then went into Outlook 2013, but was unable to sign my messages. Outlook kept showing me an Invalid Certificate message. It read, "Microsoft Outlook cannot sign or encrypt this message because there are no certificates which can be used to send from the e-mail address .  like this:

Installing email certificate in Outlook 2013
Invalid Certificate Message

 The way I solved this problem was first to revoke the certificate that had been assigned to me. Next, I started the process again, this time using Internet Explorer.  So I started IE, and then went to Comodo and signed up for the certificate, and then I claimed and installed the certificate using Internet Explorer.

When I went into Outlook 2013 and signed a message, everything worked!

I don't know why this works, it just does. Perhaps Firefox uses a different location to store these certificates and it freaks Outlook.  Give it a try and let me know if this works for you.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Q&A: Catching Crayfish in Minnesota for fun and sport

Of all the posts that I've written over the years, those about catching crayfish in Minnesota and bullhead seem to be the most enduring. Every day people find those posts. There seems to be growing interest in Minnesota in utilizing this great resource we have in our beautiful state.  With so many great places to catch crayfish and with so many people claiming Swedish heritage, I'm surprised that Minnesota is not famous for crayfish.

I'm from Minnesota, and spent three years in New Orleans, where I fell in love with crawfish. Now I'm back in my home state, and I'm trying to do my part to foster interest in crayfishing here.  Today I wanted to clear up some questions that keep appearing in the blog comments.

Where do I catch crayfish?
Just about any river, lake, pond or stream can have crayfish, in urban or rural areas. I live on a fairly weedy lake with a rocky shore. I catch all of my crayfish in shallow water (1 to 3 feet) along the shore. They love to hide in the rocks that line the shore.  Since crayfish are most active at night, I set up  my traps in the evening, and check them in the morning. By putting them in the water in the evening, the bait will be at it's most potent at about the time the crayfish are most active.

Some locations  will be loaded with crayfish, while other places may have lower populations. Part of the fun is finding a good crayfish hole.

I have not had very good luck with muddy rivers.  Some lakes, like Leech Lake, are known to be excellent crayfisheries.

How do I catch crayfish?
There are a lot of ways to capture crayfish. You might be able to net them, or just pick them up in some places.  I like the plastic traps that Trapper Arne imports from Sweden and sells on his website; specifically I use his "Trappy" trap. They perform very well, and are easy to store.  Before the plastic traps, I had used metal traps. I grew to dislike the metal traps for their rusty sharp edges and their propensity to get hung up on the lake bottom. Metal traps really get gross and bent up.

You can also try to make your own trap out of a one liter plastic pop bottle. Just cut off the pouring end, put some bait inside the bottle, and  then invert the top end back into the bottle.  Staple it in, and you're good to go.  If you want to need something larger than a bottle trap, here's a great blog post from a person in Minnesota who shows how to make large crayfish traps from wire.

Want to go crayfishing right now and you're not into DIY? Head to Walmart and pickup a minnow trap.

Be sure to thoroughly wash and dry your traps after each use, especially if you are moving between bodies of water. You do not want to transfer any invasive weeds or zebra mussel larvae.

Can I eat Crayfish?
Yes, of course you can eat any crayfish, you ninny! The invasive Rusty Crayfish is delicious, and you'll be doing the state a favor if you catch and eat them all.  In Minnesota one licensed angler can be in possession of 25 pounds of crayfish, which (believe me) is plenty for you and five of your friends.

What's the difference between Minnesota crayfish and those I ate in New Orleans?
Size, mainly.  The Red Swamp Crayfish love the brackish water around New Orleans. They're bigger than Minnesota's native crayfish, but all crayfish are edible.

Is there a difference between a Crayfish and a Crawfish?
No.   In the Southern USA they call them crawfish, and in the Northern US they call them crayfish. Generally, crawfish are just slightly larger crayfish that live down south.

What do I use for bait to catch crayfish?
I've found that catching bullhead, and then slicing them in half will attract plenty of crayfish. You can freeze them and use them later. I haven't noticed any difference between fresh or frozen bullheads and their ability to attract crayfish.

Cheap canned cat food also works great (thanks for that tip, Trapper Arne!). Whenever I see seafood canned cat food on sale at the grocery store, I stock up.   Just poke some holes into the cat food can with a screw driver, place it into your trap, and put the trap into the water.

How do I prepare and eat Crayfish?
Check on YouTube. There's probably 100 videos about how to eat and prepare crayfish.

What I do is put my crayfish catch into a cooler with fresh water.  I add some salt to the water to force the crayfish to purge (barf), and leave them a few hours.  This makes the water really dirty and you'll have to change the water after awhile.  Purging crayfish make them taste a little better by getting the mud and detrious they consume out of their digestive tract.

When they're clean, boil a large pot of water and add a crab mix. I like Zatarain's crab boil. Add the live crayfish, and put in some small potatoes. Boil them until you think they're done.

Can I use Crayfish as bait?
In Minnesota you can use crayfish as bait, but only in the water that they were taken from. If you want to fish with crayfish in Lake Minnetonka, then you have to catch them in Lake Minnetonka. It's illegal to move them from one lake to another. Don't do that.

Do crayfish bite?
No, they don't bite.  But they will pinch you if given the chance. I've been pinched many times, and it doesn't hurt very much. Being pinched is not pleasant, but it probably won't even draw blood.

What if I have more questions about Minnesota Crayfishing?
Read the regulations, and then post any questions you have in the comments below.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

5 Reasons Why The Internet Sales Tax Must Die

I'm appalled at the Senate's approach to an internet sales tax. Making millions of small businesses accountable to thousands of local sales tax district is a ridiculous way to implement an internet sales tax. Although an ardent Democrat, I find myself totally connected to the Republican's on this issue.

This bill sharply tips the balance toward local stores and away from internet businesses. Here are five reasons why an online Sales Tax is a bad idea.

First, internet businesses requires the use of the U.S. mail, so there is immediately that additional expense for customers of an online business. This is an expense local retailers do not have.

Second, there is always the delay of 3 days for my products to arrive through the mail when shopping with an internet business. Local businesses can provide the product immediately.

Third, internet businesses will be subject to audits and thousands of local tax jurisdictions.  Local merchants are only ever subject to their local tax authorities.

Fourth, the job of reporting to thousands of local tax jurisdictions will be onerous, to say the least.  Cutting hundreds of checks to these agencies will be a huge burden.

Fifth, proponents say that this will only affect businesses who have $1 million or more in revenue.  Revenue is a stupid way to trigger a tax.  A software company with $1 million in revenue will have a much greater margin than an internet retailer who does $1 million in revenue but has a 10% margin.   Number of employees is a much better way to trigger any kind of a tax, not simple revenue. Clearly, this measure was not well thought out.

The playing field is already "level," so do not buy into the non-sense that the proponents of this bill are spreading. It's not true.

Lastly, because of the huge expense necessary to comply with this bill, many internet retailers will probably be forced to sell their products through a large 3rd party, such as They will take 20-30% of their business right off the top. Is there any question in your mind about why Amazon is pushing this bill.  Clearly, Amazon is moving to squash their small business competition by making the playing field so onerous that only they and their partners can participate.

Reject the online sales tax.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

2Checkout - The Worst Experience Your Customers will Have?

I've just the better part of an hour trying to give away my money. Unfortunately, the web hosting company I use has hired 2Checkout (or 2CO) to process their recurring billing.  My credit card has expired, and so I got a friendly message from 2Checkout reminding me to update my credit card info.  

"To have these charges post to a different card (or update your expiration date, etc.), please enter your new billing information using the link below. You will be prompted to enter the first 6 and last 2 digits of the previous credit card."

I arrive at the page, and I read, "
"If you would like to review an order, print an invoice, stop your recurring billing or update your billing information for a specific order, use the order look up form below..."

  So I do use the order look up form below, and I find my order!  BUT, there is NO WAY to enter my new billing information. All I can do is "print" the order.

I tried 3 different browsers just to be sure that I was not missing some Adobe Flash component or something. Big fail.

No problem, I thought. I'll just call these friendly people on the phone number they included in the email:  Toll-free in U.S. & Canada: 1.877.294.0273 

They must want to talk to me or they wouldn't include a toll free phone number, right?

After navigating their menu system, I finally dead ended at a message that said to accomplish any number of things (including updating my information) I should use their terrific online help system.

So to recap:

  • Vendor works hard to sign up a customer who is willing to pay them money each month indefinitely
  • 2CO detects customer's credit card is about to expire
  • 2CO involves customer in a frustrating cycle of fakeout, where they are unable to update their credit card
  • Customer says fuck it, and goes somewhere else.
  • Vendor loses customer
  • Both 2CO and Vendor eventually go out of business.

If I were considering using 2CO as a payment vendor, I would be very concerned about customer loss from such a crap process.   If customers can't even update their recurring billing information, then there is NO place for 2CO in internet order processing.  The bigger question is why does 2CO allow this crap process to continue? It's so clearly obvious. Isn't there a product manager somewhere who actually tests this stuff out and measures for customer's ability to perform some very basic functions on 2CO, like updating their credit card?

If 2CO doesn't want to talk to buyers to help them out, then why even include their phone number?

If you're looking for a payments processor, I would move on. 2CO does not appear to be long for this world if they can't get this right.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

About my friend Todd Withnell

Todd Withnell was a friend of mine who lived in Moorhead, MN and died 30 years ago in 1982 at the age of 29. I was thinking about him the other day and Googled his name. I was surprised to find a record of his birth and death, yet there was nothing else about him on the internet. That seems a shame, and so I wanted to just share my recollection of Todd.

Todd had health problems all the years I knew him, and I'm quite sure he eventually passed away of complications relating to cancer. He didn't like to talk much about his illness, I didn't pry about it, and so I didn't learn much about it. There were days when I would go to visit Todd at his home that he just wasn't feeling up to company, and other days when his mom would tell me that he was in the hospital.  The vast majority of my visits found Todd talkative, alert, and we both enjoyed our meetings a great deal.

During the 1970's CB craze, Todd was active on the CB radio, which is where I first met him. His handle was the "Bushwacker" and his call letters were KVB-5036, which he always pronounced "KVB-five-ought-three six." Later, Todd became a ham radio operator and enjoyed talking to people all over the world.

He had a hearing aide which caused him some problems with copying Morse Code on the ham radio. It was only by his presistance and strong character that was able to earn his ham radio license, which at the time required being able to send and receive morse code, because his hearing made it very difficult.

Todd was also small in stature and wore glasses.  He spent a fair amount of time indoors, but through his radios he made a lot of friends and enjoyed many, many hours of lively conversations.  The CB and ham radios were the internet of his day.

Todd would sometimes build some of his ham equipment. I remember that he built an "automatic keyer" for sending morse code. During one of our last meetings, Todd was kind of down. He wanted to sell me a bunch of his radio equipment. I didn't need it because I had my own, but I did buy a morse code key and electronic keyer from him, which I still have today. He was very proud of this key, because it was a high end Browning paddle key, which among those in the know was a status key.

I always regret not going to his funeral, or sending a card to his parents. I found out about his death after the funeral, when I returned home from college. Information didn't travel at net speed back then. I've always wondered where he is buried.

Todd was a good guy. He was always full of opinions and enjoyed talking to people whether on the radio or in person.  He died too young.    I hope anyone else who might be searching for a piece of Todd on the internet will come across this post, and know that his life mattered.  When I'm sick, I often think of Todd and what he had to endure. It has made cancer my main charity, and I once had the honor to donate bone marrow to someone I knew. I thought of Todd that day.

Some people you know a long time and never really know. Others, you know for just a little while and they touch you deeply.  It's 30 years after his death, and the older I get the more I realize how important it was for me to know Todd during my teenage years.  Todd's life was short, but it made a difference and it's still making a difference to me. Thanks, Todd! See you again one of these days.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Google Penguin Update: After the Slaughter

Let me preface this by stating up front that I am not an SEO expert. I'm just a small businessman trying to get by.  

As I wrote earlier, I own a website that was hit extremely hard by the Panda update. Below are two charts that show just how sudden the drop was.  My site went from about 3,000 daily impressions to about 300.

The image below is a closeup of the graph following the devastating drop after April 25.

My efforts so far have had very little improvement on the overall traffic.
Even though the site has slowly inched forward in the rankings, its not enough to make any significant difference. The difference between clicks from page 1 to page 2 is gigantic. Even on page 1, the difference in clicks between top listing and 2nd or 3rd is also gigantic.

The net result for me has been that my Google Adwords has increased by nearly $1000 per month. Sales have declined, although its still sustainable, yet much less profitable that it was previously.

My Google Webmaster account does not give any hints. There were no emails warning me that I had bad links. Just a sudden drop.

The most frustrating part of this is the lack of transparency by Google.  There are fair questions that I and many other small business owners need to have answered so that we can either fix whatever damage that Google has perceived, or that we know to just move on and do something new.

Is Google penalizing me,  or does Google just think it found better content to replace mine? I have no idea.

If I'm being penalized, how do I know?  Can I fix it?  If so, how? 

Do I have bad links? If so, which ones, and will I be forgiven if I remove them?

By having access to all of my webmaster data and my Adwords account, how do I know that Google didn't run some special algorithm that revealed that by knocking down my organic ranking it could make an extra $1,000 a month off me in Adwords fees?

Basically, I'm leaning toward the idea that the cause is lost. I've began creating new websites with new content.  One of my new sites, a simple Blogger blog is already in 4th place on page 1, and all over page 2. My shill content is (imho) a poorer experience than the other professionally written and highly targeted content that Google hates, but what can you do.  Google seems to love content that is new, just for the sake of new.

I still think that the Penguin update must be rolled back or a major adjustment made to it, simply because I can't see this continuing... eventually Google will have enough data to see that it has made a mistake.  It will also be interesting to see how their share of the search market fares post Panda. I'll be looking for a gain in Bing at the expense of Google.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Why Google's Penguin Update Will Fail

"Quality of inbound Links and the quality of content are not firmly correlated."

Last month Google rolled out its Penguin update, the alleged purpose of which is to improve the experience of searchers by penalizing websites with "spammy links."

There is flawed logic with this approach that is destined to result in the failure of Penguin, or at least will require a major adjustment.

Yes, its true that many websites have bought links to promote their sites and also to manipulate Google's results.  Why? Because for years Google rewarded link buying behavior with a good position in organic searches.  Google created this problem, but now suddenly it wants to put the genie back in the bottle.  Google has decided that any websites that have what it considers an "unnatural" link profile will be slapped with a penalty.  I actually own a website that was rightly "A #1" for its search term, and for years sat on that throne.  Yes, I bought links.  Big deal (I won't identify the site because, well, I'm scared of Google).

The reason that Penguin will eventually fail is that in many cases, such as mine, the content of the site is excellent. In my case the content is well planned, original, updated, and the best source for its niche subject.

Although my site was knocked way back to the bottom of page 5 presumably for links Google considers spammy, that content remains excellent. In fact, its much better content than the other 200 or so pages that are ahead of it.

As with many my things in my life, I don't think my experience is unique.  If this happened to me, then it probably happened to you and half a million other websites.

It's difficult for me to believe that a company like Google, which purports to place a premium on serving up excellent content for its users, will be satisfied very long with delivering second rate content.  Just to make a point with people it's angry with.

Links and the quality of content are not mutually exclusive.  And with many articles now being posted on blogs by scared SEO Pro's who are scrambling (unsuccessfully it appears) to try to remove the thousands of links that were placed on these website, it just ain't gonna happen. Although I sense an excellent business opportunity for the owners of link and directory website to charge for the removal of links, the fact is those links are here to stay.

The only thing that Penguin will accomplish is to encourage a different kind of behavior that Google will eventually deem undesirable.   Google, do you really think I'm going to contact 5,000 link website owners with an individual request to remove my link? Really?

I've already began aging the .NET version of my site. Website owners will simply abandon their "spammy" sites with great content and start over. We go to the top once, we'll get there again because its our livelihood.

Thanks to Penguin, the web will simply become that much more cluttered....   Great content with crappy inbound links,  buried by hastily built sites with lesser content that outrank the good stuff.  Crap at the top of Google's search results, which is exactly the result they are trying to avoid.

Once Google realizes this error, one approach they could take is to consider whether any 'new' spammy links are added. If no more are added over a period of time, then give more tilt to the quality of the content and allow the sites to rise again.  But if Google takes too long to do this, then their actions will continue to encourage the pollution of the internet.

Or Google could provide us with a method to "disavow" a link through its webmasters tools.  Or how about a "badlinks.txt" file on our website that tells Googlebot that we agree with them that the following links are bad. Mea culpa!

Inbound links are not spam.  Bad search results at the top of Google are spam.  Google only has itself to blame for the problem.   If it hadn't been so easy to game Google in this manner for so many years, I wouldn't have had to play this game. I wouldn't have had to fight fire with fire.

This is why Penguin has failed.


[Note: since I wrote this 2 days ago, my site has crept up from bottom of page 5 to be the last listing on page 3.  Meanwhile, a shill blog site I built to provide links suddenly now is on page 1.  That's astounding, since the content is just crap. I will begin to add good content to this site and see if I can leverage it to the top of the page 1. 

Ultimately, great content will trump inbound links. I just have to believe it. No way is Google going to continue to embarrass itself like this.  I wish I was brave enough to provide examples for you. It is a lot of fun watching Google squirm, but I don't think its in my best interest at this time.]

Monday, April 02, 2012

US Supreme Court's Outrageous Activist Decisions

As if the Citizen's United decision was not bad enough, this activist Roberts Supreme Court is one again mad, out of control, and dangerous.  Unbelievably, today the court ruled that invasive strip searches are acceptable for ANY offense in America.  Thinking of participating in a peaceful non-violent demonstration or protest? Better chill out, because that can now get you bent over naked in front of guards.

If you're a police chief or sheriff who wants to stifle any kind of legal public dissent in your community, simply drop hints that anyone arrest during a peaceful protest will have their nether regions examined.

We'll soon see if this crazy court will go so far as to deny millions of Americans healthcare coverage, even after their duly elected public officials debated and properly passed this immensely important legislation.  My bet is that this activist court will indeed overturn America's healthcare chance.

America, don't stand idly by while this nutter conservative court allows for the dismantling of your God-given rights as Americans to free expression.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Why you should NOT use Verizon's service

If you're posting pictures to Verizon's, beware!
Verizon may, for any reason whatsoever, completely destroy your precious pictures without ANY accountability to you.

For those who want to store their pictures in "le cloud" this is what you're up against. Basically, you do not own your pictures.  Companies like Verizon own them, and they may do whatever they please with them.

Just read Verizon's TOS:

"Termination. Verizon Wireless reserves the right in its sole discretion to restrict your access to the Website and/or terminate your wireless service without notice for any violation or threatened violation of this Agreement. Upon voluntary or involuntary termination of your wireless service, your access to the Website immediately will be blocked and your content stored on the Website deleted. Verizon Wireless has no obligation to return or restore deleted content. This Agreement shall survive termination or expiration of your Customer Agreement.
Changes. Verizon Wireless reserves the right to revise this Agreement or impose new conditions at any time. Such revisions will be effective immediately upon notice by any means, including, but not limited to, posting on the Website"

Shit, even if you just THREATEN to violate their TOS, they can boot your ass off. So just shut up --- if you don't like Verizon, or they may choose to destroy all of your pictures without warning.

Other parts of Verizon's contract suggest that you can't even sue to get your pictures back. Verizon doesn't give a shit about your precious content. In fact, if you don't log in every so often (a time period they can change at will without any direct notification to you) they have the right to just make your content vanish forever.

So beware... if you are using a cloud storage service to keep your content "safe," in reality you do not have any safety at all. There is no substitute for a local backup copy, as Verizon so clearly demonstrates.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Spam Cannibal DNSBL spews false positives. Why Spam Cannibal Sucks.

If you are a system administrator thinking of adding Spam Cannibal's DNSBL to your arsenal, think again.  This list is the equivalent of using a chain saw to remove a small mole.  They block entire ranges of IP addresses. You will have to nurse this black list and constantly check for false positives.

Don't believe me. Read this thread from administrators discussing why spam cannibal sucks.

Then read this one.

And this one.

If you are on the receiving end of Spam Cannibal's bullshit, where important emails are lost just because someone you are not even associated with who is a few IP addresses away from you may have once sent a spam message, it just really sucks.

Spam Cannibal lies when they say, "The ONLY way you can get into SpamCannibal's database is by sending spam or virus ladened email to our mail servers!"

But then in their next sentence, they contradict this by saying that they block "IP addresses and ranges that have sent or relayed what we believe to be spam or other unsolicited email directly to our email servers."  So in fact, you don't have to send spam... you only have to have the misfortune of having been assigned an IP address near a spammer.

Spam Cannibal lacks the attention to detail that better lists have.  They really don't care who they hurt. They don't respect the importance of your user's communications.  They even don't provide a way to remove your IP address from this list, which is a huge failure of this DNSBL.  Clearly, they just don't give a rats ass.

If you value your time as a system administrator and your user's ability to receive email, then dump Spam Cannibal. Their approach is too random, too sporadic and unpredictable to be consistently useful. Sure Spam Cannibal keeps spam at bay, but so does just shutting off email.

There are better solutions than to use this DNSBL's careless nuclear approach to fighting email spam.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Online privacy and anonymity. Resources for an invasive world.

CNET Privacy Blog - keep up to date on current issues regarding online privacy

EFF.ORG -Organization that fights for privacy online - internet search engine without tracking  - information about how tracking works - how bubbling affects what you see on the internet

The filter bubble Ted Talk

Tor Project - free software to stay anonymous on the internet.

Free online email encryption

Friday, February 03, 2012

Reformatting a date column with a Time Stamp in Microsoft Excel

Today I've been working to clean up a database and it is has not been easy. I downloaded several spreadsheets of customer data from SWReg.  They have a nasty habit of putting Time information in the middle of the date field.

It looks like this: Feb 17 16:40:19 2011

My challenge was to create a column that formatted the date correctly, without the time stamp. Here's the solution I came up with.

To format the date from cell B2, it column C2 I entered:

=(LEFT(B2,7)&" "&(RIGHT(B2,4))

This pulled out the date from the left (I had a space in front of the date, so that's why I set it to read the first 7 characters of cell B2) and the year from the right (4 characters on the right).

Maybe there's a better way to do it. I really wish Microsoft would make it easier to clean your data in Excel.

Maybe you can help me out... One thing I was really struggling with:  How to use Find and Replace within a specified column only. I couldn't figure that out.

Good luck!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Romney thinks very little of $375,000. Shrugs off his speaker fee earnings as "not very much."

Holy crap! Did you read just how out of touch Mitt Romney is with ordinary Americans? The guy truly doesn't have a clue what middle and working classes are going through.  Money is just an afterthought to this top .2 percent wage earner. Truly, he doesn't have a clue.

The New York Times reported Romney earned a whopping $374,327.62 in speakers’ fees from February of 2010 to February of 2011, at an average of $41,592 per speech. But that's no big deal to Romney.

“I get speakers’ fees from time to time, but not very much," said Romey.

Read it here.

$375k is just an annoyance to Romney, probably the richest man to make serious run for the top office for  in America. Are you prepared to trust your future and your children's future to a guy who is so far out of touch with the values of 99% of Americans?  I pay 25% of my income to Uncle Sam. Romney only pays 15% of what he earns, and he wants to pay much less.

You can wrap this Romney pig in denim, but that doesn't make him a working class pig.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Dumped Godaddy Today. Moved 75 domains

Today I finished doing something that I've wanted to do for several years. I dumped Godaddy as my registrar, and hopefully struck a blow against this stupid SOPA bill that would threaten the social internet.

I have used Godaddy for about 6 years and have accumulated 75 domain names.  When Godaddy announced their support of SOPA, that was the final straw. I learned of a boycott that is encouraging people to move their domains from Godaddy on December 29, 2011.  I decided, what the hell... I'll move mine today.

Thanks, Godaddy, for giving me a reason to do something that I've wanted to do for a long time, but have been too lazy to take on.  For years I've been too uninterested in my 3 Godaddy accounts to even look through and prune the list. But the timing was perfect... I'm home for Christmas break, giving me some spare time to sit down and toss out all the domains that I no longer needed, remnants from projects long abandoned or discarded. 

Moving my domains was not a painless process. First I had to unlock 75 domains. Next I had to figure out how to request an authorization code to move the domains.  Then, I had to manually parse 75 emails and create a list that I could upload somewhere else. It took me a couple of hours.

I know that Godaddy won't miss my $850 per year that much, but it felt good to move my business. Hopefully it will register as a small protest against their increasingly offensive and degrading advertising, their show-off CEO, their creeping fees, their increasingly difficult to use website, their incessant up-selling, and (the final straw) their support of SOPA.

I just learned that GoDaddy dropped their support of SOPA, but who cares. I think I know where they really stand. It's too little, too late as far as I'm concerned.

Good bye, Godaddy!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

US Sales on Internet Transactions Will Harm Small Entrepreneurs

Amazon today threw its weight behind a bill the would authorize US states to force online resellers to collect sales tax.  And why not? Amazon has nothing to lose and much to gain by having a sales tax requirement.  Amazon has brick and mortar fulfillment centers all over the US and is under intense pressure to collect taxes on the many billions in sales they make annually. 

As the owner of a small software company that sells exclusively on the internet, being forced to collect and remit sales tax to 50 states and DC individually would be a daunting infrastructure challenge.  This is a challenge that a brick and mortar small business would not have -- they have only one sales tax authority to collect and remit for.

Why in this debate do I not see any kind of discussion about a centralized reporting system that would bring efficiency to the collection of sales tax?  The impact of this will force small internet retailers into the arms of companies like (you guessed it!) Amazon and Apple who will gladly collect their 30%-50% cut for letting you sell on their sites. I don't know about you, but an 8% sales tax and 30%-50% reseller fee have not been priced into my business model, and would put me at a huge disadvantage to direct competitors I have in India and other places who don't appear to collect any taxes from US buyers.

I'm not completely against the requirement to collect a sales tax, as long as the 50 individual states a) don't make it a nightmare to collect and remit, and b) as long as they don't force small internet businesses to compromise their independence and profitability and c) you find a way to impose it on the rest of the world.

Its mostly the process behind the requirement and the lack of concern for small businesses that is the real issue for me.  A US sales tax seems almost inevitable at this stage; but nowhere do I see a seat at the table for small internet retailers, whose futures and independence are in jeopardy.

Lets give small internet retailers a SEAT AT THE TABLE NOW so that entrepreneurs can continue to pull the USA out of this depression.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Minnesota Republicans to Send Vikings Packing

Curt Zellers, the speaker of the Minnesota House, said this week "“There is absolutely no way we’re going to be able to go to the finance commissioner and say, ‘would you write out a $300 million check to (Vikings owner) Zygi Wilf, and put in the little memo section ‘roof for the new stadium. It’s not going to happen."

I'm not thrilled about my "outstate" tax dollars going to fund a stadium and improvements 250 miles away. Billionaires are favorite and easy whipping boys for pols during stadium debates.

But you know what bugs me even more?

Politicians like Zellers who think "there is absolutely no way" that government can be part of a creative solution to any problem.

Zellers thinks there's no tax base in Minnesota.  The truth is, the Republicans clownish management of the state's tax base has forced up local property taxes and forced school districts to borrow against their promised funding. Minnesota will continue to run $5 billion+ deficits as far as the eye can see, because of Minnesota Republican's mismanagement of the tax base. They fix our "deficits" with accounting gimicks instead of structural long term solutions. They refuse even to shift taxes around to compensate for lack of revenue due to the recession. 

So now the Republicans are going to send the Minnesota Vikings packing to Lost Angeles. This is the consequence of voting not for a political party,  but a political philosophy that insists that the citizens of Minnesota can never accomplish anything good by working together, and by the way, let's not even try.

Friday, September 02, 2011 Scam

This morning I awoke to find about 30 messages from Craigslist alerting me to new postings in the Broward County, FL Craigslist. Overnight, my Craiglist account had been hacked, and dozens of messages advertising mobile phones were posted from my account for a website called They use the email addresses and The company seems to be based in China.
I alerted yahoo and MSN, but really, what can you do? Now I just want to get the word out on the web to NOT do business with these guys. I highly suspect that if they will hack my Craigslist account, then they will gladly accept your money and not send you the merchandise.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Problem with Amazon MP3 Uploader: file names appear to have Chinese characters

I've been on a mission to convert 300 CD's into MP3 files and then upload them to Amazon's Cloud.
After a week of converting CD's, I thought I was  home-free. Now all I had to do was spend the 10GB of bandwidth to upload the files to the cloud, a process that would take a couple of days.

After a day of uploading, I discovered that many files (about 3/4th of the total uploaded files) had their titles and album names appearing in the cloud player with Chinese characters.  I can play the songs; they obviously uploaded correctly, but it is now impossible to categorize the songs.

I've contacted Amazon support, but it has been several days, so I presume no reply is forthcoming. A second attempt at uploading several days later yielded the same result.

Has anyone else this issue? 

Amazon's MP3 Uploader often inserts Chinese characters into the name, artist and album fields.

Before you are seduced by Amazon's offer of "free unlimited storage" for MP3 files and start uploading thousands of files, beware that this process may take a lot longer than you think.