Lee's Journal

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Cablevision's refunds department

The email support I got from Cablevision on an issue 2 weeks ago was somewhat lacking... or rather less than worthless b/c they kept me waiting for a non-answer. So I wrote 'em a letter.

A lady called me a few minutes ago to apologize and credit my account $20.


It struck me a little bit that she was part of a call center; I could hear people in the background talking on the phone and I could tell in her tone of voice that her job was to "apologize, give him a refund and move on to the next person." Not that I'm complaining here. It's just interesting that Cablevision has a whole complaint answering department. When I think about it, it's not so strange. I mean, they have hundreds of thousands of customers...

Computer Guy Don'ts: tilting a PC

Don't tip a computer that has a CD spinning in the drive. The resulting gyroscopic perturbations will do bad things to the CD in the drive.

I was re-installing XP on a newish Dell 2400. The XP product activation code is written on the side of the PC. So when I needed the code, (the computer was sitting on the floor and I was in a chair) I tilted the case. The resulting noise sounded like a circular saw that was trying to cut through a piece of wood that was just too thick. Once the CD came to it's (literally) grinding halt, I took it out and found a long circular gash in the disc.

So I've spent an hour with a Skip Doctor, trying to read the disc. No luck yet but I think I'll get it eventually. Feh!


Digital Sundial

Ok, this is pretty cool.


My Ad

My ad STILL hasn't made it into the paper. The kid who sold me the ad is a bit green. He promised a bunch of things he couldn't promise (like the delivery date). I hope my gentle coaxing pushes him toward being a reputable salesman and he doesn't continue his slip into being slimy.

Me: "Hey Ben. Is my ad in the paper yet?"
Him: "[insert hamming and hawing here, and then...] "I'm not sure."
Me: "Well, you said it was going to go in at either Easter or the weekend after. It's now 1 week after that time. So.... What's up? Is it in? Is it going in soon? You went to church yesterday, didn't you?"
Him: "[insert hamming, hawing, mentions that he wasn't such a good catholic and promises that he would drive to the church right that moment to find out and bring a copy right to my door]"
Me: "No, I don't need that. I just want to know if my ad is in the paper. I paid $xxx for this ad and I just want to know when it's going in."
Him: "[An explanation of how flawed the listing process is and how the company had originally told him one thing and then another about how long it takes to put a listing in.]"
Me: "Why don't you give me your boss' phone number and I'll tell him how I'm unhappy that you had initially been mislead." [Of course, I suspected he was telling a little white lie about his original knowledge and his current knowledge... this phone call would either help get my ad in on-time, or get him in trouble]
Him: [He gave me the number and then an explanation of how Churches preprint their newsletters sometimes up to 3 weeks in advance. He promised that my ad would be in next week's newsletter.]
Me: "Don't promise things you aren't sure about. Why don't you make some phone calls and find out when the ad is going in. Give me a call back later today or tomorrow."

Blah blah... [insert blogging minutia here]

He called me back and said it was going in "soon" or some crap. I don't even remember exactly what he said.


Boston parties

Pixyglam Yahoo Group is the place to find out all the poop.

Ha ha

TGIF Humor is the list to be on for that

Claria + IPO = Good for Computer Guy

Forwarded from PPG:

April 12, 2004
Pop-Up Ad Company Plans an Initial Stock Offering


The Claria Corporation, the company best known - and reviled by privacy advocates - for its online pop-up ads and tracking applications, has filed to offer shares to the public.

Claria, formerly known as Gator, hopes to raise as much as $150 million in its initial offering, which will be underwritten by the investment firms Deutsche Bank Securities, Piper Jaffray, SG Cowen and Thomas Weisel, according to Claria's filing with the Securities Exchange Commission on Thursday.

A majority of my business is defending against these people. Who wins in an arms race, no matter what? Arms dealers.

(Not to worry intrepid reader, this IPO makes me just as queasy as you.)


A little update

Phew, I'm busy.

Business is getting frazzlingly brisk. Two or three appointments a day takes some serious scheduling! But that's where I want to be so...

I went to a Bi-zone conference this weekend. I was the facilitator for the SOFFA (Significant Other, Friend, Family, or Allies) panel. It went well. It occurs to me that this was the first time I had ever been a panel facilitator. It went just fine.

I got a snazzy Neovo 19" LCD monitor last week. I'm very happy with it

My Amazon.com product review:
- It looks very slick on the desktop
- the front plastic shield has protected my friend's trade show monitor well
- it folds up smaller than the average LCD monitor (though it's not height adjustable :-( )
- You can really crank the brightness and contrast up
- It's viewable from any angle
- competitive price (free shipping from Amazon too)
- 3 year warranty, including burnt-out pixels (no burnt out pixels yet)
- cool name

Things are going very between PPG and I.

The Eleventh President and I are doing very well. We went to Washington Rock State Park recently. That was cooler than either of us thought it was going to be.

April 7th-11, I think I put on 10 lbs. It was great. Stevie came by for a couple days. Steak and Optimator! Saturday was a Seder with PPG and family. (PPG noted that matzo should be called "the bread of freedom" not "the bread of affliction"; I mean, think about it) Food! And then Easter with my cousins in Aberdeen. THAT was a great meal. And the leftovers were just as good! I tell ya, driving home with the steering wheel in one hand and brussel sprouts in cheese in the other is dangerous and delicious!

I keep not hearing from The Frog Princess, which makes me sad.

My cousin Jay and I had a business idea for Computer Guy. It might create a lot of business :-)  Time will tell.



Yummy bread

Stevie's traveling Gamer House

He was on his way back from a trade show. And look what he had just sitting in his trunk.

The laptop on the left is a 3.4 Ghz, 1 gig RAM, 1920x1280 resolution, gamer video card, DVD burning laptop. It came off the assembly line a few weeks ago and is the fastest gamer laptop obtainable. :-) Working for a company that specializes in 3-D visualizations has its perks.

Spenix is good

Let me just reiterate that Spenix is a good internet hosting company. Inexpensive and FULL featured. You should use them.



Advertising in the local church

I just took out a one year ad in the back of my local church's weekly bulletin. I didn't want a whole year but that's the only way I could buy it. Wish me luck! I bought the ad from my new friend Ben I.


But that was my idea! Instant Live et all

But that was MY idea!

Yesterday I opened up EMedia Magazine, saw an ad for an industrial multi-CD burner and again thought about an idea I had a while ago. Use fast CD burners to make a live recording of a music concert just minutes after the show is over. I had this idea maybe a year ago while looking through a similar magazine. So last night I went out to my local music house, The Stanhope House, to spec it out.

Perfect. The place held about 150 concert goers. I guessed that maybe 10% of concert goers would spend the money on a CD... That's 15 CDs.... such a burning rig would cost under $2,000... working 3 or more nights a week, it could make money. The Stanhope House already had a good permanent mike setup. I could tap into that. There wasn't much room in the soundboard area....   hmmm... and it wouldn't be cost effective to have me come out and mix the album for just 15 sales. I could make a small box with 2 or 4 burners, a mini PC, maybe running Linux with special software and just a few buttons on the case. Buttons for "Start recording", "Stop", "Next song starts here", "No music here". The sound engineer could make the CDs. But what music licensing when a band plays a cover? Ah. The Harry Fox Agency is all about music royalties. For just $0.08 per song, we can burn a CD of a cover... Figuring out the exact royalties to be paid is a technical task.... But well suited to the computer: it could keep track of every song burned and at the end of the month export a list of who gets paid what. But that means the track names (and authors) have to be inputted into the computer as it's being burned, to give proper credit. Hmmm. The sound engineer might need to have a keyboard and screen, tied to the Harry Fox music database. That's ok, it's doable.

I called my sister, asking about Greatful Dead bootlegs (she knows about such things). She offered good advice (except for the part about my idea being dumb and unworkable, but hey.)

I was getting ready to call the owner of the Stanhope House today or next week to talk about my plan. I called up TJIC to mull the idea and maybe look for programming support. He said, "Oh yeah. I read about something like that in the New York Times a while ago." ERK! What? No. It's MY idea. So I go online and.... fuck.

...the Who jumped on the idea and wound up grossing $1.2 million on live CDs from their 2002 tour. Early this year, Phish made every 2003 show available -- within forty-eight hours -- on livephish.com; the band has sold more than 150,000 of the recordings and earned more than $2 million.

There is probably room for me in this industry. I could probably even make a living at it if I worked hard at it. But it isn't my idea.


Backups, continued from yesterday

And then there's Farsite (from the dates on the website, the project appears dead), xFS (dead and not what I'm looking for), Oceanstore (did I mention that already?),

Toothache: Damn Referred Pain

I had something stuck in my teeth for about a week. It  was driving me crazy and it was starting to ache constantly instead of just when I was chewing. So I broke out the dental floss, the toothpicks, the fancy dental pick, I scrubbed with my toothbrush, I fiddled with my toothbrush.... but NOTHING. You see, I could feel exactly where the thing was stuck in my teeth: between my rear and second from rear left lower molars. So I worked at it and worked at it. But I started getting suspicious when a serious dental flossing turned up nothing at all. So I tried something different. I tried chewing on my toothbrush handle, feeling out exactly which teeth were unhappy.

Now mind you, I could feel EXACTLY where this piece of junk was stuck in my teeth so I was just humoring my curiosity. But low and behold! It wasn't my lower teeth that hurt, it was my upper teeth! Damn referred pain! I took dental floss to the space between my UPPER rear and second from rear left molars and found junk and blood. Today, a few days later, my teeth are feeling almost back to normal.

It's kind of spooky about that referred pain. Dentists have told me about it before but I didn't -really- believe them. But here I am... I felt I could point exactly where the problem was but I was wrong... about my own body. Weird.


Excellent Reading: GRC.com DDOS

Read The Strange Tale of the Denial of Service Attacks Against GRC.com. (local PDF copy) Find out detailed information about the seedy underbelly (whatever that means) and lots of great and very specific info about IRC DDOS attacks.

Buying a Safe

Sentry safe A5889 (2 cubic feet, electronic lock, water resistant, 2 hr fireproofing) , MSRP $561.88. Staples price $309.99. Staples rebate -$50. Staples coupon -$15. Staples Teacher Rewards 10% (-$24.50). Shipping (on a 206 lb safe) $0.00. Amex miles earned 220 (value about $2.20). Total price paid: $218.29

Got No Love Today

chris smither no love today drive you home again hightone records 10 Minutes ago
Search-It> artist  title  album

They just played the above song on WNTI again. The first time I heard it, on my way to Rochester and to meet Marah vividly jumps out at me. It's all about new beginnings, not giving a damn about the things that don't need giving a damn about, foot stomping, and singing loudly in the car. I turned on the radio as I left the house and really got what I was listening to just after passing the clubhouse. Just after I passed the gate, I was so happy that I knew what the song was making me feel.

I got DIBS!

Finding what you are looking for is all in the keywords. I've been looking for a way to exchange backup space with my friends for a while now. "I'll give you 5 gigs on my machine for 5 gigs on yours". What I wanted was secure (likely encrypted before leaving the premises), low bandwidth (think rsync), and automated (choose files-->zip-->scp-->remote site is a pain). Tonight I was seriously starting to think about building this myself. So I did just ONE MORE internet search for it. Just to make sure it didn't already exist. I was into my 5th search or so and about to give up when I plugged in to Google "backup encrypt remote distributed". And there it was almost at the top of the list. DIBS, The Distributed Internet Backup System. Now I'm not positive this is it. But it's looking very promising. I'm excited.



:-(  It's not ready for prime time. The code is in Alpha... You have to know the exact name of the file to recover it. The "Recover_All" feature hasn't been implemented. I wish I were smart enough and had enough time to help out with such projects.

Maybe Hdup can do it. Other possibilities: Hivecache, The OceanStore Project, Freenet, Travis Reeder's proposal for a Distributed Backup System,


Malware for my trophy case: 2_0_1browserhelper2.dll

The short form:
2_0_1browserhelper2.dll is a nasty adware toolbar with no UI. See my 3-19-04 journal article at http://lee.org/journal. It took me 2 friggin hours to figure this one out. It mangles Google search results in IE and sticks ads for the "websearch toolbar" in the results.

Kill it by removing the BHO 2_0_1browserhelper2.dll

I was at a client's house cleaning off spyware and I came across some particularly insidious malware. I'd do a Google search and the results would take a long time to come back. But more importantly, half of the search results were crap. They were ads for some "websearch toolbar", directing me to www.websearch.com and such. The worst thing was that the Google results page looked almost normal. It almost looked like Google had sold out to these Websearch people.. allowing them to flop 1/2 of their content toward Websearch.com.

So I downloaded Netscape and made sure that Google hadn't sold out. a search for "Prussian medals" on Internet Explorer returned about 50% junk while the same search in Netscape looked just fine. IE was being hijacked.

Now I just had to find what was doing it.... 2 hours later, bull's-eye. Here's the low-down:

The www.websearch.com toolbar is bad news.

Here's an excerpt from their Terms of Use:

By installing the Service you understand and agree that the following changes may be made to your Internet Explorer browser and that the following functions may be performed by the Service: install a Search Toolbar in your browser which may (i) block certain pop-up ads and pages; (ii) display links to related websites and keywords based on the information you view and the websites you visit; (iii) store non-personally identifiable statistics of the websites you have visited; (iv) redirect certain URL's including your browser default address bar search, DNS error page and Search Button page to or through the Service and; (v) automatically update the Service and install added features or functionality conveniently without your input or interaction unless you have chose to be notified of such update in advance.

The Terms of Use also says how to uninstall the software. ("When the Add/Remove Programs Properties window opens, locate the listing for 'Search Toolbar' that you would like to uninstall from the list of installed programs.") But, like any good malware, the uninstallation instructions didn't work.

Spybot Search and Destroy shows this software as a BHO

Spybot-S&D Browser helper object report, 3/18/2004 9:26:07 PM

Class file: 2_0_1browserhelper2.dll

One reason it took so long to figure this out was that this BHO, which normally shows up as an IE toolbar has no visible user interface... Jerks.

All you have to do is disable that BHO in Spybot and you're good to go. Another way is to rename c:\windows\2_0_1browserhelper2.dll. You might have to reboot into Safe mode to rename the file.

I've got another client with the same malware. It'll take 5 minutes to get rid of her Websearch malbar (to coin a term).

The bubble game

I found this at http://www.chratnox.de/swf/bubble.swf  Thanks to http://keithdevens.com/weblog/archive/2004/Mar/14/bubbles for the reference.

And now on to the game!

Play me!


I got a Suspension

This happened last month, on 2-13-04 but I thought it was funny enough to mention....

You remember that last month, I flooded the boys room... Well, this month, I got suspension at the middle school. I had to sit in the library with my desk facing the wall all day long. There was nothing to do but some stupid homework and a test that was really easy. And you know why I got suspension? Because I didn't go to detention. Stupid. And I didn't go to detention because my mom couldn't pick me up after school. (Of course, in retrospect, I should have tried to work this detention thing out with school and my mom but hey...) And I got a detention because I wrote "Suck" on some kid's notebook. I guess I shouldn't have done that.

Well, actually you should replace "I" in that last paragraph with "my student". But it was almost as awful for me. I had to sit there and watch him all day, making sure he wasn't going to get in any trouble and that he didn't talk to anyone and stuff. Bleck.

So, I got suspension.


Outlook 2002 Was Built for Thieves

Outlook 2000 had a tiny little feature whereby when your mouse hovered over a web link, the target would appear in the status bar down at the bottom of the window. Outlook 2002 eliminated this feature, making forged emails like this (at right. Click to enlarge) possible.

The link on that email takes you to this web page (at left). Everything appears to be all on the up and up, right? Wrong. Look closely at that web page... at the top of the email. The address is "" That isn't a Paypal address. It's a thief's address.

If Outlook hadn't gotten rid of that little feature, it would have been harder to pull the wool over people's eyes on this kind of scam. Hmmm.... I've been hearing how Microsoft is pushing for an email postage/verification/something system lately. Am I just a wacky conspiracy theorist by suggesting that Microsoft is crippling their own program in order to make their new email verification system more necessary? No, that's crazy.


Rant about CSS standards

TJIC told me "the timestamps in your blog kinda freak me out. They look like small hovering clues, as if I'd moused over something...and am being given suplimentary info..."

That didn't jibe with any of my style sheets so I looked into it. Apparently, Netscape and IE treat the Float: tag differently. Here's examples:

Internet Explorer 6.0
Netscape 7.1

(note: the date is an <H2> tag, the text that begins "Outloo.."  is an <H3> tag)

I've since tweaked it a bit so it doesn't look so terribly noticeable. The problem seems to lie in how the two browsers let CSS margins affect floated text. They do it just a little bit differently. They still don't look perfectly the same, but they're good enough.

Internet Explorer 6.0
Netscape 7.1

The ASCII Matrix

Ok, this is cool. From here and here.



SpamAssassin, CRM114, Brightmail

I'm chasing my tail spamwise. SpamAssassin kinda works but at a conservative setting (I have it at '8') it doesn't block enough spam to make it worth me having to scan two spam folders, one for Cloudmark and one for SpamAssassin. I'd love to try CRM114 but even if I got it going well, it has to live on a Unix box, which makes it a slight pain for me (having succumbed to the succor of Windows). But if any friend of mine wants to set up CRM114 and let me filter my mail through them, I'd shower them with gifts and Jean Nate after-bath splash. Do you remember those commercials? I do. Oh yeah...

So, I'm going to try and push all my mail through my optonline.net account. It occurs to me that they run Brightmail. We'll see how that goes. But just to be pesky, optonline just put up notices saying that their spam-buckets won't be available for some unspecified amount of time. That means that mail counted as spam gets immediately deleted. Hurumph. that's no way for me to do a test! I'll wait.

Oh and it's cool to note that CRM114 is built by a friend of mine. Hi Crash!




I haven't used Perl in a long while. But it can be fun! I scripted up a tiny little RSync script to backup the important parts of my hard drive to another drive. Trouble is... my script sucks. But that's ok. A rudimentary BASH script works better. RIBS is supposed to be this snazzy backup helper but it's just a no-UI front end for a command line... I suppose it could save me some keystrokes but I'll play with my own command-line scripts for a while.


DDNS, Dyndns.org, and the D-Link DI-624

I tried in vain for weeks to get the Dynamic DNS system on my D-Link DI-624 router to work with Dyndns.org. I gave up and decided to use DynSite instead. It does the job nicely.



More About Cloudmark Spamnet

Spamnet isn't perfect. It correctly blocks about 40 spams a day of mine. But it also incorrectly blocks about 1 non-spam per day. That's a big pain because it means I have to sift through my spam list every week or so looking for mistakes.

I'm going to try using dual filtering. I'll set my ISP's SpamAssassin to a conservative setting and keep Spamnet. The idea being that SpamAssassin won't have any accidental hits. That will reduce the number of emails I'll have to sift through.

As a side note, I just found out that Spamnet uses the same spam identification network that SpamAssassin does. SpamAssassin uses Vipul's Razor for fingerprinting spams.

A new CSS

You've probably noticed that my journal page changes it's look at every load. I welcome you to peek in the source code of this page to see how I do that. It's easy. I just added a new random style sheet today..  journal3.css

@import "journal.css";

/* This CSS inspired by http://razor.sourceforge.net/css/default.css */

body {
font-size: 12px;

h2 {
width: auto;
border-color #4e7aaf;
color: #000000;
background: #cde6ff;
float: left;

h3 {
background: #cccccc;
padding: 4px 10px 4px 10px;

border-style: solid;
border-width: 1px 1px 1px 1px;
border-color #4e7aaf;

.quote {
border: #4e7aaf;
border-left: none;
border-right: none;
background: #cde6ff;
float: left;


The Awful Forums - My mother is insane (~5M of photos)

This really freaked me out. (local archive)

I think it bothers me for a couple reasons...

That last one bugs me the most. It's kind of a "guilty by association" thing. Maybe this form of insanity is contagious?  (oh and a note to PPG: No, I don't count you as a person that does this)


About the Picture at the Top

My sister made a huge batch of Lekvar cookies for Christmas. My grandmother on my mother's side used to make these.

4081 hits from 810 visits to my journal between Oct 23rd, 2003 and May 13th, 2004