Random tidbits, thoughts, ideas, reviews, etc.Aaron Goes Yakkity Yak
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Christmas 2012 Wish List for Santa
Saturday, 01 December 2012 4:59 PM MST
Feel free to bring me any one or more of the following really awesome things for Christmas. I promise I'll be a good boy.
P.S. Here's the list:
Knuckle Song Variation
Thursday, 09 August 2012 9:54 AM MDT
On the night of the 26th (and morning of the 27th) of July, 2012, I had some fun notating my Knuckle Song Variation, and then on Saturday night (and Sunday morning) made a quickie recording of it to share on Facebook. Here's the web page I put up with the music and recording.
This was a lot of fun to do!
Click here to hear the song.
Incandescent to Compact Fluorescent to LED
Saturday, 09 June 2012 9:05 AM MDT
I hate compact fluorescent light bulbs. Geek that I am, I was an early adopter, buying some of the very first CF bulbs available in St. George over a decade ago. But I quickly discovered that although they claimed they'd last longer than good old-fashioned incandescent bulbs, the only light bulbs in my house (with just one exception) that I had to replace over the course of the next ten years were the expensive CF bulbs. Incandescents for the win! (Oh, and if an incandescent breaks, I don't have to worry about mercury contamination.)
I can't totally blame the CF bulbs, however (though my emotional repugnance for them remains unabated). The light fixtures where I installed them were fully enclosed, which CF and LED bulbs DO NOT LIKE because they often overheat in such spaces, while incandescents happily endure high temperatures.
I've also always been a fan of warm tone light, preferring bulbs that emit white light in the 2700K to 3000K spectrum range like incandescents and halogen. That's probably another reason that in general I've hated CF bulbs. The color of the light produced was always either cold, or when the bulbs attempted to appear warmer, instead of a yellow-gold tinted white light, an odd pinkish hue was instead emitted. It was a limitation of the phosphors in the CF bulb coatings that convert the invisible ultraviolet light produced by the fluorescing, electrically excited gasses inside. Oh, and depending on the alternating current frequency the CF bulb's electronic circuitry provides, CF bulbs might also have a noticeable flicker.
With the entrance of LED bulbs into the market, they too often exhibit similar light spectrum deficiencies and likewise can have flicker issues. But more recently, newer phosphor and LED technologies have finally come to the marketplace, so I decided to give LEDs a try.
In order to avoid the enclosed-fixture overheating issues, I decided to replace the light fixtures in my hallway (where the old CF bulbs had all finally died) with an open-air style (a traditional fixture wherein the bulbs mount horizontally and a glass cover attaches below, hiding the bulbs but not completely enclosing them, leaving a gap near the ceiling surface all the way around). So off to Lowes I went. I only made one mistake—I didn't carefully read the packaging and so the two fixtures I bought for just under $30.00 each were for a different, smaller light bulb (the sockets weren't the ordinary A19 style).
As my sister observed, I did the "man" thing, and instead of repackaging the fixture and returning it, I fixed it. I MacGyver my old fixture base mount and sockets with the new fixture's threaded, hollow central bolt structure (on which the glass cover hangs). So now I've got two new, working light fixtures installed using parts from my old and parts from the new. Yeah!
I also grabbed four $10 40-watt-equivalent 3000K LED light bulbs and installed 'em. I must say that I'm pleased. The lighting looks pretty good. While the bulbs do suffer ever-so-slightly from the pinkish-tint problem, with the new light fixture covers in place, and with the old (ugly, but not really visible) gold light fixture base behind them, everything combines to overcome this issue, bathing my hallway in a pleasing, warm white light.
Not bad, LEDs, and the price wasn't too terrible either. $40 for bulbs, $60 for fixtures, and my hallway is now fully illuminated with the equivalent of 160 watts, but only consuming about 30 watts. That really appeals to the technology geek in me!
I like my new lights!
Viral Stories Fail to Give Credit (Cab Ride Story)
Wednesday, 09 May 2012 8:23 AM MDT
Recently on Facebook, someone posted a story about a New York City cab driver who gave a terminal elderly woman a ride that was touching and heart warming.
It was a great story!
When I first read it, I immediately wondered, "Is this a true story, or fiction?"
Unfortunately, the author's name was missing from the story.
Sadly, it seems some people, when they share something they like, they remove or omit the original source of the very thing they share, giving no credit to the author, photographer, artist, composer, or creator. They don't include any reference to an original source either.
This is one of my pet peeves: NOT giving credit where credit is due.
That made it quite difficult for me to figure out if the story was fiction or true, or some variant between the two (i.e. a dramatization of something based on a true event).
After some significant searching around the 'net, I eventually learned that the story's author was Kent Nerburn, and that it was originally published in 1999 in Kent's book, Make Me an Instrument of Your Peace: Living in the Spirit of the Prayer of St. Francis. I ran across Kent's web site where he has 'blogged about the story, confirming that the story is in fact a TRUE STORY relating an actual incident from his own life.
The story has been circulating via email and web sites, often without crediting the author, since the 1990s. Recently it's gone viral. That may have prompted the recent republication of the story in the Huffington Post.
Kent's story "The Cab Ride I'll Never Forget" can now be read online at the Huffington Post here:likewise confirmed the story is TRUE.
If you ever run across something you want to share with others, please be sure to include credit. I would also recommend mentioning where you found it, so if the author or creator is not listed in the source where you found it, someone could potentially trace backwards following sources to find the original.
Late Spring Hike Up Shinob Kibe
Monday, 30 April 2012 10:53 PM MDT
Yakkity Yak, Astounding Adventures
Monday morning I went hiking up the nearby Shinob Kibe mesa in Washington, Utah. Though most desert flowers had long since dried out, there were still some splashes of color in bloom along the path. With camera in hand, I went a little snap-happy, then posted the results on Facebook.
Here is my Facebook photo album of my Shinob Kibe hike.
Kolob Reservoir in Autumn - Wallpaper by Aaron D. Gifford - iPad3-sized, 2048x1536
Tuesday, 17 April 2012 11:40 AM MDT
Direct downnload link: Kolob Reservoir in Autumn - Kolob Reservoir, Utah - October 16, 2010 - Copyright 2010 by Aaron D. Gifford - 2048x1536 - www.aarongifford.com.jpg
This photo is mine, taken on Saturday October 16, 2010 while visiting Kolob Reservoir in Utah with my family. That autumn afternoon, I took a stroll around the lake to take in the fabulous foliage bedecked in autumn colors, and managed a few lucky pictures in the process. This was one of them that captures nearly perfectly the beauty of that day.
This image may be freely used for personal, non-commercial use as a desktop or device background. If you wish to use it as a background or image on a non-commercial web site, click the "Contact Me" link on the left-hand side and ask me for permission (and include the URL of the web page(s) you wish to use the image on). For most non-commercial uses I'll most likely allow it if you embed the image using my server URL as the image source. Exceptions would be those web sites that I find distasteful or offensive.
Any other uses will also require written permission from me.
Fidelity.com Security Breach - Private Information Compromised
Monday, 26 March 2012 1:42 PM MDT
Back in December 2011, I shared how Equifax had leaked private, personal information to persons unknown on the Internet.
Sadly, another large corporation entrusted with monetary and other assets by many people, seems to have done the same thing. That company?
Fidelity via their online web site fidelity.com.
How do I know?
As with Equifax, I had an online access account set up with them and it used a unique, never-shared-with-anyone-else, secure email address dedicated exclusively for use communicating with Fidelity.com.
Incident #1: On or Before 23 August 2011
Suddenly,out of the blue, last summer in August 2011, that address started receiving junk email from party or parties unrelated to Fidelity and my account there. The only way that could have happened was if Fidelity had leaked my private, personal information, or a third party entrusted by Fidelity with my information had leaked it.
I informed Fidelity and immediately changed my email address to a new, secure, hard-to-guess, exclusively-for-use-to-communicate-with-Fidelity address. I didn't hear back from Fidelity, but I hoped they took my alert to heart and corrected the security breach at Fidelity.
Incident #2: On or before 26 March 2012
Imagine my surprise and disillusionment when today I discovered junk mail addressed to my supposedly-secure-since-August new email address, one that only Fidelity had access to! Sorry, Fidelity, YOU BLEW IT!
That's twice you have apparently leaked my personal private information without authorization! That is highly indicative of a security breach somewhere, either directly at Fidelity.com, or with affiliated parties that provide key services to Fidelity users.
MY REQUEST TO FIDELITY:
Fidelity, please take this seriously. Please immediately investigate and track down where the leak is. Plug that leak! This is VITAL. It could be a symptom of a deeper leak of information.
Don't suppose that just because the information leaked was an e-mail address that it's okay to ignore this! Once someone knows an email address associated with a Fidelity account, that's one step closer a potential malicious thief is to stealing that account or stealing assets from it!
HOW CAN I TRUST YOU?
Fidelity, do I dare keep assets with you? Do I dare use your financial services if you can't keep my information safe, private, and secure?
UPDATE: (Message from Fidelity received 13 April 2012)
To: Aaron GiffordI'm glad they're taking this seriously.
Subject: RE: Fidelity and Spam email follow up
Date: 04/13/2012 03:05 PM EDT
Dear Mr. Gifford:
I am writing just to touch base with you, regarding the blatant Spam addressed to the email account that you have shared only with Fidelity.
Thank you for the quality of your report and the inclusion of technical detail. We want you to understand we take your concern seriously, and are investigating your report aggressively as we are equally eager to uncover the root cause.
Have a great weekend, Mr. Gifford, and thank you for being a valuable customer with us!
Dawna [Last name omitted by Aaron]
Fidelity Brokerage Services LLC, Member NYSE, SIPC
What Happened, VLC? With Version 2.0 You Botched It!
Saturday, 25 February 2012 10:59 AM MST
First, VLC Player is a sweet piece of free software, able to play just about any sort of media file thrown at it, unlike certain products I shouldn't mention from Microsoft (*cough* Windows Media Player *cough* *cough*). It's the go-to player for music and video for me.
And with the recent release of version 2.0, some advancements are very welcome.
HOWEVER for some reason the File Input access module no longer has a caching or buffer size setting. That is a huge problem, VLC developers! For those like me who have a media server that shares music on the LAN using SMB file sharing, mounting shared folders as drives under Windows. Sometimes the back-end server gets overloaded with I/O requests and that can cause music or video to stutter, pause, and look/sound bad.
In the past, all I had to do was bump up the caching/buffer size to a very large size, because the server generally can feed the video source just fine so long as the playback client (VLC in this case) buffers enough. But with version 2.0 I can no longer find a buffer/cache setting for the File Input access module. It shows up nowhere.
What gives, VLC?
So now VLC is an awful player if for any reason there's a lot of I/O on my back end server (like, for instance, right now, while my server's ZFS pool is doing a scrub, a very I/O intensive process). Even playing a simple compressed MP3 is stuttering. That's just stupid and poor software engineering VLC folks! Your otherwise-perfect product now has a giant flaw!
Were I authoring a File input module, I'd take a look at how much free system memory was available, pick an input buffer size from a default setting, then watch playback. By keeping track of the buffer's post-start-up high water mark (i.e. the maximum the buffer was ever filled to, up to 100% after playback started, excluding any pre-playback buffer pre-fill), then should we ever bottom-out (the buffer hit zero and playback sutters), I'd automagically grow the buffer size, perhaps double it, if the high-water mark was 95% or higher. I'd reset the high water mark, and watch anew.
That would limit stuttering if the underlying file reads were sporadic (jittery) but the base filesystem was still able to mostly fill the buffer at some point.
So, VLC, why not?
PLEASE fix this! Otherwise I'm going to have to downgrade to 1.x. This one's a deal-killer!
P.S. It turns out a feature request, ticket #2983, was made a long time ago regarding this issue and automating the buffer sizing under the 1.x versions. It is marked as "fixed" with this lame developer cop-out: "This is not fixable on Windows for lack of a statvfs equivalent." Lame! That's not true. One doesn't need statvfs() to keep track of historic buffer input/output rates. It does in fact require more work to implement, and I totally get that this is a volunteer open-source project. But instead of closing the ticket as "fixed" when it is not, it should merely have been left open until such time as someone got an itch to implement it. Annoying ticket closer!
Peponi - Alex Boyé, Jon Schmidt, Steven Sharp Nelson, and The Piano Guys Cover Coldplay's Paradise, African Style
Saturday, 14 January 2012 11:44 AM MST
What do you get when you take Alex Boyé (vocals and percussion), Jon Schmidt (piano), Steven Sharp Nelson (cello and backup vocals), get The Piano Guys (videography, editing, etc.), airlift a grand piano atop a sandstone cliff in Southwestern Utah, and cover Coldplay's Paradise, but do it African style? You get this amazingly awesome video, Peponi (Paradise)--see it below.
After watching the video, having been atop Sand Mountain a few times (I can see it out my window as I type this), using Google Earth, it wasn't too hard to pinpoint the exact rock they flew the piano to and filmed the video atop. Just to be sure I was right, I made a link for the location on Google Maps and asked Paul Anderson online (He's one of The Piano Guys—their retail location is just a mile down the street—I bought my piano from them a few years back.) if it was accurate. Yes indeed it was, so he included it on the main YouTube video page (if you read all the cool info they posted there about filming and putting this video together). Thanks, Paul!
This is the location (and it's accurate!):
So now you know where it was filmed. Time to WATCH IT! I recommend doing it in HD and in full screen, with good speakers to get the full impact.
Keep up those marvelous videos and coming, guys! I love it!
Equifax Security Breach (i.e. Equifax Leaked My Private Information)?
Friday, 23 December 2011 3:16 PM MST
It seems that Equifax, one of the three giant credit reporting agencies, and also a company that offers various "security" products (as I think of them) that may alert you to potential problems appears to have leaked my private information.
You see, in December 2007, I signed up for Equifax Credit Watch monitoring because it was free for me (because the Workers Compensation Fund of Utah had a data breach which may have compromised some of my data and offered this service for some months for free). I signed up and provided Equifax my private information, including my Social Security number. I also gave Equifax an email address to reach me, a custom address created new exclusively for the Equifax Credit Watch service. The address was unique, and I only gave it to Equifax. Nobody else knew it, or even knew it existed. And the address was very unlikely to have been guessed at random using a brute force dictionary attack.
So imagine my surprise when I get in my mailbox, addressed to this Equifax-only-knows email address, junk mail advertising "No cost coupons for local Restaurants". How did this spammer know the email address?
I suspect that Equifax has leaked it. Either directly (i.e. perhaps there's been a security breach at Equifax that leaked my email address), or indirectly (i.e. Equifax shared my information with a third party and that party has suffered a data breach). Either way, I consider Equifax responsible for leaking my information. And this drastically worries me. Was my Social Security and other important private information leaked too? Or just my email address?
Equifax, I would have sent a message to your security officer about this problem, but I cannot find any publicly available contact information. Therefore you get a 'blog post.
So many organizations, institutions, and individuals trust Equifax. Should we really trust them if they can't keep even a simple email address private?
On 01 Jan. 2012, Steven Bernstein commented:
Subject: Confirming your theoryOn 05 Jan. 2012, Dale commented:
Hello. I, too, own my domain and provided a unique email address to Equifax. And I just noticed that I have received about 35 pieces of spam mail to that address, starting on 2 Dec 2011 and up to today. It was one per week at first, and then increased in frequency. I can provide email headers if you request it.
The only other email I received to that Equifax-only address was back in Feb 2011, where a "legit" piece of mail from them tried to sell me my credit score (since, as the email pointed out, they had only provided my credit "rating", not "score"). Charming.
I did a google search in the past month for "equifax security breach" and your blog popped up. There's strength in numbers.
Subject: Happened to me alsoOn 06 Jan. 2012, the article author and web site owner, Aaron D. Gifford added:
I also used an email address unique to Equifax and started receiving spam around the same time. How can we take this public to get real answers about what was leaked?
Subject: Oh, the irony!On 11 Jan. 2012, Matt commented:
It's ironic that Equifax offers a Data Breach Service. Were I looking for help for such a problem, after discovering that Equifax appears to have data breach problems of its own, I don't think I would dare trust their services, at least until they come clean and track down and publicly disclose what happened.
The fact that after posting this article, in the first week of January two others have shared with me that they too have experienced a similar recent leakage of personal information lends credence to my suspicions and conclusions.
Subject: Me tooOn 18 Jan. 2012, someone calling himself/herself Equifax commented:
Yeah, same deal here. Own domain. Custom addresses for every site. Getting spam now on the unique equifax address. Interesting that there aren't any news stories on this. Really makes me not trust equifax because either they don't know or they are trying to keep the story from getting out. Either way not good.
Subject: Equifax acknowledges data breachOn 18 Jan. 2012, the article author and web site owner, Aaron D. Gifford added:
Like others who've posted here, I've been getting spam to an address known only to Equifax. When I contacted their Customer Care department, I got the following response:
"We are aware of this situation and our Security Department is investigating. What we can reassure you of is that there has been no internal or external access to your Equifax account. This is limited to an external exposure of email addresses. We are working to put measures in place to ensure this does not happen again."
Take this with however many grains of salt you wish.
Subject: Re: Equifax acknowledges data breachOn 24 Jan. 2012, Duane commented:
Someone contacted Equifax, and even sent them the URL to this 'blog posting and received back the very same response, that they were investigating, that it was only an external exposure of email addresses (implying no other information was leaked, though not stating such exactly), and that they were indeed working to ensure this would not happen again. It was probably the exact same quote Mr./Ms Equifax quoted above.
As for "...there has been no internal or external access to your Equifax account."—One need not access an account, neither internally nor externally, for information related to that account, even private information, to have been leaked. Account access is quite distinct from information leakage. Hence my comment that this statement implies no other information was leaked, but does not state definitively that such is the case.
I too attempted to contact Equifax. Sadly, when I did so, I got a canned link to a web page that was utterly and completely unrelated to this issue. I wish I'd received the sort of response Mr./Ms. Equifax received.
Subject: Equifax Account ProfileOn 15 Apr. 2012, mpa shared:
Same here. Own domain. Custom addresses for every site. Getting spam now on the unique equifax address. Can't figure out how to complain to Equifax about it. I did go into my account profile at Equifax and chose to "exercise your right to instruct us not to provide your non-public personal information to non-affiliated third parties, except as permitted by law." I will see if that stops the SPAM sent to my custom Equifax E-mail address.
Subject: Hate to do a "me too"...butOn 17 Apr. 2012, article author and web site owner Aaron Gifford added:
Same story here. I was going through mail logs and noticed that an address created for an Equifax perhaps a decade ago (and not ever given out anywhere else) is now getting SPAM. It may have been happening for years, I'm not sure, as I've archived everything but the past 4 months.
As a side-note: Its nice to know that I'm not the only one who does this. I've been creating new email addresses for each different vendor and contact for 15 or 16 years now. The all-time winner is Dialpad.com. 13 years later, I still occasionally get SPAM to an email address stolen or sold by them.
Subject: Other LeaksOn 27 Jun. 2012, SIngh commented:
I had something similar happen for the second time with Fidelity as well. Unlike Equifax, I've actually heard back from humans at Fidelity and it appears they're taking the problem seriously.
And further back in the past, Vonage and Zions Bank managed to leak my unique email addresses.
Sadly, and ironically, it seems that it's financial companies that leak most often. Although I haven't yet 'blogged it, I started getting junk mail to my unique Scottrade address shortly after I recently had them liquidate my account and send me a check, bringing my balance to zero there. Prior to taking that action, I had never had a problem for many years with them.
I have not yet encountered any problems with the social networking companies that so often we members of the public worry about with regard to the vast amount of personal information they collect. Google, Facebook... Zero spam to the unique addresses I use for those, and those get used far, far more often.
If it weren't for the fact that I have hundreds of unique email addresses that are spam-free and have been for years, many that I use far more often than those I've mentioned that have leaked out, I might wonder if somehow my own database had been compromised and leaked. But since these others, the majority, appear secure and spam-free still, I strongly suspect any and all leaks are elsewhere.
Subject: No subject
I have exactly the same problem with Equifax. I am receiving about 150 spam emails a day now. Its been 2 months now. Does anyone know of a solution to solve this problem?
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