27 April 2006

DirecTV Really Sucks!

My sad saga with DirecTV continues. A few weeks ago one of the cables from the satellite dish went kaput. No signal on both the original receiver that was attached AND one I brought in from another room. Two technicians were sent to work on the problem, but when they learned that we had Jade World, the Chinese channels, they declared they weren't licensed to do it. So a week later, another guy arrived to tackle the problem. This time this guy was supposedly licensed to handle dishes that had international programming, but alas, he, and then his supervisor, deemed our slanted roof unsafe for him to get to the satellite dish. But isn't it very normal for these satellite dishes to be placed high up? Such that any technicians assigned to the task should be qualified to do whatever required of them? Apparently not. To make matters worse, when I called to re-arrange for yet another visit, hopefully by someone capable of crawling on the roof to get to the dish, I was told they had no idea who did the original work, i.e. who originally put the dish that high on the roof. I had to be transferred to someone else who would have the info, to arrange for those same guys to come back. Totally unacceptable!

Besides the signaling problems that come with any inclement weather, my DirecTV experienced was marred from the very beginning. When I called up to open my new account, I specifically asked for the additional package of Jade World. The three guys that came to do the work were nice and friendly, but alas they didn't know about the Jade World addition and put in a plain vanilla dish. I had to have another groups of technicians. This second group ran late one evening and had to come the next day. Again they were late and the lead guy was upset that I blew their cover by calling their office to check their whereabouts. The day of the first scheduled visit by the second group, I had my own ladder out ready for their use but since they didn't come, I put it back in my shack and didn't take it out for the second visit. When I told him to use his own ladder, which he had on the roof of his van, he refused and asked if I really wanted to have the job done or not. Then he proceeded to climb on my neighbor's water sprout to get to her fire escape, and so on to get to the dish on my roof. Today, I specifically asked DirecTV not to send those rude techs again. Speaking of which, the two guys that weren't qualified to handle international dish look like some gang members, with bandana, tattoo, and sleeveless shirt. Call me old-fashioned, but those kinds of people I'd rather not have in my house.

I've heard of web sites to post complains and definitely would check them out to vent my frustration with DirecTV. I'll also see what the Bureau of Better Business has out there on DirecTV and add my two cents to the fray. My brother has already talked about going back to cable TV, just for himself. We will still keep two DirecTV receivers and between he and I we will pay more money for both, but maybe at least I'll shave off $5 x 2 for the two receivers to be returned to DirecTV. That's $10 less every month for them @!$#* DirecTV.

26 April 2006


My Roll Call cartoon was very well received at the office. To quote my colleague Gassed, there were already a few "board meetings" about it, i.e. people stopped in front of the white board where the cartoon was made to discuss it. Taking advantage of the momentum, I've setup an online shop selling, for now, T-shirts and other kinds of shirts. The shirts prominently feature a re-drawn and edited version of the Roll Call cartoon. Check out my shop at http://www.cafepress.com/qaptainqwerty

Just as a quick test, I re-drew on an 8.5"x11" whiteboard and capture it with a digital camera. Post-production works include a little cropping and brightness adjustment in Photoshop. I added the speech balloons and other texts in Comic Life. In the future, I may draw on paper with pencil and ink then scan the final product in, or I may even finally master my Wacom 4x6 tablet.

24 April 2006

Houston, We Have A Problem

The night I wrote the blog entry about my Roll Call cartoon, I happened to have a copy of the movie Apollo 13 with me, borrowed from the library. Since I indirectly used the phrase "Houston, we have a problem" in the cartoon, I made a note to see the movie itself to see where in the movie the phrase was made. On Sunday, I found the time to watch it, at last. Two and a half hours long, I am glad I don't watch movies everyday. How would one have the time to surf the web looking for BitTorrent files or write blog if one is tied to the couch and the TV/DVD/VCR remote control?

Being a techie sort of a guy, I really enjoyed the movie. American ingenuity, teamwork, some funny jokes, I like it all. All the space lingo was lost on me, for all I know, they could have been gobbledygook just to sound technical to us earthlings, but I still know what was going on. I like the part about the engineers having to come up with a way to improvise on a carbon monoxide filter. Or with Ken Mattingly taking part in the rescue. Mattingly was bumped from the flight because he was misdiagnosed as having the measles, but when things went wrong, he was brought in to work the ship with a minimum amount of electricity. I didn't catch the name of the guy who first notified the ground command (Ed Harris) of the problem with power, that they could only use 20 watts or less. (Or was it 20 amps?) Many people took part in the effort, not just one guy who did all the work while the rest acted like wimps.

While watching the movie, I kept recalling a few lines from the "song" "Every OS Sucks" by the comedy group Three Dead Trolls in A Baggie. I put quotes on song because it's mostly a talking routine, not rap, mind you. The song mentions that before Mac OS, Windows, and Linux, computers were used only to either play Pong or to get astronauts to the moon. You should check them out at http://www.deadtroll.com/

23 April 2006


I take pride in being technically knowledgeable, but a friend recently mentioned the BitTorrent client Azureus and I simply didn't know what she was talking about. A few days ago, I decided to check out this new technology and see for myself what all the fuss is about. It's a whole new world, with lingo like leech, seed, swarm, health, and scrape. You probably can find out more about it at http://www.bittorrent.com . From what little research I've had, the technology is a better way to distribute large amount of info over the web. These days that mostly translates to movie files. What sets BitTorrent apart from other file-sharing technology is that the client, or at least the client that I've experimented with - Azureus, automatically makes any files downloaded available to others. In other words, you download something, then once the file is complete, you host it for others to retrieve from. It boils down to decentralization, making any downloader a prospective uploader. Of course, if you shut down your client software as soon as you are done downloading, you become a leech, someone who only takes and not give back. If you are a good citizen of the BitTorrent universe, you stay connected and become a seed.

From what I see out there, it's all illegal stuff. There are recent movies, software packages, pictures, music, etc. It's all very tempting. Free stuff in exchange for some hard drive space, electricity, and time. Quality may not be the highest there is, but what do you expect for freebies. I imagine someday the big companies will crack down on the BitTorrent world, kinda like what they did to Napster and the other p2p networks. Still, it's all very interesting.

20 April 2006

DC, Baltimore, and Philadelphia

A few days ago, came back from a quick trip to Washington, D.C., Baltimore, and Philadelphia. The bulk of the trip was spent in the D.C. area. We stayed in Roslyn, just across the Key Bridge, overlooking Georgetown. The first day, we had lunch in D.C.'s Chinatown then walked over to Museum of Air and Space. Afterward, we went to East Potomac Park, where the photo at left of Justin was taken. For dinner, we went with the hotel's restaurant to enjoy the view from high up.

The next day, we went to the National Zoo and had lunch at some lousy Chinese restaurant in the area. The rest of the day was spent resting, followed by swimming in the hotel pool and dinner at Miss Saigon Vietnamese dinner in Georgetown. We thought Georgetown would be for strolling, but then it rained AND all stores, except Barnes & Noble, were closed at 9 p.m.

The day we left D.C., we went to the the Bureau of Engraving at 8 a.m., but alas they already ran out of tickets. Supposedly people were on the queue at 5:30 a.m. We already got up at 6 a.m. and it was very difficult so anything earlier than that would be impossible. Going with Plan B, we went to the Capitol - again, queues galore, but at least they still have tickets to give out. Our tickets were for 11 a.m. but it was only 9:30 a.m. and it was raining. We had to huddle outside the front door of the National Botanical Garden, whose scheduled opening hour was 10 a.m. Bureaucratic as they were, they wouldn't open the door a little earlier but simply ignored us. Once inside, we had to go through metal detectors and x-ray machines. The same thing played out when we got into the Capitol. Damn you, Osama Bin Laden, for causing all these extra inconveniences! Back north we went and stopped by Baltimore's Inner Harbor for a ride on the Chessie Seamonster paddle boats. Then we sat on the waterfront to witness the return of the yacht ABN AMRO One, supposedly the first-place winner in some ocean race. It was nice that they gave out whistles to the crowd so we could make noises to greet the vessel. We stayed at some Marriott Residence Inn, where I found PC with Internet access - free! Sadly, I didn't have any worthwhile personal email to read.

It was time to go home. We stopped by Philadelphia's Chinatown for lunch. Afterward, we walked over to the U.S. Mint, where camera of all kinds were not allowed inside. Sheesh, we were already guilty before anything is proven. Some tourist-friendly spot! Next was the Liberty Bell, but since I already saw it before, us two drivers walked back to Chinatown to get the cars to pick up the rest of the party at the Bell. A few hours later, back in NYC we were. Aaahhh, no place like home.

17 April 2006

Civilization Found

On vacation in Washington D.C. the past few days and now in some area north of Baltimore, MD. Didn't lug my still new PowerBook along so free in-room Internet access was of no use. Finally, this Marriott Residence Inn in White Marsh, MD has a PC in the lobby with Internet access. OK, so it's no a Mac, but free Net access is free Net access. Interestingly, in the Amazonia building of the National Zoo in D.C., there was an iMac in the library room. It has no Internet connection. It was probably there to run some slideshow program, but it wasn't running anything in particular at the time.

14 April 2006

DirecTV Sucks!

I HATE DirecTV! I used to have cable TV and because of one thing or another, I switched to DirecTV. Sure it was better that with DirecTV we could watch TV in four different rooms, for about the same price as cable TV, but all kinds of problems have been cropping up. Every now and then the received would reboot itself at the mere act of switching channel. I don't watch TV that much, but I would hate to watch a cliffhanging scene then all of a sudden, REBOOT! Gee, sorta like using Microsoft Windows on a computer. Then if the weather changes a bit we would get no signal or other problems. The latest insult is that one of the four cables running from the roof is loose or whatever such that the receiver cannot find the signal. I swapped the receiver with that in another room and the supposedly bad receiver worked fine in the other room. After a long wait for tech support, I was told that the warranty on these devices expired. For a service visit, I would have to dole out $70, but if I sign up for their monthly support program, at $6 a month, the visit would cost only $30. Dang! I don't recall paying for any service calls all those years I was with cable. I don't think there's much to do about these monopolies, other than stop watching TV altogether, but I'll check around the web. There must be something for an angry DirecTV like me to do about the situation...

13 April 2006

Room To Read

I'm back from my very short business trip to Houston, TX. I got to stay at a 4-star hotel and was wined and dined by my colleagues there. In return, I shared with them all the tools and scripts I use or have written over the years. All the scripts rely on DOS utilities, such as UImport and Usr2Grp, to do the actual work. In most cases I wrap a KiXtart script around the unfriendly DOS-based commands to make the scripts much more user-friendly. As promised, I've donated money, $50 to be exact, to a preferred charitable organization as indicated on the KiXtart home page. Room To Read, http://www.roomtoread.org/, works worldwide to provide literacy to children living in rural areas. It is somewhat in the same area like Everybody Wins! Power Lunch, whereby office workers match up with school children at nearby schools in a reading program. I am already participating in Power Lunch, so donating to Room To Read goes in the same direction. Cheers, KiXtart!

09 April 2006

Electronics Recycling Etc.

For those of you who live in New York City, if you have old computer equipments laying around the house and need to get rid of them without guilt, check your paper mail for a flyer from the Bureau of Waste Prevention, Reuse, and Recycling. Alternatively, check out the link under the title of this blog entry. It will take you to the Calendar page of the web site for Astoria Residents Reclaiming Our World, from which you can get the dates and locations for the three Electronics Recycling events in April and May 2006. I am the webmaster for ARROW's web site. Well, sort of - I only update the web site regularly and haven't made any dramatic changes to the web site's layout. More like a janitor, not an architect. Is WEBNITOR a word?

You should know that simply dumping old CRT monitors and such along with your garbage will add more toxic to the waste stream. By bringing those old PCs, printers, and monitors to these Electronics Recycling events, you help prevent the bad stuff from getting into our environments. Of coruse, you can also use the event as excuses to get rid of the old PCs to make room for the MacBook Pro, which can now boot up with Windows XP or Mac OS X, but I digress...

04 April 2006

Have Scripts, Will Travel

Not too long ago, my LAN Account Admin group in the northeast got more connected to other LAA groups in other parts of the country. One time some team leads/managers came up to visit us and were told about all the useful scripts I have in place to make our life easier. I gave them a demo and jokingly mentioned that they should fly me down to their respective offices to conduct a better demo. I view the trips as rewards to me for all the OT hours I save the company.

A month or two ago I conducted a demo of my tools over a SameTime meeting connection. Fortunately, a few people felt that while the demo was good, it would be even better if I could come down in person. After much delay, my "lecture circuit" may finally get off the ground. In the immediate future, I may make a trip or two to Houston and Tampa to show off my scripts and tools. After coming back from the trips, I'll definitely make a donation to KiXtart's cause - after all, it's KiX that allows me to wrap codes around DOS utilities such as UImport, Usr2Grp, CUsrMgr, etc. to make the archaic tools much more user-friendly. I've put the URL for the KiXtart homepage, http://www.kixtart.org/ , under the title of this blog entry. Check KiX out!

03 April 2006

Phishing Chase Customers

This world is full of criminals and the Internet only makes it easier for these scammers. In recent weeks, I've received many email supposedly from Chase Bank about some accounts my volunteer organization has with the bank. I am the webmaster and tech support person for the org so I'm in charge of handling email addressed to the group mailbox. I know the group has no accounts with Chase, but the scammers simply throw a wide net and it's possible for them to stumble upon a real Chase customer.

One example of these phishing email is shown at right. As typical with these scams, the tone is strong - ACT NOW OR WE WILL CLOSE YOUR ACCOUNT. Or something like that. Up to now, I have never seen a phishing email before, although I have heard enough about them. I did click on the link, Confirm Now, and boy the web site that it took me to sure looks like Chase's own. Back in my mail program, Apple Mail, I selected View/Message/Raw Source and saw the code below. No wonder it looks like a Chase web site, because they actually linked to the real Chase logo etc. from the real web site.

I had to replace all open angle brackets ( < ) with open angle brackets and a space, likewise with close angle brackets. The replacements are necessary to prevent Blogger from interpreting the HTML codes in the scam email. Tell-tale signs include the Received field, which helpfully shows in parenthesis that it may be forged. Next, check out the real URL behind the Confirm Now link. It doesn't really go to chaseonline.chase.com but some other web site, with chaseoneline.chase.com some levels down. I don't know whether these scammers hijack some host servers, but usually when I go to just the IP address portion, I would encounter some top level techie stuff about the web server, e.g. info on Apache or Linux. If this blog entry helps just one unsuspecting Chase customer avoid the phishing, then the time putting this together has been worthwhile. In preparing this entry, I've also created screenshots and such that will be useful in alerting abuse@chase.com
Return-Path: <>
Received: from insite.npsc.edu.on.ca (ip7.npsc.edu.on.ca [] (may be forged))
by vs50.server4me.com (8.11.6/8.11.6) with ESMTP id k2D11Vm73254
for <>; Sun, 12 Mar 2006 17:01:31 -0800 (PST)
(envelope-from survey@chase.com)
Received: from User ([]) by insite.npsc.edu.on.ca with Microsoft SMTPSVC(5.0.2195.6713);
Sun, 12 Mar 2006 20:09:39 -0500
From: "Chase Bank"<>
Subject: ChaseOnlineSM® Security Measures
Date: Sun, 12 Mar 2006 19:06:06 -0600
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/html;
Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit
X-Priority: 1
X-MSMail-Priority: High
X-Mailer: Microsoft Outlook Express 6.00.2600.0000
X-MimeOLE: Produced By Microsoft MimeOLE V6.00.2600.0000
Message-ID: <>
X-OriginalArrivalTime: 13 Mar 2006 01:09:39.0640 (UTC) FILETIME=[CD7FF380:01C6463A]

< face="Verdana" size="2">< src="http://www.chase.com/ccpmweb/shared/image/chaseNewlogo.gif" width="175" height="26" alt="JPMorgan Chase & Co" border="2" alt="JPMorgan Chase & Co" border="0"><><> Dear JPMorgan Chase & Co Customer,<>< /div >&nbsp;
<> Due to recent fraudulent activities on some of JPMorgan Chase & Co online <>&nbsp; accounts we are launching a new security system to make JPMorgan Chase & Co<>&nbsp; online accounts more secure and safe. Before we can activate it we will be checking <> all JPMorgan Chase & Co online accounts to confirm the authenticity of the holder.
< color="#003399">< /FONT >&nbsp;
<><> As the Primary Contact, you must confirm the service(s) listed below or it will be<> deactivated and deleted.
< /DIV >
<>< color="#003399">< /FONT > < /DIV >
<><> SERVICE: <>ChaseOnlineSM®< /b > with <>Online Bill Pay< /b ><> EXPIRATION:
<>Mar - 15 - 2006< /b >
<><> < onclick="return ShowLinkWarning()" target="_blank" onfiltered="return ShowLinkWarning()" href="">< color="#003399">Confirm Now< /FONT >< /a > < /b >your
<>ChaseOnlineSM®< /b > and <>Online Bill Pay< /b > services.<><> -complete the required information to authenticate and reset your account<><> -make sure your account balance has not been changed<><> -make sure your details have not been changed<><> -review recent transactions in your account history for any unauthorized transfer< /DIV >
<> < /DIV >
<> Thank you for using Bill Pay Service. We appreciate your
business and the opportunity to serve you.
<> If you find any type of suspicious activities please contact us immediately.<> Please include in your message your account number, your account name<> and the unauthorized transfer date & time.
<>&nbsp;< /DIV >
<> Please do not reply to this message. For any inquiries, contact Customer Service.< /DIV >
<> < /DIV >< /DIV >
<> Document Reference: (87051203).<><> Copyright 1996
- 2006 JPMorgan Chase & Co, JPMorgan Chase & Co Copyright © 2006<> < /DIV >< /DIV >< /FONT >

02 April 2006

iTunes, iPod, iQuit

Much to my colleague Purple's disappointment, this week's "cartoon" is again "stickums". The work is composed of three printouts. The top two are made up of four 8.5x11 pages, printed via Poster Print. The next 3 pictures provide closer looks at the 3 layers of the "cartoon". Click on the Title of this blog entry to get to my Flickr photo set.