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Tips and Tricks: TwitBlock

twitblock Ever wonder how to get rid of the spammers on Twitter? TwitBlock is a great way to find the ones that have followed you and whether or not they could be the same spammers.

Using a special algorithm, it calculates out whether or not a person is potentially a spammer and gives them a score. Based on whether or not TwitBlock users have marked the user as a spammer, the effect of the scoring goes up or down. It’s actually a pretty interesting method since most of the ways of detection are common sense things.

I would probably say that most people that have more than a thousand followers probably have quite a few bots and such on there, but at least there’s a way to somewhat detect these now instead of going through your followers one by one.

If you’re curious about it, definitely run this every so often on your account. It uses OAUTH so you actually never give it your password and such which is a great thing from a security standpoint of a third party application. Give it a whirl.

Judge Orders Google to Shut Down GMail Account

gmail Sometimes I wonder if judges know exactly what they’re doing when they bring down the heavy hand of the law.

In this case, a bank had “mistakenly” attached a spreadsheet that had a lot of personal data in it. Now, if anything, that bank should be in big trouble. You don’t store personal data in spreadsheets if anyone from security knows anything, and recalling an email? What the heck. When an email goes out, it’s GONE.

So Google refuses to give up the account name due to privacy laws, so the judge orders the account to be deactivated. So my question is…. if I happen to email that judge by mistake, my social security number… does that mean that by precedence, he has to have his email deactivated too?

I mean, that’s the judgment that was passed down, but it doesn’t make any sense from a technological standpoint. There are processes and procedures dealing with IT rulings and when this happens, the corporation that messed up is the one that should be fined, not the person that got sent the information. Amusingly enough it reminds me of a local story about a medical facility that is being investigated for leaving medical records on the side of the road. They claim it was a third party service, but they won’t name the service. And go figure that privacy law is what’s also driving this local story and they’re the ones in trouble.

US Government Needs To Straighten Their Financial Priorities

So I get to reading about a $529 million loan to Fisker Automotive which doesn’t help Americans with jobs due to the vehicle being developed in Finland, nor the fact that the price tag is eighty-nine thousand dollars (not to mention its a sports car) which is outside the realm of any middle class American.

What’s interesting is that these companies are getting these huge loans by the American taxpayers during a time where American job loss is at its highest and there have been many applications for smaller loans to develop vehicles that are less costly and better for American consumer pocketbooks, that have been turned down.

While the DOE spokesperson has said that each application is dealt with fairly, I have to wonder in knowing of practices within the federal government since most things are actually subjective to those that are working on the applications themselves. I also would be curious if there is an appeals process to understand why it was turned down.

Needless to say, the fact that money is being thrown about for a “greener future” without taking into account that the burden to the taxpayers has greatened due to job loss and global economic failure makes one wonder what the heck is going up at the top of the totem pole. Believe me, I get the whole environmental thing and how it’s good. But when you’re throwing some major cash at a foreign manufacturer while people here are screaming for help, a lot of eyebrows raise.

Let’s not forget that we the taxpayers not only pay for these ridiculous price tags, but we also pay your salaries.

Oil Change To Go

Using a funnel to refill the motor oil in an a...
Image via Wikipedia

Amusingly, I’ve had this idea for quite a while and often had wondered why no one would do it.

This really came by way of a conversation I had with a buddy of mine on IRC and we were talking about how it was a hassle to get your oil changed. It was then, when he actually said that he would totally pay a premium for people to just come to where he was to do his oil change so he wouldn’t have to waste time going to run the errand. And there was where I thought…. hey, you could totally do that with a portable jack and a van. Think about it. There are plenty of mobile businesses, from locksmiths to lawn care. They all travel to your place of business or residence and they have you pay a premium for doing that.

Not that I wouldn’t. I think it would be splendid if I didn’t have to waste my time driving to some lube place to get the motor oil changed out. Would be even nicer to actually get my tires rotated right there in the parking lot. Either way, I could see it being a pretty profitable business if you were to have a good person doing the scheduling and map out all of your appointments beforehand.

And it could be a lube place’s extra income. I mean, they do have a way to dispose of the oil and such anyways. So it probably wouldn’t be a bad thought.

So the funny story turned up again when I made a passing mention of it on Twitter and “wham bam,” several people piped up that they thought it might be a solid business model. Not something I’d venture into doing either even though with no preliminary research, it seems like it would fly pretty well. And on the off chance that someone does read this and use the idea…. leave me a comment. I’d love to know if someone took it and ran with it. If they did, maybe they’ll remember to throw me a discount.

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Tips and Tricks: How to Enable Mail on Dreamhost PS

If you have never signed up for a Dreamhost hosting account (use promo code: LUX00001), perhaps its time you tried their services out such as their Dreamhost PS. The Private Servers are a cost on top of your current shared hosting bill based on usage of cpu and memory. It’s still not bad when you consider it’s dedicated for your use only.

Here is one part of it that’s bad though. On the Dreamhost PS, if you have any sort of web services that you usually run, the mail doesn’t send. Ever.

Which is surprising when you’re coming off shared hosting that has everything configured for you to just go nuts with. Never fear though. There are several ways to get around it, and this is just one of them.

  1. Create a root user: you need one of these to use sudo to install packages on your PS.
  2. sudo apt-get install postfix postfix-pcre
  3. dpkg-reconfigure postfix

And that’s it. You could have a lot of mail there already and you can flush the queue and send it all by using the command postqueue -f. Otherwise, mail should start working and you’ll breath a sigh of relief knowing that it finally actually works. Again.

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Rock the Block 2009

rocktheblock2009

Don’t have anything to do after 6:00PM this Friday? Go check out Rock the Block. There will be live music, food, and vendors up and down 4th Street in Downtown Winston-Salem. I went last year and I have to say that it’s was definitely an enjoyable evening although I might not brave the crowds this year if it rains. We’ll see.

The Cost of Universal Healthcare

A bitter pill?
Image by Jo Peattie via Flickr

Are we ready for healthcare reform?

I believe that we are not as far as the United States is concerned. There are several historical things that really go to show that it wouldn’t really work. Not to mention it would cost more than any other government’s implementation due to how our status quo for government hiring and quality stand.

While it probably doesn’t matter since most citizens that speak out really do not get a chance to make a difference in the big picture of things, there are several things that speak against universal healthcare. I do believe this is an ideal and obviously worthwhile if implemented correctly. But I don’t believe the US can do it due to current government spending and past program histories.

Both Medicare and Medicaid are a joke when it comes to cost. Yes, we pay for it, but anyone can tell you that if you have some sort of a condition, it takes a while for granting of the funds. Will we be going for basic medical care that is granted by the second largest agency in the U.S., the Veterans Affairs? Because if so, then might we posture the horror stories that come out of the VA medical? Or the fact that every social program seems to be bloated beyond belief because of red tape to actually function as it should and are not optimized to a point where it would actually not cost billions of dollars just to run the management of it?

So if cost is a factor and you cannot pay for it, and healthcare would suffer due just by viewing how current programs are being managed, we fail to even consider the fact that the burden is carried by the taxpayer. With the majority of middle-class bearing the weight of taxes currently, and with those that have been hit by economic downturn and job loss, the burden is then unfairly increased across the class. Will the government pick up the tab when their paychecks are drawn from these tax collections?

What’s amusing in all of this is that I believe that healthcare reform is an ideal that would greatly benefit this country. But not in its current state due to how it’s managed. Imagine having to create a new division just to manage all of the claims and the management that comes with it. Let’s not forget that DHS was also created less than a decade ago and there are several GAO reports of its mismanagement of funds. Healthcare will be any different in this sense? I think not.

All of this brings me back to the days of high school back in ’94 when the national debate topic was healthcare. Funny that I remember my school being National Champions that year and there wasn’t a time on the debate team that I remember us actually arguing for universal healthcare. It seemed that at the time, anyone that did would lose the arguments due to similar basic analysis as above.

So what’s different now? Haven’t really seen a thing yet. Universal healthcare? Ha. Why not get people jobs first, or you really want to make a difference with national programs, how about changing Social Security so that a person doesn’t pay for the older generations and instead pays for their own future. There are enough headaches to tackle as-is, and bringing one giant problem into the mess just makes you wonder if the entire system will falter at some point. It’s like for years, the foundation of this American house has been bearing more weight than it was designed to handle, and we’re looking to build a new wing on there instead of reinforcing the foundation. Just doesn’t seem like a bright move.

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Can the Views of Conservative and Liberal Flip?

So I was thinking about the word definitions of conservative and liberal. And I had a crazy thought. Would it even be possible for society to dictate these two words as the opposite of what they currently mean? I mean, why not? Conservative basically means that people wish to have the status quo, and liberal means that they wish to have change.

conservative – disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditional ones, and to limit change.
liberal – favorable to progress or reform, as in political or religious affairs.

So I was sitting here thinking about how the values of conservatives have actually changed throughout history and how there is more acceptance towards being flexible than it used to be. Even by a historical sense, the right in politics have strayed more towards the middle ground as has the left. So is there a point where this could change?

Well, if by chance there were enough people that deemed that change was the status quo, then the definitions would flip. Mainly because if you’re always promoting change, then to reform “change” is to stay in its own place. And thus while the definitions of the words remain the same, how it is viewed in society today would be the exact opposite of what it would be in the future. Crazy thought, isn’t it.

Movie Review: L – Change the World

L-changetheworld If you’re a fan of Death Note as I am, then you’ll know that recently there was a third movie speaking towards L’s short life after Kira. And that would be the movie, L – Change the World.

I have to say that it was very fortunate that I happened to be in San Francisco, the day that they were going to premier the DVD screening at New People World. I picked up a copy of the movie and got a free screener pass along with a “L” button. Depending on what you’re looking for, you might want the US version of this DVD set. Either way, I have to say that it was actually pretty good.

I happen to like the Death Note writing a bit better, so the plot of the spin-off was a little more hokey. But overall, it does fill in some of the blanks that the anime itself doesn’t on why the character L actually had successors and where they came from. In fact, there was definitely a nice touch where it overlaps at the beginning with the timeline of the Kira case, in which if you’ve never seen the previous movies, I would definitely recommend watching them in order, watching the anime, or reading the manga before watching this film. It would explain a lot of things such as the naming of Near.

Overall, this movie was anti-climatic when it comes to the end, and I wasn’t surprised but sort of disappointed that you didn’t get to follow L to the very end. It’s kind of like one of those westerns where the hero rides into the sunset and leaves the entire thing open and you’re going… wait a second… where’s the rest of it?

I’m glad to own the series although I can’t say whether or not the screening would have been better since I didn’t have a chance to go even though I had the tickets. One last thing. If you have an issue with seeing people spit, or pus or something like that, I would probably avoid this movie. It’s not often, but seeing that the film plot is about a virus weapon that is a hundred times the potential of Ebola, it’s not exactly void of death throes. Wait a second… have I wandered upon the next series? Death Note – Death Throes? One could only imagine…

Discover Bank Needs Work Still

discover-bank Anyone that knows me, knows that I’m a big supporter of Discover Card. Out of all of the credit card companies, they’re one of the few that has never done me wrong and has always had great customer service when I needed it. In fact, it’s one of the few out there that looked after my well being and has a rewards program that is definitely a way to promote why you should be using it.

So when they started a promotion with their Discover Bank, I decided to jump on it. A couple things struck me right off and whomever the product manager of Discover Bank should really take heed to this since it doesn’t align itself well considering their online system for the card services is up-to-par with today’s standards of web services.

  • Login and Password from forms – When you ask for personal information from a user, be sure to get every single bit of it so that you can populate logins and such. Nothing from that rewards program notified you that you also had to register for an online system so while you could open an account right away and fund it, you couldn’t get in to check on it because someone forgot to add it into the forms.

    In fact, I had to call the customer service number to have someone walk through why I didn’t have a login. The lady on the other end was very nice although this type of online form issue shouldn’t happen if you have a QA department. You always have someone once-over it a couple times in the place of a brand new user to see what they can break and never make assumptions. Assuming that people won’t click on something is the first no-no in QA testing.

  • https://global1.onlinebank.com – Come on now. URL that isn’t masked or loaded directly? This tells me that not only is the software outsourced, but it’s not on the same level as the web services from card side. For whatever you’re paying ORCC, you should be able to brand it directly. Even on the bottom of the interface itself, has a copyright notice from Online Resourcing Corporation. There is also a lot of web side that needs work but that’s another thing altogether. But overall, a red flag goes up as a consumer when suddenly you go from discoverbank.com to “onlinebank.com”.
  • No EV-SSL? – This is another web side thing that someone should have flagged. While it’s not a huge deal in the security matters, most banking institutions actually do use it to provide more of a peace-of-mind for their customers. I will however say that I did due diligence and found that Discover Card web side also doesn’t use EV-SSL.
  • link checking – Not all of the links on the front page work (check the ones on the footer). I’m not certain if they go to old domains that used to be owned by Discover, or whatever, but there are definitely links that point to nonexistent things. Due diligence again on Discover Card side of it and the link itself actually did exist.

I will say that Discover Card actually sets itself up with these issues. I wouldn’t have thought twice with another card services since I’ve used a fair amount of them and Discover is the only one that always seems to improve their online presence and has an awesome job of marketing their product lines. In fact, I personally probably wouldn’t have used the Discover Bank in seeing the things that I saw above if it wasn’t for the fact that Discover was also marketing their banking line on their card services.

In the future, I would love to see a merger of the two systems. I know that currently since the banking system is outsourced, it’s going to be a while considering I’ve done my fair share of online SaaS products. But from a consumer standpoint, some of the issues above can be fixed rather easily that will in fact increase customer peace-of-mind. Is this something that Discover wishes? I’m sure it is considering they’ve always stood out on that front in my eyes.