Error -18 Fix for Android

I’m not definite that this is the end all be all solution for this, but with the new Market push came some issues that happened on my Droid.

It didn’t happen all right at once, so I assume it was some new SDK updates.  In any case, several of my apps wouldn’t update and would give a “general error -18” whenever they did try to update.

Annoyed, I went to the web for an answer but couldn’t find one.  People ran into the issue but no one had a solution.  Which baffled me.   Then I woke up from a tiring night of work and it hit me.  All the apps that were having an issue were on my SD card.

Could it be as simple as that?  So I moved the apps back onto the phone, hit update and voila!  No error.

So the error happens when the app is partially on the SD card.  To work around it, you have to move it back onto the phone and update.

Definitely something that Google needs to fix on Android but it’s good to finally have all my apps updated.

Tips and Tricks: WordPress Fix For Directory Creation and Updates

So I ran into an issue with one of my sites not being able to upgrade WordPress except for via manual ssh. And that’s extremely annoying. It was the only one that was on a VPS, so I was curious why the VPS was set up so differently than most of the other shared accounts on the same host.

Here’s the reasoning. The difference is whether or not your Apache is running DSO, or SuPHP.

The Apache HTTP Server is a modular program where the administrator can choose the functionality to include in the server by selecting a set of modules. The modules can be statically compiled into the httpd binary when the server is built. Alternatively, modules can be compiled as Dynamic Shared Objects (DSOs) that exist separately from the main httpd binary file. DSO modules may be compiled at the time the server is built, or they may be compiled and added at a later time using the Apache Extension Tool (apxs).

suPHP is a tool for executing PHP scripts with the permissions of their owners. It consists of an Apache module (mod_suphp) and a setuid root binary (suphp) that is called by the Apache module to change the uid of the process executing the PHP interpreter.

So how do you fix it? Are you getting the WordPress error that refuses to create directories in plugins and upgrade? Having issues where the whole chmod 777 solution (which btw, is a completely stupid solution since it opens you up to all sorts of bad things) isn’t working?

I finally ran across this fix, where for SuPHP configurations, all you have to do is edit your wp-config.php and add:

putenv('TMPDIR=' . ini_get('upload_tmp_dir'));
define('FS_CHMOD_DIR', (0755 & ~ umask()));
define('FS_CHMOD_FILE', (0644 & ~ umask()));

This will fix the entire issue because it basically defines your environment and forces the masking to be correct. Ahhh.. phew. Another fix.

Why CDMA iPhone Will Be So Much Better

Image representing iPhone as depicted in Crunc...

I always have to laugh when I read garbage printed about telecommunications when people don’t actually talk to those inside the industry first. Such as this TechCrunch article that basically talks about how Verizon’s network is slower, older, and would suffer the same capacity issues that AT&T did and that there wouldn’t be any other differences outside of the CDMA vs GSM.

Alas, my poor deluded journalist, you are so incorrect. There is a huge difference due to protocol and company culture. And you would know this if you were speaking to people within the telecommunications infrastructure industry (just as I have been working in it for the better half of a decade).

Let’s talk about the corporate culture for a second. Hypothetically, if Apple had chosen Sprint for their network, then I would say that they would have the same issues as AT&T has had with their iPhone coverage. Sprint in the past is known to overload their networks with other products. Boost was one of the first, but there are many others that also use the same network but branded under a different name. But Verizon has had management that has always been a stickler for building out for capacity. They keep building out their networks regardless of economy and the last I’ve heard, they’re perfectly capable of handling any sort of traffic that iPhone sales would generate without even blinking an eye.

While I have never worked on any of the Vegas markets myself, I do know that for events most carriers bring in mobile base station units to help accommodate the traffic for conventions, ball games, and the like. If AT&T couldn’t handle the traffic at CES, there’s a reason for it but I doubt that Verizon would be in the same boat there.

Second, you don’t need more cell sites to gain capacity. Capacity is driven by what we call in the industry: carriers. Each carrier can carry so much capacity and depending on the cell site, you can install so many carriers. It depends on the spectrum and how tall the tower itself is, and if you’re using that tower with other providers. But overall, capacity really is less about physical footprints.

Will data carriers be overloaded? Perhaps. I leave that in the capable hands of the Verizon capacity planners, which I would say have been working on this issue for the better part of a year or two. Will CDMA iPhones experience similar data problems as current GSM ones? Perhaps. I doubt it. If they do experience difficulties, they’ll be different due to the way the protocols handle data.

Now here’s the big, huge difference that CDMA will win over GSM. GSM (circa 1981) is older than CDMA (circa 1993). In my many years of on performance of cellular networks, two major problems plague GSM carriers that do not happen no where near as often on CDMA carriers. The first is ghosting. This is where you’ll be talking to someone and suddenly you’ll hear someone else’s conversation. At times you’ll basically be swapped, but sometimes it doesn’t happen. I’m not saying that it happens on AT&T itself, but that’s something that drives GSM consumers mad. The other is one of the channels dropping off. In CDMA, if you drop a call, you usually drop the entire call itself. Both forward and reverse channels disconnect. However, the competition has a tendency of dropping either channel while keeping the call up which basically provides you a call where one person can talk but can’t hear, or vice versa. That goes away when you switch to a CDMA iPhone.

Now the last part is: what phone do I carry? I personally carry a Droid. Are there GSM carriers I like? Sure. But I can’t stand buying into a network I do dislike just for the iPhone. It’s like driving a Mercedes that has had its engine replaced with a Yugo. It just won’t do. And now that Verizon is going to carry the iPhone, I have a feeling that it’s just about the time to make the switch.

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The “Skills” of Young Gamers and Understanding Ping

A Big Daddy defends a Little Sister from two S...

It’s interesting that I’m an avid fan of online gaming from time to time, and I noticed that younger and younger gamers talked a lot of trash talk, but didn’t understand the basic concepts of how their online infrastructure works.   If you can’t back up your skills then don’t bother trash talking.

So there’s this gal in Japan that loves to talk down on how she’s amazing in Bioshock 2.   And she is.  But it’s only because she can shoot you before your connection processes a kill.  Basically, she would pull the trigger, and in the US, you’d suddenly die without actually seeing the shot pulled.  That’s a ping issue.   For the most part, it goes back to the broadband connections on how they are implemented in each country.

In both Japan and South Korea, it’s pretty common place now to run fiber optics to all housing complexes.   That means that you’re running at least 100-150mbit into the house.  Back in the day, when I was in Ministry of Pain back in the day, we had a sniper that was so good, he could snipe people with a 150+ ping while others were on a 15-30 ping.  That meant that when he got on his school network of 15-30 ping (that’s in ms), he was unstoppable.   He was also part of the [3e] guild (Third eye) which made sense.

These days, these newer gamers don’t understand that cable connections still don’t outweigh fiber.   That extra faster timing for those packets to travel means that you have just a bit more time to pull the trigger.   And that makes a huge difference when it comes to any sort of online game play, especially the ones that have great snipers.   Ever notice that the best snipers seem to all sit on university networks?   There’s a reason for that.

In any case, the moment you realize that ping can play a major part in your gaming, you’ll start designing ways to depend around the timing situation.  Circling around the peripherals and the back, strafing, and other methods.

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Ten Tips to Refinancing in North Carolina

low rates

I have to say that refinancing in North Carolina isn’t fun, nor is it a ball of awesome. I mean, in all honesty, we had to do all of the research ourselves because frankly no one wanted to tell you about the fees and hidden costs that you’ll probably pay if you don’t be careful. Here’s a few things to keep in mind of to take out of the closing costs of a refinance.

  1. Mortgage Insurance. You only need this if you’re getting a second mortgage and if you don’t have home owner’s insurance. This stuff stings because you have to remember to cancel it even if you’re done with the second mortgage. If you don’t need this, get rid of it.
  2. In North Carolina, there is a origination fee. This is usually 1% of whatever your loan is although there could be a little extra called an “underwriting” fee. This is normal, but it’s also pure profit for creating the loan for you. In other states, this actually goes away these days, especially on jumbo loans, but in this state, it does not (at least not to my knowledge).
  3. Put everything in writing. If they’re going to waive something, that should go into the good faith estimate. Also, from experience, attorneys fees range somewhere around $500USD mark.
  4. Title insurance is a re-issue of your previous title. Don’t buy a new one since that’s a waste of money. Titles are the same everywhere nationally and it usually costs you something like $2 per $1000 on loan. This is for the lender so if they’re trying to get you for a lot more, get your own title from any title insurance company. You could try Chicago Title Insurance Company, whom is one of the major three vendors nationally.
  5. Don’t get suckered into a prepayment penalty loan. These loans will basically mean that you have to pay the entire interest amount off regardless of how early you pay off your debt. You don’t want a penalty for prepayment which basically means that the moment you pay off your principal, you’re home free for interest payments.
  6. Did you know that you can get waivers for appraisal fees and such? This all depends on how much you’re shopping out your loan and how large it is. The more money that’s at stake, the more there are negotiations on closing costs. Everything is up for grabs since the banks want to do the loan, especially if you have a spectacular FICO score.
  7. Don’t roll your closing costs into the loan. That’s plain silly. It might seem like you’re not paying a dime, but in reality, you’re not only borrowing the money of the closing cost, but you’re also paying interest on it. More payment to seem hassle free? I don’t think so.
  8. Home owner’s insurance. You shouldn’t have to pay this if you already have a home owner’s policy. I don’t know for sure on this, but I’m pretty sure it can be thrown out of the closing costs.
  9. Regardless of whether or not your house is in a flood plain, you have to pay for the flood certification. Runs somewhere around $15-25 depending on the home.
  10. If you don’t know how much your house is worth before you start down this path for refinance, check a real estate site like ZIllow. While this isn’t an exact science and there’s not guarantee that the appraiser will value your house close to this price, it’s a number to work with and it seems that banks also use sites like these for their beginning estimations. This will give you an idea on whether or not it’s even worth pursuing the refinance in the first place. On top of this… sometimes it’s not worth getting into a refinance situation if you’ve already paid off a significant chunk of your principal since regardless of the rate, you’re basically getting into another loan from the beginning. The money spent and time has to be accounted for in a refinance.

In the real estate industry, many of these fees are termed as “junk fees”. They’re basically fees that are tagged onto loans to make it seem legitimate but are actual pure profit for the loan generation. Think of it like the certain types of regulatory fees that you sometimes see on utilities or cell phone bills where it’s not tied to any actual law but is made to sound official so that they can collect a little bit more money.

What’s interesting here is that a lot of people lower their rates without understanding what sort of savings you’ll need to save. If the closing fees are $3600, and you’re saving $100/month in mortgage payments by lowering the rate, then this means that each year, you’ll be saving $1200. This means that just to break even on getting the lower rate, you’ll have to hold onto that home for another three years. Is that in your plan? Perhaps. But you need to figure all of this out and believe me when I say that most real estate people that are involved in your loan will probably not go out of their way to tell you about those types of things. In their best interest of course.

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Tips and Tricks: Upgrading to Ubuntu 10.10 Wireless Fix

So I upgraded to Ubuntu 10.10 today on my HP Mini 210. What was interesting is that the fixes to the touchpad (like two finger scrolling) were wiped out and doesn’t work. Oh well. But initially, there was something else that annoyed the hell out of me.

The wireless didn’t work on the reboot. Everything boots up, and you find out that there is no wireless. Not that the driver doesn’t load, or anything, but your wireless is disabled.

If you go and look at /var/lib/NetworkManager/NetworkManager.state , you’ll find that the wireless was enabled = false.

So you figure, change it to true, reboot, and you’re golden, right?


You have to run this command as root: rfkill unblock all

This will actually get rid of any blocking on the wireless network. For whatever reason, in the update to Ubuntu 10.10, there is a rfkill block command that isn’t taken off after the upgrade. This is also a newer utility so you’d never actually realize it until you found that you couldn’t do anything to take that wireless block off. Now if only they’d fix those touchpad issues for Synaptic touchpads instead of toying with the driver for Apple’s Magic Trackpad.

1984 Here We Come


I’ve always wondered whether or not federal law enforcement management ever think about what they say before saying it.   Currently, they want to put a backdoor in every piece of software so that if given a warrant, the government can go in and snoop on sensitive cyber-information.  And their reasoning is based on the fact that CALEA has worked with telecommunications so why can’t it be done elsewhere, predominantly software.

As a telecommunications professional of over a decade of experience and having been in the security industry for a major part of my life, I have to say that they fail to actually understand how CALEA is implemented.  While it is a government mandated security act that telecommunications and internet providers have had to deal with, it’s also got something that most software doesn’t.  A physical footprint.   To actually use a CALEA backdoor, you physically have to go to a 24/7 manned switch, that has hardware to jack into to basically “eavesdrop”.   It’s more complicated than that, but that’s pretty much how it works.

However, with software, if there is a backdoor and it’s known by hackers, then hackers will try everything in their power to break in through that area.  You know how in linux, they say never to use the root user?  That’s the same principle.   Don’t give it out, don’t acknowledge, because once people know that it exists, it becomes a security risk.

And if you’re in security, you should understand the risk assessment value and how ease of use is predominantly inversely proportional to security.  Always has been, and for the most part, always will be.  On top of all of this, there is another method that people will use to get around all of this.   Bouncers and darknets.   If this law is passed, they actually make their lives a lot more difficult as enforcement since most people don’t just think about using darknets or even understand how bouncers work.  If a wiretap is in place in all areas though, then it forces the underground to come up with new ways of communications without fear of someone looking over their shoulder.  And is that what law enforcement wants?  That doesn’t sound “easier” by any means of the imagination.

At least not to me.

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Ping? No Thanks

Ping Screen shot 2010-09-01 at 9.32.17 PM
Image by swanksalot via Flickr

Amusing. TechCrunch released an article about how Ping isn’t as social as Apple made it out to be. What’s even more funny is that I don’t see this going anywhere just like Genius didn’t go anywhere.

First, let me throw it out there. When I find new music, I don’t know the name of the song, or what it is. I just hear something while browsing a website, Youtube, or even listening to the radio. You know what Apple needs to do? Buy Shazam. Take that technology and load it in instead of relying on my friends. Truthfully, what my friends like in music could have absolutely no relevance in what I like. I like opera, but I can guarantee you that my wife doesn’t really care for it. But would we be in the same circle of friends? Sure. That’s a failure in itself for recommendations.

Second, I decided to give Ping a shot, even though during the Apple announcement, I was already arguing with people about how Apple could make things nice, but they don’t exactly understand the Internet trends. Let me put it into perspective. Myspace is probably one of the ugliest social networks ever. I said it back when it started, and it still is to date. But yet, the young kids that made it popular is what attracted bands and other musicians to it. That’s also why MySpace still lives… due to those relationships. If Apple wants to attack that head-on, they need to allow every single band lay claim to their pages and have followers able to already follow the band without the claim.

For example, I was testing out Ping, thinking, hey… this might not be half bad. Let me add one of my all-time favorite bands: My Chemical Romance. Now I’ve purchased their albums from iTunes before, so I know they exist on there (unlike some of the jrock/jpop/crock/cpop artists), but lo-and-behold, I can’t follow them. No MCR follow means that Ping fails in my book. I mean, the recommendations based on my genres that I selected gave me Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, and Coldplay. All artists that are tied to Apple. What about Daft Punk? What about Gorillaz? If you’re building social, you have to think social.

Personally, I think that Ping is a great idea, but the execution was absolutely sloppy on Apple’s part. If you’re going to build a social network for musicians, figure out what the strengths of social networks are and build around that. Don’t tie it directly to your iTunes store. The difference between customers and users might be a credit card number, but the difference between a social network and a store is a world apart.

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Do Illegal Immigrants REALLY Contribute to Social Security?

Modern Social Security card.
Image via Wikipedia

So I read this story in the Washington Post about how illegal immigrants help Social Security and without them, that program would be in more turmoil than it is now.  But in all honesty, is that even a true statement?

I mean, with all the statistics that op-ed throws out there, it misses a crucial fact:

Employers pay part of Social Security.

Here’s the point.   I was watching a story on CBS a while back about illegal immigration and they interviewed the farms that basically hire almost all Hispanics for seasonal jobs.  One of the most interesting takeaways from that was that the employer would deduct SS and all necessary fees out of their pay, and what those workers did with it outside that was their issue.   If that’s the case, then at least 33% of the statistics is paid for by the employer and has to be taken out.  The rest is conjecture since there’s no way of knowing how many fake SSNs are out there and while estimation is a great thing, let’s look at the rule of thumb in the business world.

If I pay you in cash, usually people do not pay their social security on that.   Nor do they pay their any other income tax on it.  In fact, forget illegals.  How many Americans do you know that actually pay taxes when they’re paid in cash?   I could be wrong, but I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone.  Not even people high up in society.  Everyone knows the “unspoken” rule.

So the only actual part that you can really deem as indirectly contributed to the Social Security program is what the employers pay because they have to pay it.  It’s part of hiring a labor force.  But that could be attributed to any single individual, and does not have to be an illegal immigrant.

If that’s the case, do illegals really contribute to Social Security?  Or is it just in the mind of this op-ed columnist that hasn’t really thought out the actual employer/employee process?  Maybe I’m just crazy, but if I were an illegal immigrant, I wouldn’t pay a big red target on myself and collect Social Security or pay the taxes.  I’m already a ghost in the system.  Why put myself on the radar and put my family and me in danger?   Just saying.

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FAA Still Denies Cell Phones in Air

Cell Phones Everywhere
Image by Scott Ableman via Flickr

The FAA is still denying that cell phones are safe in the air.   While it’s true that cell phones do generate electromagnetic signals, it’s also true that the signal of the EM field dramatically drops off as you get farther away from the user.  Most do not generate any substantial field outside of the “personal space” of the cell phone user.   If you don’t believe this, go buy a EM reader and give it a shot.   It’s rather interesting on the non-linear drop.

On top of this, it was shown on Mythbusters (episode 49) a while back that cell phones do not interfere with the navigational equipment of a plane unless the plane has unshielded wiring.  And believe me, if you’re running faulty wiring, the least of your worries will be coming from mobile devices.

I will agree that banning cell phone use on a plane for sake of safety is a cop out play when in reality, the only thing that cell phones are in the air would probably be the annoyance factor.   Due to the background noise of the plane, people that talk loudly already would just raise their voices.   And the last thing most passengers want to to is to be locked in a confined space with a bunch of shouting business people that are trying to conduct business.

Fortunately, I have a solution for this.   If someone has enough change to spare that they’re willing to sign an agreement before the flight takes off to have a decibel monitor on them, and their credit card on file, then if their voice ever goes above a certain level, they’re automatically fined.  This fine is then distributed to both the flight crew, airline, and passengers on board guided by the fact that since everyone will be annoyed, you might as well be compensated for the annoyance.

This would either prevent people from calling as much on flights, or keep their voices down of which they should be doing anyways.   While policing the airwaves at thirty thousand feet isn’t something fun, use the right reasoning.   I mean, let’s be honest.   If people can use cell phones when they “touch down” on the landing, then it would also be safe to say that those EM transmissions would not effect other instruments.  Or else every time you land, you’d see a blip in your flight instruments that would be visible to the naked eye.

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