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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

More An(Droid X) Suggestions

Previously I wrote about things I liked, didn't like and a few suggestions about my Droid X.  Here are some more suggestions - things that would make this pretty great phone that much better.
  • Enable copying phone numbers, email addresses, etc. directly from contact screen.  Currently I have to edit the contact to be able to copy any info from the contact.
  • Preserve position in contact list.  Can't remember exact circumstances right now but there are some times when if you scroll down to a contact, open it, then go back the list isn't at the point you were previously, rather it goes back to the top of the list.  UPDATE: I found at least one case where this happens: when in the contacts list from the phone app if you scroll down to a contact, open it, then close it takes you back to the top of the contact list.
  • Under recent calls give me the ability to clear just missed calls, or other.  Currently it's all or nothing.  Tonight I wanted to clear my recent calls (only) and was forced to clear the whole list, which didn't make me very happy.
  • In the Android Market give me the ability to flag an app, or add it to a "favorites" list.  Often I find apps which I may not want to install right at the moment, but have no easy way to flag, tag or otherwise remember.
  • Give me more control over the screen lock/unlock.  Namely I want to have maybe a 20-30 minute delay before the screen locks (requiring pattern, pin or password to unlock), but also the ability to manually lock the screen, say with a quick press of the power button.
  • Give me the ability to add third-party app shortcuts to the Messaging folder/app.
  • Front-facing camera.  I know it'll never happen on my phone, but. . . .

Monday, December 27, 2010

iPhone 4 vs. HTC Evo - Funny Video

This is so freaking funny!  I've seen this before, but had to post it here to have it close by.

This hits the nail on the head with the boneheads that drink the Apple Koolaid - that have to have an iPhone because they are so cool.



WARNING: contains "adult" language - a few well-placed f-word's.  It this offends you don't watch the video.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Is Gingerbread Here!?! Android version 2.3.340 for Droid X

On a whim I just checked for system updates for my Droid X and to my great surprise and pleasure 2.3.340 (is it Gingerbread?) is available.  I'm downloading it as I write.  Once it's installed and I have a chance to check it out I'll post more here. . .

Unfortunately it's not Gingerbread, but it should have some pretty good updates.

Hopefully it doesn't contain any more crapware!

Quest to Remove Droid Crapware

In my continued quest to remove Droid crapware from my Droid X this post is to provide some information about each (cr)app including contact info.
See How To Remove City ID (and other crapware like Blockbuster, Skype and VZ Navigator) From Droid X (and other Android phones) for detailed instructions.
Droid Crapware
These are the (cr)apps that are frustrating me because I cannot remove them.
Amazon Kindle
Developers web page: amazon.com/kindleapps
Email: kindleforandroid@amazon.com

Amazon MP3
Developers web page: amazonmp3.com
Email: digital-music-android-market@amazon.com

Backup Assistant

Developers web page: 
Email: 

Blockbuster
Developers web page: 
Phone: 866-692-2789

City ID
Developers web page: Cequint.com
Email: support@cequint.com
Phone: 206.264.1909

Madden NFL 11

Developers web page: 
Email: 

News and Weather
Developers web page: 
Email: 

VZ Navigator
Developers web page: 
Make A Difference
Tell the FCC that Verizon (or AT&T or Sprint or ...) is forcefully installing applications with no choice to remove them by filing a complaint with the FCC at esupport.fcc.gov/complaints.htm. You can also file your complaint with the FCC’s Consumer Center by e-mailing fccinfo@fcc.gov; calling 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322) voice or 1-888-TELL-FCC (1-888-835-5322) TTY; or faxing 1-866-418-0232.  I suppose if enough people complain Verizon will stop trying to force this crap down our throats!

Droid X Crapware

I've written before that I really like my Droid X Android phone, but there are a number of things I don't particularly like (see Things I Hate About My Droid X), especially the crapware that Motorola and Verizon force down my throat (see Blockbuster Android (cr)App).  While I don't have to run the (cr)apps (and I WILL NOT use any of them - see list below) I am furious that I cannot remove them.
See How To Remove City ID (and other crapware like Blockbuster, Skype and VZ Navigator) From Droid X (and other Android phones) for detailed instructions.
I purchased this phone with my money, my hard-earned money.  It's mine.  I should be able to use it any way I wish.  Namely I should be able to uninstall any (cr)app I don't want.  But for whatever reason Motorola and Verizon have decided I have to have them and cannot remove them without rooting my phone.

I hate purchasing or even working on "consumer" computers because they always have pre-installed applications that are, for the most part, junk.  But the great thing about this crap on computers is that I can either uninstall any or all of these (cr)applications or reinstall the OS, and guess what, they are gone.

But neither is possible on this and many other smart phones.  Why not?  If Microsoft were to bundle this kind of crap with Windows and make it so you couldn't remove it the FTC would have a tizzy and sue them immediately.  Why does our benevolent government allow companies like Motorola and Verizon to get away with it?

While I'm only one person and probably won't get very far on my own I'm hoping anyone with a Droid or other device will join in the fight.  I am on a mission to inform others along with fighting with and complaining about this issue.  I'm taking the fight to Motorola, Verizon and the companies whose (cr)apps I cannot remove (like Amazon, Blockbuster and Verizon themselves), and I am filing complaints with the FCC, FTC and any other appropriate governmental agency, and leaving negative feedback for each app in the Android Market.

Droid Crapware
These are the (cr)apps that are frustrating me because I cannot remove them.
  • Amazon Kindle
  • Amazon MP3
  • Backup Assistant
  • Blockbuster
  • City ID
  • Madden NFL 11 (installed compliments of Version.2.3.340)
  • News and Weather
  • Skype mobile
  • VZ Navigator
There are several other apps (3G Mobile Hotspot, My Verizon, YouTube, etc.) that cannot be removed, which for the most part I'm OK, either because I use them or they are benign.  But the list above has my blood boiling.  Mainly they are from other companies and most require subscription services or additional fees to use.  If I had to bet I'd say Motorola and Verizon are getting some kind of renumeration from all these services for purchases where the apps are force installed.

Bottom line: Motorola and Verizon let me uninstall these (cr)apps I don't want, don't need and will NEVER use.


Remove Android (cr)apps


Make A Difference
Tell the FCC that Verizon (or AT&T or Sprint or ...) is forcefully installing applications with no choice to remove them by filing a complaint with the FCC at esupport.fcc.gov/complaints.htm. You can also file your complaint with the FCC’s Consumer Center by e-mailing fccinfo@fcc.gov; calling 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322) voice or 1-888-TELL-FCC (1-888-835-5322) TTY; or faxing 1-866-418-0232.  I suppose if enough people complain Verizon will stop trying to force this crap down our throats!

See also Quest to Remove Droid Crapware for more info.

Blockbuster Android (cr)App

See How To Remove City ID (and other crapware like Blockbuster, Skype and VZ Navigator) From Droid X (and other Android phones) for detailed instructions.
Dear Blockbuster,
You and your partners in crime (Motorola and Verizon) can all kiss my ass! It upsets me when crapware is installed on any device, but when I can't remove it that really upsets me. Thanks to you installing your unremovable (cr)app I will NEVER again set foot in one of your stores, rent from one of your kiosks or use any of your services on any platform. Furthermore, I will use every opportunity to spread the word and make sure everyone knows of your unethical business practices.
This is a message I just sent Blockbuster to let them know I am not happy about their Android (cr)app that was conveniently installed on my nice new Droid X. As stated I will never again use any service by Blockbuster. Period.

It is appalling that I as the owner of my Android smart phone cannot uninstall this and several other apps!

I was sitting here this wintry Saturday afternoon watching a little TV and monkeying around with my Android. As I browsed through the list of apps I clicked on the pre-installed Blockbuster app. Right off I was told I'd have to update the app to even check it out. Undaunted I clicked OK and was taken to the Android Market. While reading about the app I noticed it was rated only 2 1/2 stars, so naturally I looked through several comments. Virtually every recent comment rated the app 1 star and complained about not being able to uninstall it.

After leaving my own 1 start rating and scathing comment I emailed the above message to Blockbuster (ondemandcustomercare@blockbuster.com) and tried to call them (866-692-2789). Their automated phone system kindly informed me that they were experiencing higher than normal call volume so I decided to call back later. And I will. I will let them know of my extreme displeasure of their app being forced upon me and my inability to remove it from my Android, and that I will never use any of their services (did I already say that? I may be a little upset right now. . .). I'm sure my complaints will fall on deaf ears but it should make me feel better to vent.

There are a slew of these uninstallable (cr)apps on my Android thanks to Motorola and Verizon. I did file a complaint with the FTC a couple months ago but who knows what'll happen with that.

Basically I just want full control of my Android. Kind of like I have with my computer. What a novel idea. . .

UPDATE
I recently ran across this great article, "Crapware on Android: Minor Annoyance or Major Problem?" over at tested.com (he ripped off most of this LA Times article, "'Junkware' comes standard on Verizon, T-Mobile smart phones," but did add some good stuff).  In it Ryan Whitwam hits the nail on the head with these points:
  • "If you make an amazing phone, it will be amazing and people will notice. Piling on more and more sponsored software hurts the experience."
  • "Many of these apps are also poorly coded, and meant mainly as a promotional vehicle. Don't be surprised to see them running in the background when there's no need for it."
  • "...these apps are just sitting there taking up space on the phone's internal storage. Depending on the handset, that could be a big chunk of usable ROM space. This is even more infuriating because the bundled apps often duplicate the functions of standard Android apps."
  • "...having all these "value-added" apps is going to slow your updates. We already know that running a skinned version of Android will result in a delay in moving to the newest version of Android, but the testing and porting of all this junk software isn't going to help."
Tell the FCC that Verizon (or AT&T or Sprint or ...) is forcefully installing applications with no choice to remove them by filing a complaint with the FCC at esupport.fcc.gov/complaints.htm. You can also file your complaint with the FCC’s Consumer Center by e-mailing fccinfo@fcc.gov; calling 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322) voice or 1-888-TELL-FCC (1-888-835-5322) TTY; or faxing 1-866-418-0232.  I suppose if enough people complain Verizon will stop trying to force this crap down our throats!

See also

Coyote rescued from slab of ice in Lake Michigan

Why?  Why the hell would firefighters in Michigan waste their time, more importantly precious resources to rescue a nuisance like a coyote?  How many thousands of dollars of tax money were wasted to save this animal?  Absolutely ridiculous!

Coyote's are a pest, often killed to keep them from molesting domestic animals like chickens, cows and family pets.

I'm sure the same bleeding hearts who say we interfere with nature too much are applauding this - saving this poor freezing varmint that would die without our interference.

Let the damn coyote die.  Save the money.  Don't spend my tax money on something like this ever again!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Funding cuts leave many without home heating assistance

This article from Macon, GA details the plight of poor souls who aren't able to get "assistance" to pay their utility bills to heat there houses.  Pictured below is Raymeica Kelly who explains how her mother, sister and herself were turned away from the Energy Assistance Program last Wednesday morning after standing in line for four hours.  Four hours!  Ms. Kelly is showing her Georgia Power bills in the one warm room of her home.


Raymeica, get off your fat ass, get a job, take care of yourself and quit mooching!  Instead of spending 4 hours waiting for a hand out go to work and earn your own money.

I have absolutely no sympathy for someone who can afford a 50+ inch flat screen TV, Play Station, and other modern electronics, and obviously isn't lacking in the calorie intake area either.  Sell your electronics and pay your own damn bills & leave my taxes alone!

Monet Parham Sues "Evil" McDonalds

McDonalds is so evil Monet Parham with the help of The Center for Science in the Public Interest is sueing them, trying to make them stop luring unsuspecting kids with crappy plastic toys or at least make their Happy Meals healthier.  Ms. Parham is so tired of actually parenting and fighting her young daughter to eat something without a sweet toy that she's trying to compel a judge to force McDonald's to stop their dirty advertising practices.

Monet, shut the hell up and crawl back in your hole.  Sack up and tell your daughter who is boss.  I have kids myself and while it may be a little annoying when all they want to eat is a crappy meal at McDonald's I have no problem telling them no.  If they don't like it, tough.

Another thing Monet, turn off the TV and quit using it as a babysitter for your kid, then she won't be exposed to the evil empire of McDonald's.

While I agree that fast food is usually crappy food and the lure of a POS toy can be compelling, and very effective for selling their products to young kids, we need to take care of our selves.  Shut off the TV to keep your kids from seeing the ads in the first place.  Tell your kids no.  Teach your kids that you are boss.  Be a damn parent.  Don't rely on the courts or government to do that job for you.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

200 Students Cheat On College Exam

Professor Richard Quinn at the University of Central Florida (UCF), which specializes in stopping cheaters, caught 1/3 of his class - nearly 200 students - cheating on an exam. Quinn dressed-down the whole class and gave an ultimatum for the cheaters to come forward, threatening serious consequences if they didn't, even expulsion.

During his dressing-down of the class Quinn told them, "I am . . . physically ill. Absolutely disgusted." Professor Quinn is making all 600 students take the test again, no matter what. I couldn't agree more with both his comments and actions.

One student who was interviewed, Konstantin Ravvin said, "This is college. Everyone cheats; everyone cheats in life in general. I think you'd be hard pressed to find anyone in this testing lab who hasn't cheated on an exam. They are making a witch hunt out of absolutely nothing. As if it were to teach us some kind of moral lesson." WTF, Konstantin? Ravvin's comments are frightening. Frightening that anyone would think it's OK, even normal that "everyone" cheats. Which hunt? Absolutely nothing? Ravvin and his ilk scare the hell out of me - that they are potentially going to be future leaders in this country. If that's the case we are doomed.

Ravvin's comment saying, "as if it were to teach us some kind of moral lesson," is exactly the point of what Professor Quinn is doing.

I'm glad this has come to light. I believe it is a rampant problem - not just in schools but in life in general. People need to be accountable and responsible for their own actions, and they need to learn to do their own work, not cheat or rely on others to get through school and especially life.

I applaud Professor Quinn. His actions are heroic. On the other hand Konstantin Ravvin and others like him scare the hell out of me.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

SonicWALL Spam Filter SMTP Telnet Test

For years I have used this quick and easy method to test SMTP relaying on my servers.  Run telnet <mail server> 25 from a command prompt or terminal session. This opens a telnet session to the SMTP server using port 25, from which you can attempt to send a test email.

Example using telnet to test SMTP relay.
telnet smtp.powercram.com 25
helo admin@powercram.com
mail from:admin@powercram.com
rcpt to:admin@powercram.com
data
This is a test message...
.
If an email is sent to the address specified and relaying is allowed (to the domain specified) you know SMTP relaying is working on the specific server, etc.

Here's where I need to rant - the developers at SonicWALL are either really stupid or made a huge mistake. Either way their implementation of this method sucks! That's because in order to relay mail through one of their email security appliances you actually need to include angle brackets, <>, with both the from and to email addresses.

What they failed to realize is that the syntax <email@yourdomain.com> means use your own email address, minus the angle brackets (or greater than, less than signs - whatever you want to call them) like, admin@powercram.com. It doesn't mean to use <admin@powercram.com>.

The SonicWALL SMTP Telnet HowTo documentation says MAIL FROM:<someone@company.com> and RCPT TO:<someone@domain.com>. In my 20+ years as a technology professional I understand this to mean substituting the RCPT TO:<someone@domain.com> with an email address of my chosing, excluding the angle brackets! But, no, that's not SonicWALL's implementation. You must use the angle brackets on both the mail from and rcpt to commands as follows.

Example using telnet to test SMTP relay on a SonicWALL Email Security appliance.
telnet smtp.powercram.com 25
helo admin@powercram.com
mail from:<admin@powercram.com>
rcpt to:<admin@powercram.com>
data
This is a test message...
.
Stupid! Their developers need to get a clue and remove their requirement of using angle brackets on email addresses for this purpose.

Install Telnet (client) on Windows 7 (and Windows 2008 Server) From Command Line

Irritatingly Windows 2008 (and Windows 7) doesn't have telnet (client) installed by default.  It can easily be installed with the following command, from the command line (with administrator priveliges):
servermanagercmd -install Telnet-Client
Note: may take "several" minutes to complete.


Of course this can be done through the GUI as well in:
  • Control Panel > Programs > Turn Windows features on or off
  • In the Windows Features dialog box, select the Telnet Client check box
  • Click OK.  Wait. . .

Always Start Command Prompt as Administrator in Windows 7 and Windows 2008

Tired of opening a command prompt and running into lack of rights on Windows 7 and Windows 2008?  I am.  You can easily set the Command Prompt shortcut to always open the command prompt as administrator.  Just follow these easy steps.
  • Right-click on Command Prompt shortcut and select properties
  • On the shortcut tab select Advanced
  • Check box that says Run as Administrator

Trick Play Touchdown

A middle school football team in Corpus Christi, Texas pulls off an epic trick play to take the lead in a playoff game this past weekend.

Trick Play Touchdown - Watch more Funny Videos

Football Trick Play Goes Viral
Harry Smith speaks with the Idriscoll Middle School coaches and player responsible for the trick play that scored the Corpus Christi, Texas team a touchdown.

Schwarzenegger: 'No One Cares If You Smoke a Joint'

Soon-to-be-former governor of Kaleefornia Arnold Schwarzenegger couldn't have been more blunt on the topic of weed last night -- telling Jay Leno that in CA, "No one cares if you smoke a joint or not.

About time a politician has the balls to say this.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

How to: Capture Screenshots on Motorola Droid X - No Root Required

I have to tell you I'm more than a little disappointed and frustrated that I cannot easily grab a screenshot on my Droid X without using either the Android SDK or rooting the phone (see my other Droid X frustrations).  The ability to grab screenshots on both iPhone's and Blackberry's is built-in.  Shouldn't Android devices have this too?

These instructions on how to capture a screenshot on your Droid X (or Droid or Droid 2, and maybe other Android phones too. . . ) with the Android SDK aren't original, but they are customized a little for the way I did it.
  1. Download and install the Java SDK appropriate for your OS.
  2. Download the Android SDK and unzip it to a convenient location.
  3. Enable USB Debugging on your Droid (Home, Settings, Applications, Development, check USB Debugging).
  4. Connect your Droid to your PC via USB cable.
  5. Open the Android SDK folder and browse to “tools” and run the “ddms.bat” file.
  6. Navigate to the screen you want to capture on your Droid.
  7. In DDMS select Device, Screen Capture.
  8. DDMS will capture the screen & display it.  You can then save and capture as many screens as you'd like.

Want to remove unwanted crapware from your Droid?  See How To Remove City ID (and other crapware like Blockbuster, Skype and VZ Navigator) From Droid X (and other Android phones) for detailed instructions.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Things I Hate About My Droid X (Android)

Hate might be a little strong. . .  I've had my Droid X for a few months now and all-in-all I've been pretty pleased.  The Android OS is pretty well done and quite fast too.  I've had these thoughts brewing in my mind for a while and wanted to make a list of things I like, things I don't like and kind of a wish list.  I'll be adding to this list from time-to-time so check back.  And, please make any comments with things you like or dislike about your Android phone, particularly Motorola's Droid X.

See How To Remove City ID (and other crapware like Blockbuster, Skype and VZ Navigator) From Droid X (and other Android phones) for detailed instructions.

Things I like (maybe even love) about my Droid X:
  • There are a lot of things to like.  It's been very nice so far.  I was worried about the touch screen keyboard, but it's been fine.  I'm a believer.
  • Google Maps & Navigation.  Long-time user of Google Maps.  Love that on the Android, especially the navigation.  Used it over the weekend on a road trip - worked great!
  • Fast startup.  Really kicks ass over my BlackBerry (Curve, Tour and Bold) which took upwards of 15 minutes.
  • Love the size of the screen - especially compared to those iPhone things by Apple.
  • I love that it's not an iPhone or Apple product.  A lot could be said here; open, not under Steve Jobs' control, Flash support, basically that it isn't an iPhone.
Things I hate (or dislike or that bug me) and problems I've had with my Droid X:
Note: I began to notice most of these issues after upgrading to Froyo. . . .
  • Shitware from Verizon and/or Motorola.  This is my biggest complaint - crap I don't want and can't uninstall.  Namely CityID, Amazon MP3, BlockBuster, VZ Navigator, etc.
  • Problems accessing my corporate (Exchange server) email.  Sometimes it just doesn't fetch email for hours at a time.  In fact, it hasn't worked properly over the past 24 hours since right after I last restarted the Droid.
  • No easy way to capture screenshots on Android - very easy on both BlackBerry and iPhone's.
  • Scrolling through lists, web pages, etc. is choppy.  It seemed much smoother before the Froyo upgrade.  WTF?
  • When long-pressing on a number in the dialer need to have to option to copy the number!
  • Contacts.  Lots of little things here.
    • First, I don't like that it automatically makes all people I follow on Twitter contacts.  Give me a choice.
    • After viewing a contact & clicking on the back button I'm taken to the top of the contact list rather than the spot I was previously.
    • The Notes field is not big enough (doesn't display enough information) and not easy to edit.
  • Often it cannot recognize media files, particulary music - mp3 files for heaven's sake.  It will display the message, "Sorry, the player does not support this type of audio file," and I have to restart the phone to correct this problem.  This is an issue that's fairly easy to reproduce - it's not random.
  • Email to SMS messages are duplicated.  (This one is a little tricky so you'll have to follow along).  I receive several SMS messages daily that originate from an email account.  Essentially they are emailed to nnnnnnnnnn@mycellphoneprovider.com and received as SMS messages.  If the message contains both a subject and body I receive two SMS entries, the first with display the body text only, the second displays the subject in parentheses along with the body.  If there is a subject only I'll still receive two messages, the first is blank and the second contains only the subject, in parentheses of course.  Finally, if there is a message without a subject I receive only one SMS message.  Pretty annoying.
  • Ever since 2-3 upgrades ago Handcent SMS displays email-to-SMS messages with UTC time, rather than local time.  The built-in SMS app displays the time correctly.  Otherwise Handcent SMS is great!
  • While typing I'll enter a space, then a hyphen, but the hyphen is placed right next to the last character I typed, not the space.  If I press space, hyphen that's what I want, not character, hyphen, space!
  • Every once in a while when I dial a contact from the recent list it dials the wrong person - another from the recent list.  It's kind of like the list hasn't fully updated when I load it, and when I click the phone icon next to the contact I want to call, an adjacent person's number is dialed.
  • Camera is a little slow to both focus and take the picture.  Certainly Motorola could do better with this.
Suggestions to make Android a better OS:
  • Fix all the stuff above, and. . . .
  • Allow me to adjust the ringer volume while the screen is locked!
  • All my recent Blackberry's had a great feature I wish the Droid X had - while listening to music long-pressing the increase volume rocker button will advance to the next song in a playlist, and similarly the reduce volume button will go back to the beginning of a song, and even prior song.  I really miss this Blackberry feature.  Wish Android had it.
  • While typing, after pressing space a few special characters are displayed above the qwerty line including exclamation, question mark, comma, @ sign and underscore.  These are great, however I would also like to see ampersand (&) and hyphen (-).  Better yet, give me the ability to easily edit these options.
Tell the FCC that Verizon (or AT&T or Sprint or ...) is forcefully installing applications with no choice to remove them by filing a complaint with the FCC at esupport.fcc.gov/complaints.htm. You can also file your complaint with the FCC’s Consumer Center by e-mailing fccinfo@fcc.gov; calling 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322) voice or 1-888-TELL-FCC (1-888-835-5322) TTY; or faxing 1-866-418-0232.  I suppose if enough people complain Verizon will stop trying to force this crap down our throats!

See More An(Droid X) Suggestions for more things I'd like to have on my An(Droid X) phone.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Girl's Gotta Have a Dream

Dr. (Martin Luther) King had a dream.  My dream is. . . .

To work at Taco Bell with my mama.  You go Ashanta!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Jaime Plays Football

Tribute to Jaime who is dramaatic as hell and a hypochondriac.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Dear Subway


I've eaten hundreds, even thousands of Subway sandwiches over the years and I'd have to say that less than 1% of the time the Subway Sandwich Artist arranges the isosceles cheese correctly, making life worth living.  The rest of the time the unnecessary dairy overlap kills me!  This definitely hits the nail on the head!

Give Tiger A Break. . .

Obama's screwing the whole country!

Mr. Facebook's Personal Page

What's on Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg's personal page? Lesley Stahl got a sneak peek when she interviewed him in Palo Alto (from 2008).

The Face Behind Facebook

Mark Zuckerberg is said to be worth $3 billion (in 2008) for founding the social networking Web site Facebook. Lesley Stahl talks to the man whose $15 billion company could be the next Google.

The Jesus Toaster

Owen Mercon of North Danville, Vt. Invented a toaster that imprints the image of Jesus on toast. Now the product is selling so fast Mercon can hardly keep up with demand. CBSNews.com's Felipe Maya reports.

It's Friday & I Feel Like Dancing


Napoleon Dynamite busts a move in his classic Vote For Pedro entertainment segment.  Enjoy!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Mom Cheers on Fight - Bad Parenting or Good?

Maggie Rodriguez spoke with Psychologist Jeff Gardere about a mother's possible jail sentence for cheering her daughter on in a fight caught on video. What?  The mother might go to jail for supporting her daughter?  That's ridiculous & a sign of what's wrong with our society today.

While I don't encourage fighting and I've taught my own kids not to fight - to avoid it if at all possible, I have also told them that if someone else starts a fight they should finish it.  If finishing it means kicking someone's ass & maybe getting hurt a little as well, so be it.

Depending on the circumstances of the fight I would cheer on my own kid.  As long as the kids are about the same age, size, etc.  If it did get out of hand where either kid was obviously getting hurt or if it was getting out of control I'd stop it.

The fact of the matter is kids are going to fight.  It's almost a rite of passage for most.  It can be healthy and constructive to get out whatever had festered so bad as to bring it to this conclusion.  Now I'm not condoning fighting, but if it happens I'd let it and I'd certainly cheer on my own kid.

This mother should be applauded for supporting her daughter, not punished.



To all you pacifists and politically correct people: don't be pussies & don't make your kids pussies either!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

DNS Hosting Part II

Yesterday I wrote about DNS & whether to do it in-house or outsource to a third-party.  I have done some more research on the 5 DNS hosting companies I'm zeroing in on - UltraDNS, DNS Made Easy, EasyDNS, Akamai, and Dyn.  Basically I put together a list of the top ten sites for which each hosts DNS.  Here's what I found (listed alphabetically).

Akamai
Domain Rank US Monthly People
hulu.com3621M+
ehow.com3721M+
match.com4319M+
sears.com1139.2M
verizon.com1308.4M
ticketmaster.com1607.4M
reddit.com2036.1M
kmart.com2075.9M
plentyoffish.com2215.6M
funnyordie.com2345.4M

DNS Made Easy
Domain Rank US Monthly People
suite101.com8811M+
city-data.com9410M+
wisegeek.com1208.7M+
formspring.me1477.7M+
grindtv.com1957.1M+
rockyou.com2066M+
articlesbase.com2205.7M+
bbb.org2794.6M+
woot.com3204.2M+
ustream.tv3234M+

Dynect (Dyn)
Domain Rank US Monthly People
twitter.com2044M+
netflix.com6114M+
twitpic.com8311M+
wikia.com8711M+
simplyhired.com9610M+
bleacherreport.com1298.4M+
indeed.com1368.2M+
scribd.com1637.3M+
metrolyrics.com1677.2M+
drugs.com1846.6M+

Easy DNS
Domain Rank US Monthly People
buzznet.com2874.5M+
oodle.com370unknown
sidereel.com4133.6M+
metafilter.com4553.2M+
cduniverse.com4953M+
xomba.com5212.9M
urbanspoon.com6082.6M+
daylife.com6112.6M+
backtype.com6632.4M+
datpiff.com7242.2M+

UltraDNS
Domain Rank US Monthly People
amazon.com774M+
walmart.com2628M+
imdb.com3324M+
linkedin.com3821M+
webmd.com3920M+
mtv.com5416M+
digg.com6214M+
washingtonpost.com7412M+
zynga.com7612M+
bizrate.com7812M+

Obviously UltraDNS is the biggest - both in number of sites for which they host DNS (I found 441 of 10,000), and total monthly pageviews.  in fact, all 10 of their biggest sites are in the top 100.  The other four listed here have an impressive number of sites & page views (which translates into DNS queries) as well.  While I'm still evaluating each of these on many aspects I do know biggest isn't always best.

NOTE: If you read my previous post you may have noticed that Amazon is listed as providing their own DNS services, but here they are listed under UltraDNS.  That's because the list from my previous post was comprised from information where I only analyzed the authoritative name server, whereas this list includes secondary, tertiary, etc.  Amazon (and certainly others) uses more than one DNS provider, which is a very good idea.  See this excellent post, "DOS Attacks and DNS: How to Stay Up If Your DNS Provider goes DOWN," by Mark Jeftovic, founder of EasyDNS.

More later. . .

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

GPO Exceptions: Enforcing and Blocking Inheritence

Enforced: The Enforced flag is set on a GPO link using the GPMC. Essentially what is does is say, "If there are any conflicting policy settings on downstream GPOs (GPOs processed after the enforced GPO), those settings will always be overridden". Essentially how this works is that any GPO links that are marked as Enforced, will be moved to the bottom of the Group Policy processing list. This ensures that the enforced policy is always processed last, and thus "wins" over any downstream GPOs. Enforced GPOs will override Block Inheritance.  NOTE: In Windows 2000 this was referred to as "No Override".

Block Inheritance: The block inheritance flag is set on a container object, specifically either an OU or a domain. The purpose of Block Inheritance is to block upstream GPOs from being processed (except for GPOs set with the Enforced flag). For example, if I have two OUs, Sales and Inside, and Inside is a child OU to Sales, I can set the Block Inheritance flag on the Inside OU and any GPOs linked to Sales will be blocked and won't apply to users and computers in the Inside OU.

DNS Hosting - Should I Outsource or Manage In-house?

DNS is one of those things that's easy to take for granted.  It's been around a long time (first defined in 1983) and for the most part it just works.  It's also one of the most important protocols/services used for the Internet and networks in general.  In fact, without it the Internet as we know it wouldn't exist.

I've been immersed in Internet protocols for nearly twenty years now and DNS is one that I've worked with extensively and thought I knew a lot about.  I do, but it's also way more complex and involved than just resolving names to IP addresses, like names in a phone book to phone numbers.  I've run my own internal / external / split-horizon name servers for years; still do in fact, but I also outsource some name services as well.

A couple weeks ago DNS came back on my radar in a big way.  I manage the network for a rapidly growing online video company.  We have seen about a 100 fold increase in traffic to our platform over the last year and project nearly that much growth for years to come.  Each time our embedded video players load, which is hundreds of millions of times a month, several name resolutions occur.  I estimate our current DNS queries to be tens of millions per day (unfortunately my current DNS provider cannot provide numbers for me).

Previously I worked for an e-commerce company whose site had maybe 10 million visitors a month and we could handle the DNS traffic in-house just fine.  When I started with my current employer a couple years ago we had fairly low traffic and we didn't have the physical infrastructure to host our own DNS so I found a cheap DNS hosting company.  They have worked fine to this point, but I believe we've outgrown that provider in more ways than one.

Recently I had one of the top DNS hosting companies contact me and try to win my business.  They spewed all kinds of fancy numbers regarding ROI and performance.  I pretty much shut them down, mostly on price, but they've persisted trying to convince me that because of poor DNS performance from my current provider it must be costing me money - hence the ROI pitch.

While I've resisted the sales pitch part of this process it has caused me to take a fresh new look at our current and future needs for DNS.  In the process I've had some pretty good realizations and even come up with some useful information & that's what I'm going to try to provide here - some useful information on DNS.  Not how DNS works or what it is (you can get that here), but whether to host my own DNS servers once again or continue outsourcing, and if I outsource, who should I use.

Outsource or Manage In-house
Today I did some research and found that 75% of the top 100 US-based Internet sites, and about 70% of the top 10,000 sites host their own DNS.  In fact, all of the top 10 and 24 of the top 25 sites host their own, with Twitter being the only one that outsources their DNS (see below for top 25 sites).  It makes sense if you are a large company or if your site gets so much traffic that you'd want to have your own experts to manage your DNS as a lot is riding on this service.  If I had the resources I'd probably do the same, however we have a lean crew and we're still growing so this is something I just don't want on my plate at this time - not to mention recent issues with DNS security.  So for us it definitely makes sense to outsource.

Top 25 US sites & who they use for DNS
Rank Site Authoritative Name Server DNS Provider
1google.comns1.google.comself
2facebook.comns0.facebook.comself
3yahoo.comns1.yahoo.comself
4youtube.comsjl-ins1.sjl.youtube.comself
5msn.comns1.msft.netself
6live.comns1.msft.netself
7amazon.comdns-external-master.amazon.comself
8microsoft.comns1.msft.netself
9wikipedia.orgns0.wikimedia.orgself
10aol.comdns-02.ns.aol.comself
11ebay.comsjc-dns1.ebaydns.comself
12blogspot.comns1.google.comself
13blogger.comns1.google.comself
14ask.comname5.ask.comself
15craigslist.orgns1p.craigslist.orgself
16bing.comns1.msft.netself
17answers.cominfra01.nj1.answers.comself
18myspace.comns1.myspace.comself
19about.comnydns0.about.comself
20twitter.comns1.p26.dynect.netDynect (Dyn)
21mapquest.comdns-02.ns.aol.comself
22wordpress.comns1.wordpress.comself
23adobe.comadobe-dns-3.adobe.comself
24photobucket.combuster.photobucket.comself
25godaddy.comcns1.secureserver.netself

How Should I Choose An Outsource DNS Company
I'm currently using a low-end service of one of the larger DNS hosting companies.  When one of their competitors contacted me recently they claimed that 6% of the queries weren't being answered.  Of course they couldn't provide me with detailed information about what was being tested or how; and they are probably biased against this competitor.  They just said to take their word for it, and that if I signed up with their company all my worries would be over.

Not being the kind of guy to trust a sales person I setup some testing of my own.  I have some versatile monitoring/alerting software that is very flexible and can test just about anything I program it for.  So several days ago I setup some DNS tests to run every 5 minutes against my current authoritative name servers.  The tests simply resolve about 10 of my domain names of various kinds (A, CNAME, MX) against 5 of my DNS hosting company's web servers - the servers that are authoritative for my domain - that's 50 tests on each of two servers, one east coast, the other west coast.  Other tests that I'll reference below were setup similarly where requests against a DNS server were to resolve names for which that server is authoritative (primary or secondary).

The aforementioned salesman told me that about 6% of the requests against my current DNS hosting provider weren't answered.  Based on my own tests, it's actually not that far off.  What I'm seeing is about a 99.5% success rate against their "#1" DNS server, the one that's listed as the primary name server for my domain; however, the secondary, tertiary, four-whatever and five-whatever servers range from about 95 - 98% success rate.

I'm also testing against the servers of the guy trying to sell me his services and a couple others for comparison.  While I've found the failure or non-answer rate to be lower with this other company, others I'm testing actually perform a little better.  I brought this up to the sales guy and one of his "engineers" yesterday and they said, "well nobody is perfect."  That was the response after I told them about the results of my current provider, but hadn't yet told them about the results against their servers.  They jumped all over this and told me that all these unanswered DNS queries were causing 404 errors on my pages.  They back pedaled on that claim when I told them that their servers were only answering about 98 - 99% of the queries I was sending their way.  That's when he said nobody is perfect.

So, What Happens When DNS Queries Aren't Answered?
This of course was a burning question I wanted answered.  Since the salesman and so-called engineer claimed they would cause 404 or page not found errors I wanted to find out if that's really the case.  So I did some testing.  I broke out the venerable Wireshark and took a look at just what was going on with DNS queries.

What I found is that the request is retried (at least on a Windows 2003 server) by the client if it isn't answered, or times out after one second.  While it did slow down the page load it did not cause the much-feared and promised 404.

So What If My DNS Queries Are A Little Slow
Well, it can actually cause or at least contribute to a poor user experience, which in turn can cause a reduction in traffic and ultimately a hit to the bottom line.  In my case when a player loads on a page it loads elements from about seven locations (widgets, thumbnails, videos, analytics, etc.).  Each one of these elements, since they each have their own host name within my domain causes a DNS request.  If the elements are loaded sequentially and if each DNS request takes, say, 200 miliseconds that's nearly a second-and-a-half just for DNS calls.  That can be significant.  In fact, with my testing I'm seeing times in the 50 - 300 milisecond per DNS lookup with my current DNS provider's servers.  While all of these elements don't load sequentially, some load in tandem, I estimate the time to be between .5 and 1 second just for DNS on each page load.  That's significant.
NOTE: Let me just interject here that my tests are assuming all queries are going to my name servers, which I know isn't the case.  Again, this post isn't going into the inner workings of DNS queries and resolution.  I'm not addressing DNS caching, TTL, other DNS servers in the mix, etc.
The other important factor, besides the request being answered in the first place, is just how long, on average, the requests take.  Again with my testing I'm seeing a fairly poor result with my current DNS provider and significantly better performance with their competitors.

It's important to look at the average latency per request & add to that the reliability of the requests.  If your provider has a low latency generally, but a high number of timeouts and subsequent retransmits that will add to the overall delay of the client requests.  Obviously you want for each DNS query (which I've been calling requests) to be answered and answered quickly.

Who Are DNS Hosting Providers And Who Should I Use
As stated above most top sites handle their own DNS.  However, there are a number of DNS providers and they get used increasingly as more sites are analyzed.  I did a quick survey of the top 10,000 to get a pretty good idea of which are used and to what extent.

I found a pretty good list of DNS hosting providers which includes some I'm investigating, others I've heard of and some I've never seen.  I found that most of these are being used by one or more of the top 10,000 sites.

Wait! Did I say I did a quick survey of 10,000 sites?  How the hell? you say?  It was actually pretty easy.  I downloaded today's top million sites from Quantcast & grabbed the top 10k from there which I put into a spreadsheet.  Then I used nslookup (example: nslookup -querytype=soa google.com) to get the info, redirecting all 10k to a text file.  Each record had a bunch of extra info so I used grep to extract the lines with the primary name server.  The whole process took less than 30 minutes.

DNS Provider # From Top 1,000 # From Top 10,000 % of Top 10,000
Domain Control (GoDaddy)174964.96%
Ultra DNS894414.41%
Rackspace293673.67%
DNS Made Easy383593.59%
World NIC (Network Solutions)1791.79%
EasyDNS1341.34%
Dynect (Dyn)301261.26%
ZoneEdit630.63%
mydyndns.org (Dyn)620.62%
EveryDNS350.35%
public-ns.com290.29%
Akamai11280.28%
TZO140.14%
No-IP.com130.13%
DNS Park130.13%
Netriplex110.11%
Nettica100.10%
OpenDNS10.01%

From this list Domain Control (GoDaddy) and WorldNIC (Network Solutions) are not options for me as their interfaces suck, they are clunky, they don't have SLA's, etc. Don't get me wrong, I've used them both for DNS, in fact still do - GoDaddy is the registrar for this domain and I use their DNS, works great for this, however, I cannot run a large for-profit business website with their DNS.  Also, Rackspace is out as I believe their service is primarily for existing customers.  Again, nothing against Rackspace, I'm just not a regular customer of theirs so I'm not evaluating their DNS solution.  That leaves me with UltraDNS, DNS Made Easy, EasyDNS, and Dyn.  I was already checking out three of the four & now I'm evaluating all four.  Actually, make that five.  I'm evaluating Akamai's DNS as they are the biggest player in the CDN space.  Oh, and I'm a customer of theirs already.

Now that I have my list boiled down to UltraDNS, DNS Made Easy, EasyDNS, Akamai, and Dyn it's time to vet each one a little more.  At this point I'm comfortable that each could handle our current and projected volume, so check that off the list.  Next is pricing, which I'm working on.  It's also important to me to get to know and feel the interface, support, etc. so I'm working on that with each as well.  Last, but not least is performance of each.  I'm already doing my own testing on three of the five.  I'll add the other two, let it run for a day or two then get back here to post the results and any other salient thoughts I might have.

For now, I'm out. . . .

See also:
  • DNS Hosting Part II which contains the top 10 list of each of the DNS providers I'm investigating.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Map Android Phone In Windows To Access Files Over WiFi Using SwiFTP

If you are a gadget geek at heart and love to do anything that encompasses remotely accessing your device from anywhere, give SwiFTP FTP Server a shot. It is a free open source Android app that lets you remotely connect to your phone over WiFi / 3G to upload and download content. This Android application converts your phone into an FTP server which is accessible by a unique FTP IP generated by the app.We tested this app on HTC Desire And HTC Dream G1 and it works perfectly on both.  It works great on my Droid X too.

Full details.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Android (Droid X) Kills SonicWall TZ210

Tonight I discovered that not only can I not connect to the Internet with my sweet Droid X over wifi through my SonicWall TZ210, I can bring said SonicWall to its knees with the Droid.
See How To Remove City ID (and other crapware like Blockbuster, Skype and VZ Navigator) From Droid X (and other Android phones) for detailed instructions.
I've used SonicWall firewalls for about a decade now, and I've been a pretty big proponent too.  In that time I've configured dozens of them, from 5 user SOHO generation one firewalls to NSA's and everything in between.  All-in-all I've been pretty happy.  But - here it comes - I've had some issues as of late.  A while ago I wrote about a memory leak on an NSA 2400; I haven't written about this yet, but I've also had a problem on the same NSA with throughput and traffic from certain networks; now this.  Starting to lose faith SonicWall.

A couple months ago I picked up a Droid X to replace my trusty BlackBerry.  I was pretty pumped about being able to use wifi as Verizon's signal is a little weak at my house.  But it doesn't work here through this TZ 210.  Oh, my Droid works fine on wifi at the office through another SonicWall, same OS and similarly configured; and my BlackBerry Bold worked just fine through this firewall too.  So, what's the deal?

A couple weeks ago after searching the web I discovered others who were having the same issue with 'droid's over SonicWall's, but no one had a solution.

Well, tonight I finally sat down to figure this out.  I turned on wifi on my Droid X & opened my browser.  After a couple seconds it was obvious that there was no joy.  So I checked my Droid's IP address and tried to ping it from my Windows 7 laptop connected to the same WLAN.  No go.  Next I tried to ping the SonicWall's WLAN IP address from the Droid.  Again, no go.  Oh, don't worry, I know I can ping the SonicWall's WLAN as I have a continuous ping running on my laptop.

After trying to ping that interface a couple more times from the Droid my laptop lost connection to the SonicWall.  This actually happened a couple days ago when I turned on the Droid's wifi interface for a few minutes and tried to do something else with it.  Certainly just running a couple basic network diagnostics from the Droid couldn't affect the SonicWall, could it?

Now it was on.  I want to know what the heck is going on so I started numerous continuous pings on my laptop (namely to the SW WLAN, the Droid's address, and Google) and from an external source to the SonicWall, then moved to the Droid.  I enabled its wifi, verified the IP address, then started to ping the SW WLAN.  After the fourth try the pings running on the laptop started to timeout.  Soon as I turned off wifi on the Droid they came back to life.  Of course there isn't anything in the SonicWall's default log.  Oh, I did receive three replies from the Droid's address just after enabling wifi.

What in the world could be causing this?  Why can't my Droid X connect to the Internet, or ping the WLAN interface on the SonicWall?  Why/how could just pinging the SonicWall from the Droid take down my WLAN?

At this point I just don't know and due to the lateness of the hour I'll have to continue the quest later. . .   Stay tuned.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Car Crashes into Convenience Store

This is awesome!  Had to have scared the crap out of the driver and the clerk at the convenience store. . .



An S.U.V. crashed into a convenience store in Massachusetts when the driver fell asleep at the wheel.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Swiss File Knife - the open source file tree processor

Swiss File Knife is a free multi function command line tool that belongs onto every usb stick. Download SFK from sourceforge. This package contains binaries, source and buildscripts for Windows and Linux. You may also download just the windows executable sfk.exe or the linux binary for Ubuntu or DSL. No installation, no registry entries, no DLL's - one exe handles all.

iPhone Catches Robbers in the Act

Application helps foil a burglary from more than 1,000 miles away.

And I Thought My Commute Was Bad. . . .



CBS - 9-Day Long Traffic Jam in China
A combination of construction and broken-down vehicles has caused an almost-unimaginable traffic jam in Northern China, which has lasted for well over a week. Katie Couric reports.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Experts Exchange KICKS ASS!

Earlier today I wrote a post about Microsoft Support sucking ASS.  Well, I just wanted to put in a plug for the community that is Experts Exchange.

I live on the web, and I don't think a day goes by that Experts Exchange isn't in the top 10 (if not #1) results of searches for almost anything technical.  For years I tried to view responses on Google cached pages, etc., or at least get tidbits of info from their site.  But I used to work for a company who was too cheap to pay for a membership there, so a couple years ago I joined Experts Exchange as a contributor.  I'd like to think I joined to give back to the community, which is partly true, especially since I've been a leech for so many years. But the truth is I joined so I could answer a few questions to earn some points so I could access the site and post some questions of my own.  I used to have more time to answer questions, but for the last year or so I have been so busy at work I just can't do that.

So, while troubleshooting a major problem with SQL server over the past few days I pulled out the company Am Ex and dropped $99 for a one year membership.  And, of course, I've found information there which has been helpful in my quest to recover from a major SQL issue.

Then today while working on this problem and not being able to find info I needed to view the progress of a SQL DB restore I actually went to Experts Exchange and searched there using the same terms I had used with Google: sql restore status.  Wouldn't you know it, the first result was someone answering the same question with a detailed T-SQL command to do what I needed!

So, thanks Experts Exchange, all contributors there, and a special thanks to udayakumarlm!

Microsoft Support SUCKS ASS!

Last Thursday (4 days ago) I had a SQL 2005 server go belly-up.  Since our DBA quit unexpectedly recently and I'm only a lowly network admin/engineer with a bit of SQL experience, and since we were faced with a critical issue threatening our business and the Internet as a whole; I dropped (well my company did) $249 to get the guru's at Microsoft to help me.  Although I opened the case at DEFCON 1 (the boys and girls in Redmond, India call it Severity 8) I was told I "should" receive a call back within two hours.

Strike one: MS telling me they would have to call me back.

2 hours?  When you are down and your whole world is crashing in on you 2 hours IS an eternity.  However, I was pleasantly surprised when my phone rang within about 5 minutes.

While I'm glad Microsoft and other multi-billion dollar companies can employ some of our friends from across the pond to save a buck or two so they can "keep the shareholders" happy (never mind the customers, which, by the way, should be first priority, not the f-ing shareholders!) it is extremely painful trying to understand some dude named Pranav, or Mohit, or Bhupinder.  While they may be knowledgeable the language barrier is just that a barrier.  Especially when you are working on a critical situation.

Strike two: Non-native english speakers.

When I did receive my call back the tech was helpful despite the language barrier.  We ran into some more problems on the server so I had to abort the call.  When I contacted the agent again a couple times later in the day he was very responsive and helpful - especially considering he had stayed after his quitting time.  I was starting to feel a little better.

I had to deal with issues with my servers for a few days & in between I had to contact MS support a few times.  The next tech was pretty good too - responsive and helpful.  However, the problems really got bad with their support yesterday after placing another call to their freaking queue and having to identify myself and go through the whole song-and-dance to get to the right queue.  In fact, that process should really be strike three.  Anyway, I was promised a call back within two hours.  I'm still waiting.  That was about 36 hours ago.

At noon today (8 hours ago) I did the same thing & they promised a call back within two hours.  Guess what?  I'm still waiting.  Just got off the phone with another recptioninst-type person who couldn't even raise the support supervisor so I could complain to them.

Strikes three, four, five and six!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

View The Status of a SQL Restore Job

The last few days I've been trying to recover from a pretty big SQL server failure.  After running into problems with Microsoft's support I have had to turn to the web for help here.  After all I'm a network guy & only dabble in SQL from time-to-time.  I'm posting this to mainly have as a reference for myself but if anyone finds it useful that's great too.  Also note, this is not from me but from others on the 'net.

Microsoft SQL Server Management Studio T-SQL commands to restore full and differential backups:
RESTORE DATABASE myDatabase FROM DISK = 'd:\backups\myDatabase.BAK' WITH NORECOVERY
GO

RESTORE DATABASE myDatabase FROM DISK = 'd:\backups\myDatabase_Diff.BAK' WITH RECOVERY
GO
I was having trouble finding out how to view the progress of the restore.  I was using Google to search for sql restore status but not finding anything useful.  Since I had just paid for a year on Experts Exchange I went there and searched with the same terms, and wouldn't you know it, the first result was someone answering the same question with a detailed T-SQL command to do what I needed:
SELECT command,
s.text,
start_time,
percent_complete,
CAST(((DATEDIFF(s,start_time,GetDate()))/3600) as varchar) + ' hour(s), '
+ CAST((DATEDIFF(s,start_time,GetDate())%3600)/60 as varchar) + 'min, '
+ CAST((DATEDIFF(s,start_time,GetDate())%60) as varchar) + ' sec' as running_time,
CAST((estimated_completion_time/3600000) as varchar) + ' hour(s), '
+ CAST((estimated_completion_time %3600000)/60000 as varchar) + 'min, '
+ CAST((estimated_completion_time %60000)/1000 as varchar) + ' sec' as est_time_to_go,
dateadd(second,estimated_completion_time/1000, getdate()) as est_completion_time
FROM sys.dm_exec_requests r
CROSS APPLY sys.dm_exec_sql_text(r.sql_handle) s
WHERE r.command in ('RESTORE DATABASE', 'BACKUP DATABASE', 'RESTORE LOG', 'BACKUP LOG')

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

‘I Want Your Money’; New Film Skewers Obamanomics



A controversial look at big government spending and Obamanomics.

Obama on US Economy: Did I Do That?

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Top 10 Biggest and Best Jumps Ever



From Travis Pastrana's double back flip on a motorcycle, to his jumping out of an airplane without a parachute, to the longest jump ever (31km), these are some amazing jumps.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

WTF Verizon? Droid X Punishment

I am in the process of switching from a BlackBerry (Bold) to a Droid X.  I was just told by Verizon customer service rep that I now have to pay $20 for only 2GB for Mobile Broadband Connect where I used to get 5GB for $15.
See How To Remove City ID (and other crapware like Blockbuster, Skype and VZ Navigator) From Droid X (and other Android phones) for detailed instructions.
Oh, and I keep getting told how cool it is that this new phone will act as a mobile hotspot.  That's fantastic, except, wait, won't I likely be using more bandwidth?

Where is the logic in that?

So basically for being a loyal Verizon customer, and for upgrading to a fancy new phone with great new features I have to pay $5/month more for 40% the bandwidth - a that's about a 3x price increase.  This is completely unacceptable.

In other words, I'll have to pay about $170 a month to get the 5GB of bandwidth I used to get for $15.  That's over 11 times as much, which is total BS Verizon!

At a minimum I want to have the same Mobile Broadband Connect with my new Droid X as I had with my BlackBerry.  Period.

================  UPDATE ================

Here is Verizon's response to me which is very lame (emphasis and commentary mine).  Basically it reiterates Verizon's marketing materials stressing how great it is to use the new Droid X as a mobile hotspot.  Again, what they are missing here is that I am now paying 33% more for 40% of the bandwidth.  Verizon: you need to fix this.

Oh, and after being promised by the nice support agent yesterday that I'd receive a call back from her supervisor who, conveniently enough, was in a meeting.  It's been over 24 hours and I'm still waiting for the call back. . .
Dear [Valued Verizon Customer Whom We Are SCREWING],

Thank you for contacting our Verizon Wireless website. We are happy to assist you with your concern regarding the 3G Mobile Hotspot feature of the Motorola DROID X.

We understand your concern and take great pride in having you as a customer. We understand that you have made an investment in Verizon Wireless and the DROID X and addressing your concern is our number one priority.

We understand that this is an inconvenience would like to thank you for taking the time to send us your feedback. Verizon Wireless takes great pride in the products and services that we offer our customers. Customer feedback, such as yours, enables Verizon Wireless to continually improve the products and services that we offer. We will ensure that your feedback is sent to the correct department to allow us to make future improvements and enhancements to the products and services that we offer. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience that this may cause.

If you would like to receive e-mail updates regarding our products and services, please click on "Sign up for email updates" from the "Support" tab located at the top of our www.verizonwireless.com homepage.

The $15.00 Mobile Broadband Connect feature that you had with your BlackBerry provided the ability to use your BlackBerry as a tethered modem. With that being said, the DROID X does not currently support the tethering functionality. At this time, we are unable to state if or when this functionality will become available for the DROID X as no information has been given. Alternatively, as you have mentioned, the DROID X does offer the 3G Mobile Hotspot feature which, as you have mentioned is $20.00 per month and includes 2 Gigabytes (GB) of monthly data allowance. The 3G Mobile Hotspot application provides access for up to five Wi-Fi enabled devices including notebooks, netbooks, MP3 players, cameras, portable gaming systems, etc. If you connect multiple devices via the hotspot, it is possible that you may use more bandwidth. Additionally, you will be billed at $0.05 per Megabyte (MB) when the included 2GB has been exceeded.

For more information about our Mobile Broadband Connect service (including other supported devices and terms of service), please visit the link below:

Note: Please refer to the information located under "For Mobile Broadband Connect and 3G Mobile Hotspot-capable Smartphone Devices".

http://b2b.vzw.com/productsservices/wirelessinternet/broadbandaccessconnect.html

We hope you find this information helpful. Troubleshooting tips and helpful product information regarding your Motorola DROID X can be found at:

www.verizonwireless.com/data

[Dear Verizon Customer Who We Really Don't Care About, But We'll Keep Saying We Do Just To Make You Feel Good], it has been a pleasure assisting you today and we hope that our quality of service rates as a "10" with you. Should you have any additional questions or concerns, please reply back to this email or call us at 1-800-922-0204 and we will happily address them for you. We appreciate your business and thank you for choosing Verizon Wireless.

Sincerely,

Neil [I have yet to meet anyone from Verizon who has a surname.]

Verizon Wireless

Data Technical Support

If you have received this e-mail in error or are not the intended recipient, please notify us immediately by replying to this e-mail and deleting it and all copies and backups thereof. If you are the intended recipient and are a Verizon Wireless customer, this response is subject to the terms of your Customer Agreement
No, Verizon this information was not helpful and I'm still very displeased with this arrangement!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

7-zip (7zip) for Windows (7, 2008, etc.) Rocks!

I've been using 7-zip for a long time now.  It quickly became my favorite zip/unzip utility.  It's quick, easy to use, opensource, and best of all, FREE.

A few months ago I worked on a project to gather and zip log files from numerous S3 buckets and archive them in another location.  Initially I specified the "zip" compression method and the files were stored with a .zip extension.  One day I was experimenting with the log files and realized that using "7zip" compression, while it took a little longer to complete, the files were considerably smaller.  In my case it doesn't really matter how long the files take to compress, but I want them as small as possible since I'm using an S3 bucket for archival and want to spend as little as possible.

As an example take 30 files for June from one of my buckets.  The files were 5.6GB in total size as ".zip" files, but only 3.6GB as ".7z" files.  That's about 35% less!  Granted, we are only talking about a few cents a month here, but as I said earlier I have several buckets and keep several months of logs from each bucket, so it adds up over time.  Definitely worth the additional processing time to use "7z" compression.

Take a look at a file-by-file comparison:

Thursday, July 29, 2010

S3 Bucket Policy to Restrict Access by Referrer, Yet Allow Direct Access to File(s)

Recently Amazon rolled out S3 Bucket Policies (see Access Policy Language) to more finely control access to S3 buckets or resources in buckets, than with just ACL's alone.  This was very timely as I had a need arise to use a bucket policy just after it came out.  Basically I needed to block access of a single file, let's call it xyz.htm, from certain referrers, yet allow all others.  After a little research and some trial-and-error I was able to define a policy which did just this:
{
"Version":"2008-10-17",
"Id":"mydomain-widgettest",
"Statement":[{
"Sid":"1",
"Effect":"Deny",
"Principal":{
"AWS":"*"
},
"Action":"s3:GetObject",
"Resource":"arn:aws:s3:::widgettest.mydomain.com/xyz.htm",
"Condition":{
"StringLike":{
"aws:Referer":[
" http://blockedreferer1.com/*",
" http://blockedreferer2.net/*",
]}}},
{
"Sid":"2",
"Effect":"Allow",
"Principal":{
"AWS":"*"
},
"Action":"s3:GetObject",
"Resource":"arn:aws:s3:::widgettest.mydomain.com/xyz.htm",
"Condition":{
"StringLike":{
"aws:Referer":[
"*",
" http://widgettest.mydomain.com/*"
]}}}]}
However, this had the undesired effect of blocking direct access to the file, i.e. http://widgettest.mydomain.com/xyz.htm, where there is no referrer, or the referrer is null.  This one took me a little longer to figure out, and a key piece of it was found in the Amazon developer forums.  I was then able to write a bucket policy which behaves as desired:
{
"Version":"2008-10-17",
"Id":"mydomain-widgettest",
"Statement":[{
"Sid":"1- Allow direct access to xyz.htm - i.e. no referrer.",
"Effect":"Allow",
"Principal":{
"AWS":"*"
},
"Action":"s3:GetObject",
"Resource":"arn:aws:s3:::widgettest.mydomain.com/xyz.htm",
"Condition":{
"Null":{
"aws:Referer":true
}}},
{
"Sid":"2- Allow all referrers to xyz.htm except those listed.",
"Effect":"Allow",
"Principal":{
"AWS":"*"
},
"Action":"s3:GetObject",
"Resource":"arn:aws:s3:::widgettest.mydomain.com/xyz.htm",
"Condition":{
"StringNotLike":{
"aws:Referer":[
" http://blockedreferer1.com/*",
" http://blockedreferer2.net/*"
]}}}]}
This policy effectively allows direct access to xyz.htm (null or "no" referrer), and allows access to all referrers except those explicitly listed in the Sid:2 section.  One important note is that "public" read access must not be set in the ACL for this file as it will allow anyone access, effectively bypassing this policy.

NOTES:
  • Amazon S3 bucket policies use JSON.  If you aren't familiar with JSON as I wasn't you can read more here.
  • I found a handy JSON Formatter and Validator - to do just that. . .
  • Since Amazon doesn't provide an easy method for us non-programmers to apply bucket policies I found CloudBerry S3 Bucket Explorer Pro essential and simple to use to apply bucket policies.
  • Sometimes as I applied a policy to test I would receive the message "invalid aspen elements," which basically mean something is wrong, usually one of the required elements was either missing or incorrect, and, interestingly no results were found using Google.
See Also: