Monday, January 28, 2008

SMS (text messaging) spam

It's finally happened: I'm sure we're not the first people to get this, but in the last week, both Kyla and I received spam text messages on our cell phones. That's obviously even more of a problem than spam e-mail because few people have unlimited text messaging plans, meaning that you have to pay for each text message you receive. So getting an unwanted, unsolicited text message from someone you don't know is as close to stealing as you could get.

I'd never considered the possibility of this becoming a widespread problem, because usually it would be cost- (and time-) prohibitive for someone to type and send out mass text messages (from a handset): they'd get charged for every text sent regardless of if it didn't work, or if the recipients didn't respond, etc. But most companies offer e-mail to text services (like Verizon - ours is just our 10-digit cell phone number, and even forms online where you just type in the phone number(s) you want to send to, type the message, and click send. These methods are, of course, free to the sender. So of course that's how this spam is starting to get out - they can mass e-mail to thousands of phone numbers (all of which are simply numeric - it wouldn't be hard to be guaranteed a fairly high success rate of guessing a working cell phone number), and at no cost to the sender.

So over the weekend, I called Verizon to see what they're doing about this problem and what they could offer me to filter spam messages out. I honestly expected the run-around and endless (though doubtless legitimate) explanations about how hard it would be to implement that type of filtering as excuses for why they couldn't do anything for me. However, I was quite pleasantly surprised.

Within about 6 minutes of an airtime-free call, I'd learned that I could block messages from up to 15 specific e-mail addresses (such as, e-mail domains as a whole (, or even block any messages sent from specific methods (all messages sent from e-mail OR all messages sent from the web form OR both). Also, for even better filtering, you can set up a nickname for your phone number and use that in addition to the 10-digit number address. Nicknames started as just a nice feature; you could tell people they could send texts to a more memorable address - instead of . But since a user-selected nickname of nearly any length is much harder for spammers to guess, they've also allowed you to block all text messages NOT sent to your nickname - a much more user-friendly filtering tool than not allowing people whose messages you may want to use any method (e-mail or web form).

To find these tools, just log into 'My Account' at, click on 'messaging' in the red menu bar at the top, click on 'preferences' in the red navigation bar on the left, then click on 'Text Blocking'.

As an added bonus in our case, they asked for what it displayed in the 'from' field of the text messages (in my case, 6245, whatever that means), and have credited our account for all messages received from that address this month. All in all, a very positive experience with Verizon Customer Service. Props to them.

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Thursday, January 24, 2008 | IP Office Resource IP Office Resource

Links for skins on Phone Manager, as well as how to get Outlook to be able to dial my contacts.

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The Lone Server...

Microsoft's marketing team hit a winner here for geeks (like yours truly). It's the first-person blog/video clip from the perspective of the last Windows Server 2003 server at

The whole point of this blog is to point out that even though Windows Server 2008 hasn't been released yet, Microsoft was so confident in their stability, security and performance that they started using servers for live traffic based on the OS that would become 2008, back in 2005 (when the OS was called Longhorn). Now all of is run from server 2008 machines, even though they're still in Beta. Thus, the supposed last Server 2003 (of which there are probably, in all actuality, none left) moans about 'what happened to me? What do they have that I don't?'. Naturally, the bartender (who ends up being Windows Server 2000) has a list of exactly what they have that he doesn't.

There's even some inside jokes about old MS slogans, Windows ME and "A guy walks into a bar with a penguin under his arm". Just funny stuff - worth a look.

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

BBspot - Top 11 Rejected Names for the MacBook Air

Funny spot here about the MacBook Air: BBspot - Top 11 Rejected Names for the MacBook Air:

11. MacBook Anorexic
10. MacBook Cracker
9. MacBook Whitey
8. MacBook Lust Object 2008
7. MacBook That-Gas-That-Makes-Your-Voice-All-Squeaky-What's-It-Called?
6. I Can't Believe It's Not Firewired
5. MacBook uRich?
4. MacBook Brittle
3. MacBook iRection
2. Satan's Goat Paddler
1. MacBook Err

If you don't know, this new MacBook has no ethernet (network) port, no CD- or DVD drive, one USB port, no removeable short, very little functionality (though it's super-compact if that's the only thing you care about) and like all Mac products, suddenly everyone wants one.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Vista CD Burning File System set to mastered

Note: If/When it's done, this might be an interesting topic to read, but until then, this is just a scratch pad for me to keep track of what I've tried, and probably completely uninteresting and confusing to anyone but me. I'll keep updating this as I go, but I'll probably just make a new post if/when I get it figured out.

Goal: get Vista's CD burning software to default to "Mastered" file system, rather than "Live File System". I've searched everywhere, and lots of people are asking how to do it, but nobody seems to have any answers.

What I've found:
1) There's a key in the registry that is called excludedFS under CD contains entries for each of the four UDF file types, all of which are just blank, and neither setting them to 1 nor 0 disables any of the options, nor does deleting any of the values (or even the key itself).

2) HKCR\Shell.CDBurn\Shell\Prepare\Command lists the command "rundll32.exe shell32.dll,PrepareDiscForBurnRunDll %L". Now we're getting somewhere...
-rundll32.exe shell32.dll,preparediscforburnrundll told me that it couldn't find that entry point, so capitalization counts.
-A Google search for PrepareDiscForBurnRunDll found 0 (zero...NONE) results. Dang. Of course, that'll change now that I'm publishing this. You heard it here first, people! :-P
-A little experimenting found I can replace %L with E: or E:\ and get the 'format disk' dialog to pop up for the given drive. Great. Maybe I can pass another parameter to specify HOW it should run (ie: mastered as default)? But I can't find it...passing anything other than a drive letter causes it to not even (visibly) start.
-Interesting though, I found I can get this to pop up for a drive containing a professional CD-ROM and "Mastered" file system is disabled. I wonder what that would do...surely I can't add files to a CD-ROM! Anyway, since it's just doing that based on the type of CD inserted, that doesn't necessarily mean I can dis/enable either option at will. Presumably the same thing would happen if I ran that command on a previously 'closed' mastered file system CD.
-Naturally, none of the switches -? -help /? /help /1 /0 /m -1 -0 -m -mastered /mastered 1 0 m mastered did ANYthing-as I said, it just didn't run at all. Running it like E:1 does let it run, but doesn't change anything-live is still selected, and version 2.01 (default). Probably means that it won't take other parameters, at least AFTER the drive letter. But maybe not.
-I don't know much about dlls, so I did a google search to see if I could find a tool that would extract acceptable arguments, or the number, or something. I'm not hopeful, and indeed, it looks like it's not possible - you need documentation or information from the writer. I'll search for shell32.dll information. We'll see...

3) There's a key at HKCU\software\microsoft\windows\currentversion\explorer\autoplayhandlers\userchosenexecutehandlers\handlecdburningonarrival that says "MSPromptEachTime"...I wonder if changing this key does anything. If it didn't prompt each time, would it take my 'last selection' (mastered?). (tried it) ...No such luck. I need to do a search for MsPromptEachTime to see if there's an alternate phrase that I could put in there.


-Things I've yet to search through the registry for:
cdburn -halfway through this search (haven't gotten past HKLM\Soft\ms\win\currver\explorer\autoplayhandlers\handlers\mscdburningonarrival)
"cd burning"


-Fun tidbit: Found I can change HKLM\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\explorer\AutoplayHandlers\MSCDBurningOnArrival ->Action to something like "Boogie" and that shows up in the autoplay dialog rather than "Burn files to CD" like @%SystemRoot%\system32\shell32.dll,-17416 pointed to

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An easier way to select multiple files in Vista

Now this is just nice:
An easier way to select multiple files � Vista Tips-n-Tricks Weblog

In older versions of Windows, if you had to select multiple files, but not all files, in a folder, you would typically do this: hold down the control-key (CTL) while clicking the various files with your mouse. You would eventually be done with selecting the multiple files. But, if you forgot to hold down the CTL key or just got tired, then one wrong click after that and you would lose your entire selection so far. That was so frustrating. Thankfully, that was so non-Vista.

Vista now offers a great way to select multiple files. Here’s what you do:

Very cool. I wish this could be toggled on/off with a key combination, mouse click of a button or at least set as a per-folder option. I don't really like it for my entire system, but I might get used to's got the side benefit of a logical way of deselecting (blurring, or taking focus away) from a folder view; just uncheck the box. No more hunting for a 'blank' area in Vista's explorer windows to click to deselect anything. That's really nice for me.

One thing they don't mention is that if you click the file name itself with this option set, you see the checkbox get checked, but clicking another filename is like you'd want - it unchecks (and hides) the checkbox for what WAS selected as it deselects it, but if you click the checkbox instead (just a little left of the filename), it leaves the first file checked and checks the new file as well, just like you were holding the ctrl key, but you see the checkboxes this time indicating the selection (as well as highlighting the selected items). Watch out though; because of this behavior, even if you have several things checked (selected), then click a file name, everything will deselect, just as if you'd released ctrl. Make sure to click the CHECKBOX when you want to multi-select.

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Friday, January 11, 2008

DirecTV's PC tuner (HDPC-20) is real! - Engadget


DirecTV's PC tuner (HDPC-20) is real! - Engadget

I didn't see this one announced on any of the (10 minutes or so) regular news coverage of CES this week, but apparently DirecTV has finally come up with a TV tuner that will work right with Vista Media Center via USB! We've been looking for something like this, and I'm so glad they realized the demand for something like this.

Now if Linksys would only hurry up and get their Media Center Extender DVD player to market, I'd have birthday wish-list items - these two devices would allow us to use our Vista computer (upstairs) as a DVR in our living room (downstairs) via our wireless network. So on our TV in our living room, we could rewind, pause and record live TV, as well as play all the pictures, movies and music we have stored on our computer.

So sweet., when are they going to hit the market?


Friday, January 4, 2008

Guitar Hero for Wii

Yes...we got it.
Yes...we're nerds.
Yes...we LOVE it!

As far as I can tell, the recall on the Wii disks for only including Mono sound, rather than the box-advertised Dolby Pro hasn't happened, but it's not that big a deal. I understand why the graphics are far below those for XBox and Playstation, but they seem AWFULLY bad...even something like Mario Galaxy seems far graphically superior, though I love the hand-drawn cut scenes.

But my big surprise with this game is that you can't have the Wii Remote Jacket on the Wii Remote with the Guitar Accessory, the Jacket now being an official part of the Wii Remote, bundled with the new systems and everything. At least it's not that big a deal to take off, and we'll probably be doing that with two of our remotes anyway, now that Daniel got us one of those cool Wii Remote Recharger bases - they don't work with the jacket either, but it's worth it to have rechargable batteries in the Wiimote now!

Another thing I wish is that you could configure is which buttons on the remote played the respective notes for P2 if you don't have another guitar controller (and when are more of those coming, anyone?)...the B trigger is awfully akward to press when you're holding the controller sideways. They'd have been better off using two of the directions on the d-pad, rather than just one, and not using B at all. Oh well, hopefully we'll be able to find another guitar and never worry about that again!

All this aside though...Guitar Hero ROCKS (pun intended). And I know it's cheesy and adolecent, but hey, fun is fun! (Note Guitar hero has been added to my list of Wii games in the sidebar of this blog).

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Vista Photo Labels and Search Folders

While going through pictures of Christmas morning, we realized that most of the pictures are of Kate, and thus would usually go in her folder on our computer, but that we'd be left with precious few pictures in our Christmas 2007 folder then. We decided that it was finally time to start using Vista's Labels (just like the labels in this blog) to label pictures, then mostly access them using Saved Searches (I call them search folders).

Usually that method would have you dump ALL your pictures into a single folder on your computer, since they don't need to be separated-they're essentially just entries in a database, sorted later to the end user using searches. The benefit is that we could start using Vista's Photo Importer again like we used to in XP. We haven't been using it because it's horribly broken in my opinion, forcing you to import ALL the pictures on the card to a SINGLE folder - no checkboxes to include or exclude pictures from this round like there was in XP. Problem solved if you use the labels: they're SUPPOSED to go in one place, and you can label them from within the importer itself. May be why it's designed that way in the first place.

The problem then is that our saved searches folders (views?) don't work when accessing our pictures via FTP, as I do sometimes, so it's hard to figure out which picture I want when they're all called something like IMG00599.jpg, and double-clicking the saved search folder shows me the XML codes that Vista just interperts. So for now they're just still in their folders and I'm about 1/3 through labeling ALL of the pictures we have with location, people, events, etc (a painful, but one-time process). We could rename them in the single big picture folder, I guess, but that's got its own problems.

The labels are great, and allow me to just quickly find (for instance) all pictures of Kyla and Kate (and even specify which labels to include/exclude in the screensaver slideshow), I just wish there was a way to use the saved searches via FTP, as I haven't got my remote desktop setup how I want it for our home machine, leaving FTP my only option for grabbing pictures we haven't published on our website. Even if Vista's IIS even just included a "Labels" file information column in the directory listing, I could sort by that and date, and come pretty close. I just can't plunge fully into this system without some kind of fix for this situation.

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Jib-Jab Year in Review

This is a GREAT year-in-review by We saw it premier on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno when he came back from the writer's strike-caused 2-month time off. I actually wasn't expecting much, though I've used JibJab before for things like our Snowball Fight movie before; but I was quite surprised to find myself rolling on the floor by the time they were done...figuratively, of course.

A side note on the Tonight Show - for having to write his own monologue, I've gotta say it was among the better ones I've heard in years. I wonder if he can keep it up night after night...

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