Outsource your DNS to make your Internet connection more reliable

Early this week, Charter had a major outage affecting most of its customer base. Those who use third-party, non-Charter DNS servers were unaffected.

This is a case where making a performance-related change to your system also makes it more reliable.

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Tech Central in South Africa trolls the tech support scammers

Apparently the fake Microsoft tech support scammers call South Africa too. Tech Central’s experience is close to mine, but since they actually let these jokers into one of their machines, they found out something about their game that I’ve never seen.

Apparently, once you get further into their sales pitch, they get into your machine, ask for payment, and if you hesitate to pay or refuse, they start deleting files out of revenge.

I’ve never actually let these guys get into a system I care about, though I have actually let one in to a system that really did have a couple of viruses on it. I wanted to see if they would find any real problems. They didn’t.

So, knowing that they maliciously delete would-be customers’ data if they show second thoughts, I think it’s a good idea to string these guys along for as long as we can when they call those of us who know better. Two of us doing that each night is enough to save one person from being victimized.

Net neutrality is not Marxism

There is a fear campaign going on, suggesting that net neutrality is Marxism, or a plot for the government to take over the Internet.

That’s name calling. There’s actually something very different going on.

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Chrome goes 64-bit

Google released a stable 64-bit Chrome today for Windows. You can download it from the main page by selecting the Windows 64-bit build. It upgrades cleanly over the 32-bit version.

It’s really fast but not always pretty. Read the full post »

Stopping comment spam, 2014 edition

I’ve been blogging for nearly 15 years, so I’ve seen my share of frustrations over the years. The toughest source of frustration for me to shake has been spam. I have actually had spambot traffic knock my site offline in the past–here’s what I did about that–so suffice it to say that if a computer can’t keep up with it, there’s no way a human can keep up with filtering the amount of spam even a moderately popular blog receives. I’ve used two plugins to augment WordPress’ built in antispam capabilities. Read the full post »

The way home security ought to be

Last week, the show formerly known as Pauldotcom featured the creator of Iguardian, a dead-simple Internet security device. It’s a tiny computer a little larger than a pack of gum that you can plug inline between your router and your modem for extra protection. Basically it does what most people think a router does.

If you want to know what it actually does, read on. Read the full post »

How to cut your water bill

I’ve talked a lot about how to cut your electric bill, but I haven’t talked much about water bills. Part of it is because water is cheap in St. Louis–the two largest rivers in North America converge here–but in some parts of the country, water usage is at critical levels, so cutting your water bill could mean saving real money.

I’ll never forget a commercial I heard when I was in third grade. “Did you know that every time you flush your toilet, you use 5-7 gallons of water?” a guy said with a drawl, before urging people to flush less. Being very juvenile, I thought it was funny.

But if your house is older, your toilet may very well be trickling water all the time, literally nickel and diming your water bill continuously. You can fix that for less than $10. Read the full post »

PDQ Deploy looks like an interesting tool for a Windows sysadmin

I’ve been looking into ways to manage Java where I work, and I have some ideas, but wanted to see how other people are solving the same problem I’m trying to solve.

PDQ Deploy looks like an interesting solution for someone who needs to remotely push a lot of software packages but wants something cheaper than Microsoft SCCM that has an easier learning curve. In a small or medium-sized environment, it looks like something that could save server and desktop administrators alike a lot of time. The $250/year price per administrator doesn’t seem hard to justify in my mind.

I’m sure one thing that’s kept some environments from replacing Microsoft Office with something like Libre Office is the time and effort required to keep it up to date. PDQ Deploy would take care of most of that problem.

Since we have a large investment in other tools at work, I’m not sure PDQ Deploy is really the answer there, but I think it would be helpful for some people.

Why Chinese hackers would be interested in U.S. healthcare data

About a year ago, a vendor mentioned kind of offhand that Chinese companies are extremely interested in U.S. healthcare data. Then he added, “I don’t understand why Asian people are interested in American health.” Then he questioned the appropriateness of the comment.

Appropriate or not, it’s an example of something that, on the face of it, doesn’t make a lot of sense until you dig deeper. Read the full post »

MS14-045 isn’t a reason to stop patching

Last week, Microsoft issued a patch to address a kernel vulnerability in Windows. Then, three days later, they pulled it due to the patch causing blue screens of death and endless reboot loops. Not good.

Predictably, some people are asking whether they should apply security patches.

Of course I say yes. Here’s why, and more importantly, how. Read the full post »