“Please Press 1 to speak with a Microsoft Certified Technician.”

I guess the Windows technical support scammers are getting robo-dialers, because I got an automated call over the weekend telling me that my computer was sending alerts to their servers, and to press “1″ to speak with a Microsoft Certified technician.

So I pressed “1″ to see what tactics this particular scammer would use. Read the full post »

“Windows Technical Support” ups its game–and so do I

It was bedtime and the phone rang. “Unknown name,” my Caller ID said, and the phone number was “1.” Sounds legit, right? No? I picked it up anyway. There was an audible delay after I said, “Hello.”

“Hello?” a distant voice said. “Hello?”

“Hello,” I said.

“Hello. My name is ‘Daniel,’ and I’m calling from ‘Windows Technical Support.’ How are you this evening?”

I really wanted to tell him my name was something obviously non-American, but I couldn’t think of anything so I told him I was fine. Next time I’m going to tell him my name is “Dhanesh.” After an introductory ramble, “Daniel” said my computer was sending alerts because it had lots of errors, and it was impossible for me to see them.

Read the full post »

How to extend your wi-fi using access points

I’ve covered this topic before, but perhaps not giving it the focus it deserves. I think almost everyone has wifi dead spots in their house that they would like to eliminate. It turns out you can do it, and the cost doesn’t have to be prohibitive.

The idea is to supplement your existing router with one or two additional access points. Read the full post »

The forgotten computer that changed the world

A rather hastily written and sloppily edited piece showed up on Slashdot yesterday morning that caught my attention, because it was about the Amiga 2000. The Amiga 2000 is a dear machine to me; in 1991, our family upgraded to one from a Commodore 128. I still have both machines, and there isn’t much that I know today that I didn’t first experience on one of those two machines.

Although I think the piece was little more than a used computer store’s effort to unload some hard-to-move inventory, I do agree with the premise. For a machine that had a tremendous impact on the world as we know it today, the A2000 is criminally unknown. Read the full post »

Throttling the Raspberry Pi

If you run the Raspberry Pi as a small server, you may want to throttle the CPU when it’s not under load to save energy. The settings are in /boot/config.txt.

Here’s what I did with mine.

Read the full post »

Verizon sabotages Netflix

I’m fed up with ISP duopolies. Why? Because Netflix paid Verizon the ransom it demanded, and yet Verizon hasn’t lived up to its side of the deal. To the contrary, evidence suggests Verizon is actively slowing down Netflix, because when Colin Nederkoorn encrypts his Netflix connection so Verizon can’t see what it is, it speeds up.

News flash: Encrypting data via VPN adds overhead, so it ought to slow the traffic down.

I’m starting to doubt whether net neutrality is enough to solve the problem. A better solution is to break these companies up, let them serve whoever they want, and let municipalities compete with them if they want.

Not that that is ever going to happen.

The legend of Mt. Fuji

Twenty years ago, I was a promising young–and very unseasoned–columnist for a student newspaper at the University of Missouri–home of the Tigers–called The Maneater. Get it? Tiger? Maneater? Actually, healthy tigers never resort to eating humans, but legend has it by the time the founder learned that, the newspaper was already publishing and it was too late to change the name.

We were a ragtag bunch putting together a newspaper on a shoestring. Our computer network was quirkier than our staff, which took a great deal of doing–trust me, I’m used to being the weirdest guy in the room, and there I didn’t even stand out–but the piece of equipment that probably gives the production crew the most nightmares to this day was an old Apple Laserwriter–don’t ask me the specific model–named Mt. Fuji. Read the full post »

The Logitech F310 on Retropie

Having not gotten much satisfaction out of my used Retrolink SNES-style pad, I went looking for an alternative controller. I wanted something as retro-like as possible–along the lines of a Genesis or SNES pad would be ideal–but was worried about the quality, so I ended up settling on a Logitech F310, which is priced much like most of the retro controllers anyway, and, I hoped, had comparable quality to Logitech’s keyboards and mice. The reviews I found suggested this was the case, and I found enough people who said they got it working with Linux to feel confident I could get it working on the Raspberry Pi. And sure enough, I did.

I paid $18 for mine, and my first impressions of the quality were good. It’s precise, and button pushes register with a slight click. It’s no worse than a Sony, Microsoft or Nintendo controller, and if anything, I think I liked it a little better. A pair of Logitech F310s costs more than the Raspberry Pi board, but playing games is a lot more enjoyable when the controller does what you want it to do all the time, not just most of the time.

The F310 wasn’t a drop-in replacement for the controller I’d been using, though. I had to configure it for Retroarch, the software that provides most of Retropie’s console emulation.

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And… Introducing the Raspberry Pi Model B+

No wonder the Raspberry Pi Model B was on sale. The day after I bought mine, the Model B+ hit the streets, at the same price of $35. Same CPU, same memory, but the board layout is much nicer–cables come out of three sides now instead of all four, which makes placement much less awkward–and it now comes with four USB ports instead of just two, so you can connect a keyboard and mouse and still have ports available for other things without having to plug in a clunky USB hub.

It’s an incremental improvement, but there’s definitely the potential to build stuff with it that looks more refined than the predecessor. I’m sure I’ll use one on my next Raspberry Pi project, and there will be another one. If not 12.

Setting up Retropie on the Raspberry Pi

I bought a Raspberry Pi over the weekend intending to turn it into a retro gaming system. I’d rather not have a mess of systems and cartridges out for my kids to tear up and to constantly have to switch around at their whims; a deck-of-cards-sized console with everything loaded on a single SD card seems much more appealing.

I followed Lifehacker’s writeup, which mostly worked. My biggest problem was my controllers. NES and SNES games would freeze seemingly at random, which I later isolated to trying to move to the left. It turned out my Playstation-USB adapter didn’t get along with the Pi at all, and was registering the select and start buttons when I tried to move certain directions, pausing the game.

When I switched to a Retrolink SNES-style pad, the random pausing went away. The precision reminded me of the really cheap aftermarket controllers of yore for the NES and SNES, but at least it made most games playable. It could be my controller, which I bought used, is worn out. I’ll revisit controllers later this week. Read the full post »