Tag Archives: extra mile

Check your smoke detectors, please. And make sure you have more than one.

Early Monday morning, a fire broke out a couple of streets over from me. Sadly, there was one casualty, a seven-year-old second grader who attends the same school as my oldest son. His older sister heroically came and got him and tried to lead him out the front door, but they became separated and he lost his way.

The paper noted that there have been a large number of fires with fatalities in my area in this past year. It did not speculate on the reasons, but I think I know why.

I think inadequate smoke detectors have a lot to do with it. Continue reading Check your smoke detectors, please. And make sure you have more than one.

HP Elitebook won’t turn on? Fix it in a minute flat

If your HP Elitebook won’t turn on, I have an easy fix. We used them at a previous job and I taught this trick to all of my¬†coworkers who had difficulty getting theirs to power up in the morning. It’s easy, and takes less time than calling the helpdesk, and less time than going direct to desktop support too (which they love, I’m sure).

Continue reading HP Elitebook won’t turn on? Fix it in a minute flat

Linus Torvalds likes SSDs, too

Linus Torvalds called hard drives evil, nasty platters of spinning rust in an interview this week, while saying he likes SSDs.

I didn’t say it. He said it. Though it’s no secret that I like SSDs too. Continue reading Linus Torvalds likes SSDs, too

Security doesn’t have to be intimidating to be effective

I got into a conversation the other day about physical security, basing the physical security of a particular facility. “You have to sign in when you enter. Well laddy da!”

Actually, there are times where that’s completely appropriate. But they actually missed something, too. The facility they were making fun of has a locked door and a log.
Continue reading Security doesn’t have to be intimidating to be effective

Optimizing Windows’ startup sequence

In days of yore, it was possible to go by one simple rule. When several minutes passed between the time your desktop appeared and the time you could actually do something, you could just run MSConfig and disable anything you don’t recognize. Back when a typical PC started up maybe a half-dozen things and a sick PC started up 12-18, that was manageable.

Not so much today. Not when there are 22,528 known things (as of 30 Nov 2010) that insert themselves into system startup.

I didn’t make that 22,528 number up. How did I know?

Continue reading Optimizing Windows’ startup sequence

What to do when you\’ve been ripped off in a buy/sell forum

I’ve spent the last week chasing a scammer, because I’m a sucker for a good story. I have that story, but I’m not happy with it.

In the meantime, there’s definitely a need for a procedure to follow if you make a deal on a forum or bulletin board and never receive the promised merchandise.There are several things that you can and should do. The laws are slippery, and in the case of the scammer I’ve been watching, he seems to be pretty careful to keep his fraud under certain thresholds to stay in operation. So you need all the help you can get.

First, gather information. Find the address where you sent your item or payment. Have descriptions of the item(s) you sent and the item(s) you expected to receive, along with fair market value. If you have Paypal receipts or anything like that, print those out. If you have addresses, phone numbers, or any other information, get that too. Finally, if you have an address or phone number, do a Google search to find your trading partner’s local police department.

If your trading partner has ripped off other people and other people are complaining about it, take evidence of this along.

Take all of that information to your local police department and ask to file a complaint. The procedure varies from department to department. An officer might interview you, or there might be a form you can fill out. Whatever it is, be nice and cooperate with them. These guys are on your side, but the more pleasant you are to work with, the more likely they’re going to be to be willing to go the extra mile for you.

Ask if they’ll contact your trading partner’s local police department, or if you need to do that. If you need to do it, call the other police department and give them all the information they ask for. Most likely, your local police department will make contact because they’ll need to work together.

Next, get the feds involved. Some of these guys get away with what they do because their scams involve small amounts of money. But if you mailed your package or payment through the U.S. Postal Service and the person scammed you, now the person is also guilty of mail fraud, which can make a minor crime more serious.

You can report mail fraud by filling out a USPS form online. The process is simple and only takes a few minutes.

Take the time to do this, because there is one scammer out there who’s been getting away with fraud for at least four years, primarily because he seems to be careful to keep the value each transaction low enough. So you need all the extra help you can get.

I don’t know why five $200 ripoffs don’t equal one $1,000 ripoff. That’s a question for the police.

Finally, contact the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center. This may or may not help you, but it will help other victims.

Of course you should also contact the administrators of the forum where the deal took place, but all they can do is ban the account. The scammer probably doesn’t care; he’ll be on another forum next week under a different name anyway.

It seems like part of the reason people are able to get away with these schemes is because discussions about them quickly degenerate into flamewars, sometimes with the scammer himself doing everything he can to fan the flames. Then the moderators close the thread or delete it, and then no constructive dialog can take place. Then the scammer just moves on to another forum, where he has no history and is free to do it again.

Talking about it is fine. The problem is, the topic of contacting the authorities usually comes up too late in the discussion, so a lot of people don’t think about it. If they think about it, they might not know where to start.

If you’ve been scammed, please contact law enforcement. The authorities may or may not be able to help you get your stuff back, but if enough people act, they can put a scammer out of business, so other people don’t fall victim to the same scheme you did.

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That Middle East oil rumor

You’ve probably seen the e-mail circulating around about what companies buy Middle Eastern oil and thus could be indirectly funding terrorism.
That e-mail came up in conversation today, and then I remembered the Truth or Fiction Web site, which I’d stumbled across while researching the story of Butch and Eddie O’Hare. When I’d first seen that e-mail, I went to the Department of Energy web site to see if I could, as it said, “easily document” who was buying oil from countries that don’t like us very much. I didn’t find anything.

They did. And the e-mail rumor, based on their research, has the numbers wrong but is mostly correct about which companies are buying oil from the Middle East and which ones aren’t, even if it was wrong about the number of barrels (and sometimes they were off by a factor of 10).

The question is, will it do any good? Economic boycotts have worked in the past–take a look at the early days of the Civil Rights movement for an example–but you have to really want it, want it enough to stick to your guns. Based on the rumor, I bought all my gas at Phillips 66 for months, figuring I probably wasn’t doing any harm and might be doing some good. But my last couple of tanks have come from the Mobil station that’s on my way to work. There are a couple of Phillips stations not far out of my way, but they are out of my way.

That’s pretty typical. These days, we’ll talk tough, and we’ll even act tough for a while. But more often than not, ultimately what wins out is what’s cheap or convenient. That Mobil station is close and on the way, so it couldn’t be any more convenient, and it always seems like it’s the first station to lower its prices and the last to raise them. So I’ve been buying there.

I probably should start driving that extra mile to buy somewhere else. There’s a Citgo close by too.

Oh, and by the way… Next time someone forwards you that Pepsi can Pledge of Allegiance rumor, tell them to stop circulating it. It was Dr Pepper, not Pepsi. I can’t say anything with my dollars there. I don’t know that I’ve bought anything from either company in the past year because I almost never drink soda.