Return to Bonne Terre Mine

Over the Independence Day weekend, I took my family to the Bonne Terre Mine, about 50 miles south of St. Louis on Highway 67. It was once one of the world’s largest active lead mines, and the area around Bonne Terre is still known as the Lead Belt. Mining is still the major industry in southeast Missouri, and the area is dotted with big piles of mining waste, which the locals refer to as “chat.”

Mining in the area started way back in 1720 by French settlers; Bonne Terre Mine opened in 1860. It closed in 1962.

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Fare thee well, Radio Shack. Hello, Battery Shack!

The new owners of what’s left of Radio Shack want to specialize in batteries. Although this isn’t a guaranteed survival plan, it makes sense to me.

Last week, I went to one of the few remaining Radio Shack locations to get some overpriced diodes and D-sub connectors for a project. My oldest son tagged along. He asked about the store. I tried to describe it, and finally I said, “It’s kind of like Batteries Plus would be if it sold electronic parts too. And phones.”

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How to use the lock in your web browser’s location bar

How to use the lock in your web browser’s location bar

A commenter asked me last week if I really believe the lock in a web browser means something.

I’ve configured and tested and reviewed hundreds of web servers over the years, so I certainly hope it does. I spend a lot more time looking at these connections from the server side, but it means I understand what I’m seeing when I look at it from the web browser too.

So here’s how to use it to verify your web connections are secure, if you want to go beyond the lock-good, broken-lock-bad mantra.

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Microsoft sues the tech support scammers

I’m all torn up this morning. I’m torn up because Microsoft has sued a couple of tech support scam outfits for misrepresenting themselves and violating Microsoft trademarks.

I’m torn up because it’s taken this long. I’m also torn up because this may mean I’ll never get to see what kind of hilarity would ensue by telling a scammer with a fake western name that my name is “Suchita.” In the deepest voice I can muster, of course. Keep in mind that if I sing in falsetto, I’m a tenor. Also keep in mind that nobody wants to hear that.

But torn up as I am, I understand.

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Viglink: Looking back after 16 months

As my longtime readers may know, back in the summer of 2013 Amazon cut off its affiliates program in Missouri. I’d been using the Amazon affiliates program for 12 or 13 years at the time. It didn’t make me rich, but it generally did a nice job of covering my day-to-day expenses of running the blog.

I’m going to do something most bloggers won’t do–I’m going to tell you what I make blogging. I don’t know what Amazon affiliates are and aren’t allowed to talk about, but Amazon has no control over me anymore, and Viglink doesn’t expressly prohibit such talk. So I’ll talk. Read more

Remembering Dolgin’s

Remembering Dolgin’s

Growing up in Missouri, a lot of my Christmas gifts when I was young came from a catalog showroom called Dolgin’s. One of my earliest memories is going to Dolgin’s with my mom and aunt, who showed me some Tonka trucks and asked me which ones I liked best.

I know a lot of people remember going through Sears and Montgomery Ward catalogs, but I remember Dolgin’s catalogs the best. Read more

That time I told a tech support scammer my name was Naim

The other night my phone rang. The caller ID said some state I don’t ever get calls from, so I knew what was going to happen when I picked up the phone. I didn’t have much time, but I answered anyway.

“Hello, I am calling from Windows Technical Support. My name is Daniel,” the caller said with a very slight Indian accent.

“Oh, hi, Daniel.” I said, pausing for a second to think of a name. The last project manager I worked with was a nice guy named Naim, who had emigrated from India to Minnesota. So I stole his name. “My name is Naim.”

Long awkward pause. I grinned. Too bad “Daniel” couldn’t see me.

“Your name is Naim,” he said. His sarcasm and disbelief was so thick it was bulletproof.

“Yes Daniel, my name is Naim,” I said pleasantly, making no effort whatsoever to disguise my midwestern accent. I’ve lived my whole life in Missouri and Ohio. Read more

Phil Kerpen, net neutrality, and socialism: A post-mortem

I learned the hard way a few weeks ago how net neutrality can be equated with socialism, an argument that puzzles people who work on computer networks for a living and see networking as a big flow of electrons. I think it’s very important that we understand how this happens.

Here’s the tactic: Find a socialist who supports net neutrality. Anoint him the leader of the movement. Bingo, anyone who supports net neutrality follows him, and therefore is a communist.

Political lobbyist and Fox News contributor Phil Kerpen told me Robert W. McChesney was the leader of the net neutrality movement, and he sent me a quote in the form of a meme longer than the Third Epistle of St. John. Yet in a Google search for the key words from that quote, “net neutrality bring down media power structure,” I can’t find him. So then I tried Bing, where I found him quoted on a web site called sodahead.com, but I couldn’t find the primary source.

For the leader of a movement the size of net neutrality, he sure keeps a low profile. Google and Netflix are two multi-billion-dollar companies that support net neutrality. I’m sure it’s news to them that they’re taking orders from Robert W. McChesney. Read more

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 more

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