Mystical Secrets of Account Security

You may have heard about port-out scamming, where thieves take away a victim's phone number and use the resulting access to their call and text history to access their bank accounts, etc.

While having your number hijacked and cell service terminated sounds like a headache, the implications are much deeper. Think about it: the hijacker just took control of your phone number, so they’re going to get access to all your calls and texts. Everything meant for your eyes or ears is now in the hands of a complete stranger. It makes my skin crawl just thinking about it.

And your private messages are the least of your worries. What if you use your phone number to receive text messages with security codes when you log into your bank account? That person now has access to any code sent to your phone, and can access your email, bank account, credit cards, and other super sensitive info.

Obviously a helpful barrier between you and having your phone number stolen is to have an added security feature such as an additional PIN, which you would set up with your carrier, and which anyone then seeking to make changes to your account -- over the phone or in person at a store -- would be required to provide. If you don't already have one of those, go do that now and come back -- I'll still be here when you're done.

(Personally, I think reps at every carrier should insist on this step whenever setting up any new account, but admittedly the process of setting up new cellular accounts is already pretty involved. I doubt anyone complains about being allowed to put off that one extra detail. Until somebody steals their phone number, anyway.)

Another helpful barrier between you and an identity thief is, good personal security habits -- such as, when you receive a text message that contains a validation code, use that code immediately and delete that text message.

As much as I like having backups of my SMS conversations, texts from my bank don't qualify. And while most texted validation codes expire after a certain period of time, all they would do, left undeleted, is clutter up my SMS history for no good reason.

© Monday,  February 19, 2018  Kevin McGehee

Can We Stop Electing Them Now?

I'm so old, I can remember when the Baby Boomers' most desirable asset was their youth, which supposedly meant they were less set in their ways, more open to newer and allegedly better ideas.

There are Baby Boomers who are now in their 70s.

The thing about youth is, it has a Sell By date. Maybe it wasn't such a great marketing strategy in the first place but that's a topic for another post.

© Saturday,  February 17, 2018  Kevin McGehee

I Wonder When I'll See It?

Allegedly, having dropped Project Fi for T-Mobile, I'm supposed to receive a refund of almost $20 for a combination of the unused billing period and the unused portion of my cellular 1GB data budget. I've been waiting for that before chucking the browser bookmark to Project Fi -- I'm not really obsessive-compulsive, but having had some theater experience in school I guess the method-acting bug is rather persistent.

It's now been three and a half weeks since the switch, and still no refund. If I were still on Fi I would certainly have had that period's bill amount charged to my credit card by now. The website does say it may take up to 60 days to complete closing an account, but there's a difference (I would suppose) between "may" and "absolutely will, every time."

So this morning I searched up some information about Google's performance in crediting refunds to people who quit Fi, and all I found were a couple of "haven't received my refund yet" comments.

Maybe I'll go ahead and delete the bookmark.

© Saturday,  February 17, 2018  Kevin McGehee

I Don't Live in Utah, But...

If I did, and if Mitt Romney were the Republican nominee for the Senate on my ballot in November, I would vote for him.

I said the same thing about Alabama and Roy Moore, fruitcake that he is.

The Democrats have gone so far off the deep end since the last election that the differences between Moore and Romney -- let alone those between either of them and me -- pale in comparison.

The objection has been raised that Romney's skill set isn't exactly ideal for the United States Senate, but I don't know that that's true.

I'm sure someone will argue that deep red Utah isn't in serious danger of electing some Antifa nutjob regardless of whom the GOP nominates to run against him, and they're almost certainly right. Nor do I disagree with those who would have liked to see, for example, Mia Love run for that seat and get the party's nod.

But if Utah Republicans do ultimately decide to go with Mitt, I hope he wins.

© Friday,  February 16, 2018  Kevin McGehee

How to Violate 'Truth in Advertising'

Make the Happy Meal less happy.

McDonald's is banishing cheeseburgers and chocolate milk from its Happy Meal menu in an effort to cut down on the calories, sodium, saturated fat and sugar kids consume at its restaurants.

Seriously. If the point of the kids' menu is to deny kids the foods they like best, calling the items "Happy Meals" seems dishonest. But that's always the way for the Nanny State types who always presume to know best.

The worst thing about this isn't that it's infantilizing children -- you can't infantilize what isn't mature. It's infantilizing their parents.

McDonald's will defer to parents determined to give their kids a Happy Meal that will actually make them happy, at least for now:

Diners can still ask specifically for cheeseburgers or chocolate milk with the kid's meal, but the fast-food company says not listing them will reduce how often they're ordered. It says after it removed soda from the Happy Meal menu four years ago orders for it fell 14 percent.

That tells me 14 percent of parents are only too happy to let a corporate behemoth dictate what they feed their children. I, however, cheer the other 86 percent for defending their prerogatives.

Oh, and while you're hyperventilating, let me add that parents who take full responsibility for their kids' nutrition won't be taking them to McDonald's often enough for a cheeseburger or chocolate milk to turn their munchkins into butterballs in the first place.

© Thursday,  February 15, 2018  Kevin McGehee

Taking a Header

Got tired of my old header image that didn't feature enough contrast with the blog's name, and replaced it with the bluer panorama you now see up yonder.

This photograph was taken from Riverton, Wyoming and shows the Wind River Mountains from somebody's backyard, sometime last fall. I didn't take it, in the sense of standing in said backyard with my own camera and tripping the shutter; I've never been in that backyard and probably never will be (though I think if I ever own a similar vantage, I'll want to set up a webcam on it). I found the picture from which that sliver of view derives on a commercial website and "took" it in the sense of appropriating it for my own use.

The whole picture, uncluttered with letters, is even prettier. I'm using it as the wallpaper on my phone.

© Wednesday,  February 14, 2018  Kevin McGehee

Twitter: Not Even Once™

I'd apologize for the language, but I didn't use it. The image is there to illustrate a point about this person and the mindset he represents. Image retrieved from Twitchy.

© Wednesday,  February 14, 2018  Kevin McGehee

Down the Rabbit Hole

At one point I had zero Windows computers to my name; the last laptop I bought, which was supposed to come with Windows 7, had Windows 8 instead. Eventually (at the earliest opportunity, which proved to be a mistake) I ditched 8.1 for 10, which wasn't yet ready for prime time. Ultimately I ditched Windows altogether for Linux.

Then Mrs. McG's mother passed away and I wound up in custody of her two Windows 7 PCs, a desktop and a laptop. The desktop still has Windows 7 on it; its need for a separate monitor makes it far less likely to be booted up in this house of laptops. It and the laptop were slower than molasses in January (especially in Boston), and once I had reclaimed as much of Marie's data from the laptop as possible, I decided to try a ChromeOS experiment.

It didn't go well.

The other day, after refenestrating my own laptop and being -- not impressed exactly, but undisappointed -- and then spending months looking at the brain-dead second laptop with its unbootable ChromeOS installation, I bought an additional license for Windows 10 (much cheaper than buying a whole new copy, considering I still have the source media from when I installed 10 on my own laptop) and installed the OS on this second laptop.

The hard drive is disconcertingly small, about 1/3 the capacity of mine, and the processor isn't really up to the load of running much more than what little I, byte miser that I am, demand of Windows. If I were to install even LibreOffice on this machine, much less Microsoft Office, the magic smoke would start leaking out every seam. I did have to download and install a new display driver to get better than SVGA out of the built-in monitor, but that was surprisingly easy.

I can consider using this laptop for travel instead of the newer, more powerful one, the loss of which would be a bigger inconvenience (although I cloud-sync pretty much everything I generate these days). Or I can continue to take the primary, worrying less about the loss if something did happen to it, precisely because I'd still have this backup at home to tide me over until I could bear to pay for another new laptop.

I think I'd still want to wipe the OEM install from a new laptop and rebuild a leaner working environment as I've done with these two. If this older laptop had come with Windows 10 pre-installed, with manufacturer "utilities" and Microsoft marketing crap, I'm pretty sure I would have used it for target practice by now.

© Monday,  February 12, 2018  Kevin McGehee

Now Cut That Out!

We haven't been having thunderstorms or high winds, but for some reason since about 9:30 last night we've had about half a dozen power interruptions.

The first time, I went around resetting digital clocks, but after the second time I decided to wait until we could get through more than a couple of hours without another flash-and-flicker.

It's almost 1:00 a.m. Sunday morning now, and I'm still not resetting clocks.

© Sunday,  February 11, 2018  Kevin McGehee

The Secret to Keeping Your Cool

When someone calls me something I know I’m not, I take that to mean they don’t know any of the things they could have called me that I am.

© Thursday,  February 8, 2018  Kevin McGehee

When You Hear a Freight Train in Your Escape Shaft...

Our house has what's known as a "walkout basement" -- the level of the floor downstairs is even with the level of the ground on one side of the house. However, one of the two "bedrooms" down there is not on that side of the house. It has no windows. As a rule, residential building codes don't allow a room to be used as a bedroom unless it has an egress window, so that in case of a fire the occupants won't be trapped with no escape. As a result, that one "bedroom" isn't really kosher.

I can't remember ever living in a house with a basement that wasn't either walkout or "daylight", the latter being a basement where only the first few feet of the basement's vertical space is below grade, meaning any room next to an exterior wall can have windows. As I've been scanning real estate listings in Wyoming, though, I'm seeing a lot of homes that not only have basements entirely below grade, but which also have bedrooms in those basements.

With windows.

I actually first noticed this over a year ago when Mrs. McG was investigating a possible transfer to Great Falls, Montana. A house close to where she would have been working had such a basement bedroom, complete with window -- and in the realtor photo of that room, through the window, I saw what looked for all the world like the sides of a culvert that had been cut and shaped and stuck in the ground with one end pointing skyward. I called it a light well and thought it a clever solution, but after seeing more of them on listings in Wyoming, I've come to realize they must be a good deal more common than I could have suspected.

On one listing, in fact, the larger-than-usual basement window dominates one photo, and the ladder is clearly visible. I suppose these escape shafts might be covered with a hinged and latched, perhaps spring-loaded, skylight that prevents rain or snow from accumulating in them, since there's no way for them to drain. A translucent skylight would help protect the privacy of the room's occupants.

It would have been nice if the builders of our house, here in Georgia, could have put in one of those shafts where the windowless room is downstairs, so it could be used safely as a bedroom. Somehow I don't think that's an easy retrofit. Then again, that room in its present state is about the only one in the entire house even remotely suitable for sheltering in the event of a particularly nasty Dixie Alley tornado -- something you don't need to worry about so much in Wyoming. The thought of a light shaft in that room during a tornado brings to mind the flashback scene at the beginning of Twister.

Guess I'll take a pass on that.

© Tuesday,  February 6, 2018  Kevin McGehee

Reason #47,864

Want to know why I'm so looking forward to living in Wyoming?

I've lived in California, Alaska, and Georgia. In each of those states -- yes, even Alaska -- I've had to have my car emission-checked in order to renew the tags. As a result, when I see the words "state air plan" in a news headline (paywall) I reflexively assume it's about air quality.

Bebout: Proposed state air plan still needs much work

Senate President Eli Bebout, R-Riverton, said he supports the Wyoming Department of Transportation's work on a long-term, statewide air service plan.

But, he said, "to give the Aeronautics Commission a $13 million blank check is not the way to do it."

In 2017, WYDOT and legislators proposed forming a new program that would task the state agency, rather than airports themselves, with contracting directly with airlines.

In Wyoming, it's about air service.

© Monday,  February 5, 2018  Kevin McGehee

You've Heard of the 'Kinsley Gaffe'...?

If you haven't, it's an instance where a politician inadvertently tells the truth.

Well, in the warm-up to the kickoff that begins Act II of the Super Bowl (Act I being the production numbers and extensive scene-setting exposition that require the telecast to begin a good 20 minutes before kickoff), Al Michaels was the victim of a Kinsley Typo:

A Kinsley Typo, of course, occurs when a word is inadvertently substituted for what was actually said, that renders the entire statement considerably more accurate.

Addendum: During the game, while Michaels and Collinsworth were awaiting the final ruling on a certain Philadelphia touchdown -- and debating whether a player who has (1) caught the ball, (2) has carried it for several steps while having complete control of the ball in his possession, (3) has tripped over an opposing player and fallen across the goal line while still having complete control of the ball in his possession, and (4) only lost control of the ball after he has hit the ground in the end zone, has actually scored a touchdown -- we began to wonder whether it was the league, or NBC Sports, that was built for parody.

Actually no, we didn't wonder. We already knew the answer to that (both) long before this broadcast.

© Sunday,  February 4, 2018  Kevin McGehee

Sometime This Week

I knew the day had not yet come, but I knew it wasn't far off. Now, it's well nigh.

According to Wikipedia, construction began on the Berlin Wall on August 13, 1961. Demolition began on November 9, 1989. Taking those dates as its beginning and end, respectively, it stood for 28 years and just shy of three months.

I'm not in the mood to calculate the exact number of days it stood; somebody somewhere has surely already worked that out. But this week the Berlin Wall will have been souvenirs for longer than it was a Cold War barrier.

That's a milestone. Covered with graffiti.

© Sunday,  February 4, 2018  Kevin McGehee

Drudge, You Wacky Guy!

Here's what the headline says at The Drudge Report:

Sprawling Mayan Cities Uncovered By Lasers...

Um, no. But I can see why that would occur to you.

Laser technology was used to survey digitally beneath the forest canopy, revealing houses, palaces, elevated highways, and defensive fortifications.

The other way would have been more fun though...

© Friday,  February 2, 2018  Kevin McGehee

One Who Definitely Didn't See Her Shadow Today

For the fourth consecutive year, Staten Island Charlotte -- grandsow of the more famous Staten Island Chuck -- has not seen her shadow, thus implicitly forecasting her hometown an early spring.

The last time Charlotte saw her shadow was in 2014, when she observed it from free-fall before landing on it, headfirst. The human responsible for this sequence of events remains unpunished.

© Friday,  February 2, 2018  Kevin McGehee

Facebook Really Wants to Get to Know My Spam Folder

I actually haven't gotten any mail begging me to go back to Facebook. I think like most spammers, they know better. But apparently other people are getting mailbombed.

It's been about a year since Rishi Gorantala deleted the Facebook app from his phone, and the company has only gotten more aggressive in its emails to win him back. The social network started out by alerting him every few days about friends that had posted photos or made comments -- each time inviting him to click a link and view the activity on Facebook. He rarely did.

Then, about once a week in September, he started to get prompts from a Facebook security customer-service address. "It looks like you're having trouble logging into Facebook," the emails would say. "Just click the button below and we'll log you in. If you weren't trying to log in, let us know." He wasn't trying. But he doesn't think anybody else was, either.

"The content of mail they send is essentially trying to trick you," said Gorantala, 35, who lives in Chile. "Like someone tried to access my account so I should go and log in."

That doesn't sound phishy at all.

The article offers an alternative explanation for why I haven't been getting any of these underhanded, passive-aggressive pleas:

Facebook, which has more than 2 billion people logging in monthly, has never failed to grow its user base. To beat investors' expectations consistently on user numbers, it's just as important for the company to retain people like Gorantala as it is to recruit new members. People who are logging into Facebook less often -- but aren't fully disconnected -- are noticing more and more frequent prompts to come back, sometimes multiple times a day, via emails or text messages reminding them what they're missing out on, according to screenshots and reports from users around the world. Gorantala, who eased off his Facebook usage because of privacy concerns, said his security prompt comes "whenever I don't log in for a few days."

It sounds plausible, but with Facebook's usage rates on the decline in the U.S. and Canada, "a few days" could just as easily be in the triple or quadruple digits as their desperation mounts.

And when that time comes, I'll be ready.

© Thursday,  February 1, 2018  Kevin McGehee

Triggered by an Elevator Button?

Members of the Norwegian ski team, and some vendors, are being shamed into dumping a uniform sweater because it includes a rune that has been given unsavory associations without its consent.

Designed at a time when public interest in Viking culture is experiencing a renaissance, the theme for Norway's Alpine ski team uniforms this season is "the Attacking Viking," a homage to the team's nickname. But the sweater features a symbol known as the Tyr rune, which neo-Nazis want to claim as their own.

There is little evidence that the rune originally had any symbolic significance beyond its sound value, but the letter shares the name of a Norse deity popularly understood as the god of war, Tyr. Nowadays, most runologists consider it a letter no more mysterious than the letter T.

Even so, the presence of the Tyr rune on the team's sweater design was enough to raise alarms.

The Tyr rune looks like an "up" arrow. Literally. If you've ever stood waiting for an elevator to arrive so you could ascend to your office or hotel room, you've probably seen it over the elevator door, lighting up just before the doors opened.

Yeah. That. European neo-Nazis think that carries some kind of symbolic power that links them with the Norse god of war. Euro-weenies (and probably their American counterparts) are therefore triggered by it.

So, how long ya reckon before the shafted up-arrow is forcibly removed from everything, everywhere, because the neo-Snowflakes can't handle seeing it?

© Thursday,  February 1, 2018  Kevin McGehee

Tiv -- OH-H-H-H!

Concerned about the continued longevity of our single remaining Tivo DVR, I logged on to Tivo's website and discovered they've jacked up the lifetime subscription and renamed it "all in." For $550, that seems an apt description. Given that the DVRs themselves are in the $450-to-$550 range and the subscription is an additional charge, it seems Tivo has been inspired by the Apple iPhone X.

Of course, Apple has scaled back production of their $1,000 phone, lest demand fail to support the price...

The new Tivo is called the Vox -- oops, sorry: Vox, and includes voice-recognition, as if figuring out how to work a remote control is soon to be beyond most American TV watchers. Maybe it is, but we're not there yet.

At least Apple has competition. Tivo is kind of all by itself in the DVR market these days. Our cable company has a couple of DVRs they'll issue, but they don't sound very impressive. We often have more than one program recording, meaning we need at least three tuners if we hope to watch anything else while they're recording -- and these don't appear to have more than two.

I've got a Roku with an app for our cable company, so I can watchlist almost everything we currently "OnePass" with the Tivo, but it's a learning curve and I don't relish Mrs. McG's reaction to having a whole new TV-watching paradigm to pick up on. The Blu-Ray player was rough enough.

Huh. Maybe I should shop for a Roku with voice-recognition...

© Thursday,  February 1, 2018  Kevin McGehee


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