This is BrainLog, a blog by Dan Sanderson. Older entries, from October 1999 through September 2010, are preserved for posterity, but are no longer maintained. See the front page and newer entries.

August 2003 Archives

August 28, 2003

A bunch of websites have shut down in an organized protest against software patents in Europe. I'm 100% behind the cause, so I'll not mention the fact that this protest is keeping me from downloading software I need. It's probably best that the protest be disruptive, I suppose.

August 27, 2003

[Clarification: To my knowledge, www.mynewcard.com is a legitimate Bank of America website. -- DS, 2/5/2004]

Speaking of I'm-your-bank scams: Scams even smart people fall for. (Thanks Rebecca.)

A lot of people have gotten an e-mail in the past week that looks deceptively like it's from Citibank, complete with logo and dry bank-speak asking you to review the bank's new Terms and Conditions by clicking on the link and indicating your agreement with the new policy. Otherwise, the e-mail informs you, the bank will have to suspend your checking account.

Don't click on the link. And if you do, don't reply to the questions. Con artists interested in identity theft are "phishing" -- that is, stealing company logos to make e-mails requesting personal information look official. Once they get your information, they can wreak havoc in your financial life.

Citibank is just one among many companies that have been the target of phishers. Others include Best Buy, eBay and Bank of America.

Now tell me how I could possibly tell the difference between an official B of A mailing using "mynewcard.com" and an outright scam.

The West Wing, The Complete First Season will be on DVD November 18, 2003. (Thanks Girlhacker.) It's been fun picking up the ones I missed on Bravo. I'm nary a bit embarrassed that I'm as much a fan of the show's ridiculous theatrics as its politics, sometimes more so. I was struck momentarily breathless hearing Jed's "nightmare scenario" speech to Zoey at the end of "The Crackpots and These Women," despite a) having seen it before at least twice, and b) the backshadow with which I was impressed reeking of Futurama-esque desperation for plot ideas. I'm not saying they've jumped, I'm just sayin'...

August 22, 2003

Road trip! An original Dunlap broadside of the Declaration of Independence is on tour and is at the Seattle Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI) from today through September 1. 25 copies of about 200 printed by John Dunlap on July 4, 1776, are known to exist today, and this is one of them. A "performance film" of actors "performing" the Declaration accompanies the tour, and can also be viewed online. Go ahead, give the DOI a quick skim. Like what you see? Sign it! And initial here, here, here, and again here and here, and if we can just get your Charles Thomson on the line there, very good, and you're free! Don't forget to read the fine print.

Join the 1776 fan club while you're at it.

August 21, 2003

[Clarification: To my knowledge, www.mynewcard.com is a legitimate Bank of America website. -- DS, 2/5/2004]

Like many folks with their own domains, I usually use a different email address for each place that requests an email, so if I get spammed at an address, I know whose database was sold or compromised. So everyone make a big frowny face at the Microsoft Usability Group, as today I just received 20 identical spams (each with random subject headers) to the address I used with them a long, long time ago. I'm guessing it was a security breach and not a sale of their list, but either way, ick.

I also recently received what appeared to be a spam-like credit card offer from Bank of America (where I do have an account), at an address one character off from an address I use exclusively for Bank of America. Upon closer inspection, links in this email, including the "unsubscribe" link, go to "mynewcard.com". This domain is registered to "Douglas-Danielle" with an address in Chicago, and points to name servers at Qwest.net. The web site uses convincing, but suspiciously sparse, Bank of America logos and wording, and uses a secure form to prompt for your personal information, such as home address, account numbers, and Social Security Number. The unsubscribe form claims it will opt you out of phone and postal mail advertisements if you provide your complete contact info, and includes a blank for your SSN (which it says is "optional").

My first thought is that this is obviously a scam targetting Bank of America customers, where they appear to have managed to either crack into a B of A customer database (into which my address was entered incorrectly), or steal or salvage paper forms on which my info was written (which they then entered incorrectly into their own database). While I'm not convinced this isn't the case, douglas-danielle.com (registered with complete contact info), which is mentioned in the whois for mynewcard.com, claims to be a direct marketing firm. Their web site even includes a success story by "a leading credit card issuer." If Bank of America is actually employing Douglas-Danielle to solicit credit card applications through a non-Bank-of-America-registered website, they're making a serious mistake in judgement, and either way I hope nobody is entering data into that form.

August 18, 2003

The New Yorker has put David Sedaris's "Our Perfect Summer" online.

August 15, 2003

Wired News digs up information on a spammer, to put it mildly. The whole article is worth reading.

My work-on-computer-stuff-at-home vacation has inspired a search for a proper office chair to replace the green Fred Meyer folding chair I've been sitting on for six years. I knew Aeron bliss at a previous employer, but prices have not come down since the boom. I had high hopes for the Mirra, but it turns out that (right now at least) they're not that much cheaper. There's always eBay, though I'm wary because I've sat in a broken Aeron or two at the aforementioned previous employer. They're probably just fine used, but I don't like to be disappointed.

So I did some sloppy research and went walking around downtown Seattle looking for a quality chair, especially to see if I could find a Mirra to sit in and convince me of its worth. The official Herman Miller seating dealers in town wouldn't talk to me; they don't want to sell one chair to one guy, they want to rent a hundred chairs to a company. Furniture Row in downtown Seattle has almost no home office furniture, and InForm gets extra frowny faces for being especially rude when I said that their $2500 office chair was out of my price range. I tired quickly of the experience, but knew of an office furniture store near Seattle Center from its big ugly readerboard, and thought I'd give them a try.

Seattle Office Furniture earns a plug for being especially helpful after a long day of walking and being scoffed at. No Herman Miller, but they introduced me to HumanScale's Freedom Chair, a luxury chair priced like an Aeron, which I quite enjoyed. They had plenty of more realistic options, and were able to convince me that I could get a high quality office chair for as little as $250, such as the Performa 2 Plus from izzydesign (stupid Flash site doesn't have info on the Performa, but it's theirs, formerly Superior Seating). Real office chairs have thick comfy seating foam, easy but basic adjustables, and come in a wide variety of colors and optional features. Expensive steel or titanium seat pans and frames may not be necessary for comfortable keyboarding.

The third result on a Google search for "Aeron chair": dack.com : the aeron chair sucks. (Probably old by now, but still funny.)

August 8, 2003

Getting started with Subversion. (Thanks Jim.) Also, Subversion: The Definitive Guide. I'm about to put all of my personal stuff into version control (like I should have been doing a long time ago), and if it's time to start using Subversion instead of CVS, I might like to take the plunge. Subversion is still in its alpha stages, but the developers say it works just fine.

Here's a nice article on using the non-stable Debian distributions, though I must admit I'm now in something of a pickle with dselect after adding the unstable distro to the list, and I don't know why. It seems to believe there are conflicts and doesn't have a good suggestion for how to resolve it.

The Greater Seattle Linux User Group has a much needed new phpBB message board, replacing the old one. There's also a new Kwiki Wiki, and an announcements-only mailing list. I've been meaning to get into GSLUG a little more, as I tend to tax the patience of the UW Linux group sometimes. :)

It appears all three of today's entries are related. Hm.

August 4, 2003

The Association for Computing Machinery has free online courses for professional and student members. Professional membership is a mere $99/year, and for $198/year you also get access to the ACM Portal and Digital Library. For comparison, a Safari membership (access to online versions of 10 computer books each month) is $180/year.

Fast, cheap and everywhere. This decent overview article on the indie game industry includes a list of fun examples with links to their home pages, which feature screenshots and downloadable demos. Also, a quoting accident:

PopCap and the online game portals have helped open up computer gaming to soccer moms worldwide. Popcap says that its average user is a 35-year-old women [sic]. RealOneArcade claims that over 50 percent of its audience is female and 85 percent over the age of 30.

"Our customers are playing to relax and unwind from the day to day grind. They don’t want to be reminded that they’re idiots or lack hand-eye coordination," [David Nixon, executive producer of RealOneArcade] explained.