Category: Web

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You Can Call Me a Flickr Fool

Blame inertia, or stupidity. On Dec. 29, 2016, I boasted: “I am abandoning Yahoo and its photo-sharing site, for many of the reasons stated seven months ago. My Flickr Pro account expires in September, and I will cancel a few weeks earlier to prevent auto-renewal. In the meantime, I consider my Flickr officially closed, and I will no longer use it”. Ah, yeah, that didn’t happen.

In preparation for my Flickr finale, back in July, I blocked the service from using my PayPal to auto-renew. Twenty-four days ago, I unsurprisingly received email that payment processing failed. Second-thoughts overwhelmed. While Yahoo is a mess, Verizon has since taken ownership—and my family now uses Red’s cellular service. There’s synergy there. Besides, my low-cost renewal remained in place: $44.95 for another two years. The standard service fee is $5.95 per month, or $49.95 yearly. Smitten with angst, I paid up. 

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I Got to Giggle About Gaggles

Sometimes I can only laugh at the strangeness of Internet domain trading and squatting. In August 2015, I registered, for two years, the dot net, org, and xyz extensions for gaggles. The com was taken. I grabbed gaggles to create an email address for people to contact me to support my then-in-progress exposé about Google. With the sound geese make in mind, I sniped at the search entity’s new parent company and alphabet.xyz domain.

Last month, I let all three expire. I own too many domains that are too costly to keep for the value they give: None. Had gaggles.com been mine, though, I would hold them all. More renewals are passing by, or have gone. Meanwhile, I got to giggle about gaggles, because someone else snatched up the dot net and would like me to buy it back. Eh, seriously? 

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Why Are There So Many Failed Login Attempts Against My Blog?

This website is nothing special. I write about things that interest me, but with others in mind—particularly about topics journalism and technology. There is nothing of value to steal here. The site doesn’t generate enough traffic to warrant planting malware, and there is no advertising; I never intend there to be. This blog should be a low-value hacker target, particularly since I use unique passwords everywhere; compromise here won’t open my other accounts. I suppose a criminal could break in with the intention of dropping a payload, such as keylogger, on my one computer. But, honestly, I am a low-value target, too. I ain’t wealthy, nor do I work for a company with massive assets to steal. So, why, then are there so many failed login attempts by presumed hackers?

I pose the question to anyone with more security expertise than me. Your response could help other people, too. 

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Five Rants from 2006

What a strange delight. I spent a large chunk of the weekend restoring posts to this website from July to early-September 2006. They represent a period of loss—originally spanning from June of that year to March 2007. Ten years ago, accidental deletion of a Movable Type backup file coupled with migration from ExpressionEngine to WordPress purged more than six months of posts. It was a devastating realization then; I had been a prolific personal blogger while working as an analyst (for Jupiter Research) and not being bound to the crazy, erratic, unpredictable schedule of news reporting. Meaning: I had more time most evenings to write.

Four days ago, I discovered that the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine had captured my first website, at editors.com, starting in December 1996. I later looked at joewilcox.com, which went live as my personal blogsite in 2002. Back then, I called the site “The Writer’s Life”. Wayback Machine snapshots from July, August, and September 2006 allowed me to restore a small portion of the lost content, which still is incomplete for those months—while there is nothing from autumn of that year through spring of the next. The blank space likely will never be filled. 

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Remembering My First Website

This afternoon, I looked over Archive.org’s Wayback Machine for the first time ever and was delighted to find cached copies (e.g. snapshots) of my first, personal website at editors.com, which I registered in August 1995. Foolishly, when needing some extra money, I accepted a $3K offer to sell my first domain in May 2004. I have lots more to say about that decision—in the future. For now, let’s look at the past.

At the time of the site’s snapshot, Dec. 27, 1996, my family prepared to leave my hometown of Caribou, Maine—where we had been for about 18 months—and return to the Washington, D.C. area. There I would take the editor’s position at Government Computer News responsible for the newly created State and Local section. 

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Tidal Masters Wow

That didn’t last long. My cancelled Tidal account was set to end January 11th, but late this afternoon, I reactivated, giving the streaming service more time to keep—and even increase—my affections. During Consumer Electronics Show 2017 today, in licensing partnership with MQA, Tidal announced the new audio-fidelity tier “Masters”, which is available for free to existing HiFi subscribers. Early album selection is extremely limited as is access option: macOS or Windows application. Both will expand in time.

But wow! I tested skeptically, wiring up my studio cans—Audio-Technica ATH-R70x—to 15.4-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar to hear the difference. Hehe, if any. I deliberately started with Fleetwood Mac’s “Go Your Own Way” from album “Rumors“, which released 40 years ago on February 4th. Tidal claims that Masters recordings deliver “an audio experience exactly as the artist intended”. The band spent nearly a year painstakingly recording and engineering the disc, making any, or all, the songs great test cases. 

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A Matched Set

I would never guess that the grey metal Master & Dynamic MW60 headphones purchased in December 2015 would match my new 15.4-inch MacBook Pro a year later. But here they are, together, shot on Dec. 30, 2016, using Fujifilm X-T1 with Fujinon XF35mmF2 R WR lens. Vitals: f/4, ISO 400, 1/60 sec, 35mm. The Featured Image is cropped but otherwise is as captured. Broad bokeh is deliberate, with focus on the Apple logo, as are the dark hues.

The MW60 make me think about Apple Music, which begrudgingly replaces Tidal as 2017 begins. The HiFi streaming service delights with fantastic audio fidelity—difference I can hear, starting with vocals. But Apple Music’s catalog is broader, and the curated playlists are superior, for my tastes. Consider “Best of 2016: Alternative“. I couldn’t have picked better, and I was a radio deejay in my college-age years. 

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Living with Apple’s Mistakes

I lied, but not deliberately. One year ago today, I wrote: “Apple Lost My Heart to Google in 2015“, explaining that “my mainstays at the start of 2016: Chromebook Pixel LSPixel CNexus 6P, and Huawei Watch. I abandoned Apple and there are no plans to return..I will write more about Google in 2016 than previous years, because of the benefits I see. As for Apple, the company had my heart for the longest time. I challenge CEO Tim Cook to win back my adoration; skeptical I may be”.

By March, however, Apple won back my business with little effort, and I gave up the Google lifestyle. Transition back to the Orchard started with a 13.3-inch MacBook Pro: 3.1GHz Core i7 processor, 16GB RAM, 256GB SSD, purchased from DC Computers. Three reasons: 1) I believed Mr. Cook’s privacy promises, all while my concerns about Big G information collection increased. 2) I found the visual acuity of Apple fonts and user interfaces to be far superior to Google’s, which helped compensate for diminishing reading vision (later recovered through eye surgery). 3) Google’s platforms proved inadequate for easily recording, producing, and publishing the Frak That! podcast, which is available on SoundCloud

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The Great Yahoo Divorce

I typically make many changes at the start of the new year—like in 2015 my “Flickr a Day” project, which featured one photographer’s capture each day for the entire year. As 2017 begins, I am abandoning Yahoo and its photo-sharing site, for many of the reasons stated seven months ago. My Flickr Pro account expires in September, and I will cancel a few weeks earlier to prevent auto-renewal. In the meantime, I consider my Flickr officially closed, and I will no longer use it.

I also will move from Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial license to All Rights Reserved. There are plenty enough free photos out there for people to use; I don’t need the name recognition by someone else publishing mine for free; and in most instances, if someone asks, I will grant usage permission. Should a utility become available for exporting from Flickr to Instagram, the CC pics may someday be available there. Meanwhile, I return to using SmugMug, which I will make over in bits and pieces of free time during January. The family-owned business now offers import utilities for Flickr and Google Photos, which are where nearly all my cloud stored images are. Consolidation is ideal. 

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DirecTV Now and Then

From the day I received the Oct. 14, 2016 letter about billing changes, AT&T U-verse and Internet cancellation was inevitable. I had auto-pay set up to a credit card, but the service provider wanted access to my bank account, which I didn’t want to give. “Beginning in December, your credit card will be charged eight days after your Bill Cycle date”, the correspondence reads. The change meant AT&T would take payment on the 8th of the month rather than the 21st. Since the company bills a month in advance, the new date would work out to about six-weeks in fees paid ahead for future service. On principle, being an independent-minded “don’t tell me what to do” Mainer, I considered other options.

Ironically, the launch of another AT&T service, DirecTV Now, on October 30th, made the decision to cancel super easy. After several starts and stops, the Wilcox household has finally cut the cord for good. DirecTV Now is the nudge, but other streaming services make a big difference, too. Much has changed since the last cord-cutting effort, in November 2015, which we abandoned after about 7 weeks. The quality and quantity of original programming from Amazon, Hulu, and Netflix is greater and hugely enticing 12 months later. 

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I’m Mad! Some Dude is using My Gmail to open Dating and Deal Site Accounts!

Question: “When is stupidity fraud?” I ask because someone is using my gmail address to sign up for a humungous number of newsletters and websites. At first, I presumed someone trolled me. But that no longer appears to be the case. This guy, presumably living in North Carolina, either uses my address randomly to hide his identity, or he mistypes one that is similar. Given many of the services are for an unidentified widower looking for love, I assume the latter.

Behind my question are real concerns about identity and privacy that do not just apply to me. The email address gives me the ability to change the passwords and even cancel accounts—both of which I have done, treating his misuse of my email address as identity theft and violations of my privacy; after years of careful cultivation that reduced spam, crap is on the rise as this misuse spreads my gmail identity across dating and discount sites and sex webcams. Who knows on what mailing lists it will appear next. But over the past 24 hours, the amount of spam offers, like being paid to take surveys, exploded. The email address may be permanently ruined for personal and professional purposes.