Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Screw you, Hotmail!

If anyone got a spam email from my old Hotmail account, I'm sorry.

To Microsoft: I am so pissed off right now it's not funny.

Okay, I didn't have the most secure password in the world. But it wasn't 'password' or '1234' and it wasn't a word you'd find in the dictionary. But it looks like I got a message from someone else who was hacked a while back, and then my account sent the same messages just tonight. I don't think it's spyware on my computer. I have Windows 7 with Microsoft Security Essentials installed with no threats found. Again, not the biggest fan of Microsoft right now but I'm reasonably sure I'm protected there. I also am pretty reasonably sure I didn't go to any fishing sites and certainly didn't enter my Hotmail password anywhere for at least the last year. So I'm going to assume that somehow the account was hacked either by a dictionary attack or some other vulnerability.

The first thing I did was change my password to a secure password, but I'm not sure that was enough. At this point, I rely so little on my Hotmail password and lost enough confidence in Hotmail (not to mention being pissed that I get Hotmail emails from people with advertising in them) that I decided to close the account.

Here's where it gets really fun. So closing the account isn't something in Hotmail's settings. It's in the "Live Account" settings at the top right. Fine. Finally find the 'close my account' form. I enter the password and click close. I'm then informed that I can't close the account because I have an email address (the one I was trying to close)  that's associated with the account, and I'm prompted to close that email address. I try that option, and I'm THEN told that I can't close THAT account because I have billing associated with it.  Again I'm given a friendly link to close the billing associated with the account. When I get to that, I'm told that there is no billing associated with my account.

Seriously, this is starting to look like a Kafka novel at this point. Why on earth would they build an infrastructure this confusing and byzantine? I guess because Microsoft is such a large and multi-divisional company whose divisions just don't talk to each other all that much, but like the linking they get from having someone's account associated with their division.

Or something.

Anyway, I click one of the help links actually expecting to find some help. Instead I'm pointed to a forum where I can search for questions. This is how I expect to get answers to a problem with installing Linux, not from a multi-billion dollar company.

So I find a topic that's similar to mine, and it's RIDDLED with similar complaints: people's hotmail accounts were hacked, want to close the account, are running in circles with no way to close the account. The MS support reps seem fairly helpful, but basically just point people to the MS billing support site, asking that people contact them directly. Wait a second, you're Microsoft. I don't care what department handles it, if you work there. You find out the information and help me.

I know all of this complaining is about basically a free service. But it's a service I (used to) trust with my contact information and that trust was breached by a security violation. And when I try to leave the arrangement, I'm lead through a maze that gets me back to where I started.

If this were any other company, I'd write a letter to the CEO about it, and probably get some action or something. But since this is Microsoft, I couldn't do that without fearing that I'd get a chair thrown in my face by crazy ol' Ballmer.




Monday, December 07, 2009

Idea for Streaming to iPod

I'm not sure if the lala acquisition would help with this, or if this is something Apple is even interested in doing, but I had a really great idea a few days ago that Apple could incorporate into iPods:

Stream your whole library to your iPhone/iPod touch.

My music library is currently sitting at 30GB. Even if I got the 32GB touch or Iphone, I'd want to save some space for application data, pictures, videos, etc. So why not sync, say, 10% of my newest or most highly played or rated songs to the device, and make the rest of my library available, stramed right from my Computer to the device?

For it to work, it would have to be seamless. So if I'm online, it will let me browse my entire library. If I listen to a song, sync it locally. If I'm online, only show me the songs that are synced locally.

Even though this would be great, I have a feeling the record companies might shit themselves for some reason if this was done. Best case scenario, Apple would only make your 'purchased' songs available for streaming. Because obviously anything in iTunes that I didn't buy from ITMS must have been pirated, right Apple?

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Sticking to a System (or Not)

I'm a big fan of Getting Things Done. It lays out a pretty good system for dealing with tasks that need to be done. I find it helps to know the workflow and follow it by habit so that I can quickly burn through my to-do list and not get too stressed about new tasks or requests coming in. It's a pretty good system and it works for me.
There's always exceptions.
Today I set out to do a fairly small task on my list. Probably a 10-15 minute task all-in-all, involving setting up a small informational page on our company intranet. As I got into it, I realized that the page would be way better if it was part of a broader site containing related information, with the page I was setting up one of several sub-pages. It's the kind of organizational thing I really like setting up, and something I honestly thought would make a big difference where I work.
So I just did it.
Or most of it anyway. The point is, I completely waivered from what I was doing and spent about an hour and a half on this new task. The idea and the creativity hit me and I acted on it. If I had strictly followed the GTD system, I would have had to stop and add it to my to-do list, made an outline of what I wanted to do, and then get to work on it. If I'd done that, I would have completely lost that creative drive I was on. I would have had the task or outline sitting there the next day, not be as excited about it anymore, and probably not have done it.
I'm not saying there's not a time and place for that kind of planning and brainstorming, and I'm not even saying that GTD gives you a strict set of rules to follow. My point is that I had a system that worked, but I knew when I neeed to break from it, and came up with some great output as a result.
I've seen quite a few project managers who have their PMP certifications who follow every project exactly according to the methodologies laid out by the Project Management Institute, only to have their projects languish or fail. They spent so much time making sure their project was being done to 'code' that they weren't able to adapt to the project's unique situation or stakeholders. The PMI, like GTD, has some great methodologies, but I think it's important to understand when they need to be used and when they can be forgotten if a proejct is going to have any real success.
In a broader sense, I think this can be a problem with other 'systems'. From ones as small as diets to more important ones like religion, ideology, and even laws. You can follow a diet, but you'll drive yourself crazy if you never have a chocolate bar ever again. There are those who choose to interpret everything in the Bible literally (snake handling, subjugation of women), and those who just follow the important stuff (love, compassion, forgiveness.) Who are the people you'd rather hang out with?

Monday, July 20, 2009

Twitter Follower Breakdown

So I just realized my Twitter account has 96 followers. I've never really cared that much about getting a bunch of followers. Mostly I just use Twitter to rant about stuff, spread propaganda about my own beliefs, or follow people of interest.

But 96 seemed like a lot of people. I started wondering who all these people were. I knew I had some friends that I exchanged tweets with, and I know I get 'X is now following you' emails every now and then but I rarely follow back or pay much attention. So I did what any good nerd would do. I exported my followers to a spreadsheet, categorized them and made a chart:

Here's how I broke it down:

Bacon - 27%
The biggest category by far. By 'bacon' I mean stuff that's not technically spam, but that is some company or website that I don't care about in the least who is following me to build their follower list or profile, hope that I'll follow back, and generally market their business. All the best to them, but I almost never follow these people back.

No idea - 23%
People who seem like good people who have decided to follow me for whatever reason. I have no idea what lead them to me, have no connection to them whatsoever, and I rarely follow back. I know that's not good Twitter etiquette, but so be it. I try to keep my following list down to a manageable level of interesting people, so there's just not room for these people.

Friend - 14%
A person I actually know in real life who updates regularly and that I frequently exchange with. I wish this was the largest category, but I fear it never will be.

Friend who never updates - 14%
A friend who signed up, scanned their address books for contacts, followed me, posted once, and never updated again.

Spam - 9%
This is surprisingly smaller than I thought it would be. I really assumed that 99% of the follows I was getting was spam. But even 9% is too high I think. Especially annoying is a lot of these followers have been around for a while and haven't been banned yet. If there was a 'report abuse' button I'd use it, and these jerks might go away.

Company/celebrity I follow - 7%
Self explanatory. I follow a few 'celebrities' (mostly noted tech writers) and some of them are cool enough to follow me back. Also in this list are companies that I want updates on (like @Tweetdeck, @Boxee) that decide to follow me back. Good job to everyone on this list. You know who your fans are, and you engage with them. Seth would be proud.

Common Interest - 4%
Most of these are people I found during searches for updates on the Toronto Outside Workers Strike whose comments I liked.

Foreign Language - 3%
One tweets Spanish, the other German. I assume they speak English, but I speak neither. I have no idea why they follow me.

This data is basically anecdotal, but it's not going to stop me from making wild conclusions based on it. So what are they?

  1. Most of your followers are people you don't care about, are trying to sell you something, or are people who don't even really use Twitter.
  2. Don't stress out that much about how many followers you have, because it's basically meaningless. Tweet what you feel like, follow interesting people, and have fun.
FYI. I used tweetake to get my list of followers as a *.csv file. It asks for your Twitter password, so use at your own risk, but it looked legit enough to me.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Mac vs. PC on Price:" My Take

Wow, is there any debate on the Internet that is more covered than Mac vs. PC? Probably not. Maybe Star Wars vs. Star Trek. Or Superman vs. Hulk. (Superman FTW, but more on that later.) Anyway, I'm not really a fanboy of either Mac or PC, but I do choose to use a PC, and I think I have a pretty good reason why:


Yes, value. Not just price, but actual value, to me. PC's are less expensive, and yet they do everything I need them to do.

Now, I know that if I owned a Mac, it would be a better experience. Nice hardware to look at. Software that is nice to look at, intuitive, and easy-to-use. No bloatware installed when you buy it. But you pay for that nicer experience. To me, the frills just aren't worth it.

It's like with luxury cars. I drive a Honda Fit. Cheap car, no frills like air conditioning or built-in GPS, or cruise control. But for the amount of driving that I do, it's great. And the seats fold down. I know that if I bought a Lexus, the drive would be nicer, I'd be more comfortable in the car, and it would probably be a lot nicer to look at. But the extra price I'd have to pay for those frills just isn't worth it to me. I'm happy enough with the fit. So my Fit is a better value.

Same with PC's. PC's are like a Fit (or Yaris, et al.) Mac's are like a Lexus. I'm just not willing to pay that extra bit of money for the nicer experience. The benefit that I'm getting isn't worth the extra money. To me anyway. Maybe to some people it is, and god bless 'em. If I had more disposable income, I'd probably treat myself and get a Mac. But for now, a PC does the trick.

And I'd just like to call bollocks on the "total-cost-of-ownership" argument. The argument goes that owning a PC carries a 'higher cost of ownership" than a Mac because you have to buy virus protection, and it doesn't come with free software like iPhoto, iMovie, etc. And you might have to pay to have someone 'clean it up' for you. First of all, virus protection is free from AVG, as is most of the software you'll want. Picasa for photos is free. OpenOffice, iTunes, lots of others, free software for almost anything you'd need out there.

So maybe computers intimidate you a bit, and you want to pay the extra price for a Mac so everything 'just works'. Or maybe you like the nicer interface and hardware of a Mac and you want to pay for that. But for me, the extra price is not worth the benefit I'd get.

Friday, May 01, 2009

MacRumors' Buying Guide Helps You Time Your Next Apple Purchase [Apple]: If you're wondering when the best time ..

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Semi-Automatic Tunes

So this is how awesome technology (especially web 'cloud' services) are these days.
I now use as a place for friends to upload music to. I get an e-mail when new files are added. If I'm at work, I save files I'm interested in to my DropBox folder, which automatically syncs to my DropBox folder at home. Are you following me camera guy?
At home, I have Belvedere set up to automatically monitor mp3 files in my dropbox folder and add them to iTunes.

In iTunes, I have a 'smart playlist' of 'recently added' tracks, which those files get added to. When I plug my iPod in, it syncs that playlist automatically.

So when I'm out and about and want to hear new music, I check out my 'recently played' list and listen to new stuff.

That's wizard-level shit right there. Thanks to: