Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Blast from the Past: Old Timey Computering!

I'm still ensconced in a network-wide malware infestation, that somehow manages to span two PCs, a MacBook Pro and at least one of our two Android phones. It seems to have started immediately after a party on Saturday, and I can't explain it. I've had no success in eradicating it yet. But while I work on it, I can think back to a simpler time. A time when computing was relatively virus- and malware-free. Come back with me, won't you?

1. CompuServe - This was an early online service, one that catered to the more professional set. It was kind of absorbed by AOL.

2. America Online -  Technically still around as AOL (and yes, I still use it), it was originally a more user-centered online service that had no internet access. But it had lots of people hooking up on their message boards!

3. Prodigy - One of the granddaddies of the online experience, Prodigy was about the best thing going for a little while. AOL and the advent of the World Wide Web pretty much killed them off.

4. Atari 400 Computer - One of the earliest computers for ordinary consumers, this one tried to parlay the very popular VCS 2600 video game system into computing success. It didn't ever get very poplar.

5. Commodore Vic20 - Even earlier than the Atari, this one paved the way for the much more successful. . .

6. Commodore 64 - This one was probably the most popular computer to predate Windows and Apple systems. They ran with this one long after it had been surpassed by more advanced computers.

7. Apple II - Apple may have always been behind PCs on the business front, but they always lead the way in schools, where the Apple II ruled. Still, they tried to market it as a home computer.

8. WebTV - Too far ahead of its time to be workable, what it set out to do is now done by other devices.

And while malicious code writers weren't as prevalent back in those days, I really wouldn't want to go back to them, would you? I'll sort these problems out, and undoubtedly encounter new ones. But one day, the devices we're using now will seem as quaint and simple as the ones in these ads.

For now, have a great (short) week. Happy Tuesday!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Behind the Blogger: A Malware Infestation at Greenlee Gazette

I'm a computer guru. I'm not professionally trained, but I'm naturally inclined toward tweaking and poking around in computer settings and whatnot. I'm "that guy" you call when your computer is doing weird things or is on the fritz. 99% of the time, I can either fix it, or tell you what to do to fix it. I've been using Windows computers since they were MS-DOS computers. But what does the guru do when he's got a problem?

Every so often, even I get a problem. I can get complacent, trust something I ought not, accidentally clicked the wrong thing, or even have gotten suckered by a warning that looked real, but wasn't. Usually, I realize my error quickly, and reverse course. I know a lot of the tricks of the trade to restore things to normal without too much fuss.

Two things have plagued me that have no known source of infection, and one even happened both at home and at work. That first one was a very strange audio anomaly. Commercials would play over the speakers with no program running them. They would be both in English and in foreign languages, and they would eventually pile one on top of the other until it was an unintelligible cacophony. I could isolate the audio on my mixer settings and silence them, but eventually all of the processing power would be leached away. It was maddening. But, after running the proper tools (Malwarebytes), using the Googles to isolate the proper files in the registry, and slogging through the guts of the computer, I killed the problem. And again at home.

I still don't know what it was, or how I got it. And to be truthful, I'm not sure what the final thing was that worked. Funny how that goes, you try so many things, you can't remember the sequence. Anyway, though I slayed that beast, there is a new one plaguing me the last two days.

First, I should explain that I run dual monitors, and I am usually running Internet Explorer 11, Firefox and AOL at the same time (AOL?!? Yeah, I know. Shut up, it's how I work, okay?). And this new demon affects both AOL--and get this--FIREFOX. Not IE. It's working just fine. No, this one is throwing up random ads from Firefox and AOL, for both bogus and real products. Sometimes it's TuneUp Utilities, a program that used to be very helpful but bloomed into a nuisance, sometimes it's WIX.com. Other times it's for very shady programs that cause the very thing I'm trying to get rid of. And sometimes, it's bogus upgrade notices for video players I don't even have, to the point of attempting to start downloads of the programs.

It's driving me bananas. I've gone through my bag of tricks. I'm using Windows 8.1, so I've got Windows Defender already. I've run Malwarebytes several times. I installed and ran Avast! I've tried SUPERAntiSpyware. All of these programs found problems and allegedly cleaned them. And the problem remains exactly the same. No change. Presently, I'm going into my old bag of tricks, a program called SpyBot Search & Destroy, something I haven't used for years. But I'm desperate! I'm really not sure what to try next. At present, this problem doesn't seem particularly dangerous, it's just incredibly annoying.

So, I'm sending this out to the universe, in the hopes someone stumbles upon it via Google or Bing. Any help will be appreciated. And also, could someone please tell me what purpose this crap serves in the first place? It's garbagy, clunky, obviously crap stuff popping up. I can't imagine it fooling a neophyte. A lot of work must go into this kind of malware. But how in the world is it worth it? If their aim is simply to torment and annoy, then mission accomplished. But if the aim is leaching money from people, they really must be trolling for dummies. Because if I wasn't a guru? I'd throw my hands up and call "that guy" to just come fix it.

UPDATED: I should also say that whatever is going on, in both AOL and Firefox, ordinary ads that appear on websites have been replaced with really ugly, very cheesy "your computer is running slow," "Microsoft certified"-type ads with blinking "click here" and "PLAY"-type buttons. We're talking 90s-style, wouldn't-fool-an-idiot ads. These are very annoying also.

End of Summer Lazy Days

Yes, it looks as though I've neglected the blog of late, doesn't it? It's because I have! I usually take it easier in the summer, but this year I've really thrown caution to the wind. And since the unofficial end of summer is Labor Day weekend, I've been taking it seriously by not blogging. I hope to get up a Blast from the Past and maybe a few other posts on Monday evening. But until then, I'm putting my feet up!

Happy Labor Day.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Rachel Maddow Discusses ISIS and Ferguson on The Late Show with David Letterman

"Knee Defender" Airplane Device Ignites Air Travel Battle: To Recline or Not?

This cartoon--overstating things a bit--is from Slate.
I've written in this space, recently even, about the extreme divide between Americans, on a variety of subjects. Usually, these battles fall directly along partisan lines, but there's a new one. New to me, anyway. And that is, the subject of whether or not an airline passenger should recline their seat in flight.

This never occurred to me as a "me vs. them" issue. I mean, never. I don't always recline my chair, but I often do. The comfort level increase is marginal, but it's often easier to catch a few Zs, or even get a better vantage point of your electronic device, book or movie from the ever-so-slightly-reclined position. Ellen DeGeneres used to do a bit on the laughable difference between reclined and upright, with a tiny shift of her upper body deciding her fate in an emergency: "[upright] live. . . [slight tilt] die."

The "Knee Defender", Image from USAToday
But, with the news item about a diverted United Airlines flight, sparked by two passengers fighting over leg room (and the use of a "Knee Defender" gadget that locks another passenger's seat upright), two camps have emerged: a) people who think that passengers who recline are unfathomably rude; and b) people who recline, and are mightily pissed that they're being called rude!  The no-recliners claim that the other passenger is invading their space, and the recliners claim that the other passenger is preventing them from using the space they've paid for.

There is no way this is a new issue, but I'll be damned if I've ever heard of it. Certainly, occasionally, a seat will over-recline, and I can see politely asking for someone to adjust a bit. And I'm aware that not everyone is 5' 8" like me, and are more cramped than I am. And I'd get it if I was over-hogging an arm rest, if I were grotesquely obese, and overflowed into another passenger's seat. I'd get it if by reclining my seat, I was doing something that is somehow not allowed, breaking the rules by misusing the seat. But these seats are designed to recline!

You can put me firmly in the "I am inclined to recline" camp. If you ask me nicely, I may accommodate you. If you're rude to me about it? Forget it. I'll wallow in that reclined seat.


United flight diverts over 'Knee Defender' fight

On Sunday, a fight between two passengers over personal space, a thrown cup of water and the use of a controversial plastic gadget that prevents airline seats from reclining caused United Airlines Flight 1462 from Newark, N.J., to Denver to divert to Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, the AP reports. . .

Read more at: USAToday

And here is a link to a previous story about the appropriateness of reclining: The Recline and Fall of Western Civilization

Lars Larson: Images of Foley Beheading "Perfectly Fair" for GOP Ads

Lars Larson, FOX "News" guest, and irredeemable
cretin. Image from source, RawStory.
I'm actually very interested to see--though I can wait until my dotage, trust me--to see how a conservative Republican presidency is treated by the press, and the talking head class, post Obama. Particularly the Right Wing World part of the media world. Because, I still remember the days of George W. Bush, when it wasn't just frowned upon to criticize the President in a time of war, it was un-American, unpatriotic, and worse. Am I the only one who remembers phrases like, "why do you hate America?" out of the mouths of the Sean Hannitys and Rush Limbaughs of the world?

With our current president, all of that is of course out the window. There is nothing that can't be said, no mud that can't be flung. Remind me, are we still at war? Yes? Does that mean the GOP and its apologists are being supportive of the president's policies, or at least holding their tongues? Why, no they are not, are they? In fact, they'll take some of the ugliest, most awful war crimes, and use them for political advantage. I'm just curious if they'll pull another 180 if they ever reclaim the White House.

Oh, and by the way, I'd also like a little consistency in the faux outrages we seemingly are required to endure. The vacations and golfing thing? STFU. You know, I know, everybody knows that President Obama has had less recreational time than any other recent president. Again, STFU.


Fox pundit: Images from Foley beheading video are ‘perfectly fair’ for GOP campaign ads
Conservative radio host Lars Larson told Fox News on Tuesday that it was “perfectly fair” for Republican candidates to use images from a video of an American journalist being beheaded in campaign ads attacking President Barack Obama. A campaign video advertisement released on Monday by New Mexican Republican Senate candidate Allen Weh includes a frame from a gruesome video which showed the beheading of American photographer James Foley. The ad crops out Foley so only the disturbing image of the masked killer holding a knife is visible. . .

Read more at: RawStory

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

What Happens (Outside of) Vegas: Shooting Instructor Shot and Killed by 9-Year-Old Student

Oh, my. You hear about tragedies like this, and depressingly often, but usually it isn't at a place you're familiar with. The Last Stop is a tourist trap in northern Arizona, most of the way to Hoover Dam. It's literally the last stop for much of anything before you get to Nevada. Along with Rosie's Den a little ways south, they offer gas and food, and touristy things like trips to the Grand Canyon, and lottery tickets. You might be surprised to know that lottery tickets are forbidden by the Nevada state constitution. I'll let you puzzle out how that got in there on your own

From their web site, at
So, if a Las Vegan gets it in his head to buy some PowerBall or Mega Millions tickets, they can head down to Primm at the California line (where you're virtually guaranteed heavy traffic), or to Arizona. And The Last Stop is the first place you come to. Plus Rosie's burned down some time back, and has never really returned to its former glory. So, every so often, I'll go down there, most recently two or three weeks ago. One thing I probably noticed, but didn't mentally register was the "Bullets & Burgers" outdoor gun range. I have made a mental note of some of their more militaristic and "America, F* Yeah!" kind of d├ęcor, but mostly ignored it. After all, it's mixed in with signs for Aliens and other articles of whimsy. But, I'm sure nobody's feeling whimsical tonight.


Officials: Girl Accidentally Kills Gun Instructor
A 9-year-old girl accidentally killed an Arizona shooting instructor as he was showing her how to use an automatic Uzi, authorities said Tuesday. Charles Vacca, 39, of Lake Havasu City, died Monday shortly after being airlifted to University Medical Center in Las Vegas, Mohave County sheriff's officials said. Vacca was standing next to the girl at the Last Stop outdoor shooting range in White Hills when she pulled the trigger and the recoil sent the gun over her head, investigators said. Authorities said the girl was at the shooting range with her parents. . .

Read more at: ABC News

The Gay Thing: Pastor Proposes Amendment to Jail Gays for 10 Years

Yeah, I know, why give this crazy guy a platform? But it's already out there, and there's another reason to highlight stuff like this: it seems to be spreading. As marriage equality spreads--and it seems likely to become the law of the land nationally sooner rather than later--the anti-gay backlash is starting to get nutty. Or rather, nuttier than usual. This guy is bananas, but there are a bunch more just like him.

The good Pastor Williams. Nice red neck you've got there.
Image from source, Raw Story.
So anyway, this guy likely sees himself as a patriot, but he doesn't seem to understand what the Constitution is, what's in it, what it's for, and how you amend it. I mean, if we just put the odiousness of what he'd like to do aside for the moment, his proposed amendment would be in conflict with the first amendment. But beyond that, the amendment would require massive support in both houses of Congress, as well as in a supermajority of the states. Constitutional amendments are extremely difficult to pass, and for good reason.

I'm not sure this punishment has
been completely thought through.
Beyond that, this guy wants to criminalize private sexual behavior. Behavior--it should be pointed out--that is practiced by straight people as well as gay people. That should freak everybody out. But even with this extreme proposal, the guy is a chickenshit. The Bible doesn't call for imprisoning gay people, it calls for the death penalty. As long as he's shooting for the moon here, he might as well go for it, right? But he wussed out. Not that his proposal would enjoy an ounce more support either way.

It's time for people to stop proposing changes to the Constitution that sever no other purpose but to limit rights. That's totally outside the purpose of the document. And you would think these "strict constructionist"-types would know that.


Pastor calls to imprison gays for ‘ten years hard labor’ with new constitutional amendment
A pastor who uses his Internet platform to teach political lessons based on conservative Christian ideology has proposed a constitutional amendment to punish LGBT people for “ten years in prison at hard labor.” In a video posted to his PreachingPolitics.com website last month that was flagged by the Good As You blog on Monday, Pastor Michael V. Williams asserts that Christians have been “increasingly tolerant” of gay people over the last 50 years. . .

Read more at: Raw Story

Monday, August 25, 2014

Billy Crystal's Emmys Tribute to Robin Williams

I'll just be over here, I think I have something in my eye. . .

Blast from the Past: Pop Culture Rivalries, or, Which is Better?

This week's edition of Blast from the Past is being written between social engagements. So, please forgive me if it's a little long on concept and short on details. I got to thinking about the different camps that settle on any topic. These days, that would be right vs. left, GOP vs. Democrats. Not obvious things, like social issues. Everything. And of course there are rivalries with sports teams, and in other areas of life. But there are also Pop Culture rivalries. Almost everyone has one side or the other (or neither, of course). So, let's get started

1. & 2. - The Brady Bunch  vs. The Partridge Family - This could also be seen as Marcia vs. Laurie or Greg vs. Keith. I was always a Brady.

3. & 4. - The Munsters vs. The Addams Family - Two short-lived but well remembered monster-themed sitcoms ran during the same seasons back in the 60s. Some like both, but most prefer one over the other. I'm an Addams.

5. & 6. - Bewitched vs. I Dream of Jeannie - This one is really Samantha vs. Jeannie, and though I adore Barbara Eden, for me, the clear winner has always been that winsome witch, played by Elizabeth Montgomery. In fact, I'll put her miles above anything else on this list!

7. Gilligan's Island vs. Gilligan's Island - This rivalry is within one show, another short lived, but well loved sitcom. Of course, this battle is between Ginger and Mary Ann. So, I included both theme songs, the one with "and the rest," and the one with "the Professor and Mary Ann!" I fall on the Mary Ann side of this fight.

8. & 9. Lost in Space vs. Star Trek - How this is a contest, I don't even know. Obviously Star Trek is the superior program and concept, but Lost has its fans.

And that's going to have to do! Have a great week, and Happy Monday!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Behind the Blogger: Why on Earth do People Install Tiny Kitchen Sinks?

I may have written about this subject before, but if I have, it is my insatiable curiosity for why so many people apparently intentionally hobble their kitchens! I do a lot of looking at houses online, both out of curiosity, and because I'm planning for the future. There's a strong possibility that we'll be moving to a different state in the next couple of years, and I'm trying to get a feel for what's out there.

See what I mean?
At the same time, we've recently done some home renovations, so I am familiar with the decision making process when doing so. Picking countertops, faucets and sinks--for instance--takes a lot of research, comparison shopping, compromises, and weighing pros and cons. We were stuck between a 60/40 split kitchen sink, and a large single-basin for our kitchen. We settled on the 60/40, with the large side for doing dishes, and the small side to hold a dish drainer. We love it, it works for us. But our friends opted for a large single basin that could hold their cookie sheets, and roasting pans, etc. For the record, our large basin holds almost everything we use (including a turkey roaster), but we're not gourmet cooks, just your usual workaday types.

Looks a little wider, but still. . . At least it does
have a tall faucet.
A large single basin was our second choice, but for the way we do things, we would have had to store a dish rack on the counter, or make room under the sink. Ditto for a rubber wash tub, because you wouldn't want to be filling that huge sink up every time you do dishes, right? Oh, and by the way, we do have a dishwasher, but there are several items we don't put in there, and some things the dishwasher just doesn't clean well. Anyway. . .

To get to the meat of my irritation, whenever I look at houses on Zillow, particularly in Baltimore (but also in other cities), it is the kitchens that are the make-or-break the property for me. Having just completed our counter/sink/faucet/fridge/microwave overhaul, I just can't go back. Not unless the rest of the property just knocks me out. But in even 90% of the houses with great or passable kitchens, I am sure to find a single basin sink. A tiny, single-basin sink. They might be deep, they might be shallow, but they're like 20" wide, over a cabinet space that will hold a 30"-35" wide sink.

The "before" sink in our house, used for about
15 years.
My question: Why on EARTH would you intentionally hobble your kitchen in this way? And why are so many people doing it? Was there a fad or hot kitchen trend for tiny sinks? Was there a surplus? I can't stand it, I want to know! Is there a water shortage in Baltimore and surrounding areas? Do none of these people cook or do dishes?

And while we're at it, here's another question. Tiny sink or not, why would you redo your kitchen counters, and drop in a top-mount, ugly, tinny, $75-range, Home Depot sink? And then, put one of those hideous, 4"-arched, 70s-era faucets? And I'll go further!!! Those tiny, 4" nubbin-sized, crystal-plastic-knobbed bathroom faucets? Okay, okay, YES, we did too, before the renovation. Though after, I marveled that we kept them for so long. Faucets aren't that expensive. Who decided that the standard sizes would be little, cramped things with no utility? Arrgghh. But, I'm getting off on a tangent. The core question, somebody please explain to me: Why did little, tiny, single-basin sinks in kitchens become a thing?
Whether it's a double like ours, or a single, why go small?

Right Wing World: Perspective on President Obama, Vacations and Presidentin'

I knew that President Obama was going to have a tough row to hoe as President, and said so back then. I knew that the opposition would be unrelenting and unapologetic. It frankly amazes me that the American public can have such short historical memory, and even ponder voting GOP in the fall. It makes no kind of sense.

This GOP House of Representatives and minority Senate has been the least effective, and most obstructive Congress in American History. Their leaders are John Boner Boehner and Mitch McConnell. . .the bronze bomber and the sleepy tortoise. McConnell failed in his efforts to make Obama a one-term President, but has been just as intractable in doing anything whatsoever that might be something Obama wants to do--even if it was originally a Republican idea. In short, voting Republican because you're unhappy with the state of things MAKES NO SENSE.

Image from source, NewsCorpse
But look no further than the current Right Wing World freakouts about Obama golfing or Obama going on vacation to see the cognitive dissonance at work. It's only one of many examples where every president does something, Obama does it less, but Obama is the devil. It. Makes. No. Sense.


STFU About Obama’s Vacations Already And Remember Where Obama Was May 1, 2011
The incessant and ignorant fixation on when, where, and how often President Obama takes vacations is becoming surreal in its frequency and fervor. The President’s critics seem to be obsessed with the issue. Never mind that Obama has taken far fewer vacation days than his predecessors, or that there has never been any negative incident arising from his holidays, or that the presidency travels with the President wherever he goes, the compulsion to relentlessly attack this President is irresistible to the politicians and pundits on the right. And they are not above outright lying about it. . .

Read more at: NewsCorpse

Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters Takes ALS Ice Bucket Challenge to a sCARRIE Level

His dirty pillows are showing. Hat tip to my li'l sis for the link. Thanks, Jen!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Oh, Good! MItch McConnell Promises Shutdown if GOP Takes Senate

You know, this isn't the first time Mitch McConnell warned us how awful he is. When he says shit like this, believe him.


McConnell eyes more shutdowns following GOP gains
It’s tempting to think the 2014 midterms may not matter much. Assuming Republicans keep their House majority, which seems very likely, the legislative process in 2015 and 2016 will probably look an awful lot like the legislative process since 2011 – congressional inaction. GOP lawmakers will continue to reject compromises and negotiations no matter who controls the upper chamber. . .

Read more at: MSNBC 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Rick Perry Booked on Felony Charges

Oops. Image from source, AOL
I know, I know. My conservative readers (both of you, hi guys!) may say that the charges on Perry are flimsy and won't hold up. That might be true. There are plenty of pundits on the left saying that very thing. That's something you'll rarely see on the right, by the way. The John Boner Boehner lawsuit against President Obama is flimsier, but Right Wing World drools at the prospect, or wants it to go further to impeachment!

So please, let me take a little joy in that headline, willya?


Texas Gov. Perry arrives for booking on two felony charges

Texas Gov. Rick Perry arrived at a county courthouse Tuesday for booking on two felony counts of abuse of power for carrying out a threat to veto funding for state public corruption prosecutors. "I'm going to fight this injustice with every fiber of my being. And we will prevail," Perry said before walking into the Travis County Courthouse in Austin, where a grand jury indicted him last week. . .

Read more at: AOL

Don Pardo, the Voice of Saturday Night Live, Dead at 96

Well, this was of course inevitable. But sad. Don Pardo has simply been a voice on NBC practically since there has been an NBC. My first knowledge of him was as the voice of Saturday Night Live from episode 1 in 1975, and right up to the present, missing only a season. Pardo's voice is so distinctive, I'm curious if they'll just drop an announcer from here on out. Who could replace him? RIP, Mr. Pardo


Don Pardo Dead: Voice Of 'Saturday Night Live,' Dies At 96

Don Pardo, television and radio announcer best known as the voice of NBC's "Saturday Night Live," died on Monday, August 18 in Tucson, Ariz., his daughter and an NBC representative confirmed.
Cause of death has not been released at this time, according to The Hollywood Reporter. . .

Read more at: Huffington Post

Rick Perry's Fool in Prison Blues (Another Rocky Mountain Mike Song Parody)

Yes, I know this is a cheat; using a Rocky Mountain Mike parody, two posts in a row. But I tell you, the news isn't snarkable at the moment, at least not with my meager talents. So, I'm leaving it to Mike, a professional! Plus, it was an unexpected work night, so I have that as my excuse.

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