Banking Insecurity

Recently, I’ve been unable to use the Banc of America brokerage site. The site logs me out whenever I navigate from one section to the next. I emailed them, and got this response:

We are aware of a recent issue whereby the wallst.com cookie is now required on the Account Overview page. If the cookie is not accepted, you are logged off of the website. The issue appears to be the result of recent changes to the site, and the appropriate technology partners have been engaged. You can correct this issue by going to Safari – Preferences, then press the Security icon. Please press the radio button next to ‘Always’ and press the red button in the upper left corner to close the window.

Oh, the irony. While, on the one hand, Bank of America continually makes doing business with them increasingly cumbersome in the name of ‘security’ (e.g. the recent requirement to setup ‘SafePass’), they are now telling me that in order to use their website, I’ve got to configure my own browser as insecurely as possible.

Using two Garmin GSC 10 Cadence Sensors with a single Forerunner 305

In the past I’ve wondered whether it’s possible to use a single Garmin Forerunner 305 GPS trainer watch with two Garmin GSC 10 cadence sensors (i.e. with two different bicycles). The answer is, yes, you can; however, the device can only work with one sensor at a time. When you switch from one bike to the other, you have to enter Settings -> General -> Accessories -> Cadence Sensor, and from there perform a rescan, so that the 305 will pair with the other cadence sensor. So, you can only be paired with one sensor at a time.

It should be noted that when you pair the 305 with a cadence sensor, you should be well away from the other bike. If you try to pair when you’re physically close to both bikes, you’ll get a “Multiple Cadence Sensors” error as soon as you select “Start Rescan”.

Lucky me.

I’ve been a happy owner of a hacked “Jailbroken” iPhone for a long time. My iPhone has been running perfectly well for me on version 1.1.1 for, well, since I bought it several months ago.

I also work with young people who live (and sometimes cut themselves) on the very bleeding and dripping edge of technology. One such “yoot” (taking a line from My Cousin Vinnie) told me the other day:

“Matt, I can upgrade you to 1.1.3 in about 30 seconds. It’s smooth, and easy, and risk free.”

So I caved. A day and a half later, my iPhone was running 1.1.3, and in my case, this carried both benefits and drawbacks.

Benefit: I can now manually reorganize the icons on the screen. If I don’t like the SMS icon at the top, I now have the power to do something about it. I can drag it to the bottom.

Drawback: The telephone ringing sound no longer works, so I now miss all calls. (Same with the alarm sound; so I now get up late and miss appointments.) According to the Apple Support website, “This is an issue with Jailbroken iPhones running 1.1.3.”

And, of course, there’s no way to go back. So, I now spend my days re-organizing icons, staring at the screen and waiting for phone calls to come in.

As my buddy Niall said, “Who needs a phone to do something as old fashioned as RING for goodness sake. I mean, you can drag your icons round.” Lucky me.

Back to blogging…

Wow, it’s been a long time, but I’m back to blogging. Business has been going well, and that’s received most of my non-family time, but things are settling down, and some blogging time should free up now.

What’s new:

  • Bought an Apple TV and a new Phillips 32″ LCD screen. I’m in love! Oh how I’m waiting for the “Connect to iTunes store” button. That’ll be all she wrote for me.

  • Finished up The Wade, and it’s now on the market. The Wade is Henderson & Henderson’s latest home on Georgia’s Lake Lanier.

  • Launched the new MLK.com site back in February. MLK wanted a Flash site, so we architected a hybrid Flash/XHTML/CSS site using Flex and integrating with a back-end Ruby on Rails application. It’s one of the most advanced web applications we’ve built to date! (Dang do we have some rock stars in MakaluMedia!)

  • Won a contract to build a site for some successful people in the US, that’s going to make big positive environmental impact. Got a lot of high profile backing. I’m super excited to see where it leads!

  • Had to make a difficult business decision. Hope it was the right one.

  • Gotten heavily into GPS. More on that later…

  • Business wise, made the big decision to reduce our client work in the Spain office, and go for the development and selling of own product. We’re brewing on a few ideas, and hope to have the plate clean and ready to start work in September. If you’re a Rails developer with a passion for user experience, we’d love to talk to you.

  • Lost my digital camera, and replaced it with a Canon IXUS 850. I love the wide angle!

  • Was requested to make dinner tonight, and had the fun experience of trying to figure out where my wife would have logically stored the pasta sauce. Laundry room next to the vacuum cleaner? (It’s been there in the past.) Nope. Behind the paper towels? (been there too…) Nope. “Honey, where’s the past sauce?”… “It’s either in the laundry room, or behind the paper towels.” … “Uh, no, I’ve checked there.” [hair dryer starts from upstairs…] “Honey? Honey?” Great. Ah ha! Almost behind the coffee machine. Should have been obvious…

US Telephone Services

This US is clearly ahead in many fields, but telephone services doesn’t appear to be one of them. I think it’s long been agreed that mobile services in the US are far behind their European and Asian counterparts (and this was in line with my personal experience last time there.) But after witnessing my mother’s recent adventures, I’m starting to think this might apply to fixed-line service as well.

Since I was about knee-high to a grass-hopper (yeah, I’m from the south) our family had the same telephone number, with, I think, AT&T service. Nothing special, it worked.

About half a year ago, my mom succumbed to the lure of internet telephony and VoIP. So, she switched to a VoIP provider in the US, and for about the next six months was practically incommunicated with the rest of the world. (Oh the number “gizmos” that failed and had to be replaced.) So, now, she’s switched back to a traditional phone service, but with a different carrier. After losing our family’s longtime phone number, and then getting it back, I tried to call home today. It went something like this:

  1. Robotic Voice: Hi, the number you are calling doesn’t accept phone calls from just anybody. Please tell me your name.

  2. Me: Matt

  3. Robotic Voice: Thank you, please hold while we check that it’s ok for you to call.

    [Elevator Music]

  4. Robotic Voice: Thank you, please record your message after the beep.

I then called my mom’s cell phone, and she said, “Did you just try to call? Some voice said they were connecting me to you.”

Oh well….

What's the world coming to?

Global Warming: You know it’s a problem. A big problem. And the kind of problem that just sort of creeps up on you. But how you fix it? Equally big problem. Who knows?

My email is sort of the same thing. I’ve spent the last hour cleaning, and my “Actionable Inbox” is down to 30 mails. My “Holding” box has 60. And my “Waiting for…” box also has 60. My Spam box has 4830 messages, accumulated over the last 30 days. (Spam Sieve report 99.5% accuracy, which means some 24 messages in there are probably good. I’m not going looking for them, though.)

So much of my time is now spent processing email. I’d hate to look at a graph of my email processing time per week, over the past five years, in fear of what that might indicate things will be like in another five years.

Maybe Donald Knuth got it right.

Perspective

A good point was made this morning, that my recent posts have consistently been critical of Spain, and that some perspective would be in order. And that’s true. While this country, or more particularly this area of this country (Andalusia), is probably the most laid-back, non-serious place I’ve ever been in my life (short of Nepal), you’d be hard pressed to find anywhere on this planet offering a higher quality of life. (And perhaps those things go hand in hand.)

Just another day in southern Spain

Today was, as I’m coming to learn, just another typical day in southern Spain:

  1. On the way to work, I stopped by the computer hardware wholesaler, who called yesterday to report that my two new hard drives and printer were in and ready for pickup. At the shop, I discovered that, unlike Germany, you can’t just pickup stuff and then conveniently pay later by bank transfer; you have to pay prior to pickup. (Too many problems with people not paying, apparently.) Ok, no big deal.

  2. Seems one of our local clients has decided they don’t want to pay, and will no longer answer the phone or respond to emails. We were supposed to meet them in their office yesterday afternoon to discuss it. When I arrived to work this morning, my colleague reported that they had closed the entire office before he arrived. Seems not paying is a common thing with local clients.

  3. We were supposed to have a sofa delivered to the office today, to be paid cash on delivery (of course.) They promised to call first, before making the delivery. It just happened that precisely when I had to run off for an errand, they arrived, without calling ahead. After some quick mobile phone negotiations, I was given 15 minutes to get by scooter to the sofa store to pay. I broke some traffic laws, but managed to make it, and now we have a new sofa on which I’ll collapse after finishing this post.

  4. The air conditioner in our new office stopped working last week. The Carrier tech came by this morning, and discovered the roof unit had, no joke, blown over. He and I picked it up, restarted it, checked that it was ok, and I agreed to call the installation company to come secure it. Half an hour after the tech left, the unit stopped working again. The installation company arrived in the late afternoon to have a look.

  5. While looking at the interior air conditioning unit (in the ceiling of the bathroom), the new bathroom light fixture that the electrician installed yesterday exploded in dramatic fashion, nearly killing the air conditioner guy. So I called the electrician, and he’s coming out tomorrow to have a look.

  6. Meanwhile, the air conditioner guy discovered that when the air conditioner starts running, the voltage drops from 220 to 205, and the unit cuts off to protect itself. Apparently nothing’s wrong with the air conditioner, it wasn’t damaged by the fall, and the ball’s back in the electrician’s court. Called the electrician back, and he said it’s probably a problem with the local electrical company, but he’ll check it out when he comes tomorrow to look at the exploding light fixture.

And with that, it’s about time to go home. No wonder wine and sangria are so popular in this culture.

Daring Fireball, and the interesting state of social affairs

I just paid $35 for a t-shirt and one-year membership to help John Gruber realize his dream of working full-time on his weblog, Daring Fireball, and now I find myself gazing out the window asking why.

Although I’ve been reading John’s weblog for the past few years, I’ve never personally met him and I don’t think we’ve even emailed each other. And although I like his weblog, especially his linklog, it’s not something I’m even particularly crazy about. There’s a lot of other weblogs that I equally enjoy and look forward to reading.

So I know I didn’t pay because Daring Fireball is something I can’t live without.

Oddly enough, through the regular — granted one-way — dialog, I think I’ve come to feel some sort of odd friendship with him. And so I think I paid $35 to John in the same way I’d be happy to, based on nothing more than a request, help out a friend. Like, “No problem, man, anytime.”

Online Translators

The following email I received this morning is a good example of what can happen when you depend just a bit too much on online translators:

It would like to know itself the Guns N’ Roses has chance of touch that year with you, the event comes being the festival more expected by us fans of the band it to be confirmed, the band already I confirm in others big 8 festivais, to the all so far are 12 shows by the Europe!

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Scott Adams on giving money back

Scott Adams, on the Dilbert Blog, asks whether you’d return $1,000 dropped accidentally by a billionaire. He goes on to say:

A certain percentage of the population believes that God is watching them with one hand on a lightning bolt and the other on the trap door to Hell. About half of that group will also keep the money, under the theory that if God wanted the billionaire to have it, he never would have let him lose it in the first place.

Lost

In anticipation of the arrival of my new video iPod, we just purchased and downloaded the first season of “Lost” from the Apple Music Store. I don’t plan on watching the video on the iPod, but rather playing it through the A/V cable to the television.

I hope we like Lost as much as we enjoyed 24.

Surviving in Andalucia

If you want to survive living in Andalucia, in southern Spain, you’re going to need, in addition to a huge amount of patience, the following:

  • A darn good battery backup for your computers. Every time a cloud passes overhead, our electricity for some reason shuts off — temporarily, for periods of about 10 to 30 seconds. And don’t get one of the ones with an alarm. I generally know perfectly well when the power is out, and don’t need my UPS honking at me in the middle of the night for these short outages.
  • A whole lot of bottled water. This morning as I stood under the shower and turned on the water, I was doused with a new brownish variety of H2O. Seems the local water treatment plant had an accident, and large quantities of magnesium are being deposited into our water supply. We’ve been told the water can be used for “hygienic” purposes, but should not be consumed for prolonged periods. Yeah.
  • A good lawyer. Looks like we’ll be having our first get together with our brand new neighbors in court, as they’ve decided they don’t like the remodeling we did to our apartment four years ago. What a way to start a relationship.

I find it surprising that we have such spectacularly poor infrastructure here, given that just down the road you’ve got the White House replica of King Fahn from Saudi Arabia, where, until he passed on, he would come to visit every other year and spend a million Euros a day during the Summer months. Can’t imagine him putting up with brown water, and flaky electricity. (Then again, maybe he had his own water and electricity systems…)

Anyway, good food, good wine, (mostly) friendly people, and 340 days of sunshine a year go a long way to making up for such inconveniences, but still.

Cultural Differences?

My friend Neal, who lives in the United States, broke his finger recently, and was telling me about his treatment. I was kinda shocked at the contrast with respect to my own treatment, living in Spain, when I recently broke my toe.

Neal went to his HMO doctor, who inspected the swollen hand, and immediately recommended him to a “Hand Specialist.” Next day, the Hand Specialist took some x-rays and had Neal scheduled for surgery the very following day. Neal left surgery with a finger full of allen screws to allow for little weekly adjustments to make sure, when all healed up, that his finger is just like new. Neal has weekly follow-ups with x-rays to make sure everything’s on track. And Neal got some pain medicine.

On the other hand…

After breaking my little toe, I went to the local clinic’s emergency room, and waited, and waited, and waited, until I finally got to see the resident student doctor. Without hardly acknowledging my presence, he sends me off for x-rays. Thirty minutes later, I’m back in the office, the doc’s still busy studying something obviously much more important than me on his desk. He looks up at the x-rays, “Yep, it’s broken. In two places. Guess that must hurt.”

Me: “Yeah, doc, so, uh, what do I do? What’s the protocol? Will I ever walk again? Why is my entire foot purple? First time for me here, you know.” Doc: “Buddy tape it to the adjacent toe, and come back if it still hurts in two months.” Me: “Er, uh… Buddy what? Ok, so let’s talk about what that means. How do I manage with a broken toe? Will this affect my diet? Should I place any weight on it? Can I wear shoes? Can I type? Can I…” Doc: “That’ll be all. Sheryl will be in a few minutes to buddy tape it before you leave.” Me: “Uh, hold on.. What about….”

(Doctor leaves the room… Sheryl enters without a word, and starts taping…)

Me: “Hi, Sheryl, first time customer here! πŸ™‚ … πŸ™ So… uh, what’s the taping strategy? What kind of angle you going for there? Is that special tape? How long between changes? Biodegrable? Washable?…”

(Sheryl finishes and walks out without a word. Must be going to fetch me the broken-toe literature or something.)

(10 minutes pass. Matt opens the door, looks down the hall. Begins to understand nobody’s coming back…)

So there you go. What a difference. While Neal gets a brand new straight finger, I get a little toe that will forever lean to the right from months of being buddy taped. And I didn’t even get pain meds.

Ok, readers, on the agenda tomorrow: my next trip to this same clinic, where I had to undergo “an analysis”.

Technorati Tags: culture, spain

Weblog Redesign 2005

There’s a big proposal that I should have been working on today, but after three weeks at it, I just couldn’t stand to open the word processor this morning. So, instead, I decided to give a go at redesigning the ol’ weblog. It’s been nearly two and a half years, and with Web 2.0 just around the corner and all, I didn’t want to get caught out.

The site is a mixture of table-based layout and CSS. Couldn’t find anywhere to AJAX anything. Maybe next time. I did the whole thing in about six hours or so, and there are still some rough edges. I’m not sure why sometimes I see an entire shift of the content, resulting in a misalignment of about one pixel, and sometimes I don’t. Maybe some CSS whiz (hint, hint, Makalu staff) can point out what the problem is likely to be.

I like the more open layout of the new design, and I like using the imagery in the masthead. The images are served randomly, so if you refresh the page, that header area should change.

Let me know what you think. Thanks.

Technorati Tags: design, webdev