post

Get Secure *Before* You Get Hacked

As I’ve been dubbed “Mr. Security” by my friends, family and clients (I pay significant attention to, and use, cybersecurity, privacy and software measures) but my pleadings with them to be secure often are ignored…until they get hacked. Then they plead with me to help them out and get their digital life on track. Usually it’s too little, too late, and the work to recover is enormous.

You should care deeply about your digital life and its security, especially since the risk of getting hacked is exploding! The World Economic Forum in its 2018 report (PDF) said blackhat hackers are gaining the upper-hand in cyber warfare…and they are coming after you…and even the experts can’t keep up:

“Offensive cyber capabilities are developing more rapidly than our ability to deal with hostile incidents.”

Here’s the good news: if you haven’t yet been hacked it’s likely you will at some point, so lets get you cyber secure NOW!

SECURITY CHECKLIST

I was delighted this morning to discover this Security Checklist, “An open source checklist of resources designed to improve your online privacy and security. Check things off to keep track as you go.

The Security Checklist is very comprehensive, easy to follow, and one you should look at and implement as quickly as possible. It gives you the “why” and specific resources to use for each category, making this pretty brain-dead-simple to follow and implement:

  • Password Manager
  • Create a strong device passcode
  • Use two-factor authentication
  • Set up a mobile carrier PIN
  • Encrypt your devices
  • Freeze Your Credit
  • Use 1.1.1.1 for DNS resolution
  • Use a VPN
  • Cover your webcam
  • Use a privacy-first web browser
  • Use a privacy-first search engine
  • Review app permissions on your devices
  • Review your social media privacy settings
  • Educate yourself about phishing attacks

Go to Security Checklist

post

Fast Delivery of Ecommerce Orders Does NOT Seem to Work Well

It seems that everyone is ordering products (and food) online and expecting fast and good delivery of those ecommerce orders. But let me say that, in practice, our experience is that so much of the delivery process breaks down and we have NOT seen it work well.

Plus I’m scratching my head over how the economics of this shipping of everything — and its efficiency…or lack thereof — impacts profitability.

Here are a few examples which all happened in the month of December:

  • THIRD-PARTY DELIVERY SERVICE: My wife orders a home office desk from Wayfair with “white glove” service (they bring it in, set it up, and place it in the room of your choice). It arrives a couple of weeks ago damaged (the corner of it was smashed) but Wayfair makes good on it and sends a second desk. When it arrives the driver doesn’t even bother to bring it in since it also is damaged! She’s now waiting for a third desk and Wayfair has lost their ass on this order.
  • UPS: I order a Herman Miller chair for my home office. It arrives but is the wrong color and is sent back.
  • THIRD-PARTY DELIVERY SERVICE: A heavy area rug (with dirty packaging) arrives from Hayneedle and one guy is on the truck. He tries to bring it in the house and damages three walls in our brand new house.
  • UPS: I order shoes directly from Hoka One One and paid extra to ensure delivery on 12/31/18. Everything is confirmed (over-and-over again by texts and emails) but UPS doesn’t bother to show up until January 2nd. No explanation but I did get a refund on the shipping from Hoka.
  • THIRD-PARTY DELIVERY SERVICE: We buy a high-end, 65″ Sony OLED TV from Best Buy. Geek Squad installers are booked for weeks so I reluctantly agree to have one of their “licensed and bonded” 3rd party installers deliver, mount and set up the TV. We pay extra for the service. One guy arrives and I ask him, “How can one guy mount this TV?” He responds, “I figure you or your son can help me lift it up.” I make him get a second guy, he waits outside for an hour, both the guys are pissed off (and make sure I’m aware of it), and basically slam the job together as fast as they can. Yes, this is being escalated to Best Buy Corporate.
  • DOMINOES: Yes, this last one is a bit bizarre, but my son and I order a pizza from Dominoes for lunch yesterday and online it states it will arrive in less than 30 minutes, guaranteed. 45 minutes later Alex calls and is told “We’re super-busy and it will be there in about 20 minutes.” An hour and a half after ordering the pizza arrives. It is cold and looks like it drove around in the delivery car upside down. The Dominoes guarantee states you can get your money back if you take the uneaten pizza back to the store within one hour (the store is 20 minutes from our house) and have the receipt (it was a charge so the driver took the receipt). So the “guarantee” is basically bullshit (Our Guarantee: If you are not completely satisfied with your Domino’s Pizza experience, we will make it right or refund your money).

Must admit we’ve had many other deliveries that went well like a sofa we’d ordered, but the overall experience of delivery is not good. Perhaps it is the holiday season and more orders than usual, but that means operations people don’t have their act together and have planned poorly.

Today’s article about Target scaling up to delivering everything they sell seems exciting, but the promise of fast delivery doesn’t hold up to the reality.

post

NEVER, EVER use PODS!

UPDATE 12/27/18 — PODS finally makes it right in the end
After I published this post, sent multiple tweets, emailed (and faxed to) the CEO, a customer advocacy guy (Nathan) was put on my issue. He and I interacted for a couple of weeks and no, I was not unreasonable but was clearly upset. I made certain Nathan knew I was NEVER going to let this go until PODS made it right.

Nathan did arrange to get our PODS container here one day before their “process people” said it would be here so that was a bonus. Since we had to be out of our temporary leased AirBNB townhouse, I’d asked for PODS to compensate us for hotel rooms for the 4-5 nights we’d be forced to sleep elsewhere (since our beds were in the container!). Instead they got off easy: since we’d closed on our new house and could stay there, we purchased two highly rated inflatable mattresses which were good enough to sleep on for a few nights but we wanted to be compensated for those. (Hotel rooms would have cost about $1,300 but the beds were about $400 and we thought that was reasonable).

Nathan also did get back to me with a compensation resolution the 2nd week of December. They would credit my account but only if I signed a pretty draconian release that would take down this post, tweets about this incident, any other social media posts (e.g., Facebook), and any complaints or comments to the Better Business Bureau or other forums.

Um….what?

I absolutely and flatly refused. After several more days (and me repeatedly asking for updates) PODS did do the right thing in the end as the credit was posted to my credit card on December 20, 2018 without me signing that release. Though this sum doesn’t make up for the angst, anger and anxiety surrounding the PODS-mistake arrival of our goods, it does somewhat soften the blow.

Ten days ago (on Tuesday, November 13, 2018) I scheduled the delivery of our PODS container (containing our household goods) to be shipped from Minnesota to California and arrive the day after we close on our house November 29th.

After a lengthy phone call that Tuesday I received the confirmation email so ordered PODS Hire a Helper and we were all set to receive our container the morning of November 30th, the day after we close on our new house.

PODS made a huge mistake and fucked us over though. We’ll be lucky to see our container until December 5th, five days after it was promised and I received the confirmation you see below, specifying its delivery would be made on 11/30/18!

TODAY’S HOLIDAY WEEKEND, KICK-IN-THE-BALLS

Here’s what happened. Today is the day after Thanksgiving and I received a call from a PODS “logistics clerk” Shyron Baker, who informed me that “we were unable to ship out your container since you did not complete a Gypsy Moth form (California requires it) and a new order since this is in ‘inter-franchise’ shipment.

WTF? I actually recall completing a Gypsy Moth form when shipping from Minnesota, which I handed to the driver who picked up the container. About the inter-franchise shipment, I have no idea. BUT WHY THE FUCK DIDN’T SOMEONE FROM PODS DOUBLE-CHECK THAT ALL PAPERWORK WAS IN ORDER AND EITHER TELL ME ABOUT THIS MISSING STUFF WHEN I SCHEDULED DELIVERY OR, MORE IMPORTANTLY, CALL ME IMMEDIATELY WHEN I HAD ORDERED SO AS NOT TO DELAY THE SHIPMENT!?!

Shyron proceeded to tell me that *I* would have to call to reschedule (shitty customer service, heh?) and that if I did so today it could be delivered by Wednesday, December 5th.

I blew up at the guy:

  • We close on the new house November 29th and PODS confirmed that the container was to be delivered the morning of November 30th and we need our stuff.
  • We have to be out of our rental townhouse by 5pm on December 1st. Without our household goods we have to rent two hotel rooms (one for my wife and me and another for our son) for four nights since we won’t have our damn beds!
  • We had scheduled movers to come to unload the container and now have no idea if they are available.
  • But mainly, this was PODS fuck-up and they were doing ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to make it right or help me.

All of my plans for this afternoon were put on hold and I skipped everything to deal with this PODS MISTAKE. Thanks for the great weekend PODS…you assholes.

By the way, here is the confirmation with my personal information redacted:

   

WHAT HAPPENED NEXT

I had to reschedule (again, they didn’t help me with this task at all) which I did immediately to have the next available date locked in: December 5, 2018, even though I fully intend to shake the PODS corporate tree on Monday to get it here when PODS PROMISED.

The young woman who helped me with my rescheduling was fine, but had very narrow ability to do anything but reschedule. So, after I kept hammering on her for help, she “escalated me” to Tier 2 customer support.

After I got on with this new Tier 2 person, I explained at length our situation but she basically could do nothing. She did send an email to the logistics department and received a near real-time reply. The email message essentially was that “no trucks are available since it’s a holiday weekend” and that “the December 5th date was the earliest available.”

Shyron, the original logistics clerk, also could do nothing when I emailed him back.

The bottom line? I learned that all three of them could only spout three things over-and-over-and-over again:

  1. Sorry for your trouble.”
  2. That is our process.
  3. That is all I can do.

But here is the big question: If PODS is so big on process — and they apparently have this stuff all nailed down — how did our order get so screwed up?

None of the PODS people had any answers except for those boilerplate responses, as though this kind of thing happens all the time. These three might as well have said, “This shit happens all the time and we basically don’t give a shit that you are upset. Order confirmation or not, you paid us, we have your stuff, so fuck you and you’ll get it when we get around to it and it fits our processes.” Seriously…this was the exact take-away message I received from all three of them.

The Tier 2 customer support woman did say something that I felt was truly the final “fuck you”. The only thing I didn’t hear was her chuckling while she said it, and I don’t think she understood that this additional escalation “process” would likely not conclude until after the container shows up, five days late:

An “escalation specialist” would review my case “probably Tuesday” and that “it will take 3-5 business days to listen to all calls and review all information and then that person will email you.”

SO NEVER, EVER USE PODS

So THAT is why you should never, ever use PODS to ship your stuff. If they do fuck up and make a mistake, they will not make it right, and remember….they have your stuff.

Beginning Monday morning November 26th, I’ll be calling in to PODS corporate to discover a logistics executive that might help me. I’m NOT going to let this go and bend over while PODS rams it in to me.

post

Apple Didn’t Include a USB-A to USB-C with the iPad Pro?

UPDATE today at 1:15pm Pacific
One thing that I should have put in this post…somewhere…was that I love this iPad Pro. The display is beautiful, the machine is FAST, and the Apple Pencil always being charged-up is a big win.

Glad I bought it.

On the day you could order the new iPad Pro 11 inch for 2018, I enthusiastically ordered mine as soon as I had a moment to do so and it arrived yesterday about 3pm. With the Smart Keyboard Folio, the 2nd generation Apple Pencil, and the iPad Pro 11″ 1TB model, my total with tax was $2,167.54.

Unbeknownst to me when I began to open the iPad’s packaging, that enthusiasm would soon turn to disappointment and then outright anger! Especially since I’d intended to set this new iPad Pro up and then restore my older 9.7″ iPad Pro with my wife’s iPad’s backup so she could take it on her trip which she left on this morning. Instead I ended up wasting TWO HOURS of driving and in-store time to chase down a cable that Apple should have included in the box.

WHAT…NO DONGLE OR CABLE?
As you may know, Apple decided to move to USB-C for these new iPad Pros, a move I see as a good one. In fact, I had already made somewhat of a switch to USB-C with my MacBook 12″ and its USB-C connections. As such, I already owned several USB-C cables and dongles.

What I did NOT expect was the included USB-C and charger was like the MacBooks: USB-C on both ends! No USB-A to USB-C dongle (or cable) was included. Setting up this new iPad Pro was therefore impossible for me since the 27″ iMac Retina I bought in 2015 for $4,800 had Thunderbolt 2 and USB-A connections. Without USB-A to USB-C in some fashion, I had no way to perform the required connect-to-iTunes step to begin the set up on this new iPad Pro!

I thought, “Wait a second…Apple couldn’t be this stupid…or could they?” so I got on ‘the Google’ and confirmed that yes, Apple had been that shortsighted and I had to go and buy a USB-A to USB-C charge/sync cable. Shit.

[Read more…]

post

Apple Watch 4 Is The Best

You’ve probably read all sorts of reviews about the new Apple Watch Series 4 at this point, so maybe mine will prove interesting and useful…or maybe not. In any event I am SO enthused, pleased, and excited about this new model that I felt compelled to jot down a few thoughts.

First off I purchased the Space Black Stainless Steel Case with Black Sport Band with GPS + Cellular. As many other reviewers have written, the larger speakers in the watch make calls usable, but for me the volume is still a bit low. Everyone tells me I sound as good, if not better, than my iPhone X itself.

Secondly it is FAST! While my Apple Watch 2 was “OK” as far as speed was concerned, this new one SCREAMS in comparison. Apps load quickly, using the watch feels snappy, and sometimes I find myself just goofin’ around with it since it is fun to interact with. I rarely did that with my Apple Watch 2 since it was too slow and something as simple as checking the weather app took forever. It was always faster to take out my iPhone and use it vs. the watch.

In addition, I love the larger watch face and this specific face with its multiple complications. I chose the one you see above as it provides me with everything I want, need and use all the time every day. In this case you see (clockwise from upper left):

  • The temperature this morning here in Irvine, CA
  • “Reminders” showing I intend to return my Apple Watch 2 back to Apple’s trade-in partner
  • My Activity this morning (my wife and I walk an hour each morning)
  • Timers…I seem to use them frequently
  • In the center top is our 1pm appointment to order furniture for our new house being built in Rancho Mission Viejo CA
  • Lastly the four center complications (again, clockwise) are the date; my wife in my contacts; the trigger for a workout (our morning power walk); and my battery level.

Since getting this watch I’ve done something I didn’t expect: I’m leaving my iPhone X where we’re staying and going out for our morning walks with only my watch.

Unfortunately I’ve been appalled by the horrifically poor AT&T mobile service in southern California — and especially in much of Irvine where we’re staying temporarily until our house is completed end of November — so I don’t get to enjoy phone-free watch use as much as I’d like to, but it is awesome whenever I do and have good cell coverage!

[Read more…]

post

Trump and Big Oil: Are They Conceding Climate Change?

I came across two fascinating articles today that actually make me even more concerned about what kind of world we will be leaving to our children and future generations:

TRUMP ADMINISTRATION SEES A 7-DEGREE RISE IN GLOBAL TEMPERATURES BY 2100

“Last month, deep in a 500-page environmental impact statement, the Trump administration made a startling assumption: On its current course, the planet will warm a disastrous 7 degrees by the end of this century.”

THE OIL INDUSTRY TAKES ON CLIMATE CHANGE DESPITE TRUMP’S ROLLBACK

“A tangible shift over the last two years is sharpening among the world’s biggest oil companies, including in America, to more readily acknowledge and address climate change.

The bottom line: The trend, fueled by investor and lawsuit pressure, is underway regardless of, and partly in response to, President Trump’s retreat on the matter.”

As sea levels rise, coastal areas slowly become uninhabitable, crop yields mean food shortages, economic losses accelerate and a global refugee crisis unfolds, the climate change naysayers will surely forget their short-term denials.

It’s likely too late already to reverse the changes by the end of this century, but if we don’t continue to discover ways to stop the burning of fossil fuels we can guarantee we’ll make this planet uninhabitable itself.

For Further Reading

post

Dear young people: Don’t Vote

This country belongs to whomever shows up. And do you know who shows up for every election? Old people. But only 46% of people 18-34 years old voted in the last election.

post

Google’s Motto ‘Do The Right Thing’ is for Them and Not Us — Especially with Chrome 69

UPDATE on September 25, 2018
Looks like Google blinked since so many of us were SO upset about what they were doing. While this is good news, I’ll be sticking with Firefox for the foreseeable future:

“Chrome 70 Will Allow Users to Opt-Out of Controversial Automatic Sign-in Feature”

For years I’ve been a staunch supporter and trusted Google, loved their services like Google Suite, Gmail, Google Voice, and others, all while admiring their machine learning and artificial intelligence research. One thing I specifically trusted was Google’s Don’t Be Evil motto which was baked in to their Code of Conduct for the company.

Then, back in May, I became troubled when they removed Don’t Be Evil and replaced it with Do The Right Thing. At the time I joked with a friend of mine asking him, “Is ‘do the right thing’ for us, or for Google?

It appears the motto change was focused on Google.

The biggest shift away from that “Don’t Be Evil” motto that Google has ever done just happened. Though this thread started on Hacker News a few weeks ago, a cryptographer and professor at Johns Hopkins University whose blog I follow, Matthew Green, wrote a post entitled, Why I’m Done with Chrome. In it he said:

A few weeks ago Google shipped an update to Chrome that fundamentally changes the sign-in experience. From now on, every time you log into a Google property (for example, Gmail), Chrome will automatically sign the browser into your Google account for you. It’ll do this without asking, or even explicitly notifying you.

Green also sees this move as having serious implications for privacy and trust. Do you think!?! My trust-level in Google has plummeted. So much so that I have now shifted 100% back to Mozilla’s Firefox browser and away from Chrome. I will no longer use Chrome until they change the way they infiltrate my privacy.

SO WHAT EXACTLY DID GOOGLE DO?

Google’s recent update to Chrome (browser version 69) has done something unprecedented in their history:

a) Once you login to Chrome as a user, Google can (and does) track EVERYTHING you do in the browser. Every site you view, every login. The change? If you login to any Google service in the Chrome browser, Google will log you in to that browser to give them access to everything you’re doing within Chrome.

b) As a user you can no longer delete ALL the cookies in your browser. Google’s cookies remain no matter what you do. (Hat tip to Christoph Tavan for discovering this breach)

c) Google is increasingly using “dark pattern” user interfaces in their services to hide or obfuscate what something does when you check, uncheck or choose an option. In ExtremeTech’s article Chrome 69 Is a Full-Fledged Assault on User Privacy, they describe how Google’s dark pattern user interfaces obscure their intent to get you to enable them to do the right thing for Google:

These changes are all part of what’s known as a dark pattern. If a pattern is defined as a regularity in the world (designed or naturally occurring) that repeats in a predictable manner, a dark pattern is an attempt to trick users by designing interface options that look like the options users expect to see.

I, for one, don’t want to research, study or figure out how a company I trust might be trying to trick me in to do something that is in THEIR best interest…and not mine. I’d rather pay for offerings and am growing tired of “being the product“.

FOR MORE
post

My Apple Watch 4 Ordering Adventure

For our 32nd wedding anniversary on Thursday, September 20th, my wife and I decided to get Apple Watch 4’s for our anniversary gifts to one another. No…it won’t be a surprise, but it will be great to have these new, much more powerful, watches.

I was all set to order and I stayed up to do so at 12:01am Pacific time. Unfortunately I had to refresh my browser and didn’t get in until 12:08am.

You can see from the shipment timing above that my watch won’t arrive until 2-3 weeks after my wife receives her watch! You might say, “Well Steve, did you order them a long time apart?

  • 12:08am: Ordered my watch and then added to the cart BUT DAMN! I forgot to do my trade-in Apple Watch 2.
  • 12:09am: Immediately ordered my wife’s watch and entered her trade-in and added to cart.
  • 12:10am: Ordered my watch again, entered my trade-in, and added to cart.
  • 12:12am: Viewed cart and saw Apple’s warning that a single order can only contained two watches, so I removed my first watch order.
  • 12:13am: You can see from above what happened during the less than five minutes it took to perform this entire transaction!

I’ve told a few buddies about this and they just laughed at me and said stuff like:

“Apple only had 20 of each.”

“Man…talk about a first-world problem.”

“At least you’re not homeless and can afford them, you pathetic geek.”

So I’ll just shut up now and, um, wait for my watch while enjoying helping my bride set up her watch this Friday. Oh yeah, and as a stockholder I’m very happy people are buying this watch in droves.

post

The World Wide Web’s Father is Disappointed in His Child

The promise of the World Wide Web and the Internet was the democratization of information and the ability for the people to participate. In many ways it has devolved in to a tool for mass surveillance, hacking and monetization that is unrecognizable from what the Web’s founder, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, envisioned…and he’s not happy about it.

Vanity Fair has a great piece that is definitely worth a read:

I WAS DEVASTATED”: TIM BERNERS-LEE, THE MAN WHO CREATED THE WORLD WIDE WEB, HAS SOME REGRETS. Berners-Lee has seen his creation debased by everything from fake news to mass surveillance. But he’s got a plan to fix it.

I’ve always wanted to meet him and still hope to do so one day. I’d let him know all the ways his creation has changed my life and the positives FAR OUTWEIGH the negatives.

Because this is a fun-fact-to-know-and-tell, below is the original NeXT machine Berners-Lee created the World Wide Web on in 1991 and used as the world’s first “web server”:

This NeXT workstation (a NeXTcube) was used by Tim Berners-Lee as the first Web server on the World Wide Web. It is shown here as displayed in 2005 at Microcosm, the public science museum at CERN (where Berners-Lee was working in 1991 when he invented the Web).

The document resting on the keyboard is a copy of “Information Management: A Proposal,” which was Berners-Lee’s original proposal for the World Wide Web. The partly peeled off label on the cube itself has the following text: “This machine is a server. DO NOT POWER IT DOWN!!

Just below the keyboard (not shown) is a label which reads: “At the end of the 80s, Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web using this Next computer as the first Web server.” The book is “Enquire Within upon Everything“, which TBL describes on page one of his book Weaving the Web as “a musty old book of Victorian advice I noticed as a child in my parents’ house outside London“.

This image is a new upload by Coolcaesar of the original JPEG file on en:September 22, en:2008 directly to Commons in response to continued vandalism of the original. It has been re-published on Connecting the Dots under a CC BY-SA 3.0 license.