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Moving, moving, moving... · 30 March 2013 by colin newell

Linode getting it on

If you have noticed an absence of activity around these parts for the last month, it is because I have been prepping numerous websites for an “experimental” move off of Islandnet.com (after almost 18 years with them…) after many technical hiccups, slow downs, the occasional Ddos attacks etc – it was simply time for a change.

Do not get me wrong – Islandnet has been great – it has been puzzling to me why (for me) that are the slowest loading pages on the internet. My customers and readers simply cannot wait 10 to 20 seconds – sometimes minutes for the pages of my sites to load. Additionally, I will be keeping my Islandnet accounts very much alive as instant back up for my own new ISP that I have created – I do still believe in product loyalty and keeping “largely good” relationships intact.

So, I have moved over to Linode.com where I am my own ISP maintaining my own virtual cloud servers – 10 times the firepower and arguably 5 times the speed – for around the same coin – with tons of space to spare.

My bottom line folks is keeping my websites fast and accessible to my readers – no excuses, no technical foul ups, no mysteries…

I do not “do the web” merely as a pass time. I have a message and lots of media to share – and if there are black-outs, I want to be the one responsible for it.

Enjoy the new experience on DXer.ca and Coffeecrew.com for starters. More to come.
And now I can concentrate on getting some new content out there. Thank you for your patience!

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Shaming the forum/comment referral spammers - chapter 1 · 23 February 2013 by colin newell

Forum spam and website defacement in the form of comment/blog/forum unsolicited shills and ads cost webmasters and editors millions of dollars a year.

I got so fed up with it on one of my websites that I instituted a new registration policy that requires an authentic e-mail address for the user to post anything on my site – As a result I have been regularly harvesting the most notorious of these vandals – with fresh e-mails ready to post to sites like: http://www.stopforumspam.com/ their mission to out these shameful crumbs and the large corporations that they work for.

Stop Forum Spammers now!

Here are some examples of actual authenticated e-mail addresses that were used to register on one of my websites that would likely vandalize, deface and spam my forums with referral ads:

[email protected][email protected][email protected][email protected] (username – buy zithromax ) – [email protected][email protected]

Forum and comment spammers cost us web folks millions of dollars in clean up every year – they are the lowest form of life on the World wide web and need to be shamed and stopped. They benefit by riding on the success of popular websites and are, sadly, a common method for large corporations to cheaply get their message out.

I have e-mailed hundreds of companies over the years asking why they roam the internet defacing websites to improve their bottom line: Quite often they respond with “We did not know this was going on…” or “We will definitely get to the bottom of this!” I have even been threatened with a law suit after outing a series of forum spammers on the very website they were spamming!

Like I said, they are the lowest form of internet life.

How can you help? Visit support sites like StopForumSpam and out these hucksters and their billionaire partners.

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The fun of electronics and the bomb scare that never was · 2 December 2012 by colin newell

I had a couple of 1st year students (apparently from the music department) come in to my shop a few weeks ago seeking advice on soldering some parts together to make a “pocket theremin” kit — a noise maker that is light sensitive.

Neither of them had much, if any experience in electronics or soldering things together. Their bag of parts included two integrated circuits, resistors, capacitors, a speaker, some light sensitive cells and a battery. They were missing several bits of modern electronics to hold it all together – a circuit board.

I gave them a primer on soldering and electronics and we all mutually decided that it would be in our best interest for me to assemble the circuit quickly using some modern technology. Which I did. I assembled the circuit successfully (and threw in a electronic engineering development circuit board) and much to my delight, it worked like a charm. In the dark, the little unit was completely quiet. As it was exposed to light it would squeal like a demon.

The gals reappeared within a few hours and checked out my creation.

They were delighted. Smiles and squeals all around, the gals vanished with the device (ostensibly for a project in their department…) and that was the last I heard of it. I never even got their name but I did leave them with a couple of personal cards if they needed any additional assistance – and I put the circuit in a cute little box… that had my shipping info on it.

The following Monday I got a call from a senior student in the music department that found the device outdoors near an entrance to one of the University buildings. Look at the video. It could have been mistaken for a small bomb – but it was not. The box that had the device in it I had provided for the circuit. It has some contact info on it – my contact info. Ironically, I recognized the University student who discovered the device and brought it to my attention. His 5 minutes of fame were from a recent viral hoax he and a friend had created. This whole thing started to smell like a fish market on a summers day.

I can just imagine a panicked call to campus security and the bomb squad – which was averted because a smart student found it first. Police. Bomb squad. Media. Yikes! Not good.

Moral of the story – be more careful about who you build and hand out electronic circuits out to. They seemed like good kids – and maybe the project was completed and they were discarding the product. Maybe they were trying to scare some friends. Maybe they wanted to create a viral video and everything went haywire. Who knows.

This was a perfect example of a University bomb scare that never happened because of some common sense responses from sensible people or foolish curiosity of a student or two. Still, I learned a lesson about giving out advice and technology that could potentially be misused.

Lesson learned.

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Frausters at work in B.C. Budget Rent-A-Car · 20 November 2012 by colin newell

Budget Rent a Car I curse youI think it’s odd with Budget Rent-a-car being in the news lately… allegedly scamming victim after victim to the tunes of tens of thousands of dollars — with nothing happening… no police investigation or law suits… that any one person could walk into a Budget Rent-a-car (and I am NOT advocating that anyone try this…) and say: “Give me $1000 right now and I will not ‘punish’ you…” Again: Do not try this… ever!

I am pretty sure the person would be tracked down and thrown in jail for 5 years or more – for theft, attempted theft, behavior contrary to public order etc…
Which I get. You would not do this in a bank or a Starbucks… and I believe that theft is theft.

Or (and I am not suggesting this…) if someone were to stand outside a Budget rent-a-car and bounce the occasional crab apple off of their windows –

I am pretty sure this person would be incarcerated and given a psych evaluation.

So. What is so upsetting about this, is that hundreds, if not thousands of British Columbian residents may have been victimized and scammed by a small assortment of rental car places in B.C. – and nothing happens to them – the excuse being tossed around: “Car rental companies are not regulated in British Columbia…”

Say what? I think criminal behavior is regulated in B.C. — I know it is for me and you… So why not Rental Car agencies? Word on the street this is more widespread in Canada.
From my personal experience: I have been renting from the same Rent a Car agency since the mid-eighties (AVIS rent a car) and I have nothing but gushing praise for them, hundreds of rentals and nary a blip — so, the bottom line is, these companies are capable of great service…. but somewhere along the way, some companies lose their moral compass – and I am not sure why.

Some more stories on this issue from the good folks at the CBCBudget employees reveal
BC Budget Rent a Car repair scams

Bottom line avoid Budget Rent a Car in B.C. until this issue is sorted out…
and PLEASE, do not hassle the hard working staff at Budget Rent a car and do NOT throw apples… and if you have been scammed, make sure you harass the crap out of your credit card company and be firm with your car agency – Some tips upon rental include – do a walk around with the rental agent and take lots of pictures with your iPhone – and be prepared to contest any fishy charges.

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Bonus blog - serving the social media masters - but why · 9 October 2012 by colin newell

Between my blog (right here), my coffee website and my radio-tech-geek site, I have upwards of 100K readers per month.

100 thousand. Unique readers.
And the stats to back it up.

But I consistently ignore the bigger audience (you folks out there in blog land)
in favor of spending my free time quipping on Twitter and posting the periodic axiom on Facebook.

But why? Why? WHY?

Well. I have been thinking about it.

Social media challenges in 2012Part of having 1800 twitter followers – which is a small number in the big scheme of things, is that I can attach a face to so many of these good people. It is, in fact, a conversation – a back and forth if you would. A kind of interaction that does not really happen as effectively on the Blogosphere. Unless of course the occasional blog reader chooses to comment on something – which is great. I LOVE comments.

Twitter is great. No question. But it can be frustrating at the same time. Every one of the 1800 followers is a sentient personality, with fabric, substance and real edges. Twitter is blog-3D. And a twitter writer needs to put substantially more energy into the 140 character snippets because you are trying to convey a focused thought and be aware that potentially several thousand sets of eyes might take a peek at your thought… and react to it… good or bad… in near real time.

So. I love twitter and my following readers.

And if twitter is fun (and not effortless) then Facebook is even more challenging and more frustrating… because you are preaching to a largely converted choir, who are going to be less tolerant to the spectrum of your (my) muse.

Meaning, as over the top as I can be on Twitter – as funny or unfunny as I can be – or as cynical or jaded, my thoughts are quickly lost in the conversation as other funnier quips move up the feed chain.

Not so much on Facebook. Things are moving a little slower – and I find it way easier to become impatient with my FB friends and likely they are experiencing the same thing about me. I am challenging at the best of times – and not always in a good way.

So. My big audience gets nixed more than occasionally. I guess it is about balance and managing all the social media tasks. I will most certainly talk more about this – because the discussion has merit and it’s an opportunity for me to dial it down a bit… and who in my social media circle would not want that!

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2012 The rise and fall of common professional courtesy · 28 February 2012 by colin newell

Coffee does not like your laptop computer - and geeks deserve some respect!Have noticed some trends developing over the last year or so – and it might be part of the current economic slump while tied into modern tech-etiquette…

Tech-etiquette: A bit of an oxymoron.

I have been doing IT and web stuff since World Wide Web day 1 (as a side thing…) – which takes us to the mid nineties. That is long long ago in internet time. Try explaining to a young person, a time before smart phones and personal devices… texting and social media, etc.

“Please, Tell me more grandpa.”

Well, it seems that technology has become so advanced and so accessible to everyone and so “point and click…” than anyone can do it.

Which on the surface would seem great and all – and very convenient, but it does not underline the actual complexity of the underlying technologies.

Websites for instance: On my islandnet account I can actually log in, click one button, make a few selection of some plugins, give my blog a name, and within a minute have a very pretty blog – which I can then keep auto-updated with the additional clicks of a mouse.

A monkey could do this.

But wait: There is still the issue of access. Of content. Of media. Of SEO. Of security and so on. To this day I still need to explain (to lay internet users) very carefully that “The Web” has evolved beyond HTML editors, FTP clients and a desktop cluttered with tools… into a largely “server-side” World – where everything is “out there” “in the clouds” as it were.

We are a generation of instant deployment and remote content managed online entities… and most people do not know it yet.

Which brings us to the issue of effectively valuing and marketing your talents in an environment that sees everything as instant and cryptic at the same time.

Instant in that your cousin or nephews girlfriends kid brother can create a blog or web presence for you in minutes. They cannot tell you what you can do with it beyond the initial rush of launch moment or what is under the hood…
that is the cryptic part. Nor can they create actual content or understanding marketing or connect you with the right match for you product or ideas. Nope. They cannot. Because they understand the surface technology like their understand the face of their iPhone of the dashboard of their Honda Civic. Under the hood? Haven’t a clue. Aren’t there people for that?

Thrice in the last couple of months I have had 3 separate scenarios play out:

a.) A web site (I have been maintaining) and a company that I have been working with for almost a decade, all hands on, all regularly updated and checked announced to me one day while I was brainstorming an important update… “We have a new developer and our new site, being beta tested, is over here…”
Uhm. Hello? How about a word to your loyal web guy who has been doing this all this time? Oops, says the company owner. “Yea, I guess we could have let you know…”

b.) Was planning a major build to a media company for almost 2 years – with promises from the owner, “Yup, Colin… you are the guy.” We spent many, many e-mail working out the details and as we approached the day we would finally tackle the bricks and mortar of the site… “Oh… My son-in-law… a real web whiz kid with this sort of thing… you know family… they come first… I will call you if the work he does goes South…”

c.) Same as in b.) but a different project. This time it was the daughters BF or something… “Struggling young people making their way…”
OK – so I get and appreciate that. I do.

When your car breaks, do you take it to the factory trained mechanic or to your Uncles girlfriend because she likes the feeling of grease under her fingers? When your Air Canada flight is blasting down the runway, hope and pray that the avionics were tested by someone that knows what they are doing and not someones jack-of-all nephew. They are geeks too.

Point is: It is hard to come across as a professional when nobody understands what the heck it is that you do… beyond the surface sheen that is. And yet results vary between professions.

Sigh. Apparently it is World Pancake Day today. Ironic that it is not World Syrup Day for another couple of weeks…

And too bad people do not take the time to remember a little common courtesy when engaging technical professionals (like a lot of people that are reading this right now…)

Geeks are people. Learn a bit about us. And treat us like people. And thanks!

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