Don’t cha :) wanna know how I stay secure on my laptop?

M’ll hurt me for this, but all my PCD fans in the building, stand up! lol. I clearly am a fan of the Pussycat Dolls and I’m not ashamed to admit it. I feel like singing their first single “Don’t Cha‘ at the top of my lungs. Life is good. I feel stronger than I’ve been in a long while. Getting the courage to do things that terrify you is incredibly empowering. Getting positive strokes (PDF) from people that matter has been instrumental to my remaining optimistic. I am excited for the reunion that’s coming up on Saturday. Granted, I’m still learning everyone’s names, but I look forward to meeting everyone again and just taking a crapload of pictures.

I’m currently at Starbucks and just jamming with my spanking new HP premium headset which produces incredible sound. Granted that I’m no discerning audiophile, but the sound’s pretty crisp and clear to me. It was less than $30 and it should last a long time barring any accidents with the vacuum. Yeah, M totaled my last headset and I’m totally exposing his transgressions to the world. Anyway, I haven’t done anything ‘new’ with my laptop except for the little fact that I had to reformat my hard drive. This decision didn’t come lightly, but it has been the best decision.

When I first got the laptop, I was so excited that I didn’t pay attention to certain things. This time, I made sure to install and uninstall things in the right order such as: install all Windows updates (restart), update all installed non-Windows programs (restart), add new Microsoft programs (restart), run Windows updates and install any applicable updates (restart), update all non-Windows programs again (restart) and a final Windows update run. This took place over a course of 24 hrs and it wasn’t all that bad primarily because of my fast processor. I am so glad I spent that extra $125 to get a slightly faster Core 2 Duo processor T8100 (2.1 gigahertz versus 2.0 gigahertz). After I installed all my essential programs and had all the updates, I made sure to create a properly labelled PC backup file. Thanks to my foresight in buying Windows Ultimate operating system, I didn’t need Acronis True Image to do that job. Microsoft Vista Ultimate comes with a built-in backup utility which is painless and works as advertised. I actually used it to restore my approximately 7GB music library, my 2GB worth of pictures and similarly sized folders. Compared to my experience with XP, Vista Ultimate is the bomb diggity. 😀 I don’t User Access Control enabled so I have eliminated about 90% of my initial frustrations. You see, I pride myself on being a somewhat savvy internet/computer user and I know NOT to download “free Acrobat 8.0” or “free <insert shareware program>” from bad sites that are obviously not kosher. It’s the same with the advance fee fraud. I know NOT to send money to some faker from US or Nigeria who is claiming to be “Abacha’s son”. If you don’t want to take ownership of your computer/browser experience, you will “hate” Vista. UAC is an extreme hand-holding measure that has sadly come to be required. Maybe I’m being too harsh because there is malware that can creep into your computer. However, simple safeguards like:

  1. Preventing automatic file downloads and opening (i.e. set Firefox/IE to always ask you, the user, if you actually wanted to download or open said file)
  2. If you use the password remembrance feature in Firefox, remember to set a master password so no peeping Tom sniffs your passwords. This can be done easily with freeware programs like SIW which if run on the unprotected computer will expose the passwords. I know because I’ve done it to my computer by simply inserting a USB with the utility into my test computer without a master password and sure enough, by running SIW from the USB key, I was able to see and save the exposed passwords & corresponding user names!
  3. Use a complicated password for Windows logon e.g. my current password is: longer than 10 and has symbols, characters and numbers. In Vista and other editions, you can set a security policy for the computer to force users to generate good passwords. Right now, if I create an account on my computer, it has to be longer than 8 letters and meet complexity requirements i.e. symbols and numbers. lol. I’m paranoid, I know.
  4. Use a good internet security tool e.g. Bitdefender Internet Security. There are free alternatives, but if you are keeping really sensitive materials on your laptop which is always for me, you will want to pony up money for your antivirus/antispyware security suite.
  5. Remember to go through your list of programs every 2 weeks. By that, I mean actually clicking on the program and checking to see if there have been any security updates, etc. Not having updated software is one of the ways you can easily get infected and I’m speaking from personal experience. In fact, M’s dad got a relatively harmless PC infection because he hadn’t updated his antivirus definition files for several months! lol. He is a safe surfer so he got off easy. If he had been into downloading torrents and illegal stuff, he would have been a world of trouble because his system was outdated. If you are like me, you probably have a crapload of programs and it could be a pain to manually check for updates. Some programs come with options to automatically check for updates without having to run the program e.g. Apple’s Quicktime, Adobe Updater, etc. However, there is a free tool that I’ve used (and still use) to monitor the patched status of programs on my computer. The Secunia PSI vulnerability scanning tool is the indispensable tool for those who are slightly paranoid about the status of programs on their PC.

I’ll quit ranting about this for now, but there are a lot of other things I do to protect myself and I’ve not had a serious infection in a long while. In fact, any detections by Bitdefender often come from programs that could be called hacking tools that I knowingly downloaded. I really have not dabbled into computer security deeply, but I would love to enroll in a class to learn more about the innards. One of my favorite sayings is “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing” because the person with the “little knowledge” could be deceived into thinking they know it all. I won’t even pretend to understand how things work. I just know that my way works and I’ll work from that. 🙂 Good night!

Settling in

So, today was the first day of classes for the students. I got to speak to them very briefly and I also have the opportunity of sitting in on their classes. I think I will take advantage of it and see how interested or uninterested I am. Their first laboratory session is coming up pretty soon and I’m nervous and excited all together. That, however, is not the real reason for my post. I recently purchased a D-Link Wireless N Gigabit Router because M & I have begun to butt heads over who gets to use the internet. lol. This way, we both get to eat our cake and have it too! I did run into a bit of trouble with my installation. You see, I’d read on the internet that D-Link had a rather troublesome support (compared to Belkin’s awesome technical support). However, D-Link, according to reviews, provided a more solid product. Being slightly more tech-savvy than say a certain second-half (love ya, babe. :D), I decided to go with the more solid product (D-Link) over Belkin’s Wireless N1 router.

So, I received the item and I popped it into my old desktop PC running Windows XP Home Edition. The computer did nothing and locked up. A very bad sign. After a couple more tries with the same outcome (a frozen PC), I decided to do the installation on my laptop. Well, as soon as I popped the disc into my laptop, it began spinning so fast in there that I thought something was going to explode in my laptop. That was the first time I’d ever had that happen with all the discs I’ve placed into my disk drive, from movies to CDs. At least, it didn’t lock up my laptop which, presumably, had enough juice to handle all the crap it was spitting out. I installed the D-link software per instructions and to make a long story short, I had to call technical support which appeared to be out-sourced (bad sign) and I’m finally online. It was a long road to simply install a wireless router, but it was finally done. I’ve also got Network Magic to help manage the network. Expectedly, I’ve password-protected the network and encrypted it also (these are standard procedures). For good measure, I’ve turned on MAC address filtering and prevented broadcast of my SSID. A little bit of overkill, but good for my peace of mine. I’m excited to have my little network to play with and I’ll try to set up remote desktop on both PCs so I can pull up documents from one or the other without have to leave my chair. LOL. Technology will not make me lazy in Jesus’ name.

I’m kinda low on words so these wannabe-technical posts will have to do. Have a great week!

A smooth migration and webmaster troubles

I lost the better part of traffic for Friday, but I’ll take lost traffic over a botched migration of web hosts any day! Yes, I took the plunge, made a Dreamhost customer happy by using their affiliate code (PS: that’s my own affiliate code and you can use it to sign up for a plan (or simply put my personal email address in the referral section) at Dreamhost too!)  and became a DreamHost customer myself. I tested Dreamhost’s service out for a few days and once I got comfortable with the interface, I migrated all my files after making sure I’d backed up my wordpress files and database. Yes, I’ve been burned and I tried to be super-careful this time so please if you find any oddness going around, feel free to email me or drop a comment.

Also, I took the liberty of updating home page at I visited one of my favorite sites for free website layouts (Magitek Designs) and I downloaded one that I thought looked particularly appealing. Well, after a lot of trial and error, I altered the layout to my satisfaction and here’s the finished product. Here’s a screenshot:  I just love what I’ve done and it’s also XHTML compliant!
It took me about 2 hrs to tweak this and I’m sure I’ll be doing some more editing. I’m definitely proud of how it turned out. I wasn’t even planning on doing any coding (thanks to WordPress’s fantastic and free themes), but Google Webmaster Tools was having a hard time with the 301 redirect I had done to redirect to What does that mean? Well, here’s how the Google Webmaster Tools works.

  1. It is basically a tool to keep track of how Google indexes your site and its content. It lets you keep your hand on the pulse of the site, in a manner of speaking vis a vis broken links, sites linking to you, search terms, et cetera.
  2. You add your site and Google tells you that you need to verify or prove your ownership of this site by inserting a meta tag into your index page or uploading a special file.
  3. If all goes well, Google verifies your site properly and you can view crawl statistics and such. In my case, I verified my root site ( before doing the 301 redirect. After creating the .htacess file with the 301 redirect instructions, Google magically un-verified my site. It wouldn’t let me verify my site.

So, there lay my dilemma. Should I take a chance on doing another 301 redirect under my new hosts (Dream Host) or simply throw up a web page that will be a “home page”? Well, I figured that since I had time, I would try to beat some web layout into submission and that’s how my umpteenth website iteration was born. 🙂 The best part about having a simple XHTML home page up is that the Google gods will finally deign to let me see my site statistics. Anyway, to make this potentially long story short, my home page is up and you should check it out! 😀 Shameless plug there. I’ve also been experimenting with various Google adsense formats so please tell me how much you hate/detest/loathe or love/adore/desire these new ad formats.

It’s Friday and I’m as happy as a lark. My husband’s healthy. I’m alive and breathing. My family is doing well. I’ve got my yogurt. I’m content. lol. My website is running smoothly and I simply feel blessed. Here’s to a great weekend.

Accessories for my Preciousssss, err laptop and more about ETFs. :)

This, ladies and gentlemen, is the future. 🙂 I kid. This is the mouse that I shall grow to love when my laptop gets here. One thing I don’t really like about HP’s laptops is that the too-slick touchpad. My hands gets rather sweaty so I will need an external mouse. My choices were simply between any Microsoft or Logitech offerings (trusted brands). From there, I narrowed my search to ease of use. If you recall, my HP dv9700t customized notebook will come with bluetooth so I decided to get the Logitech V470 Bluetooth Cordless Laser Mouse. It was a bit pricey, but I am looking toward the future with the purchase of high quality components that will come with solid warranty support. I’ve been toying with getting a dedicated laptop bag, but I will hold off on that and create a makeshift laptop bag from the items we have at home. Yesterday’s post on cell phone contracts led me to check out what AT&T’s wireless service agreement says about early termination fees. Here is the relevant bit excerpted from the “Service Agreement” in the paragraph titled Changes to Terms and Rates:

“[…] You understand and agree that State and Federal Universal Service fees and other governmentally imposed fees, whether or not assessed directly upon you, may be increased based upon the government’s or our calculations. If we increase the price of any of the services to which you subscribe, beyond the limits set forth in your rate plan brochure, or if we materially decrease the geographical area in which your airtime rate applies (other than a temporary decrease for repairs or maintenance), we will disclose the change at least one billing cycle in advance (either through a notice with your bill, a text message to your device, or otherwise), and you may terminate this agreement without paying an early termination fee or returning or paying for any promotional items, provided your notice of termination is delivered to us within thirty (30) days after the first bill reflecting the change. […].”

It’s a bit confusing, but from what I understand from the entire contract, the following conditions have to be met in order to cancel your contract without paying an early termination fee or ETF:

  1. If you signed up today, you have a 30-day grace period in which to cancel your service. Obviously, the majority of people are past that 30-day window.
  2. If there is a price change in services you subscribe to. However, they put a caveat there which is “beyond the limits set forth in your rate plan“. Now, I have the lowest rate plan ($39.99 a month) and I have no idea what the limits to which they can raise the prices to. I intend on calling a customer service representative to get this cleared. Anyway, I currently use the pay-per-use text messaging service and have the internet/MMS on my phone turned off. My current text messaging fees are 20 cents for each incoming and outgoing text message. The way I’m reading this contract, my plan says the fee per text message (incoming and outgoing) is $0.20. If they raise that fee, I have legal standing to demand to be released from my contract. The other caveat to demanding your release is that you have a limited window of opportunity in which you can do this.
  3. According to the contract, you have 30 days from the first bill that reflects this price increase so you have to diligently check your bill in order not to miss this window. From reading tips online about how to cancel your cell phone service, the key things to remember are: staying calm, having the relevant sections highlighted, having your paperwork i.e. bills in front of you and remembering to escalate your call if the CSR is being a twerp.
  4. Nevertheless, there are extenuating circumstances that the determined individual could press in order to get released e.g. moving (if you can prove that your coverage will suffer) and see this CNN blog about other viable excuses e.g. active military duty and such.
  5. Another confusing part about this whole business is the part about “returning or paying for any promotional items“. Does this mean I would have to return my Treo which I got at a discount because I signed up for the 2-year plan? I suspect so. Nevertheless, if you get to that point in your negotiations, my advice to you would be to simply save your contacts to your computer if you have a cool phone like mine (lol) and agree to return your discounted phone. Since you will be potentially signing up with a different phone company, you will be getting a discount on your new phone so don’t be too worried. If you have installed a lot of paid applications on your phone like I have, make sure you have your installation files saved somewhere. If you are lucky, you will get your exact same phone with your new carrier. If not, your files will be useless.
  6. Finally, part of this depends on the customer service representative’s disposition. You see, some people have had their cancellations take place in less than 10 minutes. Some like Ely Rosenstock had it extended over days. Some get stymied and some end up getting discounts or refunds in order to stay with the plan which is not a bad idea anyway. What am I saying? Be nice and hope the CSR is nice too. lol. I mean, I can definitely testify to the power of being nice to reps. If you have less than 6 months left or if you could live with their service for awhile, stick with them and when your time is up, your service agreement will “automatically renew on a month-to-month basis” until you leave or AT&T kicks you out. 🙂

Speaking of being nice to customer service representatives, I learned the hard way how not to be behave. 🙂 I screwed up on an order and I called the hotline. My first mistake was being a bit combative and trying to “bully” the representative into giving me a discount by concocting a story about how it was the company’s fault. Well, she clearly pointed out to me that the fault was mine and she remained steadfast in her refusal to grant me any discount. Well, I ended the call and had a cooling-down session with myself. I slept on the issue and the next day, early in the morning, I called the hotline again. I got a different CSR and I was genuinely apologetic about my mistake. We talked about options and I suggested the option which was most pleasing to me and she agreed with me. She agreed to give me the discount and I was amazed at the difference in response. For the record, this happened with my laptop order. I forgot to add the TV tuner option and now I will be getting it at a discount. I will have to return the laptop back to them so they can put it in, but I won’t be paying the full price for it. So it does pay to be a nice person. I get ashamed of myself sometimes because I read articles on the web that talk about how the customer is always right. Well, some customers are idiots/bullies/inane/smart and I happened to fall into one of those categories (hint: not smart) when I first called the hotline. So, with that expose on cell phone contracts and calling representatives, I’ll be signing out!


Another sick example of the left wing media establishment attacking a brilliant independent thinker happens yet again.  The liberals want you to believe that they are the open minded representatives of peace and a voice for the intellectual progressive youth.  That they are the defenders of truth, freedom, freedom of speech, the children, and the environment.  But it is these same “open minded” liberals who attack talk show host Michael Savage when he exposes corruption in the medical industry, the government school institutions, and the media.  Why?  This could be a perfect example of what you call irony.  I consider that an understatement.  But they will call it “hate” speech.  You be the judge.

Since when did these delusional “progressives” care so much about preserving the ethical values that are essentially derived from nature?  This would require a respect for the freedom to operate within the limitations of a natural law and perhaps a belief in something that is for many “progressives” incomprehensible, simple minded, or foolish. A belief in a system of natural laws that stem from one essence.  Dare I say?

With a little innate knowledge of this system, and an elementary degree of understanding of a cause and effect sequence,  One is equipped with common sense.  He certainly need not be religious or spiritual in order to exercise common sense, but it is those who arrive at a greater understanding of the spiritual laws that are equipped with the tools necessary to more accurately see things as they are.  Not the spiritual derelicts that dwell in the mundane.

What we have here are those interested in restricting the voices and views that are contrary to their own. Especially views of those dedicated to the protection and preservation of this freedom.  Don’t let these vultures fool you!   They take Savage’s words, which are out of sincere concern and brilliant observation, totally out of context, to make you think that he is ridiculing autistic children.  Lies, Lies, Lies!!!   As Savage says, how in the hell can Howard Stern, with total impunity, make a living out of showcasing, belittling, and ridiculing those who are misfortunate and handicapped?  While he(Savage), a voice for many conscience driven free thinkers around the country, is attacked and vilified with the worst intentions in mind?  There can only be one logical explanation.  Howard Stern shares the same political views.  He is a part of the left wing entertainment media establishment and voice for the degenerate American.  The desecration of truth has come to fruition, while it awaits a new morality, a new leader will rise…  God Forbid!

Oh mercy mercy me!

Again, things turn out the way you least expect them. Aforementioned prospect that I had ‘sweated’ over turned out to be a super cool dude. I am debating whether or not to post directly what I’m going through, but out of respect for my family, I’ll keep talking in ‘code’. lol. So, the saga continues next week. Not matter how it turns out, it will be an eye-opener for me as I will have undergone new things. It’s fascinating how things have turned out.

Right now, several good things have happened since a certain event happened. I’ve “inked” an advertising deal for some posts on this blog!!! This is my first time doing it and time will tell if it was a good idea. Still, it’s about time I get paid for writing my heart on this blog! 😀 I think I gave the advertising agent a very very nice deal, but she was nice so there. 🙂 I’ll be putting the ads up and thankfully, they are text ads which are unobtrusive (in my opinion). I will be putting up some polls to gain an idea of what you like or don’t like about the adverts on my blog. Naturally, I’ve got to start thinking about the ramifications of accepting advertising on this blog and I’ll be sure to start a disclosure page that talks about any affiliations I have. I’ll be expecting my Adsense earnings to finally kick in sometime in this century. The only bad thing about all of this is that I’ve got to keep track of these “earnings” so as to not run afoul of the law. That’s why I’ve started a subaccount in my ING Direct Orange Savings account so that I can pay taxes on these earnings. I’m saving now so that I won’t feel too badly about paying the government.

Also, I’ll be getting a smallish refund from a certain visit to a certain practitioner where I was charged $300 upfront because that’s how much my insurance deductible is. The problem was that I had already met my deductible with previous doctor visits so I’ll be getting less than half of what I paid back. Right now, I’ll take any “spare” money I can get. For me, that means no impulsive purchases a la a pair of biking shoes (Nike Kato III, size 8.5 which were ~ $90 originally but were 40% off) which were a size too large for me that I bought. Thankfully, we were able to return them back to the store folks who were super cool about the return. I will definitely be doing more business with The Hub Bikes (a bicycle store). Spare money also translates into remembering to return that Creative T100 player I bought for M that I didn’t realize had no recording capability. Can you say Return Merchandise Authorization (RMA)? lol. That’s a number you have to sit for several minutes on the phone to get in order to get approved to return a product to the store you bought it from.

So my hubby, in-law and father-in-law are all taking a certificate program in Geospatial Information Systems (GIS) at the same time. It promises to be a challenging time for them, but extremely rewarding. Hell, they’ve got me interested in it now although I’m not going to bite just yet. Of course, since it’s a computer based course, this means I’ll be battling with M for computer time. I’m thinking of just breaking down and getting a refurbished desktop just for the purposes of browsing. That’s the only smart thing to do because I want M to get all the practice time he can get. So I am basically looking for a computer that will:

  1. Let me browse the web while he’s putzing around with our main ‘family’ computer.
  2. Not be more than $250 without the price of the monitor included

I need to pick my current boss’s brains about where he get such bargain deals on the Dell Workstation he gets. I just did a quick Google search and I think I might have found the site he uses: DFC Direct Sales. Leave your comments! Right now, I’m taking my bike for a quick spin to relieve my nervous energy. Ha!

Breathe Jane.

See I have a confession to make. Whenever I have a lot on my plate, I get nervous and stressed although I don’t know it. How it manifests itself? Dumb f*** mistakes like the one I just made. Actually I made this mistake a few days ago, but it was uncovered today. I was a bit saddened, but it just means I get to do weekend duty! 😀 Yay! I mean, I do weekends so it’s no skin off my nose. I need an organizer right now to keep track of all that’s going on. Man, I love being busy but being busy comes with responsibilities i.e. keeping a tidy notebook with accurate records, planning experiments, etc. I have to do better because right now, I’m not impressing anyone.