Broken Windows — March 2016

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Writer’s note:  I had planned on writing a different blog post this week on why I didn’t go to the Maine caucus a couple of weeks ago, however I feel this blog post is more fitting for my current situation along with many other people as well.  I plan on writing the intended blog post in the very near future, when my computer is much more stable.

 

As a member of the Windows Insider club, I put myself and my main computer on the line for the fast ring of Windows 10 updates.  Up until the most recent update, everything has been fairly smooth as far as functionality is concerned.

 

For those who don’t know what I am talking about, let me briefly explain.  Fast ring updates are pushes by Microsoft to release beta (or in their own imprint at the bottom of the screen “Evaluation Copy”) of new versions of Windows 10.  Comparatively, slow rings are more stable versions of the operating system, but still may have some bugs.

 

Everything was fairly well and good with my computer until last week when I installed Build 14279 of Windows 10.  Since installation I have had nothing but trouble.  Honestly I felt I have not seen so many problems since Windows ME many years ago.  Back then, you prayed that the computer would not crash while using it, but usually happened at least once per day.

 

Well, I have experienced just one huge crash yesterday when I received the blue screen of death with a “Memory Management” error.  I had thought given that I saw a funky frowning face with a countdown timer that my computer had somehow been infected by one of those horrible viruses.  Microsoft really needs to change their blue screen of death to look less like a virus and more like the old dark blue screens from older Windows versions.

 

Besides the awesome crash that I have experienced, here are some of the other problems that I have noticed.  This is not an exhaustive list just what I have experienced firsthand:

 

  • Unable to sign into Xbox live. Makes playing games like solitaire impossible.
  • Live tiles not working. Most of these tiles when you hit the start key are not flipping or updating to anything at all, in fact one of them is missing.
  • Web pages not loading in Chrome. While Firefox really don’t have this problem, it is like Microsoft is showing its hate to Google by impairing its browser.  I don’t use either Internet Explorer or Edge because these are really not good and I have never recommended them.
  • The Weather Channel application does not work at all. Up until this build, this program seemed to work fairly well, but now just refuses to work.
  • Microsoft Store does not update programs correctly. Some updates in this program want to update over and over again.
  • Notification icon does not update when new mail is received.

 

If you don’t have this build, I don’t recommend it.  If you do, let’s pray that the next update fixes some of the above mentioned problems.

 

Ironically, Microsoft had sent a feedback survey shortly before I started writing this that asked if its users like me had experienced lockups or crashes with this build of Windows.  Sadly when I clicked on the link, it crashed before I got to answer the survey.  I guess they will never get my opinion unless of course someone reads this blog.

 

I can now congratulate myself that I got through this post without having Windows crashing today.  Will I be so lucky next time?

 

 

Google Clueless Again

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Fake Warning:  The following contains content not suitable for most people.  It contains content that would make “50 Shades of Grey” look like a Mother Goose fairy tale.

 

I will discuss the above fake warning shortly, but first.

 

A couple of days ago, I received the following email from Google.  Here it is in its entirety:

 

Dear Blogger User,

We’re writing to tell you about an upcoming change to the Blogger Content
Policy that may affect your account.

In the coming weeks, we’ll no longer allow blogs that contain sexually
explicit or graphic nude images or video. We’ll still allow nudity
presented in artistic, educational, documentary, or scientific contexts, or
where there are other substantial benefits to the public from not taking
action on the content.

The new policy will go into effect on the 23rd of March 2015. After this
policy goes into effect, Google will restrict access to any blog identified
as being in violation of our revised policy. No content will be deleted,
but only blog authors and those with whom they have expressly shared the
blog will be able to see the content we’ve made private.

Our records indicate that your account may be affected by this policy
change. Please refrain from creating new content that would violate this
policy. Also, we ask that you make any necessary changes to your existing
blog to comply as soon as possible, so that you won’t experience any
interruptions in service. You may also choose to create an archive of your
content via Google Takeout.

 

Let me say that I have a couple of problems with the above message.  First and foremost is that I have not used Blogger in nearly 6 months for any of my blogs and 2 of the blogs have not been used for over 4 years.

 

Secondly, and most important is that I have NEVER EVER had any explicit images on ANY of my Blogger pages.  Nor would I ever have any either.

 

So why the notice was sent is a mystery?

I have 2 theories for this.

 

The first is that this was a mass warning to all Blogger authors so that they know what their new policy will be.  However, given that they flagged my account makes me think that this is not true.

 

My second thought is that Google used some sort of reader to check their accounts for possible content that may be deemed as offensive.  However, since a reader can’t “read” pictures, it can only read words and thinks that some pictures might be included with what is written.

 

I will admit that my “Staples” blog has contained references to adult content, but contained no images.  So apparently, the reader that Google uses can only anticipate what might be there in the blog, not what really is contained within it.

 

In other words, Google is parsing the blogs incorrectly.

 

Yes, I said PARSING.

 

In computer lingo, this means evaluating words while trying to interpret their intended meaning.  Word processors do this all the time as you type trying to anticipate what you mean and try to make sense of what could be improper grammar.

 

This is all well and good if it works the way it should.  However, there are times when parsing doesn’t work quite as planned.  A good example is of course the notice that I received.

 

But there is another which I have been battling for the last six years.

 

It is what I call the job application.

 

Back in the old days, if you wanted to apply for a job, you went to the location of the business and pick up an application.  You would then drop off the application and somebody would actually read it.  If they liked what they read, you would be called for an interview.

 

This is not the case today, however.

 

Today, a job application is filled out online usually at some corporate website.  From there, you enter all your personal information and in some cases, you take some sort of personality test or other type of test.

 

After you finish the application, the applicant is usually given an email response from the company they applied to, sometimes almost immediately.  The result is usually that you don’t meet their qualifications or some other lame excuse.  I really wonder how a computer can make a decision that really should be made by a human.

 

Welcome to another case of how a parser can create unnecessary havoc in a person’s life.  I always believe that a potential employer never gets to know a candidate unless they get a physical interview with them.

 

Over the past six years of applying for a job, I have been turned down every time and have never been selected for an interview despite having over 25 years of job experience.  Ironically, the only company that I heard from for a potential interview is the soon-to-be-late RadioShack.

 

Apparently, they must have parsed my application again and changed their mind.  Maybe that was the only time I felt lucky that I didn’t get a job due  to some non-human reading my job application.

 

Maybe parsing isn’t so bad after all…if only Google would know better.

 

But then again, if they did I would not have anything to write about.

 

Before I close this post, let me explain that fake warning at the beginning of this blog.  This is really a test to see if WordPress decides to implement a similar policy regarding adult content even though no pictures exist.  If I get any notice from them, then I will know that WordPress has a bad parser as well that doesn’t know words from pictures and doesn’t know the way things are put in context and can easily be taken the wrong way if not read by a human.

 

Here to hoping that WordPress can interpret their blogs properly and not the way that Google does with its Blogger service.  I am so glad I no longer use that service and if any of you readers out there still do, I recommend switching to something else.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Odds and Ends

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This week’s post will be fairly short but I want to talk about a few different topics this time around.

 

First up, fake news makers have been making real news in the last 24 hours.

 

Brian Williams of NBC News has received a 6 month suspension without pay for embellishing stories of events that he was involved in.  Certainly he was catering to the late night entertainment audience by his fluffing up his stories.  Anybody who has ever watched any of those late night shows knows that everybody does this.  Of course, a person like David Letterman is a sucker for this sort of banter.

 

I don’t believe that Mr. Williams should have been suspended.  The reason is that over time we all forget details of what happens in our lives.  So it is only logical that he made up parts to make his story sound better than it really is.  Those who believe that Mr. Williams integrity has been ruined by this is delusional.

 

For those of you too young to remember, David Letterman used to have a morning talk show and one part of the show was NBC newsman Edwin Newman.  Since this show was done in front of a live audience, Mr. Newman would regularly laugh it up with Dave.  Certainly his professionalism was never called into question, but then again I bet it has something to do with the new management at NBC’s Comcast head, who probably just was not a fan of Mr. Williams to begin with.

 

The other startling fake news person is the announcement of Jon Stewart leaving his late night show on Comedy Central.  While I have never watched his show any more than I watched Brian Williams on his nightly news show,  it seems like an odd coincidence that these two events would happen on the same day.

 

Rumors have been quickly spreading that Stewart is in talks to become the new host of NBC’s “Meet the Press”.

 

Does anybody else see the irony here?  We have a fake newsperson wanting to take over a real news program and a real newscaster thrown off a real news show for having fake stories.  Honestly, I think there is something very wrong at NBC, which probably explains why I don’t watch any shows on that network anymore.  It seems that they are just a lost cause.

 

Secondly, those of you who are regular readers of this blog knows that last year I wrote about somebody or some bodies was using my Gmail account and setting up things like twitter accounts, Facebook accounts, and some dating websites.

 

Now it has gotten much worse.  One self-storage company in California claims that my email address is valid with them despite that I live in Maine and have never done business with them.  This has gone one for over a year now and I now am considering reporting them to the Better Business Bureau for fraudulent activity against me.

 

In the past week, I have also received bills emailed to me of past due statements from a U-Haul rental in Arkansas and a student loan bill in excess of $20,000, which is not mine either.  The latter has been resolved but I am still waiting on the U-Haul bill that isn’t mine to be resolved.

 

Overall, Google offers no help to prevent this type of fraudulent activity and it is up to each individual company to do the right thing by eliminating my email address from these activities.  However, some companies just seem to refuse to do so.  I consider this a continued warning to those who have a Gmail account that there is very little protection when compared to other email services.

 

Finally, I want to talk snow.  Here in Maine, we have way too much.  This more than I can ever remember.  However, back when I was little, I remember these type of severe snowstorms that had huge amounts of snow, but for many years, the snow has been nothing anywhere near what this year has been.  Anybody who thinks global warning exists, I invite them to come to New England and take some snow home with them.  We certainly won’t miss it.

 

So that is it for this week’s post as I and everyone else awaits the next snowstorm.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aftermath and the Angry Pig

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First let me open by saying that nationally only 60% of the voting population actually took the time to vote during the last election.

 

This meant that the other 40% was either fed up with the whole process, didn’t care at all, or just didn’t have the time.  Of course the latter excuse doesn’t fly at all because of absentee voting.  The first 2 may be because of social ignorance.

 

Then there is the other major factor in this entire nightmare this year.  I heard stories of duplicate names, people who could not be found, and overall problems with the voting system in general.  To add to this is the list of people who are either incapable of voting or who are in jail or deployed overseas in the military.  These numbers add to those who can’t or unable to vote.  Overall, the system needs to be fixed to make sure those that are able to vote can and those that no longer can vote won’t have somebody use their identity and vote for them.

 

To add to this mess is the Maine State Voter Program.  The first email I received a couple of days before the election listed our family and if we “voted” over the last few elections.  It also listed our “neighbors” and if they voted over the last few elections.  The first red flag in all of this is that this email showed up in my Spam inbox in Outlook.  This right here should be an indication that even Microsoft thought something suspicious of this email.

 

There were several errors in this email.  The first is that it said that I did not vote in 2010. This is WRONG!!  I did vote that year and I am offended that it said that I didn’t in all capital letters.  This is certainly a calling out as if I did something completely wrong when in fact they are wrong.  Secondly and even more inaccurate is the listing of my so-called neighbors.  Every one of the “neighbors” listed has moved away in the last couple of years.  Honestly why should I care whether these people voted or not in the last few elections especially since they no longer even live in my neighborhood.  The biggest offense of all in this is how this group got my email address in the first place.

 

Later, the next day I received a second email from this same group.  This time the email was similar with the listing of my family and again if they voted (again with the wrong info on me), but this email contained a listing of some of my local Facebook friends and where they live and if they voted in the last few elections.  This email, like the first one, sets off many red flags.  However the flags in this one are significantly worse than the first.

 

The biggest gripe that I have is like the first email is that the email listed my Facebook friends’ names but also their addresses as well.  The worst thing about this is that listing where somebody lives could create a dangerous situation especially if some of these people were not so-called friends of mine.  I have always felt that somebody’s address should remain private if they want it to be.  It should never be considered public information.  The fact that some of these people were former work associates and a couple were people I knew back in high school makes it that much worse especially given that I left my previous employer in a less than glorious manner.  Add to this that the people from high school I haven’t had a conversation with them in years just adds to the aggravation and paranoia with anybody knowing your private information.

 

The Saturday before the election I received in the mail a letter that was exactly like the first email I received.  Why this group would waste postage on sending this false information out in a letter is beyond me?  All I can say is that I am thankful that they never sent out the information of the second email through the postal service.

 

In last week’s local Sunday paper, a reader wrote that they were angry receiving a letter from this group after it falsely reported that a relative of theirs could not vote in the last few elections because they were in a home for Alzheimer’s patients.  What I can’t figure out is why anybody in the family didn’t have this person removed from voting roll call when they knew they no longer were going to be able to vote.  This reader called for an investigation as to why this information was even sent out in the first place.

 

Honestly, I totally agree that this group should be investigated.  While much of the information is freely available information it is the fact that it was distributed without the consent of others listed is where my biggest criticism is.  Add to that the incorrect info about me and it just adds to the problem.  The second email sort of clued me in that much of this information for both emails were in fact gathered from Facebook and the friends that I have on there that live locally.  I believe that such gathering of information from Facebook is both unethical and illegal and Facebook should be investigated to see if they gave out people personal information along with its user’s friends list for their own gain.  This should be considered a complete violation of Facebook policy especially since I keep my address private on Facebook.  Hopefully, this group is investigated and I would join any class action lawsuit that comes about for violating the privacy of myself and the privacy of others.  I would be glad if this information is never released ever again in any format especially being so wrong.

 

Now onto the elections results.

 

As expected it was a nightmare as nationally the Republicans took a majority of the U.S. Senate to now control both houses of Congress.  I see gridlock for the next 2 years at the national level as Obama will take his pen and do executive orders no matter what the Congress thinks.

 

Now that the ads are gone this year was one of the dirtiest political seasons ever with more money than ever coming in from out-of-state sources.  More mud was slung this year than ever before and more egos were severely damaged.  Some of the damage is probably socially, politically and personally permanent.

 

First up is the Maine governor race.  Once again, Paul LePage won over his Democratic opponent Mike Michaud.  Was this any surprise that this race was once again given to the person who made this state the biggest joke in the country.  How much further can this state slide and how many more people can end up being uninsured after LePage’s next 4 years?  I bet the number will go up significantly

To make matters worse is that LePage refused to accept the concession call from Michaud after the election saying that he doesn’t want to see Michaud ever again.  What a wonderful way to start a new term.  The only winner in this race are the political cartoonists who have 4 more years of great material coming.

 

In the second district Congressional race, the criminal Republican won handily over the extremist Democrat.  I still won’t give out their names as I feel none of them were capable of winning and none should have won.  We should feel sorry for those people in northern Maine as they need support, but not from who they chose.

 

As expected the other races were determined well before election day and not worth mentioning here.

 

However, the bear-baiting issue ended with the NO side winning against the YES side by a small margin.  We continue to be the only state in the country to allow the feeding of bears to kill them.  While the YES side had graphic images in their ads in the last days of the campaign, it was a little too late to get the victory.

 

The other referendum questions passed with ease despite most of them were for funds to places unknown and for uses unknown as well.  I feel that people just thought that if it meant jobs no matter where they are, then the issue should be supported.  Again, voter ignorance dominated these questions.  I guess most people don’t believe that it is the taxpayers’ money used to pay for the bond issues.

 

As far as the South Portland marijuana referendum was concerned, the YES side won by a small margin.  However, the NO side is challenging the vote and the police have already said that they will be stepping up their arrests of people possessing the drug.  If anything, the vote might have been symbolic but may not ever be enforced.

 

Overall, I felt that voting this year was under minded by the wrong information given by the Maine State Voter Program.  No matter what they say I DID  vote this election and I certainly have every right to complain about the results as most of them turned opposite of what the way the voting should have gone.

 

Maybe we should blame the 40% that didn’t vore…

 

Note: This will be the last post before Thanksgiving.  I will return in December with a new post at that time.  So have a happy holiday and a happy Black Friday.

 

 

 

 

Half-Year Reflection

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Please note:  This week’s writing is being posted in all my blogs as it is important to all of my published blogs.

 

You may have noticed that there has not been a blog post in any of my blogs for the last couple of weeks.  There are a few reasons for that.

 

Among the most important reasons are the following:

  • Weather plays havoc with my equipment so I remain offline and disconnected when the heat is high.
  • My brain had run out of ideas to write about for a while.
  • I was evaluating the stats to determine the future of my blogs.

 

Certainly anybody who has been reading my blogs recently will realize that I have had a difficult last couple of months.  While I tried to put as much of a positive spin on what was happening around me, it seemed that I failed with that attempt.  I don’t feel that I really did anything wrong, I was just misinterpreted.

 

As I mentioned in the past, I am always open to topic ideas in any of my blogs.  So far, I have received only 1 idea which I plan on discussing in the next month or so.  I am also open to guest bloggers who want to step up and write articles for any of my blogs.  Since this has been a one-person operation, sometimes my quality seems to have waned at times.  If anybody is interested in submitting ideas or wants to be a guest writer, feel free to email me at the address at the right.  Please note that I accept both anonymous and named submissions, if you want the credit for it.

 

My other thing I have been doing is re-evaluating how frequently I post to my blogs.  Usually, my writings have been on Wednesdays allowing me to judge the acceptance on Thursdays.  Lately, it seems that the numbers have been fairly light and the lack of “likes” and comments make me wonder what the public really want and what they don’t.

 

So, effective immediately, I have decided that I will be publishing a lot less in the foreseeable future.  My plan is to update my blogs approximately twice a month per blog.  However, this number could go up or down depending on desire of topics and anything that I come across that I deem to be important to discuss. I also plan on staggering the posting of my blogs so that both are not posted in the same week, but that could change as well. This choice was not easy, but I felt that it was in everybody’s best interest including my own sanity.

 

Overall, I expect that both the “Staples” blog and the “Rants” blog will continue for a long time as long as I take it a little slower.  Hopefully, everyone will agree on that.

 

 

Google+ Not a Plus

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As I mentioned in the past, I have had much problem when using Gmail.

 

To refresh your memory, I keep getting email that doesn’t belong to me.

 

Not just an occasional email, but at least one or two per day.

 

It seems that I am always cancelling some Twitter account, a Facebook account, or some adult web site.  Sometimes I even get emails from persons exposing personal information not intended for me.

 

Certainly anybody should be bothered by this.

 

After all, in the wrong hands, identity theft could not only happen but run rampant.

 

The worse thing about this is that the companies that I have contacted stating this is identity theft seems not the least bit concerned that it is even an issue.

 

Have I pricked up your eyes yet to a very bad problem?

 

I should have and the worse thing about it when I contacted Google about it, all I got was an automated message pointing me to how email accounts are handled.

 

This was no help at all and I have been unable to get a REAL PERSON to answer my complaint.

 

We should all be concerned about this as anybody could be affected at any time by emails that don’t belong to them.

 

Now there is another app from Google that we should be worried about and that is Google+.

 

For those who don’t know what Google+ is, it is sort of like Facebook only on a much smaller scale.

 

However, it is on a much scarier scale.

 

While Facebook allows you to have approve friends or allow followers if you want (I don’t allow followers by the way), Google+ allows for friends and acquaintances.

 

The acquaintances better known as circles can be problematic.  These circles are Google’s version of followers.

 

While you can set up notifications to find out when somebody new puts you into their circle, you don’t have the option of deleting them from seeing your life on Google+.  It appears that the only option one has is to either add them to your circle or do nothing.

 

If you haven’t figured this out yet, this could be a MAJOR problem especially if someone puts you into circle that you don’t want to belong.  This is bothersome if someone from your past or currently is a stalker and could possible cause harm to someone.

 

Enter me.

 

Last week, I got an email notification that someone who I knew many years ago (I believe going back to early high school years) has entered me into their circle.  What is bad about this person is that this person is one who once was part of a group back in high school whose only purpose was to perform physical harm to me.

 

Yes, consider this a former bully has returned.  They may not be a bully anymore (I hope), but the mere presence of their name makes me cringe.

 

This is especially true given that their profile is somewhat offensive to me in how they present themselves.

 

But now here is the problem.

 

How can I get rid of this person that I don’t want to see what I post?

 

As far as I can tell, there is absolutely NO way to get rid of somebody or to report the person to be removed for being offensive.

 

I have not contacted Google about this because I know that I will probably get some automated message that has nothing to do with problem and would not offer a solution.

 

So for now, I try not to use Google+ very much as I don’t want this person to know much about me.  Even many years later, this person still scares me especially given that this person still lives less than 20 miles from me.

 

I hope that others take caution from this and be aware that Google+ is not a safe social site and can invite stalkers and bullies into your life.

 

Maybe at some point, Google may change their setup and allow for blocking of inappropriate people or at least the reporting of them.

 

My hope is that Google+ doesn’t become a site for bullying as the other social sites have become especially that this could be avoided there if Google changed their site.

 

For now, take caution if using Google+.

 

As for me, I have more Gmail emails to respond to.

 

Will Google ever get anything right ever?

 

Oh yeah, they do have that search thing that nobody ever uses.

Microsoft’s Latest 2 Mistakes

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Imagine going into your local hardware store.  You want to buy a new hammer and the salesclerk tells you that the hammer has a lifetime warranty.  All you need is just bring it back for an exchange if anything ever happens to it.  Simple, right?  Not if Microsoft ran the store.

The first product that Microsoft gives to you for your broken hammer is a wooden pencil.  Their claim is that they are both made of wood, but the store no longer carries hammers so they can’t give you a new one.  Unfortunately, you are forced to take the pencil in exchange and try using it like a hammer with very little success. 

Welcome to the disappearance of the long-lasting Windows/MSN Messenger.  Last week, Microsoft forced everybody running their Messenger program to suck up to their inferior product of Skype.  Unfortunately, Skype is NO Messenger.  Here is a list of items missing that I use that SHOULD HAVE BEEN IN Skype:

  • Hotmail email notification. 
  • MSN Today (their newsfeed in a startup area)
  • Microsoft group contacts — these just disappeared with no way of recovering these connections/people.
  • Connections to multiple services – only Messenger and Facebook are accepted, forget all the others.

I really wonder why Microsoft released this product to the masses with so many missing features.  Apparently I am not alone with these missing features as many people have commented on Microsoft’s forums on these omissions.  Their response is that they may show up in a future release.  For now I am stuck with an unusable program with no features I can use.

 

The second product that Microsoft can give you for your broken hammer is a giant inflatable hammer.  Their claim is that it is a hammer despite not being made of wood.  Good luck on using nails with that.  This is exactly the way Microsoft upgraded customers from Hotmail to the lamer and ad-ridden Outlook.  Previously I called it “promising” now I call it “cluttered with ads”.  Don’t get too close to the edge of the screen otherwise ads will pop up and invade screen space.  As far as speed is concerned, it is a little faster than Hotmail, but the ads definitely are a turnoff.  Of course I could spend $20/year to have these ads eliminated, but who wants to give Microsoft more money?

Neither of these products are great and unfortunately both are forced on customers whether they like it or not.  Both needs a lot of work to make them workable and being a useful hammer.

 

My score: 

  • Skype:  2  (Not recommended but forced upon those who used MSN/Windows Messenger)
  • Outlook.com:  3 (A drop from my previous beta grade because of the irritating ads that take precious screen space.)

In conclusion:  Maybe someday Microsoft will give us a REAL hammer for the wooden ones we lost recently.

 

 

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