There is a limit now

I learned an important lesson today.

About a week ago, a person I know asked me where they could get antivirus protection for free on their computer. Due to budget constraints, they weren’t willing to buy any of the common antivirus products.

Being the type of person I am (always trying to help those with computer issues), I offered to help by recommending they download a free copy of AVG. I wrote down some simple instructions on how to get AVG and gave it to this person.

A few days ago, this person came back to me showing a rather shady looking receipt for a $49 purchase of AVG but they didn’t receive any software and were getting worried. The URL printed on the receipt definitely didn’t look like anything legit as well.

First thing I thought (and secretly hoped was the case) was this person somehow purchased a commercial version of AVG. Looking around their web site, I found a $52.95 collection of software, but nothing that was $49. This person was very firm that they went to the web site I wrote down, yet I couldn’t find what they purchased.

I did some more looking around and it grew more apparent to me that this person must have had spyware or a virus on her computer that redirected any attempt to reach known security software web sites to scam sites.

We e-mailed AVG with the “order number” to find out if it was a legit order number. It wasn’t.

Unfortunately, this person didn’t have enough computer knowledge to recognize the warning signs and fell for what appears to be a scam. Even though I told her originally it was free software, this person still got tricked into inputting their credit card information and purchasing something that turned out to be nothing. This person is now working with their bank/credit card company to see if this charge can be removed and is canceling the card.

I should have seen some of the warning signs myself. This person had a dial-up internet connection, so who knows when the last time it had any Windows updates (if ever). I remember at my previous job, it was quite common to come across dial-up users who still didn’t have Windows XP SP2 (or worse, had Windows 98 or ME!). Not to mention, if there was an old version of antivirus software, it would be way out of date since nearly every home user in existence clicks away the expiration dialog without second thoughts. A prime sitting duck for spyware/spam.

I feel absolutely horrible (this person is very kind to me, even though I kept apologizing for the trouble they were in).

I decided today I have a few rules when it comes to computers now and people asking me personally for help:

  • I must know the person very well and how solid their general computing knowledge is.
  • The only time I will ever recommend security software, unless I am certain that person knows what they are doing, is if I personally install it on their computer. That way I can ensure their computer is clean of spyware/viruses and is properly secured.
  • I have officially retired from helping people who use dial-up internet. The odds of their system being up-to-date in patches, antivirus, and be clean of virus/spyware are next to nill. In many cases, installing security software after the fact can cause even more issues (I have seen viruses actively stop antivirus installations halfway through for example, leaving some rather ugly errors in its wake). These days many phone companies offer very basic broadband services roughly ~$19 a month and supporting/protecting a computer on these connections is so much easier. If they don’t want to spend a little extra money to ensure their computing experience is safe, I don’t want the stress of cleaning up the mess afterwards.
  • When people ask what will be a good home computer, I am recommending Macs for now on. Simple as that. Windows has too many security issues for the average home user to deal with.

It is a cruel reality, but I have learned today that I must accept it.

Keep track of your car's mileage

A neat site I have run across in the past week is My Mile Marker, who’s purpose is real simple: keeping track of your car’s mileage, MPG, annual costs, and so on.

It works brilliantly if you fill your cars tank every-time you get gas, you write down your car’s mileage when you fill the tank, and you remember to input the data into My Mile Marker.

With a week’s worth of tracking, I have found out I get 26.2 miles per gallon on my 2002 Subaru Forester, which is actually above the government gas mileage standards for my car. This is including lots of highway miles, a little city driving, plus some classic side road driving (lots of hills and turns at 30-40 mph speeds).

Granted, I have been practicing some fuel saving techniques to keep my MPG up. For example, I drive mostly on the highway in my car, which means less stop/go traffic which automatically means higher mileage. I also drive between 60-65 mph on the highway, which is much more efficient then driving even 70 mph. I also use cruise control extensively, which really helps with mileage.

It will be interesting to see how my car does over the next month. I am going to attempt to keep track of each fill-up.

Some HD rants

Just a few HD rants to share with you:

  • Not making the effort in the little places: NESN outside of ESPN probably is the best HD sports channel in the country. Every Red Sox and Bruins game in HD, plus lots of other programming in HD. Yet it is common for it to use NESN promo ads in SD! It really makes the channel seem like it is half trying with HD. I can understand (some) 3rd-party ads not being in HD…but there is no excuses for NESN promo ads to not be in HD. While I am ranting about this, when a local network channel claims it is HD, it should have its local news in HD (yes I am talking about you WMUR). If your field cameras aren’t HD, that is ok, just at least get the in studio stuff in HD. Talk about riding a bandwagon.
  • Launching a HD channel without enough HD content: Katie and I are big fans of the Food Network and there is nothing that makes someone hungrier then watching Food Network in HD. Except when you see the same episode 5 times in a single day. Yes, that has happened to us several times. Plus, what the heck are they smoking not having Rachael Ray and Emeril on the HD channel yet?
  • Let me subscribe to just the HD channels: I don’t care about the 150 SD channels I can get. I just want the 20-30 HD channels. Sell me a package (at a discount) where I can get just HD channels.
  • When I say channel 49, I want the HD version: It is idiotic that I have to type 849 to the the HD version of ESPN while still being offered channel 49 for ESPN in SD. If I have a HD box, just assume I want the HD version of a channel.
  • Seriously, get TiVO: Comcast, if there is one thing you could do that would make millions of people get DVR’s? When the TiVo software upgrade is released, offer it as a free automatic upgrade for all DVR renters. Seriously. The Comcast DVR software is by far the worst piece of junk I have ever used (outside of Windows ME).

Done rant.

One little thing = bad swing

I had been in a little slump at the plate the past for past couple of games, which is pretty hard to do when your playing slow pitch softball in a coed league. I kept dropping my right shoulder when swinging the back, which mean a lot of weak contact and pop-ups (ie: I was doing my best imitation of a golf swing, even on pitches that are chest level).

After a two week break due to the 4th of July, we had our first game on Tuesday and I absolutely stunk. Batting practice was horrific since my timing was off and I kept dropping my shoulder. The actual game was even worse. Three weak ground balls for outs and a lazy fly ball to left field.

So I wasn’t feeling too hot going into today, since it would be our second game in three days. However, I guess the fact of seeing live pitches twice in three days really helped me. After a couple of practice swings, I took batting practice and magically stopped dropping my shoulder (it is actually much harder to do then it sounds). A slight adjustment forward in the batter’s box and I was hitting hard line drives to left field like I had been in the batting cage for a week straight.

Fast forwarding to the game, I had a spectacular day at the plate. 2-2 with a single, double, and a fielder’s choice. Each hit was a very hard drive to left field. Several people said I had a perfect swing both times. My team was tied 6-6 going into extra innings before we lost, but it was a spectacular game that kept going back and forth.

Just like baseball, when you break out of a slump in softball, you cannot help but smile. Now we just gotta start winning again.

How can you get charged up about this?

So I am watching the home run derby on TV (well, the pre-derby show if that makes sense). The Counting Crows are doing a little 1 song performance. One thing you notice having a HDTV is that it is really easy to figure out when there is no energy in a live music performance.

It probably has to do with there isn’t a single fan within a couple hundred feet of the stage, the very unnecessary micro fireworks, and a band that was doing their best to charge up the crowd, but clearly had no energy to feed off of.

This is baseball, we don’t want live music performances, especially ones that are very staged and artificial.

Inching closer

Katie and I have spent the weekend printing invitations (which were designed by my brother, Justin Gonyea, and are absolutely fantastic) and stuffing envelopes. 50 are complete done so far. We have 9 invitations left to do, but ran into a small catch…the post office sold us 6 books of stamps, but we only got 5 for some reason (I forgot to re-check when I bought them, unfortunately), so I need to go get another book of stamps.

2 months to go…

Countdown Special Comment

What I tried to write yesterday pails in comparison to what Keith Olbermann’s Special Comment was tonight.

In essence: that President Bush & Vice President Cheney should resign.

No matter your political affiliation, I hope you spend a couple minutes and watch this video.

Why I will love this country despite the fools who run it

I tend to shy away from politics on this blog, as there is enough ranting and raving blogs on the Internet. My voice would be very similar if not the same as every other blog…what thoughts would I provide that no one else has thought of before? I learned a few years ago that blogging required careful reflection to write something unique that could resonate with people. Endless venting (even when warranted) does not build an audience.

However, recent events has made me decide to start blogging about politics. With elections coming up within the next year and a half, this country needs all of the help it can get. I have decided that I will blog about politics only if I have a unique voice or story to add to the discussion. If I am just going to rant on the latest blunder of the day by a politican, I will skip posting it.

Anyways, onto my first political post in a very long time.

I will never forget what I was told when I was part of the Close-Up program back in December 1998, when I was a junior in high school. We were having a discussion with the staff member who was assigned to our group about the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

This person, who was probably in his 50s or 60s, all the sudden got really quiet and started saying something that I would never forget. The exact quote escapes me, but I decided to rewrite what I remember below. It isn’t a perfect word-for-word quote, but it captures the essence of what this person told a group of high school students.

“Yes there are other countries that for hold our same regard for human rights, for democracy, for freedom of speech, for freedom of religion, and so on. However, these countries all look up to us, the United States, because we are the last hope for this world. The main reason why democracy has succeeded and we remain free is because we have that “American Dream” and the power to hold onto that dream.

“It is why we succeeded when the Nazi’s and then the Soviet’s threatened the world. Because we were that beacon of hope, other countries and their people rallied behind us. We aren’t afraid to speak out against inequality or injustice. Without the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence, we are just another country. The day we tear those up is the day that we lose the rest of the world. As an ambassador for a major European country once told me, if we lose the United States’ moral compass, then all hope is lost for mankind.”

During the past few years, all of the lies and failings of the Bush Administration kept me thinking about what this person told me nearly 9 years ago at Close-Up. One by one, the freedoms and moral authority this country had are slowly being chipped away, one by one.

Now when something like the President pardoning Libby, it just saddens me beyond belief and makes me angrier by the minute. This man who claims to be our president has effectively voided his power today. He simply does not care what the law says or what the traditions of this country demand he do. He does what he damn wants.

I will never acknowledge George W. Bush as the President of this country. At this point forward, I consider us a leaderless country in crisis. But the thoughts of one little blogger will not change things. Those who read this post are most likely those who already agree with me…those who don’t are most likely will just move on, in their own state of denial, just because “their president” is some resemblance of a person who shares their views.

January 20th, 2009 cannot come soon enough. I will never lose hope that we will one day have a President who rightly returns to this country’s strong roots and traditions.

I hope someday we will have a country that returns to being the “last hope” for the world. Right now, we have forfeited that title.