Solar Power Experiments

I love the idea behind this experiment and solar power in general. The sun is going to shine. Why not collect some of that light as power? When we finish buying our house, we’re going to look into getting solar installed if it’s in a good spot. But I wish I had seen this before when we were renting in a high-rise. The goal here isn’t to save money. The author does some math on the potential savings and they’re not much. But being self-sufficient is a good goal on its own. It’s also a nice little backup system for when power does go out.

Parts requires for this solar project
Parts requires for this solar project from the original author

My goal is to take care of the energy needs for just my bedroom. 4 main components are all we need to achieve this: A solar panel to collect, a battery to store, an inverter to convert the direct current to alternating current, and a “charge controller” to balance the three other components. I’m using bargain-basement parts intended for RV, marine & car usage which keeps my system cheap and mobile.

Source: $200 solar self-sufficiency — without your landlord noticing.

Scam calls no more

Since joining T-Mobile (and having them pay off our Google Pixels) I appreciate the Scam ID feature on incoming calls. Instead of a caller ID, the screen lights up red with Scam Likely as the name.

I appreciate the notification that it’s a scam but I wish I could have the calls blocked automatically. Today, I learned that’s possible with the aptly named Scam Block feature.

T-Mobile offers more information about these features.

To enable Scam ID or Scam Block and check their statuses:

#ONI# (#664#) – Enable Scam ID
#ONB# (#662#) – Enable Scam Block
#OFB# (#632#) – Disable Scam Block
#STS# (#787#) – Check Scam Block enabled status

I’ve turned on Scam Block since most of my calls are scammers offering my holidays away, free cruises and hotels. So many hotels. I’m looking forward to my phone no longer ringing everyday with scam calls.

We can all hear you now

Verizon Wireless is the next winner of “Which Company Will Expose Your Data!”

So if you’re got a PIN or password with them you use elsewhere, it’s time to change it. Because the danger isn’t an attacker getting your Verizon info, it’s them using that same password or PIN to get into your email or banking information.

Here’s what Verizon Wireless left open on the web.

Six folders for each month from January through to June contained several daily log files, apparently recording customer calls from different US regions, based on the location of the company’s datacenters, including Florida and Sacramento. Each record also contained hundreds of fields of additional data, including a customer’s home address, email addresses, what kind of additional Verizon services a subscriber has, the current balance of their account, and if a subscriber has a Verizon federal government account, to name a few. One field also appeared to record a customer’s “frustration score,” by detecting if certain keywords are spoken by a customer during a call.

And even though it wasn’t Verizon Wireless’ fault for the breach, they’re still to blame since they outsourced the work to a vendor who made the mistake.

“Verizon provided the vendor with certain data to perform this work and authorized the vendor to set up AWS storage as part of this project,” said a spokesperson. “Unfortunately, the vendor’s employee incorrectly set their AWS storage to allow external access.”

A hacker doesn’t need to break into a server when a vendor leaves it out on the web. This is where I start my pitch for 1Password because the breaches, mistakes and leaks of data are not going to stop.

I have used 1Password almost a year full-time. It keeps everything safe and secure. My Verizon password (when we were customers) was a long strand of 20-something numbers and letters. It didn’t match anything and I never knew it. But 1Password did. – It’s only $5 per month for up to 5 people. You can have separate vaults where you can keep your logins and personal information. There are also shared vaults which are great for couples to share common information and keep sensitive information like Social Security Numbers safe. I keep every login to a site I sign up for there as well as my banking information including routing and account numbers. I keep a profile I use to fill-in forms in web sites as well as my plastic cards I use to buy things.

Because Verizon isn’t the first company to leak your info and they are not the last company to leak your info. It’s going to happen. Over and over and over. You should sign-up for 1Password. It will take the guesswork out of passwords and sensitive information.

Live reading of 1984

In January of 2015 the DC Public Library held an event titled Orwellian America. Included a reading of 1984 in its entirety and streamed across YouTube. Those videos are no longer available.

I was reminded of this event today when I saw a similar event today.

The Orwell Foundation and UCL Festival of Culture are delighted to announce a live, start-to-finish reading of Nineteen Eighty-Four in Senate House, University of London. For the first time in the UK, hear Nineteen Eighty-Four read by a host of actors, writers, journalists and members of the public over the course of a single day in the centre of London. This unique event, part of the UCL Festival of Culture 2017, is free and open to the public.

Unlike the DC event, London’s event is available in its 11 hour entirety. (I’ve skipped the first 11 minutes, 15 seconds as they are silent.) I’ve read this book many times and look forward to listening to it again.

Edge browser is in your PDFs rearranging your data

I’m a sucker for weird printing issues. In my earlier life, I worked in a print shop and it’s the family business. So when I saw this bug I had to first email it to my dad (Hi Dad!) then share it here. It appears the Edge Browser, the Windows 10 version of Internet Explorer is changing the contents of certain PDFs when printed. Ars Technica has the full story.

Beyond being breathtakingly bizarre, the bug could potentially have serious consequences for architects, engineers, lawyers, and other professionals who rely on Edge to print drawings, blueprints, legal briefs, and similarly sensitive documents. Edge is the default application for viewing PDFs on Windows 10 computers. While the errors demonstrated above happened using the “Microsoft Print to PDF” option, multiple users report similar alterations when using regular printing settings.

I agree with their recommendation to use Google Chrome for the same feature.

A less arcane fix is to switch to an alternate PDF reader, ideally the one built into Google’s Chrome browser, because it contains a robust security sandbox that prevents untrusted content from accessing sensitive operating-system functions. Until this flaw is fixed, people absolutely shouldn’t trust Edge to print their documents.

Until then, if you’re printing anything from Edge that’s important to you, it’s worth giving it an ocular pat down.

Ocular pat down from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia