Monthly Archives March 2012

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BlogFest Spring 2012 Edition

By M Davies   /     Mar 28, 2012  /     Events, Hobby-ish, NEPA  /     0 Comment

There's only 2 short days left until NEPA BlogFest. 

I've been working behind the scenes once again to help promote the event.  Before I go an further, here are the details in the event you are interested in attending.

NEPA BLOG FEST (Spring 2012 Edition)

Date: Friday, March 30th, 2012
Time: TBD, but usually at 6pm
Location: Rooney's Irish Pub; 67 South Main Street; Pittston, PA 18640. A menu can be found here.

This is a free event open to local bloggers, lurkers and anyone else interested in hanging out with the "cool kiddies" of the local blogosphere.

***You can RSVP to the Facebook Event Page right here.

Why should you attend NEPA Blog Fest?

There was an entire article in this week's edition of the Weekender that explains it better than I'd ever be able to.  Special thanks to Nikki Mascali for taking time out of her busy schedule to interview me and my blogging partners.  You can read the article online right here…or perhaps, go and pick up a print version of the Weekender.  I will autograph it for you ūüôā

You can also read our press release about the event right here. 

For me, NEPA Blog Fest has always been about networking with new people and hanging out with old friends.  You get to know your fellow bloggers intimately through the words of their blogs and then meeting them in person gets to put a face behind the name.  I hope that you'll join us on Friday night.







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Staying with the theme….

By M Davies   /     Mar 26, 2012  /     I hate my neighbors, NEPA, The WTF File  /     0 Comment

2¬†3¬†4¬†5¬†Many Many new crimes in Hanover Township —¬†

From the TL:  A home invasion/shooting/robbery/mugging Р,129279

From the CV: ¬†A robbery at the Game Station (video game store) –¬†

Also, from the CV: ¬†Where’s my schmoopy? ¬†No you are my schmoopy. ¬†Ahhhh schmoopy schmoopy. ¬†Obviously, not at Schmoopy’s Bar and Grill, because it was burglarized. ¬†

From the CV:  And now, there are 5 storm grates missing.

Update 04/30/12  From the TL:  Attempted abduction in Hanover Township.,145199

Update 08/27/12 From the TL:  Someone stabbed on the street I used to live on,197422

I’m literally thinking of starting up the Wilkes-Barre crime map again…only for Hanover Township this time around.

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Haxes, Taxes, and Annoyances to the Maxes

By M Davies   /     Mar 26, 2012  /     Annoyances, Technology Hates Me  /     0 Comment

After a week, I'm back online.  My websites were hacked.  Well – at least 2 of the 3 were hacked.  I don't think was, but kind of sort of was due to the domains all being linked together through Dreamhost's web panel.  The ass kicker here is, I was not the only one.  There's a 30+ page thread on Dreamhost with several customers experiencing the same issue.  A fellow local blogger (Shannon Nelson) also had her site hacked on Dreamhost a few weeks ago.  After doing extensive research, our hacks were different – her site was hacked via JavaScript.  Basically, an  iFrame linking to a website with malicious software was inserted into her WordPress installation.  On the other hand, my hack was a base64 hack which happened via PHP.  You can read more on that here:  I still have some clean-up work to do, and then I'm going to re-evaluate my hosting provider options.  I have 3 options that I'm currently looking at.

We had to submit a request for an extension for submitting our taxes this year.  I can't recall a time that I've ever done this.  It turns out our taxes are uber complicated this year, and the tax guy actually had to look up the tax code to figure out how to file.  After holding off until he figured out how to do them, he worked on a bunch of other people's and our taxes got pushed to the back of the list.  Now we are working on borrowed time.  Terrific. 

This morning I discovered that the power supply for my new Macbook pro was dead.  I plugged it into the wall and it refused to power up.  I reseated the cables and tried another outlet and still no dice.  I determined that the power brick part of the cable was messed up.  I'm not sure exactly got messed up with it, but it wasn't working.  I guess, if I knew more about electricity, I could hook it up to a multimeter and test levels.  The happy ending of this story is that the local Wilkes-Barre best buy had the exact cable I needed, so I didn't have to wait for an Apple RMA.  The bad news is, it cost 80 effing dollars.  We just purchased this Mac in November.  There's no reason the damn power supply should be bad already, but it is what it is.  It's covered under Apple Care still, so I'll get a replacement for free, but it's just another annoyance.

Follow-up to our electricity issue in the bedroom (…ummmm…I just realized that may sound perverted, but no, we actually have an electrical problem in the bedroom…):  We have a bad whosa-ma-whatsit in the fuse panel.  What are they called?  Circuit breakers?  Fuses?  I told you I don't know much about electrical things.  We purchased a new thingee majig from Lowes to replace the bad one — which by the way is leaking a white substance, and Rich is going to try to replace it tomorrow.  I'm not sure how this is going to end up.  He says he's going to kill the power to the entire house before he attempts it.  Still…I'm nervous. 

Can anything else go wrong lately?  I probably shouldn't say that too loud, or I'll be struck dead by a lightning bolt or something. 

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It Never Fails

By M Davies   /     Mar 11, 2012  /     Annoyances, I hate my neighbors, NEPA  /     1 Comment

Many people text, put on makeup, channel surf and jam out to the radio while they drive. Not me. I write blog posts. In my head.

It dawned on my on my drive home on Friday that the three year anniversary of the move from Hanover Township to Sweet Valley is coming up. We made the move in March of 2008, after an extensive and exhausting search for a new home. Why did we move? We outgrew the house in Hanover Township. I planned to blog about how happy I am to call this northern corner of Luzerne County my home. That is, until I arrived home.

The first thing my husband said to me when I walked in the door was not "Hi" or "Welcome home". It was "We have a major electrical problem." AGAIN?! What the…?

We've been having issues with various electrical things in the house since last summer.  It started with the power going out for 5 days during Hurricane Irene, continued on with the Washer & Dryer conspiring to stop working at the same time, and in December the baseboard heat decided it should just stop working in the Living Room upstairs.  I pretty much had my fill with stupid house problems last year.  I REEAAAALLLLYYY don't want to start the year with another plethora of crap that needs to be fixed around here.  Anyway, back to the story….

We don't really know what happened, or why it happened, but there is now 0 watts of power going to the master bedroom.  Zero.  Zilch.  Zippo.  Like nothing will turn on.  At all.  When I'm annoyed. I. put. a. period. after. every. word.  The power was working fine in there on Friday morning.  Rich turned off everything before starting to work (he usually works from his computer room in the basement).  He went back upstairs sometime in the afternoon and nothing would turn on.  He thought, "Uh oh, I bet a fuse is blown."  He went over to the fuse panel and proceeded to throw every switch.  Nothing turned back on.  He went back into the basement where we have a second fuse panel and threw every switch there.  Still nothing turned back on in the bedroom.  What the….?!?!?!?!

It's now Sunday and still the entire bedroom remains powerless.  We have no idea what's wrong, but it's more than likely going to require a professional electrician to come out and look at the wiring.  I'm really nervous about what that may end up costing us.  Also, I'm even more nervous about what he may find.  When the baseboard heat stopped working in the living room….Rich came to the conclusion that the thermostat was bad.  He turned off the power and took it off of the wall to find something majorly wrong inside of the wall.  Basically the wiring got hot enough to melt through the plastic shielding that surrounded it and the wires were bare and exposed.  We are seriously lucky that the entire house did not burn down.  I'm not really sure how hot it would have needed to be to melt wires, but it kind of freaks me out thinking about it. 

Here's the thing about this house, it's a divorce house.  The people that lived here before us got divorced, and the wife ended up with it.  The husband was some kind of masterful electrician.  If you toured the house, you'd know what I mean.  There are about 8000 light switches (I still have no idea what half of them are supposed to control), 2 fuse panels (as previously mentioned), an external garage completely wired up, a timer, and a million and one weird configurations of lights and etc.  I'm really wondering two things.  1) Was he really a good electrician or one of those hacks that says they know a lot about electricity?  2)  Did he purposely wire crap up to fail after the divorce papers were served?  I'm not one for conspiracy theories…but…..

All things considered, I do really love Sweet Valley.  I'm very happy to call it my home.  I may have some odd neighbors, but nothing like the lunatics I lived next door to in Lee Park.  I would take the lunacy any day over the week over the scumbags, murderers, thieves, more thieves and megan's law violators.  By the look of things, not much has changed in Hanover Township.  Just this week, 3 major crimes happened within a 24 hour timefame.

1.  Marion Terrace Slashing

2.  A Drug Bust

3.  Shooting Near the American Legion

I think we made the right decision by moving out when we did.  The city is starting to get more and more dangerous each day. 

Now *ahem* about that electrical problem…..anyone know a good reliable yet affordable electrician? 

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Practice Safe Hex

By M Davies   /     Mar 10, 2012  /     Technology Hates Me, Twitter  /     1 Comment

A few months ago, I wrote a post about the local media's use of social media and what they were doing right and wrong.  I'd like to think that six months later, they have figured things out, however, I'm not so sure.

On Monday, Andy Palumbo blogged about nearly pulling the plug on his Twitter account because of a virus/phishing attempt circulating through Direct Message.  Several people that I follow on Twitter in the local media have "received" this virus and it started spreading like wild fire.  I got two of the messages myself:


Did I click on them?  Um.  No.  Although, I'm sure plenty of people say nasty things about me online. 

Here's the thing about viruses.  They don't spread unless someone clicks the link or opens the file, or runs an executable, etc.  If you don't do these things, the virus doesn't spread.  The problem with Twitter is that it uses a lot of shortened URLs to save space in Tweets making it hard to tell if a link is legitimate or not.  I have a solution to this:  URL Void –  You can put any link into box on the website and it will scan the URL to let you know whether or not the site is safe to navigate to.  If those who were "hacked" on Twitter took a few extra seconds to practice safe hex by plugging in the URL in question from these direct messages, they would see that the website was an exploit. 

Deleting your Twitter account because it has the potential to be "hacked" is just silly.  And let's be clear.  These accounts were not "hacked", the user clicked on the URL that they received in a direct message, this is how this type of VIRUS spreads.  There is a big difference between being "hacked" and receiving a virus.  I get viruses and spam sent to all seven of my email accounts every day, but am I going to delete my email account?  No.  Am I going to get rid of my Internet access because there's a potential that someone unauthorized may try to use my Wifi network?  No (because we have MAC address security enabled, layer 2 FTMFW).

You just have to be smart about how you use the Internet, practice safe hex, as I like to call it.  A few years ago, when I was more active into Newsgroups, I followed one called alt.comp.virus and one of the posters wrote up an entire article about what "Safe Hex" means right here:  The article is several years old, but a lot of the same theories still apply.  I think in this instance, tip #4 is very applicable:

4. Be cautious when reading email with attachments and downloading files
You should never, ever (and we really mean it!) do the following:

  • Never open email attachments from someone you don't know

  • Never open email attachments forwarded to you even if they're from someone you know

  • Never open unsolicited or unexpected e-mail attachments until you've confirmed the sender actually meant to send them. If you know the sender and you are absolutely sure they intentionally sent the attachment, then scan it with an up-to-date virus scanner before opening it.

  • Never pay attention to virus warnings or even forward them unless you subscribe to a serious virus newsletter.

  • Never obtain software from "warez" sites or peer-to-peer programs like Kazaa. Get it from known, trusted sources only.

Additionally, it is wise to consider configuring your email program to display messages as "text only" and not "HTML". HTML can easily include malicious scripting (which may "do something" unwanted automatically), malicious links (usually obfuscated and too easy to click) and other unwanted junk. Keep in mind that if you send HTML email, many anti-spam solutions may aggressively target HTML formatted email as SPAM.

If you replace "email attachments" with "Twitter Direct Messages" or "Shortened URLs" it is the same advice I'd recommend to anyone using Social Media these days. 

Here's a few other tips I can share with you:

  • Phishers usually tend to be bad spellers and/or bad at punctuation and grammar.  That's the first way I can spot a phishing attempt at 20 paces (whether it be by email or social media platform)
  • Email addresses that the phishing message comes from is usually fake, or non-existent on the domain.  On Twitter, the account is usually created only to spread these viruses.  They may have no actual tweets with a ton of followers, they may have a bogus picture and URL in their profile information.  If it looks too good to be true (i.e. She's a supermodel stripper wanting to send you XXXXX pictures) then it probably is. 
  • Hovering over the link in your email client and checking your status bar will let you know if the URL is legit.  Example.  I can make a link say but then have it redirect to a fake site using HTML. This however, does not work on Twitter if the URL is shortened, you will need to use a link checker such as URL Void (mentioned above).
  • DO NOT USE THE SAME PASSWORD ON ANY ACCOUNT FOR ANY REASON EVER!  You are just asking for trouble if you do.

And now I will share with you a story….(names changed to protect the stupid)

A “Network Engineer” I know was victimized by one of these phishing emails and actually had his bank account compromised.  Here’s what happened: someone had sent him an email stating to be from ICQ and that he needed to confirm his email/password on his account so that his account wouldn’t be deleted. He did exactly what the email asked of him. (WRONG! BAD! NO!!) Nothing happened for months, then all of the sudden after a deposit was made into his personal checking account, the thief decided to make a move. At the time, the engineer was using the same password for his E-mail, ICQ, and Bank. The phisher knew about the deposit via email, knew what bank he used and knew the password. He was able to transfer the money elsewhere thereby stealing it and leaving the checking account penniless. The bank fraud department had to get involved and was able to see the unauthorized transactions. They had to close out the account and reimburse for the fraudulent activities. Long story short…if a Network Engineer can be fooled by one of these emails, ANYONE CAN (except me of course….KIDDING).

The bottom line is this:  As long as hackers/spammers and phishers see an opportunity to make a dime off of someone else or get a sick thrill off of ruining someone's online reputation, it's not going to stop. Security threats are not going away anytime soon, they are going to keep growing exponentially and Internet users (business and home) really need to stay educated in order to protect themselves and their assets online.

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