Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Comcast Police

You're internet seems to be down, but it looks like you'll have no problem getting to our sponsors!

Over the past few years comcast has been involved in many a lawsuit, from class actions regarding traffic blocking, and their man in the middle attacks on their own customers, to individual lawsuits from illegal disclosure of customer's bank & bill information.

All throughout this, i've had only the choice of Comcast or Qwest in my area. Qwest's internet speeds aren't really even comparable to Comcast (yet), but their uptime is much more reliable. Because of comcast's poor uptime, and random blocking of protocols, we have both Comcast and Qwest at my home. When comcast is up, we're using comcast. When it goes down, which is quite often, we hop on our Qwest internet. It's a pretty nice system, except the bandwidth throughput is much smaller for Qwest so we would prefer our Comcast to be more reliable. It's not like we're paying customer's or anything...oh wait we are!

The reason for the "backup" internet wasn't only for convenience, but also because of what a waste of time it is trying to get in touch with their technical support for help. So when my internet went down 2 weeks ago, my first reaction wasn't to call their technical support because i had a backup. When my internet stayed down for almost 6 days, i finally made the call. After spending over an hour going through their phone system, getting hung up on multiple times by it, and waiting in queue for the remainder of that time, i finally got to a person. For the first time i had someone who was actually willing to help me, and we got an appointment setup to have them come out and look at my router.

The guy arrived on time, bonus points, but immediately started telling me about how he plays Horde in World of Warcraft, and my family plays on the wrong side (Alliance), there went the bonus points. He does his tests and decides that my router needs to be replaced, and makes some insulting remarks about the tech who previously installed my router saying that the splitter installed was the wrong kind and is the reason the router was fried.

He then says to me:

"You shouldn't host a Ventrilo Server from here."

Now, i don't host a ventrilo server from home...but i used to. So the fact that he knows that just from the small visit he made to my house means that my router not only monitors my traffic and protocols, but it stores that information either on the router, or on their own servers somewhere.

"Hey, so i was looking through your dresser...can i borrow some socks?"

He then proceeds to tell me he thinks comcast has a right to restrict what you run from your home, and he can't wait until they pass legislation to will make it legal for them to do so. So i'm allowed to pay for the service and bandwidth they advertised, but i'm not allowed to utilize that bandwidth? Bandwidth is bandwidth, plain and simple. A certain protocol isn't more harmful to hardware than another, it's the amount of bandwidth that goes through. However, wear and tear is expected as a business.

If you owned a gym, you wouldn't advertise "New 15 speed treadmill!" then only allow people to go up to speed 8 because if you go higher it wears out the gears quicker. Wear and tear of your hardware is expected and why you charge the prices you do, to make sure you have enough money to maintain the hardware that your business runs on.

Comcast will overextend itself, and won't bother with installing more lines or upgrading their equipment because that means less money in the corporate pocket. So instead, they throttle "certain protocols" (any protocol that allows the the user to utilize the full amount of bandwidth they pay for). And when they're worried that the program has extra logic to use multiple ports, they'll start doing man-in-the-middle attacks (against their own customers) and sending stop packets for whatever program they think is being used.

If i had to describe Comcast in 3 words, it'd be Illegal, Immoral, Irresponsible.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Infallible Giant

It's not secret the majority of the population relies on technology in some form to just get by from day to day. If you were to search Twitter right now for:
 you would find many 140 character complaints about todays downtime for Gmail and for Gtalk.

Outages like this in my company are a big deal. Although we have our phone systems and email servers setup and actively running, the main form of communication the majority of of us have between our many offices is through use of GoogleTalk. Today, we're thinking of how bad of a business plan it is to have our main form of communication a free 3rd-party service, but considering Google's track record you wouldn't normally have Google downtime as your top concern.

Unfortunately for me, 30% of my Googletalk work contacts have email addresses that i know they actively check for work related emails, and of those only 15% have extensions i can directly reach them at.

Our reliance on the Cloud is expected as the convenience for it's use for the general public's shortsighted wants and needs outweighs the potential for disaster that may occur in the long run, but today...i just wish i had thought to get secondary contact information for some of the people i need to work with today!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Duckware Hunt

One the latest ways makers of spyware are trying to get you infected with their crap is by playing on your inner child. I'm sure many of you grew up playing Duck Hunt on the Nintendo and feel like you had become a pro at it.

The Being Alive facebook fan page has either been compromised or was created by someone with malicious intent. It's possible makers of the spyware created fanpages they knew would get "fans" then after they reached a certain amount they start advertising their spyware infected links.

It has recently been updating the fan page with links to a Duck Hunt game at requires you to install one of their .exe's to play their game which installs Trackware.Dogpile on your machine, as verified by Norton, and possibly other unwanted items of spyware. They lure you in by claiming you could win prizes and money and since everyone knows how to play Duck Hunt, everyone feels like they have a chance at winning!

So what's so wrong with a Search Toolbar like Dogpile? Well unlike most toolbars, this one isn't easily uninstallable. If you try to remove it, it hides itself and reinstalls itself. It tracks your searching on your computer and submits it to one of the makers servers.

Now if you're okay with all of this, go ahead and install their spyware on your machine. But realize if you have one unwanted malicious piece of software on your machine, there's a good chance that item could bring in friends!

If you want to play the game without risk of being infected, go to a reputable site, maybe one that uses flash for their game without need to install another program, like

This may not be the first facebook profile or fanpage that will be posting links like this so be warned!

Fan Pages that have been compromised:
Being Alive

Blue Movie Nights

Living so far away from my girlfriend, Ashley, makes our date nights and movie nights a bit more unique than just the average night out on the town. Meeting and falling in love with someone who lives so far away from you is never something that you planned on. When you do fall in love, the distance no longer matters, you do whatever you can to feel close to each other until you are able to remove that distance.

With the use of today's technology we've been able to keep our relationship going strong while we work to fix this distance problem. Our main form of communication is nothing new, our cell phones. We both bought bluetooth headsets to allow us to be able to talk without having to stop our lives just to hear eachother's voice.

You remember your first time watching a movie with a person of the opposite sex? You're there sitting on apart from eachother, afraid to touch eachother because of how the other might react?

You're thinking "Maybe if i use the big fish story...what if she notices and defends against my moves, crap! I'll just put my hand right here and hope she grabs it..."

Well, Ashley and i will rent the same movie, and setup camp on the couch. We'll sync the movie up to within a second of eachother's and watch it together, listening over bluetooth, pausing together if someone needs to go do something or if the dvd is scratched. Every movie night is like our first date all over again! We can hear eachother's responses to the movie, but we just can't touch. The only "good side" to not being in person is she can't see when i cry because Tiny Tim dies! (too bad she has such good ears...)

Don't let distance keep you from spending time with the one you love! For the times you can't be together, there are still things you can do together! Its all about taking on life together as one!

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Magician From The IT Department

For some of the applications we've develop here at work, we used 3rd party libraries. To save on costs for licensing these 3rd party libraries we've taken advantage of, we have a machine that is nobody's "main machine" but rather one that we VNC to when needing to make changes to those specific projects.

Our Systems department has a few "server rooms" scattered throughout our buildings. I use quotations because 80% of these computers aren't actually servers, but rather isolated desktop machines with no monitor sitting on a shelf somewhere. Yes I'm sure they know all about Server Virtualization, but we like to roleplay the ghetto here!

Well sometime between Wednesday around 2pm and Thursday around 7am, the server went offline. Being i as a lowly programmer do not have access to the server rooms directly, i called our Systems Department. As anyone in a big company would expect when calling the people who are supposed to make sure your machines are all up and running, nobody answered. Knowing we had people who were scheduled to be in, i walk over there and see one guy coming out of his office as i walked in his door (which means he ignored my call!). After getting several people involved, including he who tried to dodge my call, none of them knew where this machine was!

It is now friday, the weekend is here, and there is still no idea as to where the machine could be!

My guess??

"Hey we found this machine in that room over there, "capricorn", we need one, can we have it?"
 Systems Guy
"Sure, i dont know what it's used for! One sec..let me wipe the harddrive.."
**Harddrive Wipe Complete**

Random Manager
"Sweet! Thanks!!!!"

 "Hey..has either of you guys seen the capricorn machine?"

Manager & Systems Guy
"Nope, haven't seen it..."

I'm thinking conspiracy, on the grounds that we need a good conspiracy around here! I have no evidence, just a that departments history of "hmmm didn't think of that ahead of time..." situations. If by Monday it's not found, guess i get to request a new machine...hopefully it's faster :D

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

How Many Database Admins Does It Takes To...

Nowadays, businesses store all their company and customer records in a database. Having a qualified database administrator is almost a necessity for things to run properly. Subjective? I know.

So what does it take to be a qualified Database Administrator?

I don't have the answer to that, but if you were hoping to land a job as the Database Administrator for, you may be in luck. It doesn't take much to beat stupid, and after you hear my story..."stupid" is what you'll be thinking!

I used to host all my sites at HostDepartment. Why? No reason. Once i was there, switching hosts was the last thing on my mind since moving your websites is a pain in the neck. Hostdepartment keeps their servers 'specific to function', so they refuse to install .NET libraries on a linux machine, and refuse to install PHP libraries on a Windows or .NET machine (wait they have 2 different windows machines?). If i ever had a domain name that i needed to use 2 different language types with, i'd have to forward a subdomain's dns to my home machine (which i conveniently setup to handle EVERYTHING) to get around this limitation. FTP rarely worked, so most of the time i'd have to use their webclient and use browse dialogs to upload. Why did i stay? I had workarounds, and moving was inconvient. I DID end up switching hosts.

So what changed my mind?

I began work on one of my longtime "todo list"'d projects, MSS, and i wanted to use some direct SQL to LINQ methods in my Silverlight, and decided i would use a MSSQL database instead of a MYSQL database so i could.  So using their Cpanel (Hsphere) i created a user, and a database. The webclient they had "available" for me to use from the cpanel went to a page that was no longer there so i tried to connect with my SQL Management Studio Client. I had no rights to view or create any databases. After opening a ticket regarding the issue, and waiting a few weeks for a response, i decided to make temporary database on my local machine that i could move later.

4 months pass..

Still no word. I decide to talk with their live chat, and they end up making a new ticket for me about the situation. Almost a week passes and i get a response from some "delightful" lady named Sara. Sara responses gave me hope that things would get fixed this time and we sent a few messages back and forth clarifying the problem. After "fixing it" and creating my database, i could no longer log into my account even after changing my password. Upon her fixing that, the database still wasn't there. About 2 weeks passed and they asked me to send them the queries for creating and populating the tables. I zipped them up and tried to attach them to the support ticket system using their attachment feature...but i got an error saying they did not have rights to do this.

The people relied on to give me rights, couldn't even give their own program proper rights to use all of it's features. I'M DOOMED!

I had a good laugh about that one, but i don't think they found it amusing. I put it available for them to download from my home webserver.  I don't know if they tried my queries, and if they did i don't know what the problem may have been, but she then asked for me to send her a "generated backup" of my database. I gave her my generated backup, and 4 days later i get a response saying this:

"Sorry for the delayed response. I tried to restore the back up (MSS.bak)present at your webspace but it gives me an error message as the .bak file is incorrectly formed. Revert back to me with correct .bak file so that I could restore it for you at the server end."

So my format is incorrect. I didn't have options to give any other kind of format, nor did she specify what the correct format was. At this point i'm questioning why i even have to go through the process of creating my tables elsewhere and then restoring them to the server i pay for.

Sir, you can't wash your car here right now, if you could go down the street and buy some soap, come back & load the machines then we might be able to help you.
I'm sorry sir, that's the wrong kind of soap.

I contemplated making my local MSSQL database available to use outside my network when i realize that almost all of the things i pay for monthly from my webhost, i end up having to do on my own machine at home!

Being comcast sucks (which is a whole other story), i decide i need to switch webhosts. I moved to GoDaddy The first thing i did was create my database for my MSS project, and it took me just a few minutes to create them and populate them. Aside from the ease of DB creating, their site functions much quicker and i'm paying $10 less then i was with HostDepartment! With HD, on windows based machines, i could not create extra ftp logins. GD does not have that limitation :D

So how many database admins does it take to create a database? 

Setup a login? Create my tables? Screw in a light bulb? Who knows...i've yet to deal with someone who would be considered a qualified DBA from my webhost, but i was able to do it!