Goodbye Google?

I opted for a Gmail account back in the day when you still needed an invite to get it. It still said “Beta” on the logo. My gmail account has been my primary email address for pretty much EVER. I had an over abundance of blog subscriptions in my Google Reader.  I’ve got stuff in Google Drive. I use Google Calendar to share data with my hubby who’s an Apple fan-boy.  This blog is on Blogger.

And now I’m falling out of love. I’m worried about the compatibility with Microsoft and Windows 8, on my computer and on my phone. The end of support (and extension of support) for Exchange Active Sync is worrisome. And now they’ve told everyone to use CalDAV, but that’s going away too.  And Reader, well, everyone knows about what’s going on with Reader.

But my gmail address is so ingrained in stuff, I’m just not sure I’ll ever be able to cut the ties. But maybe a partial migration – I’m not sure. I’m really liking the two-factor authentication features. So instead of rushing and making any rash decisions, I’m taking it slow.

When it comes up, I change an email address registered with something away from my Gmail address. Starting to spread my eggs around in some other baskets, so to speak.

I took this opportunity to start fresh with my RSS feeds.  Today, instead of hunting for a place to move my subscriptions to, I culled them down to about a dozen feeds that I gravitate toward on a daily basis. New feeds will have to earn their place on my reading list and I’m hoping by July 1st, I’ll have found a new home for them.

What are you plans for your use of Google services?  Have they finally jumped the shark?


So what’s been fun on the Internet lately?

First up, in case you missed out on some of the new things from Microsoft, Windows 8 and Server 2012 are coming soon!  When you have some free time, start learning more about Server 2012 or take a close up look at Windows 8. You can even download a 90-day trial of the new desktop client.

And here are some other links to some fun things I’ve seen online, mostly via Twitter:

For those of you who work on Exchange, don’t miss out on these:

The Country Code for Nigeria is 234

We all know about the long running Nigerian email scams, the ones where some “Prince” of some “Small Country” has cash he can’t access and wants to give you a nice cut if you can front him a couple thousand dollars via Western Union. I guess people have finally caught onto that one, because now the new big Nigerian scam is renting you a place they don’t own via Craigslist or some other source for rental listings.

A friend of mine has been looking for a reasonably priced rental in the Bay Area and sent off a few inquires to some nearly “too good to be true” listings. He recieved three practically identical emails in return, from three different “gentlemen”, with only the property address, dollar amounts and contact phone numbers differing.

They weren’t asking for cash with the first email, but required an odd rental application form to be returned for approval. The emails also had several other characteristics that smell of a farce. See for yourself.

Thanks for the email. My name is Thomas Hough the owner of the 1 Bedroom Apartment you are making inquiry of, I’ve had so many responses so far,however it is still available but I do have one person who is ahead of you. I’ll rent it to whoever puts down the deposit .Rent includes water and garbage. My company sent me overseas and will probably be between Africa, India and the UK for another year or so. The last tenants I had just moved out and my family and friends all live on the east coast so I don’t have anyone available to show the place but I can send you pictures of the inside but will have to ship you the keys and papers.

Here is the address:[property address removed]…Ready for immediate move-in!You can drive down there to take a look at it…i will be willing to rent my home out for the maximum of 5 years and below.I personally had wanted to sell the Apartment earlier on.But after long time deliberation between me and my wife Sarah we finally agreed on renting out the Home, because it was initially to be sold. But I really want you to take good care of the Apartment, as if it were your own home.I would want to know how soon you would want to move in, as I will be taking a 1 or 2 month upfront payment which mean the first and last months you will be staying in the Apartment including some utilities (Water, Internet and Garbage). I am asking for $670 1 month upfront payment and if you can pay $1340 for 2months you will be getting a 1 month rent free. I believe we should be able to help ourselves. including utilities because I want you to take a very good care of the Apartment while I am away.

i will like you to go ahead and fill out the rent application form so that will can proceed further and discuss on how to get the the keys and papers sent to you via Dhl or ups e.t.c, also are you ready to rent it now or when?.So here is the Rent Application Form Below..
========= RENT APPLICATION FORM ============


Also,Pls answer these questions below:

1)Your Full Name______________________________________
2)Present Address(where you reside now) & PhoneNumber______________________________
3)How old are you _____________________________
4)Are you married ______________________________ _____
5)How many people will be living in the Home___________________________
6)Do you have a pet _________________________________________
7)Do you have a car __________________________________________
8)Occupation _________________________________________________
9)How long are you willing to stay _________________________________________
10)When do you intend to move in _________________________________________
11)1 month Or 2 month deposit needed______________________________________
12) Pictures of all the Occupant that will stay in my Home______________________________________

Pet allowed.

I will use the information above to prepare the rental agreement , rent receipts and other documents. Make sure the correct information is type.Do reply with your both cell & Apartment number i am going to call you if your application form has been accepted or call me after filling the rental application form. A package containing the housing documents, property address with full description. Including the direction to the place and keys will be ship to you once you both agreed with the term and condition. Call me once you fill out the application form.Here is my contact number: +234-708-289-7758 or 011234-708-289-7758 i will be expecting your call to know how serious you are in renting my Home

Thanks & God Bless

Here are my redflags:

  1. Weird use of capitalization and puctuation, like with “1 Bedroom Apartment” and no spacing after commas, etc.
  2. Claiming to live overseas and having no one to show the place – Really? You’ve owned a home and don’t even know a neighbor? Haven’t heard of a property management company?
  3. “I believe we should be able to help ourselves.” – Huh? Writing generally has strange phrasing not uncommon to someone who’s not great of writing or speaking English.
  4. Weird text-based “rental application” – Most legit landlords will send a PDF version of a standard application, with questions geared so they can run a proper background or credit check. How old are you? Are you married? Do you have a car? How long are you willing to stay? Pictures of all the Occupants? – I don’t even know where to begin.
  5. Nigerian contact phone number – Um, yeah. That’s a big one.
  6. Property Address (which I removed for this post) – A quick internet search of the property address shows that this place is listed on the MLS for sale. It includes several photographs, including the exterior shot that the scammer sent with this email.
I know the Internet is a big place, filled with lots of opportunity to find what you need and solve problems. But you have to trust your instincts, pay attention and help others who might not be so savvy to look out for stuff like this.

This only happens because it’s worth it to scammer. Enough people list out their pet names, attach a family photo and don’t give a thought about how odd it is that they are potentially renting a place based on a couple photos and some guy who claims he wants you to “take care of the Apartment like it were your own Home.” Clearly, it’s lucrative enough to keep doing and that’s a real shame.

Stay safe out there and if you come across listings like this be sure to report them to the host of rental listing site so they can be removed.

Bing and It’s Done. For Real.

I’ve been dreading planning some summer travel. Or more specifically finding reasonable flights for summer travel.  I spent the last several weeks checking some travel websites and have been frustrated with the prices – Would they go down?  Should I just buy them and be done with it?  Will I be kicking myself for not waiting another week or day or be annoyed that I waited to long?

It was suggested that I check out for travel.  Now I can’t say that I use Bing much for my regular Internet searches.  I’ve used Google since the beginning of time and I’m comfortable with it for what I usually need.  But hey, Bing is the “decision engine” and I wasn’t getting anywhere fast with my ticket search otherwise.  It was worth a shot.

And then it was mission accomplished. Bing. Done. Wow.

To be fair, the search results are powered by, and I’ve used Kayak directly in the past but it never struck me as any better than Expedia, which had been my go-to travel site for years.  (Like my use of Google, old habits die hard.)  Though often, I’d find the flight on Expedia and then book it directly from the carrier to elimate the middle man, especially since I don’t often need travel packages.

With Bing you have all the features where you can customize your results based on number of stops, the travel times, red-eye or not, etc and you can look for hotels and other deals as well.  Once you select your flight, Bing redirects you to the carrier so you can complete the purchasing process directly.  From the main functionality standpoint, most flight search sites hand you the same base features and Bing doesn’t disappoint.

The big selling point was the prominance of the price predictor and the fare history.  This is where the “decision” with booking flights comes into play.  This was the cleanest presentation of the where prices had been and where they might be going – it was the perfect stock ticker for travel. 

Perhaps I just got lucky but according to those tools, I was finally hitting the right time.  Ticket prices were the lowest they’d been in about 4 weeks and would likely go higher – I finally had the information I needed to move forward and put my money on the line.

Now I can check that off my list and you can be sure I’ll use Bing for travel again in future. I guess everyone can learn a new trick now and then.

Google Calendar and the “Unsupported” Browser

A couple weeks ago, I started experiencing a curious problem with Google Calendar on my netbook.  I’m running IE 8 (8.0.7601.16562 to be exact) and every time I loaded up my calendar I got a message alerting me about using and unsupported browser.
“Sorry, you are trying to use Google Calendar with a browser that isn’t currently supported…”
Since I’m also using IE8 at work (version 8.0.7600.16385) without any calendar issues, I did what many sysadmins do when stuff doesn’t work on their own computers – I ignored it for a while, hoping it would just resolve itself.
However, today I did a little looking around and found the issue, which ironically is caused by the Google ChromeFrame Add-In.  I turned that off and the calendar now loads without any error messages.  The version of the add-in I had installed was ChromeFrame 8.0.552.224.

Take Aways from the Data Connectors Tech-Security Conference

Last week, I attended a free one-day conference hosted by Data Connectors.  Sometimes free conferences aren’t worth the time it takes to get there, but I was really happy with this one.  While all the presentations were vendor sponsored, the majority were product neutral and really shared some decent content.  In addition to the vendor presentations, there was a decent sized expo area with other security vendors to peruse.

Here are some of the stats and tidbits I left with. As some of the themes overlapped throughout the presentations, so I’m not going to attribute each bullet point to a specific presenter.  However the presentations were sponsored by the following companies: WatchGuard, Axway, Sourcefire, Top Layer Security, JCS & Associates, Kaspersky Lab, Cyber-Ark, FaceTime and Arora / McAfee.  You can learn more about the presentations specifics and download some of the slide decks here on the event agenda page.

End Users

  • End users in the workplace expect to have access to the web and popular web applications, however 25% of companies need to update their policies related to web use. Instead of addressing the policy issues, companies simply block access to web applications entirely.
  • End users need more education about threats like email scams, pop-ups offering anti-virus solutions, links sent via social media sites, tiny URLs, etc. End users are your biggest threat – often due to error or accidents.
  • The average employee spends 3 hours a day doing non-work items on their computer.

General Company Security and Policies

  • Consider reviewing and improving on your file transfer management practices. How do people share data within your organization and externally? Is it secure and managed?
  • Most companies feel secure, but aren’t really. Check out for a list of companies that have experienced data breaches. Many companies simply rely on their vendors to declare that they are secure and protected.
  • Consider using different vendors to protect your data at different levels. Different vendors use different mechanisms to detect and deter threats.
  • As an administrator, you have to review logs on computers, firewalls, servers, etc. This way you are familiar with what is “normal” and can easily recognize potential breaches.
  • Consider data encryption as means to enable your company to meet regulation compliance. Encryption technology has evolved and it doesn’t have to be as painful as it has been in the past.
  • You should patch all your computer regularly – don’t forget that your printers, routers and switchers are computers too.

Browsers and the Internet

  • The top Internet search terms that are likely to lead you to site with malware on it are “screensavers” (51.9% chance of an exploit), “lyrics” (26.3%) and “free” (21.3%).
  • In 2009, the Firefox browser had the greatest number of patches and overall, vulnerabilities in applications exceeded operating system vulnerabilities.
  • The web browser is the #1 used application, but the patch cycle for browser add-ins is slower than for other applications and operating systems.
  • Drive-by downloads are still the #1 way to exploit computers.

Sometimes I leave conferences scared by the massive list of items that I feel I need to address, however, I left this conference with not only some tasks in mind, but some great leads on how to go about completing those projects.  Check out the Data Connectors events list to see if there is a similar conference coming up in your area in 2011.  They have well over two dozen other planned dates across the US, including Los Angeles in January and San Jose in February.

Don’t Miss Out on gogoNET Live! Videos

On Wednesday, I had the pleasure of doing the post-presentation interviews for the speakers at the gogoNET Live! IPv6 Conference. These short little chats should be posted at in the next few days and will give you a taste of what each presentation included and some tips for implementing IPv6.  Hopefully I’ll have some time in the next few weeks to listen to some of the full presentations (soon to be available as well), so here are few that will be on my list.

  • Bob Hiden, Check Point Fellow and Co-inventor of IPv6 – his presentation on why IPv6 was invented will give anyone a good overview of why IPv6 is a necessary move for anyone who uses or supports activities on the Internet.
  • Elise Gerich, Vice President of IANA and John Curran, President and CEO of ARIN – both spoke about the various aspects of the anatomy of IPv4 address depletion.  I’ve always been fascinated by the DNS and IP address infrastructures that make the internet work and you can’t get any closer to the source that with these industry executives.
  • Silvia Hagan, CEO of Sunny Connection – Silvia’s presentation was on how to convince your boss to make the move to IPv6. She’s also the author of the O’Reilly book on IPv6, so trust her ideas are good ones.
  • Jeremy Duncan, the Senior Director of IPv6 Network Services at Command Information – Jeremy focused on how to set up and get the most out of your test/lab network.  We all will have to start somewhere when it comes to learning about IPv6 and some good tips on getting your lab of the ground will go a long way.
  • Joe Klein, the Cyber Security Principal Architect at QinetiQ – IPv6 has many security features built right in.  Be sure to check out what Joe has to say about the features, changes and possibilities once IPv6 is well established. 

Special Note: As of this writing, the videos are not yet posted.  Make a note to check in a next week to see when they are available.

DNS Transitioning within AT&T

It took several months of emails, phone calls and coordination, but I finally managed to get our office Internet connection switched from the “legacy” (aka “PacBell”) frame relay to the newer AT&T fiber optic network.  This also included an upgrade in our connection speed, which is always a win.  Our IP address ranges were ported from the legacy account to the new service, so we had very little downtime during the cut over – it was a fantastic migration experience.

 After letting our new service settle in for a few weeks and since email responses from AT&T reps are often spotty or non-existent, I called up the customer service number to request that the legacy account be cancelled so we are no longer billed.  The representative I spoke to happily emailed me a “Letter of Authorization to Disconnect” that I would need to verify, sign and return.  Seemed pretty easy to me.

 As I reviewed the letter, I noticed a familiar account number referencing the Internet access, different than the billing account number.  It was the same account number that I used to request changes to our external DNS registrations. Bells went off in my head. Certainly those DNS entries would be ported to the new service with the IP address ranges themselves, right?  Right?

 To confirm, I started off with the tech support email for my new service.  They promptly replied, saying I needed to contact the DNS team and provided additional contact information.  I called the DNS team and explained my situation.  The representative confirmed, that no, they don’t have any of our DNS records in their systems.  Our DNS records are with the legacy PBI group.  I’d have to submit a request to add the DNS records with the new group so that they had them in their name servers prior to the disconnect of the legacy service.  He was also nice enough to explain their system for requesting changes, which involved knowing a magic “CCI Number” for my account.  This CCI number which was totally new and different than anything else I knew about and which I promptly wrote down as an addition to my runbook.  (I swear, I learn something new about telecommunications every time I get off the phone with AT&T.)

Then I gathered up all the known external DNS records I had documented and sent an email to the legacy DNS group asking for a copy of my zone record so I could be sure I didn’t miss anything.  Based on what I have on hand, it’ll be a great time to do some housecleaning with our external zone records.   I will also need to update our domain registrars with the new name servers as well.

If all goes well, this will be sorted out in a few days and I’ll be free of my old circuits and billing by the end of November.  If not, I’m sure I’ll have another story to tell.

October is National Cyber Security Month

Personally, I think every month should be a month people pay attention to security online, but regardless, here are some resources and blog posts to help you think about being more secure as you navigate the world online.

First, Microsoft has a whole site dedicated to online safety, don’t miss out on some tips for creating more secure passwords and using public computers.  There are even some great brochures and sheets you can print out and share at the office or with clients.

Also, check out this post by Microsoft’s Worldwide Chief Security Officer, Robert Halbheer, on “Is the online world more dangerous?” He provides a link to another great handout that addresses some myths regarding online safety.

Finally, one of the most common ways that people are exposed to online security risks is by clicking on spam.  Check out a short post on managing spam by another sysadmin that works in the trenches, The UberGeekGirl.

When it comes down to it, managing your security and safety online is not all that different from managing it everywhere else.  You already keep track of your keys and your wallet, you lock your car and your house when you leave, and you don’t leave your credit information around for people to grab.  Just do the same online – keep track of your passwords, don’t stay logged onto web services on public computers, don’t click on links that look suspicious in emails or on social networking sites and look to do business with online companies that use secure websites for transactions. 

Keep safe everyone, no matter where you are.

The Web is Dead? Maybe We Just Can’t Get There.

Wired magazine published an article in this month’s issue that argues that the “Web” is dead.  The “Web” being defined as the “dub dub dub” (www) part of the Internet, which is viewed and interacted with using a web browser. 

The Internet is transport method for a variety of protocols and components that make the system work and help people communicate and share information.  Email and FTP are still alive, even though they may not be the most popular mechanisms for younger users.  Over the years there have been many predictions of things being “dead” that are still very much alive.  Check out this great post – The Tragic Death of Practically Everything, by Harry McCracken, to see what I mean.

Its true that the Internet has evolved in many ways over the last 15 years or so.  It’s used as a transport mechanism for phone calls, music and an endless supply of information that people access using very specific apps – not always using a web browser. But for many, that traditional “web” presence is still very real. Just about anyone with basic access to a computer and the Internet can set up a free website or blog.  Apps might be the current big thing, but the skill set required for setting up a basic website is far less daunting than developing a phone app. 

A bigger issue facing the future of “www” is accessing it in the first place.  Any device that connects to the Internet needs an address and the current IP addressing system (IPv4) is quickly running short of these valuable addresses.  It’s estimated that these addresses will be completely depleted within the next year.  IPv6 is the next generation of addressing for Internet connectivity and it has not yet been widely adopted.  Its important that those involved with managing networks and providing connectivity to the Internet stay up to date and plan for the conversion to this new addressing scheme. 

Cool apps and new tools will always make the Internet a more exciting/useful place to be and there will be a place for the traditional web for a while to come, assuming you can get there.