Get a new iPod for free (almost)!

February 26th, 2012

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Late last year, Apple issued a recall on their first generation iPod Nano. It seemed crazy to me that a five year-old iPod was being recalled, but who am I to argue at such a thing? I happened to have had one of these and I can relate my experience in getting it replaced.

The first step is to follow the instructions on the iPod recall site to see if your iPod qualifies. Assuming yours does, fill out the necessary information so Apple can send you a return box. Then wait. In my case, I had to wait about three weeks before the box showed up. Unfortunately, there was no status update for me during this time to let me know the box was on its way. I just showed up one day.

After you’ve sent it back to Apple, the status will eventually change to let you know they’re determining a course of action. more info

Again, in my case, it took about three weeks before they sent my replacement.

I’d read a couple of articles around the time I sent mine in to suggest that I’d get an identical unit as a replacement. This would have been fine. I’d basically get a battery refresh if that was the case. However, I got a current (sixth generation) model instead. This increased the capacity from its original 4GB (then, the top of the line) to 8GB (the current entry level). I was disappointed to find the address book and calendar functions were not present on the new model. I relied on these quite heavily and I would need to find some other way (or buy a different iPod).

On the plus side, there are a number of companies which make watch-bands so you can use your iPod Nano as a high-tech watch. I’ll probably be getting one of those in the not too distant future.

Where can I watch that movie?

January 21st, 2012

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With the rise of internet speeds to the home, some services have become more popular. One I use is streaming video where I pay for a subscription and get access to a library of movies that can be instantly played rather than having to run to the local video rental store to get it. This is also more convenient than having the movies mailed to me on DVD. The downside seems to be that not all movies (or TV shows) are available.

I’ve come across a couple of sites which catalog various streaming services to let you know which has what you want to watch. These sites are CanIStreamIt and Watchily. For streaming, they both appear to catalog Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu. Watchily will also catalog various others such as RedBox and Comcast’s on demand services.

I did a sample search for “Toy Story 3.” Both showed that only Netflix had them available for streaming. It was a little difficult to tell from CanIStreamIt’s interface, but the services which didn’t carry the movie were grayer than the Netflix icon.

I prefer the cleanliness of CanIStreamIt, but having the additional services available on Watchily makes it a very handy option.

With so many Blu-Ray players coming out with support for various streaming services, it’s nice to have a central search so you don’t have to look at each one (assuming you subscribe to more than one). It may also help you to decide to subscribe to a second (or third) service so as to be able to play the content you want.

I’ve only mentioned two I found for legitimate streaming services. I found several for, shall we say, “less than legitimate” sites, but I wasn’t interested in them. If you find any other search sites for the legitimate services, feel free to let me know in the comments below.

Americans are easily scammed

January 3rd, 2012

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It seems sad, but I’ve observed evidence to support this with my own eyes (and a few times perpetuated by my own mouse clicks). I read an article on CNet which reports a survey on who is the most and least likely to be scammed. Unfortunately, my fellow Americans were more likely than UK or Australia users to provide personal information in an effort to get something for free.

I’ve witnessed many of my friends posting on Facebook “links” to videos of humorous or salacious content but which only end up being a survey scam or some other information grabber you need to fill before you’ll be granted access to the video (assuming there’s actually a video to watch). I’ve clicked on a few myself when I wasn’t paying attention and then had to go remove the reference from my Facebook wall before the link spread any further (if a professional geek posts it, it must be safe, right?).

In the past, it was banner ads purporting to give you a free “popular gadget of the week” by clicking a link, filling out a form, signing up for some “offers,” and then convincing a quantity of friends to do the same. I’m not even sure there were any “gadgets” to go around when all was said and done.

In the end, I’ve not seen a single one of these which were legitimate. They’ve all been scams unless the visible URL was something like YouTube. I’ve been able to view a few by using sites like BypassFanPages and simple Google searches. It turns out, the result is rarely as exciting as the title suggested. So, it’s best not to click on any of them.

How secure is your password?

January 2nd, 2012

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If you’re like most people, your password is not nearly secure enough to thwart a hacker from getting into your account. The reason why most people don’t choose a secure password is that it makes it more difficult to remember. There are many ways to improve your ability to remember a complex password. This article at Naked Security has a video explaining one method.

But how do you know if your password is really secure? I’ve recently learned of a web site which will let you know just how difficult it is to crack your password; How Secure Is My Password?

To test, I ran a few passwords into it to see how secure they are. For example, kangaroo comes up with the result of “Common Password: In The Top 2,490 Most Used Passwords Your password is very commonly used. It would be cracked almost instantly.” Adjust that with some numbers (replacing the o with zeros) to kangar00 and we get a result of 3 hours to crack the password. Make more adjustments (replacing the a with @) to k@ng@r00 gives us a result of 2 days to crack the password. Much better. It looks less like a dictionary word; has numbers, letters, and symbols; and is easy to remember. Throw in a capital letter, k@ng@R00, increases the cracking time to 57 days.

Increasing the length of your password will also make it harder to crack (this is why some sites have minimum password lengths). I put in a random string of six characters, Mn0#85, which could be cracked in about 13 minutes. Adding a 1 to the end of that increased the cracking time to 17 hours. Add a $ to that to achieve 57 days. Add j to make 12 years the new length to crack. New random 12-character password, KGkDqd#12$7O, will take 5 million years.

Now, the times are approximate, but as you can see, each additional character adds a greatly increasing amount of time to crack the password. Using just lower-case letters, a 12-character password, xlgcezhdkpnm, will only take 12 years. From 12 years to 5 million years by just adding mixed case, numbers, and symbols.

There is a companion site, Make Me a Password, which will generate a password for you. It will start with words and put in some common substitutions to make the password easier to remember (use the check-boxes to see how that works).

Why are you still reading this? You should be going to all your important sites (especially banking and investing, followed by on-line stores). Don’t delay. Make this one of your New Year’s resolutions.

How to follow a Twitter feed in your RSS reader

December 31st, 2011

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I was using a newsreader to follow various RSS feeds on my primary computer before it died on me last September. When I finally replaced it in May, I found it impossible to follow a new Twitter feed on it. There was no longer an easy link to do so like it the past. Try as I might, I couldn’t find a way around it and Twitter was officially saying it was not supported. However, my old links were still working for the feeds I followed before.

I shelved the idea for a while and today I decided to search for a solution again. I found one which doesn’t require too much manual effort. This post on The Sociable details the steps required to follow someone’s tweets. Just in case something happens to the site, I’ll summarize it below.

The general form of the URL to follow is: http://twitter.com/statuses/user_timeline/XXX.rss where XXX is the numeric ID of the Twitter user. To get the ID, plug in the user name into idfromuser.com. Then manually subscribe to the feed using your RSS newsreader. For example, the URL for my Twitter feed is http://twitter.com/statuses/user_timeline/29262569.rss.

So, until Twitter decided to change things again, this is how you can manage it. I know that I find it easier to follow people this way rather than on Twitter or using a program on my computer. However, I still follow people on Twitter so it counts for them.

Something to keep in mind is that it’s now less convenient to post your own stuff or retweet other posts. You still need to use Twitter for that.