DirectTV Fraud 888-407-2674

I've been contacted by a company claiming to be from Direct TV. They claim I can take advantage of a promotion with Amazon to pay 5 months of my bill with an Amazon Gift Card. If I do that, I'll get 2 years at a very reduced rate.

I've been stringing these guys along for a few days now, just to see how this works and how I can report it. Since I am not sure how best to shut this down, I'm putting the information on this website. Hopefully it shows up when you google the number or something else. No reputable company would ask you to do this. Further, always google the company and call the phone numbers listed on their site, not some weird number you get from a weird guy on the phone.

  • Company Caller ID: Mas Tec
  • Originating Number: 800-531-5000
  • Promotion Code: CXDTV6266
  • Number to Call: 888-407-2674
  • Identifying characteristics of caller: Indian accents

So if you end up on this web page, and suspect this is happening to you, it's fraud and you should not buy any gift cards. I would expect as this scam evolves, the gift card vendor will change from Amazon.... in short, Gift cards are the same as cash, so never pay weird bills over the phone with them.

If you need the billing phone number for Direct TV, call: 1 (800) 531-5000 and get through the phone tree for billing (Ask for representative).

This is not a knock on Indian people, nor on Direct TV. Both are awesome.

Why is my connection to Google, Gmail or HSTS Site Untrusted?

Connection to Google untrusted? Fix below!

Lately, I have had issues connecting to Google, Google Mail and other random services over the last few months. I did some digging today and fixed (I believe) the issue. If you are having problems with security messages like the below, try these steps to see if it fixes the problem. I'll put some narrative/background info below if you are curious as to my findings.

Here's an example of what I would see if I dug into the Untrusted Message:

How in the world is accuweather the actual cert for google?

Solution: Here's what I did.

In short, you need to remove the offending certificates. Your browser will re-ask for them and get the right ones

Google Chrome: (screen shots below)

  1. Click on the 3 horizontal lined Hamburger menu
  2. Click on Advanced Settings
  3. Click on HTTPS/SSL Manage Certificates
  4. Click on Untrusted Certificates Tab
  5. Remove all that said Fraudulent

Mozilla Firefox (screen shots below)

  1. Click on the 3 horizontal lined Hamburger menu
  2. Click on the Options button
  3. Click on the Advanced Menu on the right
  4. Click on the Certificates Tab
  5. Click on the View Certificates Button
  6. Click on the Servers Tab and remove the expired certificates

Google Chrome Screenshots

Mozilla Firefox Screenshots

Ok, so what is this all about?

From my research, certain sites using HSTS (HTTP Strict Transport Security) are throwing security alerts upon connection to pages on the domain. In March 2011 an HTTPS/TLS Certificate Authority (CA) was tricked into issuing fraudulent certificates. Patches to the major web browsers blacklisted a number of TLS certificates that were issued after hackers broke into the Certificate Authority. These were high value certs and likely state sponsored cyber-attacks from Iran. Below is the list of domains affected:

  • mail.google.com
  • www.google.com
  • login.yahoo.com
  • login.skype.com
  • addons.mozilla.org
  • login.live.com
  • global trustee

The weird thing about this, is my computer wasn't even manufactured in 2011. I purchased it in 2013! There must have been a recent update to either the servers matching the domains above, or to my browsers or operating system a few months ago. Regardless, connecting to the domains in the above list has been problematic with random security warnings and even blockages on my own computer.

Let me know if this fixed the problem for you!

Update: 11/21/2016

This problem has never really gone away. In fact, it drives me nuts! I did find some other things to do to help this go away.... try these steps if you are on windows:

  1. From the Control Panel, open network and sharing center
  2. On the left side- click on "Change advanced sharing settings"
  3. Click on home or work
  4. Check "turn off" for the first three questions.

Depending on the specifics you may also have to turn on password

What happens when you choose the wrong Datatype for an Identifier Column

Choosing database column data types can be dicey. Choose an overly large data type, and indexes will be overly large, storage will fill up and other bad things can happen.

Choose an overly small one, and you end up with hard errors.

A common data type for a database identity column is an int. However, if your application gets popular, it can break. Pastebin is a victim of it's own success :)

On Start Ups, Developers and Equity

I skimmed a post on FlexCoders today that posed the question "If you had the chance to start up a RIA development company, How would you go about acquiring amazing developers without start up capital?". Being an entrepreneur and also being a developer, I wanted to put some thoughts out there. Keep in mind these thoughts are not directed at the original poster, but to the community at large who is constantly offered interesting and creatively worded business propositions by the non-development community.

On Entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurs are an interesting breed. They function much like a proud parent of a reasonably untalented child. I don't mean this to offend anyone, but I do want to draw a metaphor. Have you ever been forced to sit through a child singing a very clumsy, off-key, screeching song, only to have the proud parents and prouder grandparents beam at the end and ask you what you thought? Parents are often blinded by their love and their involvement in their children and often value the allure of the child (and the metaphorical singing) much more than others with less involvement. This is a natural phenomenon, and I believe vital to the continuance of the human race.

Entrepreneurs often have the same blinded fascination and love for their own business ideas. They categorically believe in the success of their idea and will move heaven and earth to see the idea come to fruition. This often means sacrificing all else, family, social relationships, outside hobbies, etc, to further the idea of the business.

Entrepreneurs often consider their business to also be their principle hobby, effortlessly spending nights and weekends developing the idea and the business around the idea. Business is fun, for them.

Another noteworthy thing about entrepreneurs is they are perpetually short of funds, time and talent to carry out these ideas. See, ideas are cheap and any visionary can have several really good ideas per day. Ideas are easy to think of, and internal optimism and intuition can cover any potentially glaring holes.

On Ideas

Reality is, ideas actually do not matter. What matters is execution of those ideas. Actually, execution takes a back seat to getting paid for the use of the idea. Getting a check from a customer or a client is the highest form of flattery for an idea and often requires a series of efforts from a multi-disciplinary team all working in the same direction. The end reward for the entrepreneur is successful fruition of their idea.

Let's look at software for a moment. Software requires development. Selling software requires marketing, sales and legal expertise. Running a software business requires people skills, management expertise and financial acumen. Oh, and it requires an idea, but we already discussed the worthiness of ideas, didn't we.

In a start up company, the entrepreneur will probably fulfill a number of those roles. This is key as it helps the entrepreneur marshal the scant resources available to bring the idea through the phases leading to a customer writing a check. Often, the entrepreneur is not a developer, but knows he/she needs developers and developers are somewhat costly in the grand scheme of things. So the wily entrepreneur seeks to procure developers for as little expense as possible. An economy of resources is a good thing.

However, I submit to you that the original question prompting this article is near a impossibility. The question was "If you had the chance to start up a RIA development company, How would you go about acquiring amazing developers without start up capital?"

Software developers have ideas too. Many of them are creative problem solvers and gain tremendous business experience by writing software that solves real problems in business. Most of them enjoy their work and often put in extra hours working on side projects to entertain themselves. So wouldn't it seem logical to procure a few good software developers that will work for free while the business got started?

As a software developer, my time is money. If I am going to divert my attention from a steady paying job, and away from my side interests, money is going to be involved.

I don't mean future money, like "Instead of paying you, we'll give you a trainload of stock options" but today money. Today money is money that I can go to the bank today and receive the rectangular green yuppie food stamps I'm accustomed to using for groceries and gas.

On Working With No Pay and Open Source

I often work on open source software for which I receive no pay. Is this the same as working in a start up for no pay? I submit there is at least one vital difference. In open source software, there is no money. Thus there is no schedule. We may publish a schedule of our intent, and are free to move that schedule as priorities change.

In a start-up business, the prospective client or customer controls the schedule. If you tell a prospect a demo version will be ready on Friday, you must meet your deadline. Missed deadlines communicate untrustworthiness and unreliability to your prospects. This is anti-cool and usually means less checks. So while I'm perfectly happy to spend inordinate amounts of unpaid time writing software, I'm not willing to have my schedule controlled by those not paying for the right to set my priorities. I'd bet most competent developers feel similarly.

On Evil Investors and Entrepreneurs

Most successful entrepreneurs have been through a money-raising event, like a bank loan or venture capital. These events are usually painful for the entrepreneur because the entrepreneur is not in control and has to listen to the unvarnished opinion of sophisticated investors who deal with hundreds of business ideas all the time and aren't blinded by the vision or the visionary.

I learned everything I know about entrepreneurship from my Dad, a serial entrepreneur. His last business was a contracting company. I would never be able to imagine my Dad offering stock options or deferred payments to his workforce, in lieu of payment. If he did, none of them would show up for work, and I wouldn't blame them for it.

As an entrepreneur, I want to instill the highest confidence in my prospective clients and customers, thus, I demand the right to set priorities and schedules of any team member in my group. For that right, I pay them. Since I pay them, they consistently deliver over and above expectations. This makes us look good to our prospects and gives me confidence to reach across the desk and shake hands to close the deal.

On Bootstrapping Thoughts

So, is it possible to assemble a team without start up money? I'd say there are some ways to make it work, but only for a little while.

1) Cult of Personality. If you have a very strong community reputation as a smart person who gets things done, you can probably get some reasonably talented people to drink your kool-aid for a little while. Make sure to deliver on your promises. Missed promises=diminishing team.

2) Project Work. If your business is service related, land a big project as the way to start up the company. Developers might accept a lower rate on the first contract if promised a higher rate on future contracts. This is certainly preferable to no pay at all.

3) Get funding. Why is it you have no funding? Financial Investors are trained professionals and want to invest in businesses to earn a profit. They MUST earn a profit so if your idea has appeal and your team is competant, you can usually get some funding.

4) Grants. There are a multitude of Entrepreneurial grants and programs available. Many of these have a simple application consisting of a few pages. Working on the application will likely help you refine your idea so even if you don't get the grant, you'll get something out of it.

5) Business groups. Find business groups, like Business Networking International or the Council for Entrepreneurial Development. They can often help you find interns which might help you get over the hump.

To the entrepreneurs out there, good luck to all of you. I know the road is interesting, challenging and rewarding like no other.

-Dan Wilson

P.S. To the reader: What sorts of opportunities have you been presented with? I invite you to share your stories and ideas in the comments.

Flash Animation Project Needed

I'm using the power of the pen to located a flash designer that can help me fulfill a quirky task. See, I'm no flash designer. Not at all. I do need one to make a SWF for me, the details of which are a little odd.

Specs

We need a picture of an animated, stylized monkey in a resizable window no smaller than 100x100 and needing to scale to 500x500.

The cursor, when hovered on the SWF, should appear as a boxing glove and when the mouse button is clicked, should punch the monkey in the face from whatever logical angle relative to the mouse cursor position and the monkey. The monkey should react as appropriate, meaning if punched from the left, the monkey should absorb the blow and move to the right.

I do want to stress the animated nature of this monkey and of the interactions. We aren't looking for realism, rather sophmoric humor.

Bonus points if the monkey takes on visual damage like a black eye, bloody nose or other results of cursor violence.

This gig does pay a fee to the designer and is of low budget, ideally suited for someone who thinks this might be a fun project (or who hates monkeys). Please send me your initial thoughts with a price range and some samples.

Note: No monkeys were harmed in the making of this post

And The Global Prize Of Number One Spammer Goes To

I started a blog so I could share interesting stuff I learned with others. This altruistic motive (and the thousands of adoring fans, of course) drive me to write, rewrite, edit, learn and otherwise put in work for more blogging. If there is a downside to blogging, it is comment spam.

Blog Comments themselves are wonderful outlets to continue the conversation and let others take part. Maybe some agree, maybe they disagree, maybe they have some important factual correction, Blog Comments are the blog authors way of allowing others to take part and contribute.

Blog Comment Spam is when a person or organization adds a comment to a blog article for the sole purpose of promoting some unrelated product or service. As a blog author, Blog Comment Spam on my blog feels like vandalism. Like some snot-nosed kid spray painted their name on the side of my house. In real life, if I caught the snot-nosed kid spray painting on my house, I'm turn him into a bloody-nosed kid in a New York Minute, KnowWhatIMeanVern?

I've got a number of comment spam protections on my blog and they work really well. The only thing I can do at this point to trim the spam submissions would be to block entire continents. A bit drastic, but I've definitely considered it. I mean, I know China has over a billion people, but do any of them actually read this blog?

These days, the only comment spam I actually get is promoting WoW. Apparently, people care about this video game so much they'll spend real money to get fake money so they can buy fake things for their fake character. I thought we lived in a materialistic society, but to contemplate what it means to have an entire industry around playing a video game to get fake money to sell to real people for real money so they can by fake things for their fake characters, is absolutely mind-blowing.

As an entrepreneur, I've hatched plenty of money making ventures. Had I thought about selling fake, electronic gold for real money, I'd have laughed myself out of the room. Yet, there are legions of people who troll around the Internet looking for blogs to vandalize to promote their WoW Gold.

For the record, I'll delete immediately any blog spam that happens to get through my layers of protection. So if you sell WoW gold, I recommend you get a life, a real job and get off this blog.

Jump In The Ring With MyBrute

Mark Mandel turned me on to this flash game. I don't usually play games at all, but this one has my interest.

The way it works is you can create a character and pit your character against other characters in fights. The fights are completely automated so there is no skill involved. It is strangely entertaining though.

The character can only fight a few times per day before the character has to rest. That means as far as time wasters go, this one is minimal, only requiring 5 minutes per day or less.

Wanna try it? Jump in the ring! If you don't like it, I'll refund your money. ( LOL just kidding, it doesn't cost anything )

How to Unrecover Deleted Files

Through an accident, I blame the dog for this one, my entire documents folder got deleted this morning. To compound the issue, the folder was 'too big' for the wimpy Recycle Bin, so the files were permanently deleted. When I realized what had happened, I nearly went into shock.

Customer documentation, contracts, important pictures of aforementioned dog, all down the drain. I'm definitely going to have a bad day now...I thought.

After normal breathing resumed, I learned 2 things.

  • System Restore does not help unrecover files
  • I really should have backed up my computer

I'm calmly writing this blog post because I found Free Undelete by Recoveronix Ltd. Free Undelete will look for deleted files and directories and restore them to their former glory. Brilliantly simple to use, and priced at $0 for personal use, I am a fan for life.

Recoveronix Ltd has an entire suite of recovery products like:

Get familiar with this list. I know grad students that would give their right arm to get back a mistakenly deleted thesis.

Important!! Read This!!

If you are furiously downloading Free Undelete right now to recover files of your own, pay attention to the following tips from the FreeUndelete folks:

Proper Usage Techniques

A deleted file is essentially an area on disk designated as free and ready to accept data (such as contents of some other file). Luckily, unless the area has already been overwritten, it still holds the contents of the deleted file. Due to this fact it is possible to undelete files.

This fact also dictates the following procedure for using FreeUndelete:

  1. Stop any activity on the disk you are going to undelete files from! Remember that writing to that disk can damage the contents of the deleted files. Examples of disastrous activity include: copying files to the disk, installing programs there or running programs that use the disk as their swap media.
  2. Download and install FreeUndelete. Whenever possible, save the setup executable and install the program to a disk that does not hold files you need to undelete.
  3. Run and use FreeUndelete.
  4. 11803 Views Print Print Comments (7) Random, Wow

How I Cured My Back Pain

As I've gotten older, and gotten into the habit of working more hours, I'd become somewhat used to a pain in my back. This specific pain, inflammation rather, was located just under my right shoulder blade and would surface around mid-day. As I normally work 10-12 hours a day, the back pain impacted my ability to focus and to enjoy my work fully. I ended up casting a naughty glance at my office chair (Office Depot 79$ special), thinking it could possibly be contributing to the problem. After poking around at the Herman Miller Aeron chairs, I couldn't bring myself to spend over $1,000 for a chair that might or might not help me out.

After even more research, I found a chair called Ergohuman ME7ERG Mesh High Back Chair. Since it was half the price of the Aeron and was listed on a site claiming to have "Chairs professionally selected by certified Ergonomists", I simply had to have one.

And what did you think about it?

To be blunt, this chair cleared up my back problems. Within less than a week of having it, I had less pain, better focus and was more comfortable working than I had ever been. Quite possibly, the $500 I spent has delivered the most bang for the buck of ANYTHING I have in my home office.

Where did you by it?

I bought this chair from http://www.ergonomicchairpro.com, mostly because they had an eBay special for $500 with free shipping. They offer similar deals on their website right now, so don't worry about searching around.

How long did it take to receive?

The chair showed up in a few days. Considering how large the package is, and the Free shipping, I thought it would take much longer.

How was the Installation?

Putting the chair together took me about 15 minutes. All the necessary tools were provided in the package for me. They even included some extra screws, which I kept.

How was the Quality?

This chair is seriously built. Some chairs are cheap plastic and will wear out soon. The Ergohuman ME7ERG is built with a heavy steel base and composite frame. I've used this chair every day for a year now and there is no sign of wear. It is very comfortable and adjusts in a number of manners for the best fit.

Seriously? No Back Pain?

I have not had a recurrence of the back pain at all since I've been working in this chair. Even when working in lengthy spurts of 60-80 hours, no back pain.

How much money do you get from selling these chairs?

I don't make a single nickel from selling these chairs. Frankly, at DataCurl, we do just fine providing high-quality consulting and applications to the Health and Wellness industry that we don't need to shill chairs for pennies. You don't see any ads on this blog do you?

In closing, if you have back pain from working at a computer all day long, you owe it to yourself to invest in a proper chair. Most people have vehicles that cost between $10-50k which are driven less than an hour a day. A quality work chair is used between 6-12 hours a day, so it is worth the extra money to get a quality chair designed around human beings. If you want one of these chairs, go check out Ergonomic Chair Pro and get one today.

Best Tweet Of The Day

Today on Twitter...

PeterBell Garrhh - my helicopter is broke - got to take a van to Newark

And I thought I had problems in my life...