Thursday, April 28, 2011

LIFE: And A Season Ends

My Christmas tree came down tonight. Christmas concluded for me when the folks finally made it up to Brampton last week to drop off PJ's and Peanut Butter Cookies, plus get their Christmas swag. That closed Christmas. And tonight, Angela and Megan took down the tree ... which, for some reason, they kept referring to as The Easter Tree. 

They'll be putting the tree back up in about seven and a half months.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

SOFTWARE: HTTPS-Everywhere, 'Cept Google Search

I haven't checked this out on Quincy, which runs Win7 and Firefox 4.0, but I have to admit to being a bit angry about a recent downgrade upgrade from The Electronic Frontier Foundation for the MUST-HAVE security add-on HTTPS-Everywhere. At least, I had to do some finagling to stop version 0.9.5 of the add-on for my Firefox 3.6x version running on Popeye, the WinXP machine from making my life miserable.

Seems this latest upgrade makes searching for images through Google Image Search an impossibility. I'd get a message saying no-can do in geek speak to any term I put in. I could put in "Montreal Canadiens" or I could put in some search term I REALLY should never be allowed to search for. Something that would shake your belief in me as a civilized man. Something like "Conservative Majority." EGADS!!!!!! Go Jack go! But I digress.

At any rate, I solved the problem by going into the options and deselecting Google Search from the list of stuff HTTPS-Everywhere forces into the SECURE version of HTTP. Seems Google is lagging in the area and the previous method v0.9.4 and earlier of the add-on now no longer works. In fact, it gets in the way in a major way.

Why don't I uninstall the whole thing altogether?

What, am I CRAZY!?!

The fact is, that I wouldn't run a full-time browser without NoScript, AdBlock and HTTPS-Everywhere. It's not safe out there on the Internet. Bluntly, every site SHOULD be running under HTTPS security rather than wide open with HTTP only. HTTPS-Everywhere was mainly developed to combat the problem of man in the middle attacks. There's where a felonious fink manages to insert a probe of some sort between the beginning and end points of an electronic communication. If the data isn't encrypted, the fink can read things like passwords. And the internet runs on passwords. Encryption throws a monkey wrench into that kind of attack. And every little bit of defence helps.

It took longer to figure out this situation than I would have liked. But at least I was able to 'fix' the problem. I hope a REAL upgrade (v0.9.9 is in the pipeline) will let me turn on the security feature for Google Searches again. After all, I want to be able to be secure when I search for things like... The Royal Wedding.

Can't believe I admitted that in public.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

SPORTS: A Good One Retires

Carlos Delgado officially retired yesterday and talk of his Hall of Fame chances commenced immediately. I think it's a stretch to say he's border-line to become a member of baseball's hallowed hall. But it's not inconceivable that he will be enshrined. He's one of my absolute favourite human beings on this planet and even the crusty old baseball writer's cabal would admit that. In fact, it might only be the writers who wouldn't vote him in. Everybody else who's ever met him would vote yes, in all probability.

One of my fondest times with my niece was at a signing Delgado did at the local comic book emporium. Delgado was late and tensions were a little high, but once things got going, that smile and Delgado's genuine warmth for fans shone brightly. I was, more or less, conducting the show and my niece was my little helper. She and Delgado got along famously. He treated her like his own kid (which, at the time, was a future project). He made a fan for life. ME and her.

Delgado's probably is not getting into the Hall of Fame. The Princes of Non-Bias will look at his numbers and won't see HOF written all over them. They'll consider voting for him, because, well, he was a great guy and I never, ever suspected him of using women's fertility drugs at any point (how's Manny being Manuela going to work out for Ramirez, you think?). But the lack of World Series rings, the lack of MVP votes along the way and numbers, more ordinary than not, will result in exclusion from the Hall. Other than with a ticket in hand.

But I WILL tell you where I think he's got more than a snowball's chance in Puerto Rico of getting needed votes. It wouldn't shock me at all if he goes into political office in Puerto Rico and turns out to be good, really good, at the job. Now, generally, I have a callous dislike for politicians. In general, I think most lie. A lot. You have to, to get elected. Then, once in power, politicians cling to that power in ways that I find unseemly. And yes, being woken up by a Conservative campaigner this morning certainly has re-inforced my anti-politician feelings. But I think Delgado could be that politician that rises above it all. He doesn't need the power or the money or the ability to dole out favours being elected would bring him. He's genuinely interested in the welfare of his fellow Puerto Ricans and has been working hard to improve their lot in life for years.

Carlos Delgado, President of Puerto Rico? Not far-fetched. Carlos Delgado, Hall of Famer? Yeah, pretty well far-fetched. But I know which vote Delgado would end up preferring.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

SOFTWARE: I (DON'T) Want Candy

I've been going through my Freeware Installer Disk, doing some updating, some pruning and some documenting. I really believe that it's quite possible to run a full and rich Windows computer using just freeware and open source software. Being a power user, I've got more than a few paid applications, but I'm not the normal profile. Not even close to one.

One of the programs I decided to prune away was AVG, the once darling of the freeware anti-virus programs. I used it. I recommended it and I probably installed on close to 100 computers. But once AVG started to add functionality and become a suite of defensive products, rather than JUST an anti-virus, I looked elsewhere and found alternatives: Avast, then Avira and then back to Avast. (There were a couple of paid terms with Norton and Comodo in that rotation too). I don't think I've installed AVG on anybody's computer in three years, maybe more. Last week, Patrick had to deal with a friend of mine's computer that was seriously bungled up and it was running AVG. Through all of this time, I always included the latest version of AVG on the FID because, as they say, variety means potentially stumbling on the solution. Yesterday, in reviewing the Security section of FID, I deleted AVG. It was time for it to go.

And not a moment too soon. It seems AVG, sometime in the recent past, has opted to join the OpenCandy movement. I found this out via today's post at Gizmo's Freeware. This is a well-done, curated freeware site that I check daily. And it opened my eyes up to the growing menace that OpenCandy represents. In a calm, fact-filled article, the whole concept of OpenCandy is put through an analysis. The conclusion at Gizmo is that OpenCandy, by itself, will not result in an application being barred from recommendation. But its presence will be noted and the note itself will be a warning bell. And if OpenCandy is, in any way, stealthed into the product install, then Gizmo will, in fact, bar it.

NOTE: Avira is also mentioned. I still include Avira on the FID because the reason I switched back from Avira to Avast is Avira's over-protective approach to anything resembling a virus. EXACTLY what I want when I'm unsure of my current AV choice and want a second opinion. Erring on the side of caution in second opinions is a good idea.

I've seen OpenCandy during my most recent updates of some products I use. It's a bit of a showstopper and I read the screens of software it suggests I might want to install fairly carefully. Thus far, I've been able to answer no successfully with one exception, a certain PDF reader application that I have to revisit again before dumping it.  I don't rage against the authors of the software because it helps pay them for their time in creating software I and others find useful. Heck, I'm in the programming game and none of what I do is free to the end user. I wish there were alternatives to adware and the kind of semi-adware OpenCandy is. I'm leaning more and more towards Open Source applications, rather than Freeware/Adware these days because of it.

But all in all, OpenCandy won't stop me from using/installing software that includes it. I just won't ever, ever say yes to OpenCandy knowingly.