Saturday, November 29, 2008

Thanks 2 - Howland

Today I want to give thanks to Ben Howland, Jordan Farmar, and Arron Afflalo for restoring the glory of UCLA basketball. To many of my friends, UCLA is just a school, and you happen to somewhat root for the sports just because you go there. But I've grown up in a UCLA family, and UCLA basketball has always been more than just something that comes around during the fall and winter. It's in my blood, as they say. Weekends in which the team does well are usually good weekends, and losses can really spoil the mood. If you know me well enough, you'll know that this is part of what makes me tick. The late '90s and early '00s were not kind to the UCLA basketball program, thanks to the one whose name we shan't mention. But good times have been restored, due in no small part to the mastery of our coach. And I thank JFarm and AA for helping to make the turnaround possible. Go Bruins!

11/29/08 UCLA 89, Florida International University 54

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanks 1 - Family

I just got back from Thanksgiving dinner with the relatives. Yeah, I know it's Friday. What're you gonna do about it? Anyway, I'd like to give thanks to my family. Thanks to my parents who have always been supportive of what I do in just about every way. Thanks to my brother who has always cared and been a positive role model, even when using tough love. Thanks to my uncles and aunts and grandparents, who have always been very generous and loving to me, despite their squabbles and silliness. A lot of what I am is because of my family, and it's for the better.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Turkey Day!

Happy Thanksgiving to all one of you who reads this. Ironically, Thanksgiving has never been a time where I sit and reflect and give thanks for what I have, since it's usually really busy and hectic with the relatives over here or us going to a relative's house. This year, we're doing dinner on Friday instead. Still, though, I think I'll keep doing things differently. I have so many great things in life that one brisk day in late November is not enough to encapsulate all the thanks I have to give. So each day for the foreseeable future I will give thanks to something that has helped shape my life. I will likely blog about most of them. Stay tuned.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Sizzlin' Advertisement

So I and some coworkers went to Sizzler on our lunch break a couple of weeks ago. I hadn't been to a Sizzler in over a decade, as far as I can remember. And that was back when there were two Sizzlers on the same street within two blocks of each other near my house. What??? Only Starbucks is allowed to do that!

For those three of you who don't know what Sizzler is, it's a standard American lunch and dinner type place that is most known for having a relatively affordable all-you-can-eat salad bar. Since we didn't have time for all-you-can-eat (it was our lunch break after all), I just got the grilled hibachi chicken with fries entrée and one trip to the salad bar, which was their $7.99 lunch special. Okay, so far so good. I piled my plate up with about six different kinds of salad and other appetizers.

Through most of the meal I was either talking with my coworkers or glancing at ESPNews on one of their several strategically-placed TVs. But I noticed something odd out of the corner of my eye. Near the entrance, mounted directly over the cashiers' table, was another TV just like the others.

Wait, just like the others? No, not quite. Earlier I had thought that whatever channel this TV was showing had been on commercial break. But the more I watched it, the more I realized, all it was showing was a commercial break! In other words, there was a continuous loop of a Sizzler advertisement showing inside Sizzler! It showed tender, succulent shrimp, steak, and other things hot off the grill as well as close-up footage of fresh vegetables in a juicy tossed salad. Have you ever seen this tactic before anywhere?

Come on. I'm already inside. You already have my money. I'm already eating your food. Is it really necessary to play a video showing what I'd be able to partake in, if only I considered dining at Sizzler? Hello, what do you think I'm doing right now?

I think it was false advertisement too. When my hibachi chicken came it was cold, dry, and kind of tough.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Don't Click "Yes"

The following is not meant as a fearmongering message. It is just important to know for your own safety and internet enjoyment.

We Mac users tend to get a bit complacent when it comes to security. I say this simply as a point of humility, because I haven't been bitten by this yet. One thing that I've told all my friends who have since switched to Mac, as well as those who haven't, is that you will be less vulnerable to malware than you would on the Windows side. This is still true. It is HIGHLY unlikely that a Mac user will contract some random piece of bad program just by doing their everyday normal stuff.

But one thing that we as computer users in general on all platforms need to remember is that there is more than one way to attack one's computer. Something becoming more and more common these days is "social engineering." In essence, this is the act of tricking someone into either providing personal information or downloading and running something they didn't ask for.

The former is known as a "phishing scam." This is one of those things that I would hope by now that everyone is aware of. Sadly, they're not. If you're one of them, read carefully. You may get phone calls or emails telling you something like "there has been a problem with your account and we urgently need you to log on right now and verify your username and password." It will link to a page that looks like an authentic eBay page or your banking website. Again, I would hope that by now no one should fall for this, but the fact that people still do things like this means that it still works, and that you (hopefully not you but someone else who's reading this) could be a victim.

Just remember one thing. Reputable institutions will NEVER e-mail or call asking for your passwords or personal information, i.e. social security number. If someone asks you, he or she is a bad guy. Delete the e-mail.

The latter method of social engineering I mentioned is a fake warning that pops up on your computer screen. If you EVER get a message telling you that

a) you have virus "xyz" on your computer and you can click here to download "abc" antivirus 2009 or
b) you are missing some plugin so the browser can't play some video,

be very, very wary. If you get a), you should NEVER click on any of the links or buttons. Just close the window. It will likely say you have xx number of viruses, but it's lying. The message that pops up IS a virus, and if you comply with what it says you will be destroyed. As of now, stuff like this has no effect on a Mac because it downloads a Windows EXE file.

If you get b) it could be genuine, since browsers by default can display only very basic content, and so some things will need extra plugins like Shockwave, Flash, Quicktime, etc. On the other hand, it could also very well be a fake, and you're letting malware into your computer. By the way, there's no such thing as "ActiveX" on the Mac so if you're a Mac and you see a message saying you need to download it, please kill it.

No matter what platform (that's our term for operating system, really - Mac OSX, Windows, Linux, Unix, BeOS, Solaris, VAX/VMS, CHASM, Silly Dog OS) you're on, if you click on these malicious messages, you're giving permission for them to jump in. Don't click "yes". Just say no, and close the window.

Post #50!

This is my 50th post on this blog! Hooray for me! Anyway, the now-famously babyfaced Stephen Curry scored 44 points for his University of Davidson Wildcats. This is the college where they will wash and fold your laundry for a fee. And I thought dorm housekeeping services were nice.

Unfortunately, neither full-service laundry nor his own 44 points allowed Curry to win the game, for the final score was Oklahoma 82, Davidson 78. That's right, the score was Curry 44, Rest Of Team 34. Sigh...

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Quantum Of Solace

I'll be honest. I went to see 007: Quantum of Solace opening night in the US primarily to see the brand-new trailer for May 2009's "Star Trek XI" that the Internets promised us. As the last of the trailers rolled by (Will Smith's "Seven Pounds") I thought "what the hell, man?" That's right. No Trek trailer.

Sigh. Well, at least I'd be entertained for the next couple hours. Or would I? Now, since I hadn't read any reviews of QoS I didn't know what to expect besides the customary Bond action scenes. If that was all I cared about I think I would have enjoyed the movie a lot more than I did. As it was, the story was a bit hard to follow(or was I overthinking it?) and Bond's motivations seemed a bit cloudy when they should have been quite clear.

I did like the pacing of the movie, despite being unsure why certain people were doing what they were doing at times. I also liked the gratuitous use of large touch-screen computers and Bond's networked digital camera.

Overall there were some good bond moments but I wouldn't say it's as good as Casino Royale. Olga Kurylenko as the main Bond girl was pretty good but the English girl was pretty forgettable.

Watch it if you're looking for some decent escapist fare but if you want a dramatic story that chronicles a man's quest for vengeance, which is what QoS is billed as, you might be better off reading Moby Dick.

I mean, seriously, where did they misplace the Star Trek trailer?

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Offline Test

This is a test of LifeCast's ability to save a post created offline for uploading later. Woof woof.

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Edit: success!

Testing LifeCast

So I got this app for my iPod touch called LifeCast. Apparently it lets me post entries to my blog on the go. Well, at least it lets me do so without using my computer. I'm not really "on the go" because there's no freaking wifi anywhere except my house darnit. Anyway, just wanted to try out this app and see how well it works.

So apparently I'm not allowed to make edits via LifeCast but oh well. Maybe they'll add it into a future version. One good thing I just realized though is that even though I need to wait for a wifi signal to upload an entry, I don't necessarily need a connection to create an entry. So I can write it whenever it feel like it and then upload it later. This is provided that LifeCast even runs without a connection. I'll test that out now.

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Sunday, November 9, 2008

Using wifi? Don't use WEP, careful with WPA!

If you use wi-fi at home for your computer or other wireless-enabled device, you probably have a router providing you with that signal. You also probably have a password to secure your router and prevent other people from getting into your access point and using your connection. You may be safe from casual bandwidth-stealers, but anyone who has a few minutes of spare time and the appropriate program installed can bypass your supposed security in mere moments. Then they can use your connection. It can be as innocuous as borrowing your wifi to check their mail, but it's likely that if they are sneaky and clever enough to get in in the first place, they probably have more malicious intentions for your network.

For those who don't want to know the details, just at least read this part. Whether you're tech-savvy or not, you need to pay attention because this affects you. Whoever is in charge of the network at your house or apartment must make the appropriate changes to your settings. Instructions for configuring your router vary between makes and models, so check your particular one and look online for instructions. Generally, though, your router can be accessed through any web browser (Safari, Firefox, Internet Explorer (shudder!)) at the address or some variation. You're on your own for the login and password.

The bottom line is that you want to get to the "Wireless" settings and change your security to "WPA2-PSK" if it's available. This is the most secure, and is (as yet) not susceptible to easy cracking. You may have to reconfigure your wireless devices as well, but it's for your own good.

Why? Well, WEP, which is what people most commonly use, was, frighteningly, NOT created by security experts. Those who designed it took a great security method and implemented it incorrectly, so it's never been secure. The method it uses relies on randomness to prevent bad guys from guessing the password. But the way WEP is implemented, there are occasional repetitions, and with repetitions come patterns. And with enough patterns and enough data to go by, the bad guys can solve the "puzzle" easily. It needs to be completely random, with no repetition!

I'm not too sure why WPA isn't safe anymore, but it's apparently been cracked in the past week or so.

UCLA 2008-2009 Schedule!

Yeah, I know, the schedule's been set for a while now, but as I have been doing for the past three years, I've created a neat, easily readable printable version of it. I don't have a file hosting service at the moment, so if you want a copy of it, give me an email or IM and I'll send it. I'm also working on a printable roster, for those who want one for whatever reason.