Caution: the kind voice on the line could be up to no good

We received another suspect call, as do so many every day.  His voice was kind and patient.  His goal? To remote into our computer.  This is not good.  Listening to him was disturbing.  Not because I saw him as a threat but because I know he would have been able to manipulate many others out there who may not be tech savvy or who may have cognitive impairments or who may just be so inexperienced with deceivers that they may not realize what is happening and comply with his requests.

Use the following example of what happened to us as a reminder to keep your guard up at all times when communicating with strangers who are trying to reach you in this digital age.

  • The call came in from this phone number:  282-648-2794 and the caller id was a long series of numbers instead of an actual business name.  Phone numbers are easy to mask so this could or could not be the callers actual phone number.
  • The caller was a very sincere and patient young man with a thick accent, it sounded like an Indian accent.
  • He began the conversation with something creepy.  He made a comment that we had been on our computer yesterday.  This is something he would have no way of knowing.  But we replied yes.  This was his way of determining if we did or did not have a computer in our possession.
  • He then asked if we were the only ones that used the computer, this is his subtle way of determining if the computer is being used for business or personal use.
  • He then asks us to visit a web site and download software.  What he wanted us to download is software from alpemix.com in order to gain remote control access to our computer.  If you do an internet search of alpemix you will see that this is remote control software and it has been used in phone scams for many years.  I do not know the history of alpemix so I cannot say at this time if it is a software of good intent that is just unfortunately the software of choice of scammers or not.  Either way, the scam goes like this:  you download the alpemix software, the caller remotes into your machine and releases malware or viruses, your computer then shows you have malware or viruses, the caller then says that for a fee he will repair your computer.
  • We kept this caller on the phone so long pretending to be inept computer users who could not reach the alpemix.com site, that the caller finally gave up on us and hung up.

If you think you have people in your home who would believe a caller like this, sit down and go through this scenario with them.  Encourage them to immediately disconnect the call.  Not engaging with the caller is the most successful strategy and then use features on your phone to block the call so hopefully you will not receive another call from the same people (many phones have call blocking features now and this is a perfect opportunity to take advantage of them).

Avoid engaging or arguing with the caller.  This will in no way change the trajectory of their behavior.  We can only hope that they will suddenly take up a sweet hobby like knitting or cliff diving and be so preoccupied by it that they forget to show up for work at their job which is obviously a company called something like “Phone Scam Surplus Manufacturers of the Free World Organization”.  Just hang up the phone and go on your merry way:)

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Google Ads = Descent into mind-numbing world of no answers

I had the strangest experience with Google Ads.  Interacting with this system and customer service required so much of my attention that I unfortunately had to wash my hands of the entire project and just walk away.

The problems started a few hours after creating a very simple ad for a pet calendar.  The entire ordeal went like this:

  1. The ad I created was short and to the point. I mentioned the price in the ad, included a picture of one of the pets and a brief description of the calendar along with the link to buy the calendar.
  2. The interface showed the ad had been approved after a few hours.
  3. But then the interface changed its mind a few hours later and rejected the ad so I proceeded to read the fine print for ads thinking maybe they had an unusual policy where they ban all cute kittens or bunnies.
  4. I found nothing unusual in the documentation. I also found nothing that gave me a clue as to why the ad was rejected.  So, I reworded the ad just in case the phrase “wall calendar” means something naughty in another language.   I submitted the ad again.
  5. No luck. The ad was rejected again several hours later.
  6. I reworded the ad again and submitted the ad again.
  7. No luck. The ad was rejected again several hours later.
  8. I called customer service by phone. They assigned the ticket to someone and said they would get back to me.  They could not tell me why the ad was rejected.  The customer service employees were very nice.
  9. I received an email from customer service informing me that my ad had been approved.
  10. Nope. The interface showed it had been rejected.
  11. I reworded the ad again and submitted the ad again.
  12. No luck. The ad was rejected again several hours later.
  13. I contacted customer service by email informing them of the problem.
  14. I received an email from customer service informing me that my ad had been approved.
  15. Nope. The interface showed it had been rejected.
  16. Customer service emailed me back saying it was rejected because I keep changing the ad and it must go through the approval process each time it is changed (hmmm….even if this is true, this in no way answers the question as to why this simple ad is rejected repeatedly).
  17. With no patience left, I deleted the ad and have abandoned use of this system.

Life is good again.

If you feel you must try using this system, then I recommend only submitting your ad once.  If your ad is rejected, then just walk away.  If you do not walk away at this point, then you will spend a great deal of time going in circles with people and reading documentation where, in the end, may offer up no clear solution.

When faced with endless exchanges of nothingness with other humans or automated systems, there is a chance of one’s own head popping off (or at least blood pressure rising) so proceed with caution.

Dealing with the IPERCTV disorder during the holidays – remote control mayhem

The holidays are going to be here before you know it and that means many of you are going to have a house full of relatives.  This quick post will help you prepare for the impending onslaught of freakish family behavior regarding electronics.

Most of my relatives are afflicted with a very strange disorder.  The “I must point every remote control at the TV and see what happens” disorder (also known as IPERCTV).  The scene usually unfolds at dawn.  One early riser must immediately know the weather conditions of all cities in the world via the gorgeous people on The Weather Channel.  Since no one else is up, and since the guest is incapable of complex thought at such an early hour, he or she proceeds to pick up all 37 remote controls lying around the house to try them out.  The behavior with each remote control is the same:  point the remote control at the TV, press every button on the remote control, move on to the next remote control and repeat.

It does not matter that the remote control says “General Motors” on it, clearly indicating that it is in fact a key fob for the car in the driveway, the guest is going to point it at the TV and click every button on it anyway.  One of these button presses inevitably sets off the car alarm of the car in the driveway and wakes up everyone in the house.  The rest of the family comes downstairs to investigate the alarm.  It is at this point that the guest quickly demands someone turn on the TV for the latest weather report.

For the next two hours the host attempts to sync back up the 985 audio and visual systems to the one remote control that they all used to successfully communicate with.  During the first hour and a half of troubleshooting, there is a tremendous amount of cussing.  The final thirty minutes is dedicated to testing, lecturing guests on remembering to use only one remote control and drinking beer for breakfast to deal with the stress.

To save your sanity, lock your extraneous remote controls away NOW.  Do not wait until your guests are in your living room.  To make for an even smoother visit, put a piece of paper next to the TV remote control that shows guests what buttons to push.

Good luck.

I love foreign magazines and now I have easy access to them!

Prior to the eBook explosion on our planet, I gave little attention to foreign magazines because they were often extremely expensive due to shipping costs and delivery time was delayed as well.

I am very happy to see so many magazines from faraway lands are now available to me electronically! Do not think you have to have a special device (other than a regular computer or a regular smart phone or tablet) to read these magazines.  If you have a computer, smart phone, or tablet, then you can download Kindle software directly to your device so you may begin reading these magazines immediately!

This is the location to download the necessary Kindle software:    https://www.amazon.com/kindle-dbs/fd/kcp

Once you have the software downloaded then go on a fantastic shopping adventure on amazon.com for all the fabulous magazines you never had easy and timely access to before!  Here are just a few to get started (you would use the “Deliver to Kindle” during checkout – it is the option over on the right):

NOTE:  If you find a magazine that does not have the “Deliver to Kindle” option listed on the right, then the magazine is not yet available electronically.

To find more foreign magazines on amazon.com, here is one way to find them quickly:

There are several methods of reading eBooks besides using Kindle software, I outline more here:

https://jennymummey.wordpress.com/2016/09/20/it-doesnt-matter-what-electronic-devices-you-have-you-can-read-e-books-well-i-guess-maybe-a-fancy-toaster-wouldnt-work/

Best Tech Dream Ever

Holy schnikes! I had the best tech dream ever last night:)

The horror of forgetting every single password for every single web site, mobile app, desktop app, database, server, work door code, house door code, safe, car door code finally came to fruition in a stress filled dream of too much work and too little time.

When I realize my brain no longer contained all password data for all of my things in my life requiring passwords, I was so stressed about it that I was truly unable to react in any way and then suddenly this lovely wave of calm came over me and I accepted the moment.  I decided I would not pursue recovery in any way, I would just walk away from all that was password protected and start anew.

I woke up pretty happy at the tranquility of it all but also at the sheer absurdity of me in any dimension accepting loss of data – never!

Gadget mania:)

With the number of electronic devices in the hands of our clients now it is truly a miracle they have not rioted against all of IT.  I have a sincere respect for them just based on the massive amount of patience they have for learning, caring for and using the large number of crazy devices we support for them.

If you have a full arsenal of gadgets for work and home and feel as if you are reaching your breaking point, then take a deep breath and keep the following tips noted below in mind for a happy life.

  • If you are unable to turn off all devices for quality time with other humans or for strolls in nature for a set amount of time each day, then you are probably going to self-destruct in some weird and ugly way in front of witnesses in a public place.  No one wants that.  Just turn the gadgets off and do your thing.
  • Understand how to update the gadget to keep it running well.  Check for updates weekly.
  • Understand how to turn off, turn on and hard reboot the gadget.  Avoid leaving computer-like gadgets in an on state for weeks at a time, rebooting is very important as is normally shutting down every few days to avoid all sorts of performance issues.
  • Understand how to backup data from the gadget to another gadget (like to an external hard drive) that you then store in a separate place (any detached structure from your home or office that is secure).  Backup your data on a regular schedule and never deviate from this schedule.
  • Know that if you enjoy a huge bowl of Captain Crunch while reaching over your gadget to snag a book that is sliding off of a shelf, then the Captain Crunch is going to spill all over the gadget rendering it completely unusable…probably forever.

Noting the creepy factor when implementing video conferencing or video chatting tools like Skype in the workplace

Video conferencing and video chat are seriously valuable tools for businesses and families alike. This article focuses on the use of these tools in a business setting and how to identify and deal with misuse.

Two types of employees make the use of these tools a problem in the workplace: the gossiper and the pervert. These types of employees already make normal employees uncomfortable in everyday office situations. When employers add in forced face-to-face video communication where normal employees are on display (with zoom capability) with undesirables, the meetings become unsettling.

The gossiper is very easy to identify. He or she, after the meeting, quickly relays to anyone who will listen inappropriate information regarding meeting attendees.

Though easy to identify, the gossiper may be hard to silence. Over time the gossiper may also create a truly toxic environment and even jeopardize the welfare of the company or safety of other employees if they spill company secrets or safety protocols to other people. If you have trouble with gossipers in the workplace now, incorporating video communication may intensify the toxicity. Proceed with caution.

Perverts can be extremely difficult to identify because they often make inappropriate comments or gestures towards others in one-on-one encounters. This behavior is difficult to identify in a group setting. Employees may also misidentify someone as being a pervert and immediately shut down all communication with them. This strategy of course will never solve the problem if there in fact is a problem.

If you are running video meetings or managing people that are participating in them, carefully examine how people are interacting during the meetings. If something seems off, like communication is not natural, there is too much silence, or a normal employee is suddenly agitated then there could be a problem.

Here are a few suggestions that may make meetings like this bearable if you notice issues in current video-enabled meetings:

  • Make it part of the meeting policy to include meeting rules (rules are short and easy to understand) inside the meeting invitation (at the very top) of every video-enabled meeting invitation sent out so all participants understand how to behave during and after all video-enabled meetings. In the rules, be sure to clearly identify the types of inappropriate employees that make meetings difficult in the workplace.
  • Recommend that employees sit several feet away from the camera and behind a desk, so they are viewed as they are in normal in-person meetings where personal space is acknowledged (no one is looking up anyone else’s nose).
  • Give employees the option to turn the video portion off so participants cannot see them.

Good luck:)

YouTube is saving me SERIOUS money each year in salon visits

I routinely get my hair colored various shades of fabulous throughout the year.  This has been going on since I was a child when my sister experimented on my long locks in the kitchen.  This was during her very successful cosmetological phase where she contributed to the overall well-being of thousands of members of our little community in Ohio by doling out sweet styles and colors.  I’m pretty sure our town looked like the Hollywood of the Midwest during this creative time.

Up until last year I never had a problem with hair color at a salon.  I went in for a routine color:  highlights and lowlights at a salon I had been to many times before.  I left the salon happy as can be but several days later my hair turned orange.  Not just any shade of orange, it turned clown orange.  The salon had a policy of accommodating any issues so I wasn’t concerned, that is of course until I called the salon and realized they were closed on Sunday and did not have a voice mail box to leave a message and worse yet they had no one on call.  Seriously? No emergency contact?  I work in IT, I’ve been on call 24/7 for the last 15 years.  I consider hair coloring and hair styles to be AS important if not more important than some of the IT emergencies I have addressed after hours.

Panic had not yet set in, even though the Monday workday was looming on the horizon with every non-tick of my digital clock.  I called a few other salons in the area.  Then a few more salons on outlying areas.  Then a few more within a few hours drive of the house.  Then I just started driving, hoping a “walk-in” would be most effective to truly get across the urgency of the situation. Once they got my bright orange head in their sights they would surely switch into emergency room mode where only the most critical are seen first.  Nope.  Every salon, in town and outside of town, was either closed or booked for the day.

For a brief moment I considered stopping by the drugstore and picking up a box of color to fix the issue myself but then I remembered I am a computer programmer and I had in no way ever paid attention to what anyone was doing to my hair in all the years of colors and cuts.  It all seemed pretty magical to me and I had no faith that I could actual do something like this on my own.

Disgusted, I went home and did what any normal person does when they are disgusted, I went to http://www.youtube.com to watch videos of baby bunnies and kittens to cheer myself up:)  While I was there, on a long-shot, I did a search on do-it-yourself hair color videos.  Holy Schnikes! It was a mammoth library of the secrets of the hair color universe revealed to me in 3-minute clips of how-to glory.  The videos were so detailed, right down to what type of box to buy at the drugstore.  By the time I watched a few of the videos I had convinced myself I could color my own hair.  I raced down to the drugstore, bought the recommended color and brand for $8.00.  Yes.  Really.  $8.00.  I successfully colored my own hair with about 13 hours to spare before the Monday morning workday would begin.  I was so happy with the results that I have not been able to justify what I was paying in the salon and I continue to color my own hair thanks to the fantastic tutorials on YouTube.  If you have ever considered coloring your own hair and do not know where to start, visit YouTube first, it is filled with useful information on the subject of hair color.  Here are a few videos I found most helpful when doing my own research:

Think of all the things you can buy with the money you will save! If you need help, here is a list of what is out there in internet land just waiting for you and your cash:

Good luck gorgeous!

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