Easy ways to spot fake social media accounts

When a few of my family members started using Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, I was quickly reminded of how humans seem to be naturally inclined to believe everything they see in print.   I had to cover a few basics with them once they started interacting on social media platforms because they initially went through a phase where they believed, in some instances, that they were interacting with real people when it fact they were actually just interacting with bots.

Keep the following tips in mind if you are new to social media, they may help you identify fictitious online accounts (and the rule is to just ignore them or if they are posting threats then report them):

  • look at the list of followers the person has and ask yourself: does each follower have a “perfectly beautiful face and model clothing?” – if so then the person is probably not real and neither are any of their followers
  • look at the list of followers the person has and ask yourself: does the person have a very small number of followers (like 10) but they are following thousands of people? – if so, then the person is probably not real
  • does the person only forward existing posts from other people and never actually say anything themselves? – if so, then the person is probably not real
  • does the person only post the same “type” of material all day long? (like they only post quotes from famous people, never posting anything “genuine”) – if so, then the person is probably not real
  • does the person send private messages to you that are generic phrases that would apply to a million scenarios? (like this: “Hey, so nice to meet you, it is a big world out there, I like to connect) – if so, then the person is probably not real
  • does the person post messages at the same interval each day (like at the top of every hour or every day at exactly 2:30pm) then the person is probably not real

Avoid using social media for anything other than socializing.  Obtaining news about current events for your community and nation should be obtained from traditional news organizations who have a track record of many years of attempting to relay facts to the public.

Video gaming descent into nothingness, what is going on?

My circle of peeps since as far back as me being a kid in Lima, Ohio, and playing heated games of softball in the boulevard after school, have always been a mixture of active and/or intelligent humans with an over-the-top zest for life.

My first FANTASTIC introduction to video games during my childhood, Atari, never pulled my focus away from living in the real world for long each day and why would it? How could it? With the sun shining, the birds singing, bugs biting and bikes to ride, it never dawned on me (even as an introvert) to hide on the couch and jump into digital make-believe for hours at a time.

I reflect on my childhood now when I read the news and when I listen to some of our friends complain of their children’s descent into long periods of digital nothingness.  I worry humans are becoming more and more detached from society.   I understand the attraction of the digital world because reality is difficult, scary, painful and messy with the rare and perfect sprinkle of fabulous that makes it all worthwhile.  But I also understand, as does the scientific community, what happens to humans and animals long-term when live social interaction is significantly diminished:  physical and mental health deteriorate.

If you or your children are descending into a nothing abyss via the Internet or video gaming highway, make a resolution to makes some changes.  Nothing drastic, it can start with taking a walk each day or pick up the phone and call your Great Grandmother Mildred who is probably cursing you right now because she hasn’t heard from you in 5 years, or get a hamster – http://www.myhamsterzoo.com.  What are you waiting for?

Fitness trackers and their wicked lies:)

It is tempting to believe the cute little mobile app when it tells me me I’ve burned 570 calories in the last hour when I know the only thing I’ve done for the last 60 minutes is laugh on the phone with my sister while eating a snow cone.

Fitness trackers are fabulous though some are not entirely accurate.  Keep this in mind if you use one.  Several studies (this article goes into detail about one: https://www.livescience.com/59242-how-accurate-is-your-fitness-tracker-really.html) have demonstrated just how inaccurate data from fitness trackers can be (like calories burned). Until these mainstream devices are consistently providing valid data, avoid making decisions regarding your health and/or diet based solely on the data received from these devices.   Privacy may also be a concern in regards to the data collected on users of fitness trackers. Data regarding vitals, location and level of activity is valuable and could be used in a variety of ways that you may or may not approve of (e.g. investigations, estimating lifespan, and determining eligibility for programs).

Adobe Acrobat Out of Memory Error: Endless Pit of Horror

We recently went through a great deal of troubleshooting for an issue surrounding the scanning of, and later the unsuccessful attempted viewing of, an Adobe PDF. Below I outline the exact issue and resolution that worked for us in case you encounter the same problem (in an attempt to prevent you from drowning in the same pit of horror that we endured, I can’t believe we didn’t die).


  1. User scanned a 2 page document into Adobe Acrobat Pro (the issue occurred with multiple versions up to and including version 11)
  2. The size of the resulting PDF was very small: 100KB
  3. User uploaded the PDF to a web environment


  1. The user was unable to view the PDF from the web server via a browser (the user would get a clocking white screen)
  2. The user was unable to view the PDF from the web server via Adobe Acrobat (the user would get an Out of Memory error)
  3. All other users experienced the same symptoms as the original user when attempting to view the PDF from the web server via a browser or via Adobe Acrobat


  1. Verified the auto rotate feature was turned off in the scan settings
  2. Verified the orientation of the scanner matched the orientation defined within Adobe Acrobat
  3. Uninstalled, reinstalled 4 centillion versions of Adobe Acrobat on user machine
  4. Verified Adobe Reader was not present on user machine
  5. Cried a little
  6. Uninstalled, reinstalled the scanner 8 billion times


  1. Open Adobe Acrobat Pro
  2. Select Edit > Preferences > General > on left select Internet > Deselect “Allow fast web view” > on left select Documents > Deselect “Save As
    optimizes for Fast Web View” > select OK
  3. Rescan document with these new settings


  1. Go on a really, really, really long vacation and do not send a holiday greeting card to Adobe this year

Web Applications – make this clear to users at all times: where they are and what they are using

When a user experiences a problem using an application, the list of possible issues can be lengthy depending on the complexity of the environment(s) and dependencies.  If the user is unable to clearly articulate to the help desk what application is broken or where they are when issues arise then this is a clear indicator that the training, documentation and application itself are not all using the same language.

Make things easy for your users by following these simple steps with every application your write and/or support:

  • Give the application one name and one name only. In this example we will give our application the name “Blue Safari”.
  • Place the name of the application prominently on every page of the application. This means “Blue Safari” is on every page of the application.  (not “Bls Version 2.0” but “Blue Safari” or “Blue Safari Version 2.0”)
  • If your application is a web application, try to place the name of the application somewhere in the url if possible.
  • All shortcuts or hyperlinks that take users to the application should be the name of the application (i.e. “Blue Safari”)
  • In all documentation and training for users and support staff, refer to your application with the same language. This means all references to the application will be stated as “Blue Safari”.

If you give your application several different names then several problems arise:

  1. The user either doesn’t know what to call the application when he or she calls the help desk to report the problem or the user calls the application by a name that no one at the help desk recognizes.
  2. A significant delay occurs before the issue is resolved simply due to the time spent sorting out the confusion over what exactly is broken and where it is.

Avoid contributing to the overall mayhem of our existence, it will only end badly, we both know that.  Unless of course your help desk gives out free ponies and chocolate ice cream with every call, then maybe as a caller I will not care so much that I am unable to clearly tell you what is broken.  Now I want ice cream.

Microsoft Surface Alarm Customization – oh come on! Throw me a bone! :)

I was so pleased to see I could replace the standard alarm wav files on my Microsoft Surface with custom alarm wav files of the same name (C:\Windows\Media\Alarm01.wav).  Who wouldn’t want to hear their cat meow every time a dental appointment looms on the horizon?  Or hear their cute little one shout “Chwweeerios” on birthdays?

However, I am a little puzzled as to why the capability to record simple wav files is no longer standard within the Windows environment (example:  Sound Recorder).  The only thing I can find standard on the Microsoft Surface for audio recording is the Voice Recorder and it only records in the m4a format.  So of course if I use the Voice Recorder to record my rabbit snorting like a pig I will now need to download additional software to convert the m4a file to a wav file and then place the wav file here to replace an existing alarm wav file:  C:\Windows\Media.

This entire process is fine for me but it is too time consuming and complex for our business users and even if they were willing to do it, I am not keen on introducing a third party product for something that does something so mundane as converting a m4a to a wav, it would need to do more like also bake chocolate cakes or somehow make my pale skin a pretty tan color.

Web Content Maintenance: Adobe PDF Endless Pit of Destruction and Pain (aka APEPDP)

Are you a newbie developer in the world of web content maintenance? If you are then be aware of the Adobe PDF Endless Pit of Destruction and Pain (aka APEPDP) so you can avoid the horrors it may bring.

What is APEPDP? In a nutshell it is the delivery of web content to the masses in the form of a PDF document that may subsequently awaken a nightmare of maintenance and usability issues for as far as the eye can see.  This is an example of how the horror may unfold:

  1. A client creates a Microsoft Word document.
  2. The client converts the document into a PDF document.
  3. The client gives the PDF to the web developer or webmaster to add to a web page.
  4. Another client, sometime later, sends a request to the web developer or webmaster to make changes to the PDF document mentioned above.
  5. The web developer or webmaster tries to locate the original Word document from the prior client only to find that no one has the original Word document.
  6. The web developer or webmaster recreates the PDF in Word.
  7. The web developer or webmaster makes the new changes in Word.
  8. The web developer or webmaster converts the Word document to PDF.
  9. The web developer or webmaster replaces the existing PDF on the web site with this new PDF.
  10. Users visiting the site now have to install the Adobe Reader if they do not already have it, wait while the PDF loads (the user may not even get this far if the device they are using is not capable of reading PDF documents) and if the PDF does load the user now is inside an environment unlike anything in the web site they were just on, this separate PDF environment has rudimentary navigational options, no back button, limited search capabilities, no visible url to give the user an idea of where he or she is and often hard to find print options.

A few tips for avoiding APEPDP

  • If you must use PDFs as web content, then set up an official document repository for your users so they may create documents and always have valid latest versions of said document originals for any future potential modifications.
  • If you want your web content to be easily and quickly readable on all devices in all browsers by all screen readers, then publish your web content as html – no exceptions. A way to implement a solution like this, in its simplest form, is as follows:

    –  A client creates a Microsoft Word document and checks the Word document into an official document repository for safe keeping for any future potential modifications.
    –  The client gives the Microsoft Word document to the web developer or webmaster to add to a web page.
    –  The web developer or webmaster saves the Microsoft Word document as html.
    –  The web developer or webmaster publishes the html to the web site.

  • Train users to use web content management tools so they can create content themselves. Based on my experience with web content management tools in large and small organizations, I do not recommend them at this time unless you have enough IT staff to train and retrain users on these systems since many users will use them so infrequently that they will forget how to use them.

Shopping Cart Hot Mess

I used the online auction site eBay a few times to sell items and found the experience unpleasant.  The interface is built well, my primary issues were around the tedium of figuring out what happened to payments once they fell into the PayPal arena, reposting items that did not sell, keeping up with the myriad of fees and dealing with unscrupulous buyers who constantly try to make side deals.

Once I reached a point where I had a substantial amount of items to sell, I felt I needed to research the shopping cart options available to small potato peeps like me who don’t have time to build shopping carts to make the process easier.  As a full time computer programmer, I had zero availability for complex set ups, I was looking for a solution that was an instant up for a fee and I just had to concentrate on data entry of items, customer service and shipping goods.  Unfortunately this is much harder to find than I thought.  I started with Volusion, their interface is dynamite and their support is tops but unfortunately I had to deal with so many other things like sub domain set up – which wasn’t compatible with my existing domain provider (and I didn’t even care what the url was – I was just going to link to it  from my existing web site menu), additional fees for things like SSL certificates, credit card processors, etc instead of what I actually had time to deal with (which was data entry, customer service and shipping goods).

I guess it is time I do like those fancy people in Hollywood do and just get myself an assistant…after I win the lottery of course:)

Digital Assistant Mayhem

Excellent move Burger King, I thoroughly enjoyed reading about your commercial that activated some Google Home Devices:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/burger-king-launches-ad-on-google-home_us_58ee23dfe4b0c89f912307f9.  The strategy was clever and made good use of the tools at hand.

I think activities like this are truly the only way some customers are going to understand the potential side effects of having digital assistants in the home and having them on all the time.

If you have a digital assistant in your home, take precautions now if you can to avoid unanticipated outcomes.

Even something as simple as your old answering machine has now become an ideal portal into your home for prank callers to call and leave commands for ordering all kinds of goodies for you without your knowledge or controlling various electronics within the home.

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