Monday, 9 December 2013

Quality Junk Mail for Christmas!

quality-junk mail this christmas

There is more going on here than you might suspect.

On the left is an email that filtered through Micorsoft’s live mail/outlook junk mail filtering settings. In their attempt not to “read anyone’s emails” they don’t flag senders as “junk” until someone (or a number of people) proactively do so.

I make this assumption, because, it is easy for anyone who can see the content of this email to identify that this email on the left is junk mail…

It is also easier to assume that the email I received is not junk mail!

I recently used my PayPal account to make a couple of orders on Amazon. After making the orders Amazon requested that I double check my financial information as the orders didn’t get processed… No big deal, it happens.

 

However, the next day I receive this email from PayPal, and it seems as if it was applicable to my recent transaction, So, I click on it to get the website on the right.

A wonderful reproduction of PayPal’s US website. (Canada’s version has a different cover photo).

NEVER LOG INTO ANY WEBSITE GIVEN TO YOU FROM AN EMAIL!

Fortunately I am well versed in never logging into anything after receiving an emailand rather than logging in I just habitually browse the website. All the links worked, fairly well, so much so I even considered logging in… but… what didn’t seem right was the long domain name up above. I almost didn’t even notice the second “dot” and that set me to double check the well crafted email I was given.

 


quality-junk mail this christmas2

 

First thing I noticed is that when I hovered over the said link, the redirect wasn’t to www.paypal.com rather, to a website http://menbahsite.com/cgi  (I disabled the link, but if you write that second one in your browser you can see the fake PayPal for yourself… Just don’t log in)

 

 

quality-junk mail this christmas2

After hitting “Log in to view now” the domain name is “changed” either through manipulation or redirection to present as “paypal.com.cgi-bin-websc5.whaterverrandomletters12345” which is definitely not PayPal, just a well crafted criminal website made to steal your password.

Curious, I wanted to see who these losers were who were sending such email, I decidedly checked the source to see who the “real senders” were:

 

quality-junk mail this christmas2

 

The domain name associated with sending the email is srv-1.sore.nl, which can be made meaningless.. insert that domain in your browser for instance and you will get redirected to a blank page (by design)

 

However, the associated IP address is often a webserver somewhere hosting a website.

That webserver/host can either be one that doesn’t mind hosting criminal activity, or is being hacked unknowingly. If it’s the later I tend to try to contact the web admin to try to “save” their server from being permanently flagged as an “evil doer” as being flagged is the worst case scenario for any website host.

 

So I pump that IP Address in my browser:

quality-junk mail this christmas2

I’m going to pass at warning the web admin…
I’m just going to assume they are fine with the illegal activity happening on their server, I mean, anyone who misspells “Porno” is up to no good.

 

/Alex

Friday, 22 November 2013

Canada Post should go Public

 

470_canada_post

 

On November 21st Canada Post reported a $129 million loss for it’s most recent quarter, as the company shrinks from the declining letter business. Along with this announcement, they disclosed issues with pension obligations pushing them upward to a 1 Billion dollar loss come midway through 2014.

 

Let’s face it the “letter” business is going out of business, as it should, mainly because of the majority of items mailed to my house makes me want to uppercut a small child. As well, my online bills arrive more timely than their physical counterparts. Mail services have not improved since 1921 BC.

 

The biggest problem of all, one shareholder: The government.

 

I really don’t know when I became a right-winged capitalist, but, in the case of mail post I am under the impression if the Government plans on doing nothing then they should relinquish themselves of being the only shareholder of said company.

 

Seeing that the government announced no plans to lend the corporation money to pay off debts, it appears they are completely content with doing nothing as if they do not have the power to act. If not lend money, why not produce legislation where Canadian companies must use “Canada Post” for online billing, or for submitting legally binding documents within Canada – in turn forcing Canada Post’s relatively decent online solution to be a source of significant income.

But that won’t happen. Governments are notoriously bad at web legislation:

  1. SOPA
  2. eHealth Ontario
  3. ObamaCare
  4. What’s that new one? TPP
  5. Bill C-30

Just to name a few…

 

Alternatively, Canada can go the way of the Brits and have the mail company go Public. This would produce a massive public investment in what would likely be a ridiculous initial public offering (this is a theme for IPOs these days) thus forcing the company to be more competitive, improving services, and getting out of the red.

Of course, there will be beheadings if the company in public interest continues to fail.
But… If a company goes down, it’s pleasant to see the reputation of a high paid CEO go down with it. YAY CAPITISM FTW.

 

Finally, I like to sum up by saying that the mail, parcel, home-delivery business should be treated more so like a tech company (with a huge workforce) rather than a simple delivery company. A company which employs such a work force can really exploit research and development of new products, new services to a similar capacity of some of the large parcel delivery companies out there do.

I find this essential more than ever coming into an age where 3d printing, manufacturer distribution, custom everything, and shop from your cell phone/computer are starting to mature. The opportunities Canada Post has needs to start being exploited, before, we loose our precious mail services.

 

Sidenote: Does anybody find it ridiculous that we still use separate mailboxes to receive mail vs. sending mail? They can save a significant amount of money if they just pick up the mail from where they deliver mail to… right?

 

Sources:

  1. http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/canada-post-posts-129m-loss-in-q3-letter-mail-volume-continues-to-fall-1.1554100
  2. http://money.cnn.com/2013/09/12/investing/royal-mail-ipo/
  3. CBC News.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Dear Rogers, What you are doing is either extremely illegal or highly unethical. Please Stop


I got a call from Rogers, a recorded message that a few of my own associates reported as well (because the nature of the call is concerning)

"Rogers detected that one of the computers in your network may be infected with a virus and you are at risk of having your service discontinued"

"Please see www.rogers.com/GetProtected for further details."

I find this rather amusing, because,
  1. I don't have any viruses on any of my connected computers. I am an IT administrator who keeps a rather tight ship.
  2. The service representative informed me that a "Bot" flagged my private network as having one - which would indicate they are combing through specifics of my web communications (which should be illegal) and even in that regard any viruses communicated (for example downloaded to a junk folder) doesn't indicate that the virus is active on my computer as my virus scanner would remove said rogue programs from executing. 
 So what is it Rogers?
  • Are you combing through my traffic?
  • Or are you telemarketing under false pretenses, to which I would like to remind you that we are on the "Do Not Call" list.



Sunday, 7 April 2013

Replacing Windows Live Messenger - Best alternative to Skype for instant messaging

 

To jump directly to Instant Messaging Alternatives to Skype for Windows – Click Here

 

If you are one of the few people that still use msn/windows/live messenger to any degree, you likely have noticed that Microsoft made the decision to replace their corner stone chat client with Skype this Monday April 8.

 

Downgrade to Skype by April 8th

 

Some of us (or at least just me) have been dreading this day where unfortunately for those of us who use Messenger have to face the understandable fact that it is not good business for Microsoft to provide a free Instant Messaging service that involves some of the most skilled WPF development, deep system integration, and wide array of functionality only to result in an underused and unpopular product.

Where Skype Shines as an alternativeSkype!

Skype entrusted as Messenger's replacement, on the other hand is a great business for Microsoft. Skype is a product that is popularly known for allowing people to make voice and video calls for free over the internet. The software became so popular that the name 'Skype' itself turned into a verb for the most part, allowing Microsoft to benefit from it's popularity when offering it packaged with it's other products and services (particularly Windows 8 and Windows phone 8). As well, Skype's fluent way to "pay" to make affordable VOIP calls allows Microsoft to further benefit by having a value added service also be a source of income.

 

moving to skype

Apparently Skype fails at managing linked accounts… Which made this “upgrade” useless

 

Skype from a consumer perspective is a great piece of communication software and offers a surprisingly reliable service with stunning cross platform functionality. Paying customers are privileged to great customer support and the easy to connect, call to landline, or switch to video calling makes Skype the go to app for internet calling.

 

What it is not the go to app for is Instant Messaging. And for those of you facing the issue of upgrading (technically downgrading) forcibly or otherwise may be coming to the realization that Skype as an instant messaging client significantly lacks the bells and whistles Windows Live Messenger had.

 

Skype For Windows 7 or lessSkype for Windows 8

Notice how Skype for Windows 8 looks much better… and focuses on video calling as opposed to an awkward chat experience.

Some of the Things Messenger had, that Skype doesn't:

  1. Control remote logins
  2. Seamless non cluttered integration to Facebook (And other social networks)
  3. Remote desktop, remote assistance built in
  4. Easy file transfer.
  5. YouTube video sharing
  6. Connect to your email
  7. Social updates
  8. A good looking interface, easy to understand and use.
  9. Windows 7 taskbar integration
  10. Integration with other Windows live services
  11. Integration features with the taskbar in windows 7
  12. Significant customization for appearance
  13. Many more... As it was a very mature program

MSN at it's underused best

This interface was much more pleasant than Facebook. You will be missed WLM…

 

Even though many of the features found in Messenger are found in Skype, it is notable that Skype does not really perform Instant Messaging in a natural fashion. Using the social features or the messaging controls in Skype are particularly not pleasant, they present almost as a hacked in "look what i can do" feature that just clutters the environment and makes you question how to actually message someone. The only platforms Skype looks like a polished product is within Windows phone and Windows 8 – and even there – Skype’s main use is for voice and video calls exclusively. Messaging also suffers from the poor synchronization with servers as the framework of Skype is better structured for live, one on one, communication.

 

As a result, as an instant messaging client: Skype underperforms.

For Instant messaging, Pidgin is the Best alternative.Pidgin Logo

Download Pidgin here. 

 

There are a variety of alternatives for instant messaging available to Windows. These alternatives fall under two categories: Those that offer their own social network and those that focus on connecting to other social networks.

Alternative Social Networks:

  1. Facebook (Facebook Messenger)
  2. AOL (AIM)
  3. Yahoo (Yahoo Messenger)
  4. Google Plus (Google Talk)
  5. ICQ (ICQ 8)

Connecting to Variety of Social Networks:

  1. Pidgin
  2. Trillian
  3. Miranda
  4. aMSN
  5. Digsby

Why Pidgin is my favourite:


Pidgin itself is an easy to set up program that offers the ability to connect to many networks including AOL, Google Talk, ICQ, IRC, MSN, MySpace, Facebook and Yahoo.

The beauty of this program, the more power user you are, the more features you will unlock. This in my opinion is the way all programs of this nature SHOULD be. Only power users will require powerful instant messaging or social features. But, for the general user... quick download, quick install, quick setup, and message away.

 

Pidgin is simple... Simple looks and works good

  • - no blatant advertising.
  • - no pain in the ass notifications taking up 95% of your screen real-estate.
  • - no social features that interfere with what it is you do.
  • - no excessive setup.
  • - no “pro” version. All open-source software.
  • - just chat... chat with who, wherever, whenever.
  • Just look how simple it is… Right out of the box!
  • For those about to chat – Pidgin salutes you,

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Send a Pre-Formatted .EML File in PHP


image

I’m not going to go into any magical back-story about how the “.EML” text-file format for email works or how it’s a good choice in preparing an email template for PHP scripts. I’m just going to get straight to the point:

Easiest way to send an “.EML” file in PHP

$emailpath = 'email.eml'; 
$sendmail = sprintf("cat $emailpath | %s -oi -f %s -t", escapeshellcmd("/usr/sbin/sendmail"), escapeshellarg(something@wrong.com)); //Message that address if any errors that may occur 
@$mail = popen($sendmail, 'w'); 
$raw = pclose($mail);


Note:
Make sure your “email.eml” file contains all the email headers you may need, particularly:
  1. To:
  2. From:
  3. Subject:
I would strongly advice you review my use of “escapeshellcmd” and “escapeshellarg” to prepare the variables to be interpreted by the shell.

Parsing “.EML” files and sending them in PHP:

Since the “.EML” is a text based format, they provide versatility to serve as templates. In this example I supply email header data through pre-set variables. I later use regular expressions to change existing text in the .EML file (in this case [$FirstName] [$LastName] [$EmailAddress] and [$Greeting]) with their corresponding variable as supplied.

I choose to keep the file stream open rather than send the whole of the parsed content into a single command. No particular reason, just thought I should…

Here is the example:

    $sendmailpath = '/usr/sbin/sendmail'; 
    $emailpath = 'emailTemplate.eml'; 
    $messagecontent = file_get_contents($emailpath);
 
    //Variables for the email 
    $FirstName = "Alex"; 
    $LastName = "Casamassima"; 
    $EmailAddress = "somebody@somewhere.com"; 
    $Greeting = "Good day kind sir,"; 
 
    $parsed_message = preg_replace('/\[\$([01-9A-Za-z_]+)\]/e', "$$1", $messagecontent); 
    $sendmail = sprintf("%s -oi -f %s -t", escapeshellcmd($sendmailpath), escapeshellarg("admin@yoursite.com")); 
    if(!@$mail = popen($sendmail, 'w')) { 
        throw new Exception("Couldn't open the sendmail program!"); 
    } 
    fputs($mail, $parsed_message); 
    $result = pclose($mail); 
    if($result != 0) { 
      throw new Exception("Couldn't send email!"); 
    }
 


.EML files are useful as they offer great facility to provide MulitPart content, including text versions of an email and embedded attachments. As well, modifying them is as simple as opening them up in your text editor of choice.

Easiest way to make a beautiful .EML file

image
This may be a personal preference of mine. But, Creating a new draft in “Windows Live Mail” often suffices for me. The menu inside the email client allows you to “Save as file” that defaults to an “.EML” file.

Using a client such as “Windows Live Mail” or “Outlook” allows for quick and easy use of embedded pictures, fonts, colours, and special features.


Alternative resources on PHP and .EML:
  1. http://www.linuxquestions.org/questions/linux-server-73/postfix-send-eml-file-737328/
  2. http://stackoverflow.com/questions/5044194/send-mail-from-raw-body-for-testing-purposes
  3. http://www.php.net/manual/en/function.mail.php search for (EML file) on page
  4. http://forums.devshed.com/php-development-5/sending-a-eml-file-through-php-possible-354690.html
  5. http://stackoverflow.com/questions/5903525/sending-mail-using-php-mail-function-local-mail-server
  6. http://www.manpagez.com/man/1/sendmail/

Monday, 4 February 2013

Basic Bitwise made easy for VB.NET


If you are searching BitWise in VB.Net on the web, you will come across a billion references telling you every little detail about the math in how they work. I won’t do that….

All I will give you is the synopsis:

'Define your flags: (FlagsAttribute warns the compiler)
<Flags()> _
Enum SettingFlags AS Integer 
    SettingA = 1
    SettingB = 2
    SettingC = 4
    SettingD = 8
    SettingE = 16
    SettingF = 32
    SettingG = 64
    SettingH = 128
    SettingI = 256
    SettingJ = 512
    SettingK = 1024
    SettingL = 2048
    SettingM = 4096
    SettingN = 8192
    SettingO = 16384
    SettingP = 32728 
    CominationAtoD = SettingA or SettingB or SettingC or SettingD ' = 15
End Enum
 
'Define your settings (all flags are off)
Dim YourSettings AS SettingFlags = 0
 
'Turn some flags on (using OR):
YourSettings = YourSettings OR SettingsFlags.SettingE
YourSettings = YourSettings OR SettingsFlags.CombinationAtoD
YourSettings = YourSettings OR 32
 
'Now YourSetting=63 meaning SettingA,B,C,D,E,F are all "on"
 
'Turning a flag off (using AND NOT)
YourSettings = YourSettings AND NOT SettingsFlags.SettingB
 
'Now YourSettings=61 meaning SettingsA,C,D,E,F are all "on"
 
'Toggle a flag (using XOR)
YourSettings = YourSettings XOR SettingsFlags.SettingsG
YourSettings = YourSettings XOR SettingsFlags.CombinationAtoD
 
'Now YourSettings=114 meaning SettingsB,E,F,G are "on" 
 
'Determine if a flag is on (using AND MASK = MASK)
IF (YourSettings AND SettingsFlags.SettingsB) = SettingsFlags.SettingsB THEN
    'In this case true, because SettingsB is "on"
END IF


In the end, all you have is a integer variable definition (make it ulong if you need more bits) that can act as a grouping of Boolean variables via the binary representation of the integer, where 1 is true, and 0 is false. I avoid demonstrating “Bit Shifting” because different programming languages handle it differently.

Now the above is self-explanatory, and my comments give examples and explanations. If you want more information or education you can sift through a million references I found on the subject below.

References:
http://www.codeproject.com/Articles/6792/Masks-and-flags-using-bit-fields-in-NET
http://www.nerdymusings.com/LPMArticle.asp?ID=17
http://blogs.msdn.com/b/ericlippert/archive/2004/07/15/184431.aspx
http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/wz3k228a%28v=VS.100%29.aspx
http://rosettacode.org/wiki/Bitwise_operations#Visual_Basic_.NET
http://stackoverflow.com/questions/387424/what-is-the-tilde-in-a-c-sharp-enumeration
http://www.codeguru.com/csharp/sample_chapter/article.php/c12963/Flags-Enumerations.htm
http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-ca/library/system.flagsattribute.aspx
http://weblogs.asp.net/wim/archive/2004/04/07/109095.aspx

Other than that, copy and paste my code. And use it. It’s useful for calling functions, combining similar variables/settings, or simplifying your database.

Feel free to leave your comments or suggestions!

Regards,

Saturday, 26 January 2013

What RIM is doing right that Microsoft is not


blackberry-windows-phone

Being Patient.

In a few days we will see the product of Research In Motion’s long overdue, twice significantly delayed, BlackBerry 10 phone and BlackBerry 10 operating system. RIM will be introducing a device (and more so an operating system) that was set to be launched at around the same time Windows 8 was introduced, but, CEO Thorsten Hein’s took the heat and informed the public that It wasn’t ready, and, everyone watched the market significance of RIM drop into near obscurity.

 

Whereas Microsoft didn’t share the same sentiment of patience, when Microsoft appeared to seize the day last October, launching Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 with a heavily funded campaign. Here CEO Steve Ballmer glistened while declaring that Microsoft was “All In” in this paradigm shift in computing and mobile computing demonstrating a product that provided the most significant difference in operating system UI since Windows 95.

The reward of Impatience

“Q4 2011” -- It is not hard to note that the most interesting, innovative computers and devices in the most recent Christmas season were those painted with the Windows 8 logo on them. I myself have been enjoying the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga and gawked unnecessarily at Nokia’s Lumia 920, and Microsoft’s own hardware offering – Surface.

 

HP, Sony, Lenovo, Nokia, HTC, ACER, Samsung, and Microsoft are benefiting from Microsoft’s latest offering. As the sales of the latest devices featuring Windows have been much welcomed.

Is Windows 8 Rushed?

The general public seems to think so. Lack of apps, cognitive dissonance with the desktop, and a near outrageous learning curve has plagued critical opinion of Windows 8 offering. Microsoft too suspiciously had Steve Sonofsky, the Windows Division president, resign shortly after it’s launch.

 

Furthermore, I personally feel that it is rushed, as I am thoroughly hoping that the first major Service Pack of Windows 8 will offer some UI (User Interface) and usability improvements to their operating system. This is preventing me from taking advantage of Microsoft’s lucrative upgrade program because Microsoft has not acknowledged development of any UI & Usability improvements.

 

Granted, Microsoft does make tons of money with their sell now, fix later practice which keeps consumers masochistically content. This money making methodology has been working for Microsoft for many years – no need to stop now

Is RIM just delaying the inevitable?

This long wait may just be delaying the eventual futility…

 

Remember Palm’s WebOS? Their stock too risen with a developer friendly, beautifully designed new operating system coupled with a very nice device as well. The stock market jumped behind Palm intensively before launch, even throwing around the catch phrase “IPhone Killer” one too many times.

 

Then the end result was:

A horrendously bad ad campaign, even worse management, little developer support in with very few apps available at launch, and finally a take over by HP that was curiously turned into a rush to liquefy anything Palm as fast as possible. Palm has went from innovator to afterthought in less than a year.

So far, RIM is winning “Waiting Game”

Like Palm, it will be the wallets of the consumer market that will determine if BlackBerry 10 is successful. However, unlike Palm, BlackBerry is a known brand, RIM no longer suffers from bad management decisions, and they still have an outrageous amount of cash dedicated for marketing.

 

Personally, as a software developer, I’m impressed. RIM has offered an unbelievable number of API’s and a world tour to encourage people to make aps. So much so, that BlackBerry at launch will have more apps than any other operating system in history.

Watch out Microsoft

Curiously enough the Best case scenario for RIM is one that Microsoft should pay a ton of attention to. After their failed take over attempt of RIM, RIM has changed direction of their company from Smart Phone maker to Mobile Computing company.

 

They didn’t simply rebrand Linux (like Apple or Android) and they actually have an Operating System that is touted to be worth more  than the devices it sits on. Research In Motion consistently reminds everyone that it integrates web technology better than everyone else and BlackBerry OS 10 shares the same core of the QNX operating system that already exists in cars, power plants, medical equipment, and other significant technology branded as a top tier OS being reliable and secure.

 

If BlackBerry takes back it’s market share, makes a name for itself, and makes a huge comeback it’s not because of BlackBerry, it’s because of their Operating System. This would be a curious situation seeing that Microsoft’s attempt to make Windows more mobile may fail against a mobile operating system built secure enough and capable enough to go everywhere.

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