Archives 2012

How Gyft Stole My Personal Information

Attention: This content is 9 years old. Please keep its age in mind while reading as its contents may now be outdated or inaccurate.

I’m going to start off this article by warning people, DO NOT SIGN UP FOR GYFT!  Do NOT install it on your phone!  Why?  Because they will steal your information and you can’t do anything to stop it.  Gyft is an app that is supposed to allow you to easily trade/exchange gift cards to stores for other stores, but their shady business practices make me want to NEVER give them access to anything worth any real world value.

The Android version of Gyft launched the other day, so I downloaded it to check it out.  Upon first launch, it asks you to sign in with your Facebook account.  So, I did so.  Upon trying to log in, I was presented with an error message.  Apparently their servers were swamped since it was launch day.  I assume nothing worked, since I never got any confirmation or was presenting with any terms of service or anything, so I uninstall the app and say screw it.

An hour or so later, I received an SMS spam message from them asking to click a link and confirm my number (I did NOT click this link).  My first though was WTF?  I NEVER authorized them to harvest my phone number!  It really pissed me off that they just ganked my phone number and I had no idea.  I never gave them permission to take it or use it for ANYTHING.  I reported the app to the Google Play Store at this point.

Then a few days later, and the reason I am writing this, I learned that they also apparently pillaged my Facebook information and saved it all.  Even though I unlinked the app from Facebook with in minutes of deleting the app from my phone, it was apparently too late.  I received an email today reminding me that one of my Facebook friend’s birthdays is coming up.  Another big WTF from me!  I never authorized the pilfering of my (nor my friends) data.  Plus, I had already unlinked Gyft.  Upon removal, Gyft SHOULD have to delete the data they collected from me, but that is obviously not the case.  So, Facebook friends, sorry about that.  All I hope is that they don’t spam you too.  Who knows how much information they were able to harvest.

I will give them some credit in that they deleted my account today within 5 minutes of me sending them the email request.  At least they got that right (although I am sure all of my information, including Facebook data, is still in their system).

Lesson learned here; pay attention to the apps you install and realize any time you sign in to an app or webpage with your Facebook account, they collect and store all of your information, even if you unlink the app or website, and they will likely keep it forever!

MS Surface Pro Tablet Redux

Attention: This content is 9 years old. Please keep its age in mind while reading as its contents may now be outdated or inaccurate.

Five months is an eternity in the technology industry.  Five months ago I wrote about how I was excited for the Windows Surface Pro tablets to hit the market.  Today, I couldn’t care less about them.  A few key factors have caused my 180° turn around from my previous excitement.

First off, I ended up buying an HP Ultrabook.  I ended up with the Envy 4 model.  I couldn’t take the slugish Atom powered netbook any more (I’m surprised I lived with it for as long as I did), and I needed something portable and with power.  I snagged a third gen Core i5, 8gb of ram, a 32gb ssd with 500gb hd, and wifi and bluetooth built in.  It was pretty much exactly what I wanted, and performs close to my gaming rig desktop (aside from games of course, but the Intel HD 3000 graphics actually do an ok job).  With the acquisition of the Ultrabook, I don’t really feel the need for a Surface Pro tablet any more.

Second, Windows 8 is an absolute train wreck.  I haven’t written anything on Windows 8 yet, but I think it is a disaster.  The new “start menu” gui is just poorly done.  Microsoft breaks GUI design 101 at every turn of the corner in 8.  Microsoft is trying way too hard to be like Apple, but they’re forgetting one thing; they’re not Apple, and that is why they control 90% of the desktop market.  Abandoning clean user interfaces for cluttered up disasters is the absolute wrong direction to take Windows and it is going to cost Microsoft dearly.  Now that I have spent time with Windows 8, I want no part of it.

Third, the limited storage options are a disappointment.  I know it is a tablet and so should be SSD, but 64 or 128gb?  That’s it?  When the Windows 8 install eats up 16gb of that?  Down right pathetic.  For a device that is supposed to replace a laptop, crippling it with such minuscule storage is going to prevent it from ever taking hold.

Anything Microsoft Surface is a PASS on my list.

Why I Love Android

Attention: This content is 9 years old. Please keep its age in mind while reading as its contents may now be outdated or inaccurate.

It is open.  You are given simple tools to manage your device how you want, straight from Google.  There are no back door hacks, no monkeying around.  You get to use your device how you want it.  That is what makes Android so powerful; its open nature and ability to do what you want.

The inspiration of this post… tonight I decided to flash the latest point release from Google with out waiting for the OTA update (hey, I’m impatient).

I downloaded the rom, extracted the boot and system partition images, and flashed them straight to my phone using fastboot.

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Forcing sendmail to use a different port for outgoing mail

Attention: This content is 10 years old. Please keep its age in mind while reading as its contents may now be outdated or inaccurate.

In the world of Linux (specifically CentOS 5 in this case) sendmail is a very useful utility.  It is what allows linux to send email to regular ole mail servers.  But, if you’re reading this, you likely know that.

Typically sendmail uses standard SMTP port 25 to do its business.  In most cases, this works fine as is, but more and more now I am seeing ISP’s block port 25 and leave the customer with no recourse (coughAT&Tcough).  This makes it particularly difficult for sendmail to do its thing since it is supposed to work on port 25.

The simplest solution is to reconfigure sendmail to send out on a port other than 25.  The only catch-22 here is that the mail server must accept mail on that port as well.  Now, I’ve already set that up using iptables with a simple REDIRECT function and tested to make sure my CentOS box can communicate to it on that port using telnet, so I’m not going to get in to that, as anyone can forward a port).

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Microsoft Surface Tablet

Attention: This content is 10 years old. Please keep its age in mind while reading as its contents may now be outdated or inaccurate.

Microsoft hyped the hell out of their conference today, and while I was initially uninterested, I must say they have my interest now.  Microsoft has unveiled a Windows RT and Windows Pro tablet, called Microsoft Surface.  I’m not too interested in the RT (unless the price is right), but having full blown Windows Pro in a tablet form, packing Ivy Bridge… now THAT is something to be excited about.  I had recently been eyeing HP’s new Spectre XT Ultrabook, but with the news of the Microsoft Surface, I’m going to put those plans on hold until pricing details are announced on the Ivy Bridge surface.  A full blown Windows machine in Tablet form; two words… YES PLEASE!

I don’t have much else to say, but I wanted to express my excitement for what looks like could be a very powerful Tablet.

Tricky php.ini settings

Attention: This content is 10 years old. Please keep its age in mind while reading as its contents may now be outdated or inaccurate.

There are several ways PHP settings can be adjusted.  The 2 most common are in the Apache config file, or usually, the php.ini file.

Typically you can use phpinfo(); to get the php settings.  This is extremely useful as it also shows EXACTLY which php.ini file is being used to pull its configuration from.

I recently ran in to a particularly frustrating situation trying to adjust the settings.  I had already grep’ed throughall the Apache config files and knew there were no php configuration settings hidden in there.  So, I knew it was pulling its config from the php file.  In the past it has been a simple matter to adjust the value in the ini file and then reload Apache (this causes php to reload).  Well, this time it wasn’t working.  No matter how many times I killed Apache’s processes and restarted it, it was STILL pulling the old values.

I was really about to lose my mind when I ran the phpinfo via the php cli, and it showed my new correct values!  Arggg!!!

After a shamefully long amount of time trying to figure this out, I FINALLY found the solution.  Well, unbeknownst to me, this server was using something call php-fpm.  Php-fpm is a FastCGI Process Manager, which is an alternative to PHP FastCGI (which if was being used would have also hung me up).  This basically spawns php in a separate service to allow it to work faster.  Well, since php is basically its own process, you have to restart the php-fpm service to get Apache’s PHP to reload the config file!

[root@myserver php53]# /etc/init.d/php-fpm restart
Gracefully shutting down php-fpm . done
Starting php-fpm done

And bam, I finally got the new settings to load!  Note, if you’re using the standard FastCGI module you’d use php-fastcgi restart instead.

I feel silly for not knowing about this php-fpm process before… but I’m used to Apache just calling php directly itself.  This was a set up I had not dealt with before, so it was time for me to learn something new.

Happy PHP’ing folks!

Why can’t Winamp stay on top?!

Attention: This content is 10 years old. Please keep its age in mind while reading as its contents may now be outdated or inaccurate.

Seriously, this pisses me off to no end.  Winamp has had this problem for years.  I have the option set:

 

After a couple songs:

 

I love Winamp as an audio player, I really do.  But it drives me crazy when I go to pause the music or skip to the next track, and Winamp is not where it is supposed to be, and end up having to minimize my 3,847 windows to find it.

 

Fix 7’s Taskbar Right Clicking

Attention: This content is 10 years old. Please keep its age in mind while reading as its contents may now be outdated or inaccurate.

Something that has bugged me for a long time in Windows 7 is how the taskbar right-click functionality was changed.  Since Windows 95, when you right clicked on an item in the taskbar, you were presented with a menu to Restore, Minimize, Maximize, Close, and with some programs, some nifty custom options (like PuTTY’s custom menu, which since I use it  a lot, is the main source of my gripes here).

But, for some reason in Windows 7, Microsoft decided to do away with all of that and change what the right click does.  Right clicking now brings up Windows 7’s jump lists.  A feature that is absolutely worthless to a good 95% of the programs that run on Windows.  It was so incredibly frustrating to me to right click on running program and not be presenting with a useful menu, and right clicking on the program name in the jump list presenting you with an equally worthless menu.  Even more frustrating was there is an alternate way to access jumplists, by clicking and dragging up, they didn’t have to change the right click functionality!  The final straw was when they (as usual) gave you no setting to change this option back to the classic right click menu.  Now, I realize you can hold the Shift key and right click on a taskbar item to get the classic menu, but I want that to be the default function, not something that his hidden behind the shift key.

Well, as you may have guessed, I have a fix for this.  A little free program called 7 Taskbar Tweaker.  This program will let you change the right click function back to the classic menu (and a slew of other tweaks)!  And even more so, if you do use jump lists for something, you can still access them by the other method of clicking and dragging up like I mentioned above.  The only slight downside is that the program must run in the system tray for the changes to remain in effect as it actually has to inject a dll and hook in to the explorer process since there are no registry options for the tweaks it applies.  Fortunately, the memory footprint is fairly small, clocking in at only around 2mb of ram used, so it’s not going to have an adverse effect on systems, even those with only a couple gigs of ram.

So, you can change this:

 

Back in to something useful: