Friday, December 18, 2009

Five years of spam tracking

After 55 months of tracking spam on Yahoo I think I will finish my tracking of the mail.  Over the time I received almost 19,000 emails of which less than 7,000 were legit.  Over this year the rate has improved to almost 70% legit mail.  Spam and phishing emails are still a problem, but, with the various providers working on their filters and the authorities shutting down the spammers things are improving.

2005 - Legit mail = 1000 which was 50% of my total mail
2006 - Legit mail = 1700 which was 22% of my total mail
2007 - Legit mail = 1800 which was 31% of my total mail
2008 - Legit mail = 1500 which was 69% of my total mail
2009 - Legit mail = 1000 which was 70% of my total mail

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Printer fix

Earlier this week Jane's printer stopped printing black even after we changed the cartridge.  We looked and couldn't see any reason why it would not print.  The only two things we could think of was clogged print heads or the printer was broken. I hoped that the problem was a clogged print head as the alternative was to look for a new printer that was fully supported in Linux.  Several years ago she received the Canon IP3000 as a Christmas gift from her father and I don't see it for sale in any store now.  The closest model was the IP4700 which runs about $100 (Canadian).  I did a bit more research and if I wanted to buy a new print head it would run me over $100.  As a new printer was going to cost me the same as fixing the existing printer I figured that trying to do a fix myself would not be extremely expensive.

With nothing to lose I did a Google search for clogged printer IP3000 and found two sites that had step-by-step instructions on how to take apart the head and clean it.  I followed all of the steps and then put the printer back together.  When we did a test I was happily surprised that the printer was still working.  I didn't totally dry out the head assembly and we can see wet spots on the paper when it prints, but, I figure if I print out 10-15 pages of images that it should clear up.  Total time to take apart the printer, clean it and re-assemble was 30-45 minutes.  I would recommend you use disposable plastic gloves as it is a somewhat messy process.

The only thing I could think that caused the print head to clog up was I used a generic black cartridge in the spring.  After this I will be using Canon cartridges only.  Right now I am happy that we didn't have to go out and buy a new printer and my wife thinks I am a genius on cleaning the printer without breaking anything.

Update 2009/11/26:

The printer is working, but, the photo quality is not working properly.  It appears that I didn't completely clean out the alcohol from the portion that prints black.  I don't know if it will ever clean up, but, the black is splotchy and smears when printing.  We don't have a problem if we don't use photo paper.  I will probably keep the printer for normal jobs, but, I will probably have to get my wife a new printer so that she can print off her photos. Lesson here is to completely follow all directions and to thoroughly clean up before putting the parts back together.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Updating my machine

For the last couple of months I have been looking at the various distros that are out there and how they work on my machine here.  The one I really wanted updated was PCLINUXOS so that all of the machines at home run with the same distro.  The 2009.2 version still won't boot on my machine so I had to look elsewhere.  My current distro was Mint 5.

Mandriva just came out with their latest and I downloaded and burned the ISO and gave it a shot.  It looks very nice visually and it detected most of my hardware without a problem.  The only two things were my palm pilot and the TV card which it didn't detect (like every other distro so far).  I then downloaded Mint 7 KDE and gave it a shot.  It was as visually appealing to me as Mandriva and had the same issues with the palm pilot and TV card.  The area it was ahead was that Java was installed automatically (I have to install that on Mandriva) and the ATI card driver was there for me.  I opted to keep with Mint so far and I upgraded to version 7.

One of the bonuses of this is now I have two more CDs that I can then pass out to friends and family when they have more problems with windows. 

It will take a bit of time to get used to KDE 4, but, so far it has not caused me any problems.  Firefox with Java still plays Runescape in HD mode without a problem.  Digikam works fine along with Thunderbird and XSANE.

When I get some time I will try to dig and see if I can get the palm pilot to work.  I thought I saw something about 'VISOR'.  If that doesn't work I really want to get my TV card to work.  I have a lot of home videos I would like to hook up to the input and make into MPG files and have them transferred to DVD for the family.

Update 2009/11/08:

I have moved off of Mint over to Mandriva.  I have been using Mint for a day and I have noticed a few things that make it a bit less usable for me.
  1. Runescape log in flickers wildy and it cannot be stopped unless I take HD mode off.
  2. The shutdown function at times (about 50%) does not work and the system locks.
  3. I cannot access system services to manually define what I want to run.  This is a critical one for me as I want complete control over what is running.  Mandriva allows me to do this.
The first two items may be something that I did when I configured the system, but, so far Mandriva is not doing those things and I will use that for now.

In Mandriva it didn't auto-detect my printer (SAMSUNG ML-2010), but, after going to WWW.SAMSUNG.COM I found the driver, downloaded it and installed.  It wasn't as smooth as Mint, but, it worked and I now have a printer.

Monday, September 21, 2009

SPAM - Unfortunately it is making a comeback

It has been a while since I talked about spam. The last time I noted that the amount was dropping and most of my email were legit. Well that has changed in the last two months. I have noticed that the volume of spam is now rising and most of my email is now spam. Yahoo has excellent filters, but, I have been getting at least one message a week getting through so the spammers are now figuring out how to get past the filters. Google is still good as I don't remember getting anything that was spam in my legit inbox, but, I notice there are a lot more spam messages. The last provider is Bell and I am getting about 1 or 2 emails a month that get through, but, I flag them as spam so that Bell can update their filters.

This will be a continuing battle between ISPs and the spammers. The thing is that the ISPs can only react most of the time after the fact so there is always a small window of opportunity for spammers to hit your inbox. You can help by using the email filters that your ISP provides and when one does get through flag it so that they can update the filters. When you do get a message don't click on the 'unsubscribe' button if it is provided or don't reply to their 'unsubscribe' email address if provided. All you do is confirm that your account is live and we can almost guarantee that you will actually receive more spam rather than less.

I may be paranoid, but, keep your anti-virus, anti-spyware and firewall up-to-date. These spammers may also try to embed scripts or auto-launch programs that will install software on your machine and take it over and add it to their bot network.

You can look at ClamAV, Malwarebytes anti-malware as a starting point for your securing your systems. Secunia also has a good package called PSI that will scan your system to see what is out-of-date, vulnerable, etc and allow you to keep your system-up-to-date. I use these on my home PC when I start up the dual-boot system to run Vista and not Linux.

Update (2009/09/22):
I am now running AVG on my Vista partition.  It seems to do a bit better on the detection of malware and does not impact the performance of the machine in any noticeable way.  I will be still keeping Clam on the Linux portion as I can then use that to scan my external HDD or USB sticks while staying in Linux.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Linux and Runescape HD - Update

When I wrote about using HD in Runscape I didn't give you all of the software and hardware being used.

I am Running Linux Mint - Elyssa KDE Community Edition. I let the system figure out what ATI driver to install and configure. Firefox 3.0.13 and java 6 Update 14 (1.6.0_14_b08). The hardware is a Dell inspiron 530 with an ATI Radeon HD 2600 XT card. The monitor is an Acer AL1717. I applied all of the patches to keep the system up-to-date. So far I have not had any problems with running Runescape in HD mode and I can swap between my desktops and resize the Runescape session without causing any problems or crashes.

The only thing we cannot do now is play various games that are Windows specific and I hope it is only a matter of time before the gaming companies figure out that Linux is a more-than-viable environment for their games. I prefer running Linux as we don't have to worry about trojans and viruses like when we are using windows. Even if there is an exploit the community comes up with fixes/patches much faster than proprietary operating systems.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Linux and Runescape HD mode

I did a minor update this week for Java and the ATI driver to see if the HD mode in Linux works yet. To my surprise it did and it was very stable. I have been running this for the week and I have not had any problems yet. One more item that I can remove from the list that didn't work well (if at all). The only things now are my palm pilot and TV tuner to get working and everything that works in Vista will work in Linux. The other major item is income tax software that will run on Linux. Once I get all three items to work I can then think about removing Vista from my machine.

On a similar note I downloaded LinuxMint 7 KDE RC1 and I will be burning a CD and testing that out to see how it works. I also downloaded and burned PCLinuxOS 2009.2 and burned it on to a CD. I tested it out on my wife's machine and it looks good and solid. After backing up her machine I will be upgrading her and my daughter's machines. The distro still does not boot on my machine and I will need to take an inventory of the hardware and check out PCLinuxOS knowledge base to see why. I would prefer that all of our machines use one distro just to make it easier for me to support and keep up-to-date.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

New Phishing scam - CRA

Earlier this week I got a mail from what purported to be the CRA (Canada Revenue Agency). Looking at the email I saw a grammar error and the way the email was addressed made it look like a scam. My ISP also flagged it as a possible scam. I didn't click on the attached link, but, put my mouse over it to see what the link would resolve to. The proper URL for the CRA is WWW.CRA-ARC.GC.CA. This one had that and a bit more, namely the URL went to a '.COM' site. As this was a new scam to me I forwarded the note to RECOL and reported it as a scam/phishing attempt.

It failed on a few areas:
  • Subject was 'recalculation of you tax refund'. They used 'you' instead of 'your'
  • It was addressed to 'Dear Applicant' rather than my proper name.
  • The URL provided did not end in GC.CA, but, to a COM site which the Government of Canada does not use.
  • I had already got my tax refund and I know that the CRA does not have my main email address for correspondence as I prefer hard-copy rather than email from them.
When I got home I opened the site using Linux as it was fairly safe from trojans and viruses. It asked the following questions:
  • Name and Adress
  • Date of Birth
  • Mother's maiden name
  • Phone number
  • email address
One of the first things firefox did was to warn me that this was a site reported for web forgery. If you don't have firefox I would advise you to download and install this browser ASAP as it is a second level of defense.

Again, if you get an email that claims to be from the government, bank, insurance company or anyone else asking you to key in personal information do not ever use the attached URL, go to their site yourself (using a link you know is legit).

Monday, April 27, 2009

Linux Mint V6

Since I upgraded to the new box I have been running Linux Mint as PCLINUXOS has a problem with the SATA drive. I downloaded the latest version (V6) and was playing with it for a while. It is much like V5 and works without a problem.

Both versions have a problem with my Palm Pilot and TV, but, the scanner and browsers work without a problem. Playing Runescape (Java based game) works as before. All of the other pieces of software appears to work and the hardware ran without causing any glitches.

I may upgrade my machine later, but, the current version works without a problem and I am really hoping that PCLINUXOS does come out with a version that at least recognizes my TV card.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

It has been quiet... too quiet

Not much has been happening here. It is now almost tax time and there are no Linux versions of any tax preparation software for Canada so far. I broke down and picked up QuickTax and installed it on my Vista partition. To say that I am unhappy about this would be a slight understatement. I can understand in a way that companies will cater to the largest segment of the O/S market, but, figure out what has to be anchored to the O/S and what can be independent. If you do that you should be able to market to Linux, OS/X along with Windows and gain a slight competitive advantage by grabbing market share from those of us who use anything but Windows.

On the Linux Distro side I have been playing a bit with KUbuntu. I like the look and feel of it and the latest distro actually booted up on my Dell box. There will be a bit more playing around here to see if
  • Runescape will play
  • My graphic card can be used to its fullest
  • TV tuner
  • my Palm will work
  • Scanner will work (XSANE)
  • Web Camera
  • Software to organize my photo library
KDE 4 looks nice and clean, but, I want more than eye-candy, I want all of my hardware to work to its fullest.

Another little thing and maybe someone out there can point me to the right place. A little while ago I was the photographer at my daughter in-law's baby shower and I took two videos. The camera stored it in AVI format. Linux does not have a problem showing me those, but, they are massive files and I cannot upload 200+ meg videos to facebook to share with the family. I looked quickly at the video editing software, but, I cannot see how I can redo AVI to MPG format and lower the size of the video. I don't want or need 640x480 to show family members some of the funny portions of the part, I just want to be able to share a small, easily downloaded video.

Now about one of my favorite topics, SPAM email. So far this year it has been a minor problem unlike other years (less than 30% spam rate now). However I have noticed the scams have been getting much better. Both for grammar and spelling. When you get a notice that purports to be from your Bank, Insurance Company, ISP wanting private information or to re-enter your security information... DON'T. Never click on any link supplied, but, use the one you type directly into a browser or saved previously in a bookmark. Keep your system up-to-date with all patches, run a virus scanner and have a firewall installed and running.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Linux and Tax software - 2009

The words 'Tax Software Linux' seems to be a fairly popular search topic. A large number of hits to this blog are people using the previous mentioned search words, or variants of those words. I also have started my search this year to see who has Linux versions of the tax software. My first site was Intuit and my searching there didn't find any mention of a Linux version. I followed this up by sending an email to the customer service email account. Within a day I received a reply from Intuit and to quote the email:

Dear Customer,

Thank you for contacting Intuit Canada.

Unfortunately, QuickTax desktop software is not compatible with the Linux systems.

It would be greately appreciated if you can send a direct feedback at

This will enable us to re-think about desktop version for Linux computers.

Please feel free to contact us, If you require any further assistance.

Have a nice day!

xxxxxxxxxxx (I blanked out the name of the person here)
Intuit Canada
The nice part is that if you notice in the reply is that they have provided an email address for feedback. I have sent them a note asking if/when they will be doing a Linux version. So far I have not received any reply, but, if you are interested I would suggest you use the feedback email id and send them a note.