Monday, July 27, 2009

Apple adds Security Vulnerabilities

Say what you want about Microsoft including Internet Explorer 8 in its Windows Update. At least you already had Internet Explorer installed and IE 8 is a more secure version than what you had. Sending version 8 to computers as part of Windows Update seems a reasonable and necessary thing. What’s Apple’s excuse? Why does Apple want to add security vulnerabilities to my computer and that of my wife, kids, etc.? That’s right: even after many months, nay a year, of outcry about Apple including Safari and MiniMe (sorry – MobileMe) in their “Updates” for iTunes the worm ridden ones are still at it:


Note the title bar says “Apple Software Updates”. Now, sure – they do say somewhat farther down that "Safari 4” and “MobileMe Control Panel” are new software. However, for folks used to Mozilla Firefox updates every few weeks, Windows Updates once a month (sometimes more), and other security updates – this looks like a needed security update. Never mind that its real purpose is to block Palm Pre owners from accessing the iTunes store. Yesterday I noticed my wife running her updates. Yes, she then had Safari and MobileMe installed. Thanks Apple for ADDING security vulnerabilities to her machine!

That’s right: adding vulnerabilities. Check Secunia here and see that Safari has its share of them – some not patched yet. Any time you add new software – especially a browser – to a machine you are adding vulnerabilities. Apparently Apple is so worried about getting some market penetration for their lame browser that they need to attempt to disguise it as a needed update and then must hope to trick unsuspecting users into clicking it. Not cool Apple! In fact, if your darn iPods didn’t require iTunes in order to update them correctly I wouldn’t have any of your software on any of our machines.

Fortunately in this case, Safari was installed for all of 10 minutes. Here’s hoping that Apple will come to their senses and stop trying to pass off this foistware on folks.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Digital Gouging

An update on our forced conversion to Digital cable – after another 25 minutes on the phone with Comcrap they did indeed get all of the boxes working and no longer showing the silly “problem with your service” or the “available shortly messages from the prior post. Now, we had been assured back when they shipped these 5 boxes to us that there would be no change to our bill. However, we were informed by this agent that not only did we have an additional $6.99 monthly for that second box (you know, the one they advertise that you can switch your “on demand” movies to when your wife or husband is snoring too loud and never bother to mention that it costs extra for the extra box?) but we would also have to pay an additional $1.99 for the silly little DTA box. So $108 extra a year to have one less tuner than we had before this silly conversion. Still Craptastic. It took a couple of hours, but I finally did get up the nerve to take the little DTA from the garage (making that TV back to only getting 2 – 30) and hooking it up to the TiVo. So there is one Comcast DCH70 sitting there hooked to the TV and a DTA sitting right next to it for the TiVo. It was a pain getting the IR receiver to accept the TiVo’s channel changing codes. Fortunately, the code is 10104-B for these Pace manufactured DCX50 boxes and if you peruse the internet long enough to learn how to put the TiVo into advanced selection mode you can select that code easy enough. If it wasn’t for House, Psych, and Burn Notice being on channels that have been “converted” by Craptastic to digital only we would call them up and say come get your stupid boxes. As it is, we will be calling their bilking dept. to find out why they insist on substantially charging more for less service (and asking for our two days of time spent on this back).

It’s Craptastic

Or is that Comcraptic? I never remember. All I know is on June 29th, we had the TV service we wanted. All 5 TV’s (4 in the house, 1 in the garage for workouts) could view any of the channels from 2 to about 70 or so. The Series 2 Humax branded Tivo could record any channel, and I could watch a different channel by using the tuner in the TV itself. Pure analog bliss. We could get a “season pass” to House on channel 42 (I am still catching up on older years as I just discovered House this year). We could even watch TV in the kids rooms upstairs if we wanted to. It was the American Couch Potato Dream.

Then, on July 1st, (in some areas) Comcraptic decided to change all that. Down came the dreams of watching House chow Vicodin while humiliating some clinic patient. Channels above 39 just up and went away. Not even a “hey idiot, you need a new box now, bwahhhaaahaha” on the screen for those channels. The reason? Who knows – it could be that they want to free up bandwidth on their cable infrastructure so that they can get more people to buy on demand movies. It could be that they just want people to have to pay them more to have more TV’s in the house. It could even be that they want to take over the DVR market from Tivo. I don’t know, and I don’t care. A few months back they had contacted my wife and told her that this would happen. At the time, they said they would send us “boxes” that would allow us to survive the changeover without losing access to Gregory House and Cuddly – oops, I mean Cuddy – in the process. They also stated that it would not change our billing (which was a lie – check our bill and see!)

These boxes turned out to be a couple of DCH-70’s with M-cards in them. M-cards are cable cards that allow multiple streams, but these boxes are locked to one stream. They also had three of the "DTA” boxes which I believe is short for “Doesn’t Televise Anything”, while DCH must be “Disturbingly Crappy Hardware”. We spent a couple of hours hooking all these things up yesterday so we could get back to watching Thirteen spar with House. As with anything to do with Comcraptic, I figured, “It’ll never work”, but tried it anyway.

So, we followed the directions to hook all the stuff up. We wrote down all the serial numbers of the boxes, the host ID’s, and even the MAC addresses. We turned them all on. We went to the website and it only listed the two DCH-70 boxes. Not only that, but they didn’t even show a serial number that was even close to the same format as what we wrote down. It appears that, even though the instructions say to get the serial numbers of the boxes – they mean the serial number of the m-cards somehow. So we clicked to activate them and were rewarded with a “thanks, now go wait 45 minutes” message.

After we waited, and waited, and went to dinner, and waited, we finally decided – OK 6 hours should be more than enough. My wife called the number which was proudly displayed by all of the TV’s hooked to the “DTA’ boxes:


Appearances to the contrary, this means that “at least the device can output an NTSC signal over cable”. Its even a useful one as it gives the phone number. Hurray!

So she got “Agent J” on the phone who said, “There is an outage in your area and it may take 24 hours”. This translates from the fairly opaque helpdeskese into “My shift ends in 5 minutes and I know our shit doesn’t work but I want to go home.”. Needless to say it has been over 24 hours now and it still doesn’t work. The two TV’s hooked to the DCH boxes show this:


We press “OK” and get this rewarding message:


According to the instructions, you press OK and it will activate. Actually no, the instructions say to push the “on demand” button and then go buy an on demand test movie that is supposed to be no charge but will “activate” you. However you can’t do that – you have to get past this blue stuff first – and I think we may have worn out the batteries on the remote pressing OK. It’s nice to know that I can watch thousands of free shows whenever Comcraptic gets around to saying I can though.

Now, the channels seem to work on those two main DCH boxes. At least 2 – 42 or so for sure as I have tried those. But since it won’t “activate” the other three TV’s just say to call Comcraptic. We’ll do that again later, hopefully before shift change is due. If we do get it fixed, we’ll have to then be transferred to the bilking dept. so we can request a pro-rata refund for this lack of service.

Oh yeah – and then I need to go to the store and buy a newer Tivo that can handle a cable coming from the back and getting glued to the stupid DCH box’s infrared receiver so the Tivo can change channels again. At which point I will have ONE tuner instead of two so can only watch what the Tivo records. Progress at its best, in fact, its Craptastic!