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Tuesday, March 31 2015 @ 05:33 AM PDT
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What Has Happened to EMC Telecom? (updated)

I got an email from a friend yesterday again pointing one of his friends at me for a web problem. Last time it was something about her distant relative and the fact that for some reason her web site had disappeared. The relative had lapsed on the payment for the hosting, not only for her site but for his own too it turned out. After a day of convincing the hosting company that we really were the owners of the domain, and getting a backup restored, the site owner took over paying for the hosting and all was well. That was over a year ago and things have gone on fine, until yesterday.

This time, again her web site has disappeared - but she's been paying for hosting, and I know because I still get a copy of her invoice - and the last one was on November 7, 2010. Today it is only November 19th, and since the invoice was marked "paid" there should not have been an issue.

So I did a bit of digging, and found that the Domain Name Servers (NS.NEUREAL.COM) were not responding. Neither were any of the domains for the hosting company itself, including the one on the invoice where the actual invoice itself should have been available online (,doc/id,xxxxxx) 

This looked like a problem at the server level - maybe anything from a Denial of Service attack to some major facility event (fire, explosion, etc.) so I told her to wait until morning to see if things cleared up.

This morning I went looking for the site again, and again found that even the DNS servers didn't come up. Then I tried the phone number on the invoice; it goes to some clothing company now. Something was really not good, since getting DNS changed to point at least SOMEWHERE is something that any system admin worth their salt would do - and for any hosting company to not have secondary servers in completely separate facilities with separate network feeds is inexcusable. So I continued searching - and found: - which appears to be related to the sale of EMC Telecom Corporation and portends that there is some sort of dispute with the purchasers.

At this point I'm guessing that this has resulted in the EMC systems being turned off. If anyone has other information, I'll try to include it here - and if someone has definitive information, please contact me and I'll post it -

I've moved her site to my hosting. Fortunately I retained a backup of it from the last time I'd worked on it, and the site has not changed since then.

Let this be a lesson to you - ensure you have backups on something other than the service provider's system - your home computer, some online backup service, anything - but somewhere that YOU control separately from where your site is hosted. Last time we almost ended up having to rebuild the site from the internet archives site which had most, but not all.




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Free is "free" - WIFI Security (updated)

System Administration Tidbits

WIFI hotspots in the world that are otherwise "open" should be set with a WEP2 password of "free" to protect your information from snooping. Here's why.

Every now and then someone comes up with an idea that is a "head smacker" - you know, you smack your head and say "why didn't I think of that?"

So it is with an article by Chester Wsniewski in the Naked Security section of (Sophos is a vendor of computer/network security products)

As Chester points out, the recently crafted "Firesheep" plugin for Firefox browser that lets you see other WIFI users' Facebook login info and which is somewhat mitigated by "Blacksheep," would be fully foiled if all the public (and free) WIFI systems had at least a known WEP2 password, because then all the sessions would be encrypted over the airwaves - and snooping would not be possible at all.

Chester proposes, and I fully back this, that the password for any/all WIFI systems that are otherwise "default" be the simple word "free"

It's so simple!

Manufacturers should start NOW - make sure your WIFI has a password by default, and set that password to "free" - it's so simple, just do it!

Coffee shops and others with free WIFI services - set your system to use WEP2 encryption and set the password to "free"

Laptop and smart-phone users - tell your favorite locations that you want this and tell them why. You don't want to have others snooping your clear-text passwords.

Update: OK - I should have read the comments at the bottom of the article before I posted this but... the basic idea is still sound - ensure that all WIFI is using encryption, one way or another. Read on for more...

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The Millionth Monkey Syndrome

Musings on life

I believe I have Millionth Monkey Syndrome (MMS).

I didn't know I had it until I started reading David Täht's Postcards from the Bleeding Edge blog which he's in the midst of morphing to Nex-6.

While writing this I'm carrying on an email conversation with him - far too many parallels in our lives to miss this one :)

But MMS certainly seems to describe me - at least when I'm in my creative phase. I'm not sure that having a name for my malady is any more comforting than knowing that I have any other "disease" that the pharmaceutical companies have been inventing to describe symptoms from jock-itch to raging dandruff in words that sound like you really need to purchase a cure from them.

One item I found in doing my typical Google search on interesting items is Report #TL80A: CREATIVITY REPORT #1 wherein it is #21 on the list of Unreality Symptoms along with things like: Inability to confront reality, lives in a state of waking dream, manic-depressive tendencies. Number 21 has the extended definition of "maybe partially due to chance factors such as being the proverbial millionth monkey with a typewriter who wrote the bible. Finds it difficult or impossible to repeat success. Cannot identify the true reasons for past success."

Sometimes I despair.

But I just can't stop writing!



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Live Wildlife Video Streaming E-book

Video On the Internet

The following is the dedication, preface and table of contents from my forthcoming e-book on doing live internet wildlife video streaming. The book is written and I'm in the midst of getting the pictures and illustrations in order. The industry is still shaking out, and there are ongoing changes that I'll be dealing with both here, on the web and in subsequent updates to the book. Watch for publication announcements both here and on the Hancock Wildlife Foundation web site. HWF will receive proceeds from the sale of the book. $14.95 (US or Canada - currencies are effectively at par)


The Amateur (and Professional) Live Wildlife Streamer

Secrets of the professional Live Wildlife Streamers

In late 2005, David Hancock, a noted biologist and conservationist in the Vancouver area, phoned me from Hornby Island, B.C. He had just seen some video captured from a camera situated right beside an eagle nest, 100 feet in the air – and wanted to know if there was any chance we could hook this camera up to the internet.

Hornby Island is not the remotest place in B.C. by any means – but it is 2 ferry rides from Vancouver Island (3 rides from Vancouver, where I live) and about as out of the way as you can get and still get there by car. The first question I had was “is there internet on the island?” and as it turns out, there is. The B.C. Government paid the local phone company (Telus) copious dollars to ensure that each school in the province was hooked up to the internet, and at the same time, Telus took the opportunity to put in a facility in some of the communities to hook up homes within the local area to the net as well, including those around the school on Hornby Island. It turned out the nest was within the maximum 3.5 Km distance (by phone lines) from the telephone equipment, and soon we had the nest camera streaming live to some selected friends.

Shortly after that, the friends told some of their friends, who told some of their friends, and soon the world was watching this pair of eagles sitting on their eggs, waiting for them to hatch. This was the beginning of what has turned out to be a new industry, that of providing live, real-time and long-term streaming video from all manner of subjects. From pet dogs to spiders to fish and of course many different birds and other wild beasts, the world has been watching from their desktop into the bedrooms and maternity wards of Mother Nature.

Along the way I’ve had to deal with several aspects of video streaming that at first seemed pretty common-place but which have ended up being anything but. These range from weatherproofing cameras and microphones to running power and internet into some pretty strange places, and then dealing with having to pay for the network bandwidth and costs associated with having attracted literally millions of people to watch our streams.

This e-book gives you the benefit of my and my associates’ trial and error learning about these technologies and should give you a pretty good leg-up on getting your live streams working in the best way possible. Who knows – maybe your site will be the next hot-video site.


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The Voodoo that We Do in Live Video on the Net

Video On the Internet

The live streaming video industry is still in its infancy. As of today, October 1, 2010, Zaplive.TV has stopped its free service.

This has affected a number of us in the live streaming wildlife video business as we've been using Zaplive, either directly or via their customer WildEarth.TV to offset the bandwidth costs of our live streams.

It's only in the past couple of years that such a free (advertising supported) service has even been available. I'm sure this won't be the last such change; the industry is just in its infancy.

First, a bit of background. Live, long-term video streaming is not like any other video service on the internet. All the others are what I call "episodic" video. They have a definite beginning and end, even if they are of a live performance. A rock concert does not go on for day on end (at least not often, like Woodstock) and certainly not for months on end. Same thing for a hockey game or football game, and of course the typical YouTube video is 10 minutes or less. Movies run up to around 3 hours, and so it goes.

Even things like traffic cameras and many of the other publicly viewable live cameras are different from the likes of Hancock Wildlife Foundation's eagle nest cameras in that they typically don't allow unlimited numbers of viewers and so have fixed costs, typically in the form of a single outbound ISP connection that handles all views.

No, nothing except the live, single subject cameras of high interest such as the eagle nests, bear dens, and other "net-vicarious" life viewing cameras have the problems associated with enabling and monetizing long-term videos to large numbers of people; people who demand that their access be long-term and unimpeded by technical or economic considerations.

This has been and continues to be the type of video that is stressful to fulfill. It has brought at least 2 companies I know of to their knees. It has been an ongoing problem for me and Hancock Wildlife Foundation. It isn't getting easier quickly, but it is getting easier somewhat.

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Email White Listing - Dealing with Email Rationally

Computers in Use

I don't know about you, but I get a lot of spam. It seems that the spam generators are doing a good job of defeating the spam filters - at least the ones that work on pattern matching.

There are filters that many major ISPs use that are actively and in real-time updated with information from "spam traps" - email addresses that are purposely put in places where the spammers like to go to collect them. They're put on web pages that the spammers "scrape" - and any email sent to these addresses is then known to come from a spammer, since the web pages are specifically crafted to alert any human that the address is a trap.

Be that as it may, my email does not go via my ISP for the simple reason that my ISP has shown that they filter far too heavily. Of course the other reason my email does not go via their system is that I actually run a small email service for some of my customers and friends; a system that has been running since the mid 1990s. It has spam and virus filtering on it but it is "heuristic" - pattern matching, not active trap-fed.

I also have a fairly large number of email addresses that all feed down to my main one and a couple of administrative ones, but all end up on my desktop in my in-box.

This means I use my desktop email software's rule system very heavily to filter the incoming email into various incoming boxes, leaving only those emails from people and with subjects I've never seen before in my actual "inbox" - all the rest end up in boxes for specific people or customers or companies, vendors, subjects, etc.

You might find my method useful. I certainly know many people who should have a similar system but don't.


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The Simple Life of Carbon Capture

General News

If burning oil and coal are the cause of global warming through the release of all that stored carbon, why don't we just start the process of making more oil and coal to capture the same amount and start  the cycle all over again?

OK - it might take a few million years to reproduce the oil and coal we'll run out of some time in the next century or so, but who are we to not at least try to give our great^5000 grand children the opportunity in the future to start the cycle all over again?

All it takes is to simply start piling up carbon-bearing plant products and left-over carbon-carrying goods such as newspaper and cardboard.

Farmers would no longer plow under the stalks of the corn they've harvested - but instead simply push it off into a pile and keep adding to the pile over the years. No need to cover it with dirt or anything else for that matter. Over time the weight of the new stuff, along with the lack of oxygen in the pile, will cause the chemical reactions to turn it all into oil or coal, depending on how high the pile is. There are no other environmental impacts - and the carbon is taken out of the cycle completely.

Add some newspaper and cardboard too. Why expend the extra energy to gather and recycle this stuff when making new is easier? Maybe my brother and all the others at the pulp mill in Port Alberni would have long-term jobs again too!

Anyway, the article that started this though process is in the Washington Post. It talks about the millions that one power plant is expending to capture just 1.5% of the carbon it emits and pump it down into a sandstone formation a couple of thousand meters underground, and the fact that simply piling up the plant waste from 12,000 acres of farm land and leaving it to eventually turn to coal would cost less and be every bit as effective.

Think about it!

I'm going to start a garbage pile in my backyard as my contribution to lessening global warming. The recycling trucks won't get another piece of paper, and my grass clippings are going in there too.

Hmmm... wait - back of the envelope calculations show that the pile would have to be several times the size of my house to really keep the oxygen out. Well, maybe I'll just petition the local council to start the process out on one of the fields that are around here.


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Long Distance

Computers in Use

Skype is a wonderful invention - spent a very enjoyable couple of hours talking to a friend.

Earlier today I remarked on the fact that back in 1996 I gave a talk that included a prediction that long distance would cost $0.01/minute or less in the not too distant future. I got &hit for that prediction as I was talking to investors and customers of a long distance company at the time. 

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Digitizing the Moldy Oldies

Computers in Use

Over the years I've accumulated boxes and boxes of images, film, video, etc. of our family, trips, projects, photo shoots and such. I've been a professional photographer at several times, and also done a number of free projects such as Vancouver's Sea Festival over the years.

Since I've been in the computer industry for much of that time I've expected that "one day" I'd get it all digitized so that I had "instant" access to it all for such things as weddings and funerals and other family gatherings.

Well, last week my mother passed away (expected, but...) and this week I've been doing a lot of what I'd promised myself to get done far earlier than this; but never actually got around to.

There have been all manner of reasons for not doing this huge task in the past. The time involved is the largest, but the sheer amount of disk space this would take is another.

The time never seemed to materialize but today the disk space is simply not an issue. I have almost 2 Terabytes of mirrored disk on my workstation alone, and over 6 Terabytes (of my own - plus lots more from client systems) on my local network; again, all mirrored or RAID 5, so the total separate disk is in excess of 12 Terabytes. In fact I have a spare Terabyte drive sitting on my desk, and it's been there for over a month.

So... it's time to do this job up right, and here's how I'm doing it.

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The Few Try To Benefit From the Many


Howard Knopf, whom I met while in Ottawa to speak in front of the Copyright Board back a few years ago, writes about the most recent outrage of a copyright collective and their request for tariff proposal.

Access Copyright collective, "The Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency" is proposing a $45 per year per post secondary (i.e. university) student, and $35/year for other students tariff on internet access based on their own (IMHO warped) view of what constitutes a copy in this internet connected digital age. This includes simply displaying a copy (presumably by looking at a web page via the student's web browser) or adding a link that points to a copy of a page that is published somewhere on the internet, (again presumably in an area that is otherwise publicly readable.)

In other words, these people want to collect a fee simply for the use of the internet!

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