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Who Do You Believe?
Posted On 02/27/2009 05:47:39

Who do you believe?
All versions of Windows

(This blog is from an article which will be published in this week's InfoAve Premium and InfoAve Free Newsletters)

As someone who subscribes to computer newsletters, like "InfoAve Premium" or "InfoAve Free", are often confronted with conflicting information. One computer newsletter you subscribe to says one thing, another tells you something different, and then you read something on the Web that differs from the information you just read in those computer newsletters you trusted. So who are you supposed to believe? 

The way we present information is based on our research, our knowledge, our experience, and most of all - the fact that we actually use computers like you do - and what we recommend and what we write is based on what we use. We actually use the products we recommend. And we actually look for programs that are inexpensive - or free - that are as good or better than their commercial alternative.

Some newsletters seem to bask in presenting you with conflicting facts and figures, from questionable sources with questionable motives in order to convince you of the veracity of the articles they write. Sometimes you'll read something that is so abstruse, so full of geek speak, that you're lost by the time you get to the middle of the article. So the only thing you remember is the National-Enquirer-style headline. But more dangerous than those recondite articles are those who write these articles which intentionally obfuscate their hidden agendas. The agendas which are most frequently couched in geek-speak? The profit agenda. Whether they profit from products they sell in newsletters directly related to the articles they write - or whether they gain readers and therefore profits by sensationalizing with screaming, dubious headlines - the profit agenda is the real underlying motive.

We recently read an article in another newsletter whose headlines screamed, sensationally (as if it were really fact and really news at all) that Symantec's Norton Security Suite is the NUMBER ONE security suite - i.e. "THE BEST". There are a number of  things wrong with this article. First it was based on test results and reviews from profit-driven companies who have a history of cozying up to Symantec and other companies such as PC World Magazine. Whether these reviewers are paid by the companies that produce the products they review - or whether they get perks from these companies - or whether they are swayed by well-oiled statistics - or smooth-tongued executives from these companies, we don't know. Truth cannot be oiled up - it is what it is. One has to be skeptical of any magazine which reviews products these days. As everyone knows, magazine sales are tanking. The print media overall is tanking. There's a strong motive for making the online version of magazines profitable. In this wonderful world of the Web, traffic generates profits and nothing drives traffic like sensational headlines like "We Rate Norton Number One". Oh really.

But as often happens in the world of sensationalism - the truth belies the headline. Anti-virus testing companies who don't accept payments for testing products - or gifts or "perks" for testing products - and who aren't swayed by babbling anti-virus execs touting lubricated statistics - don't agree with the claim that Norton is number one. as you will see you later. So pity the poor computer user who doesn't know who to believe and doesn't know where to find the unembellished truth. We hope you'll keep reading because we are telling you the truth as we see it. We aren't selling anti-virus software - and we aren't given to grabbing your eyeballs with ludicrous or sensational headlines.

That particular newsletter, by using the words "security suite", make it hard to definitively prove the article was not factual. Why? Because Norton's security suite contains the following programs: anti-virus, anti-malware, anti-spam, anti-phishing, and a firewall. What's really the most important to you? If you said anti-virus and anti-malware you are correct. If you take those out of the equation this is what you end up with: Norton (2008) isn't even close to number one - and Norton (2009) while improved, still isn't number one.

And, before we give you the facts and our opinion, let us touch, once again, upon the constant push for third-party firewalls. Again, those with profit-driven agendas ferret-out statistics and arcane data to lend credence to articles with "lets-scare-the-heck-out-of-our-readers-so-they-will-buy-our-(insert name of newsletter or product they are selling here)". Inferring that a third-party firewall can "help prevent identity theft" is not only nonsense, it's dangerous. It may cause users of third-party firewalls to become complacent  or careless and rely too much on a software program and not enough on their own common sense. No software program is ever going to protect you from yourself. If you fall victim to a phishing scam that just happens to elude your anti-phishing software, no firewall on this earth is going to protect you. And if you worried about some hunch-backed hacker in Lower Slobovia hacking into your computer because you have "open ports" and thus stealing your photos of baby Tim and your mother's chocolate chip cookie recipe---that's about as likely as you winning the Mega Millions Jackpot tonight at 7PM. Let's do a quick count. There's about 1.2 billion computers connected to the Internet. Let's be generous and say. oh, about 400,000,000 of those don't use third-party firewalls and therefore suffer gaping open ports. The chances that your computer or Aunt Millie's computer is going to be hacked by Jose' Hackeruski in Port Au Prince is about 1 in 400 million. If someone said, "I'll give you a million dollars if you cross the street in front of your house" you'd do it. The chances of you getting smashed by a car while crossing the street is greater than your chances of your computer being hacked by Jose'.

Still, few non-geeks understand what hackers do or what hacking is, and this is largely the fault of computer newsletters and computer magazines who throw that term around as loosely as if it were government money. In their profit-driven worlds, any term that scares readers is a useful one -- it stimulates sales. And, isn't that a shame? No wonder there is so much confusion and misinformation floating around the Internet.

We get letters all the time from folks who say, "Help. My computer was hacked and I had to reinstall Windows. I need you to send me my key for (name of program here)." These folks were hacked all right, but not by some furtive hacker sweltering in a rat-infested cellar in Bangladesh. These folks actually hacked themselves by installing spyware, adware, malware, or visiting malicious Web sites. Or they allowed their computers to be vulnerable by not installing a good anti-spyware program or two; or by not installing a good anti-virus program; or by not using a good security toolbar like WOT. There are millions of people out there who purchased computers with Norton or McAfee six-month trial versions pre-installed and then allowed them to expire. After these trials expire they no longer protect the user's computer - and they no longer update definitions. So, they're useless. But some user's just don't understand that expired Norton or McAfee security suites don't continue to protect them - they think that paying the subscription fee of $49.95 or whatever it is, is an option and not essential. They don't know about AVAST or other free or less expensive anti-virus programs. They think because they have Norton or McAfee installed they're protected even though they've ignored the "pay-for-me-now-or-I-will-expire" subscription nags. This kind of thing is epidemic among non-savvy computer users and unfortunately there are millions of them out there. And, we're not calling them stupid people - there are millions of brilliant, highly intelligent people, who are very intimidated by computers. It doesn't mean they're stupid people.

The Internet is a vast treasure trove of information. You can find all the information you want to know about anything on the Internet--and in just seconds too. The Internet is the greatest storehouse of information in the history of humankind. Unfortunately, along with all that information is an ever-swelling Pandora's box of misinformation. The misinformation is out there because someone intentionally or unintentionally put it out there and they put it there for a reason. The profit agenda is the biggest reason there is so much misinformation - and it is people like you - the ordinary computer user who has to filter out the fact from the garbage. Can we really say then that misinformation are just plain old lies?  Maybe. Some misinformation is posted with the scurrilous intent to mislead or confuse . A lot of the misinformation however, comes from those who like to raise eyebrows with sensationalistic articles with eye-grabbing headlines while underneath all of it lies the same old agenda - the profit agenda. Increased readers and increased sales generated by such tactics are only reason to use such tactics. But these kind of tactics, in our opinion, have no place in newsletters whose stated purpose is to inform readers and help them to learn more about the computers they use.

Do you want the real scoop on anti-virus programs? It is difficult to zero in on what really "the best" because various anti-virus testing companies use different criteria and methodologies for testing anti-virus programs. And, sometimes the results are published in such a way that the results are  difficult to for the non-tech to understand. But know this: AVAST anti-virus ranks as high or higher than Norton Security Suite's anti-virus in many of these tests. And in none of the unbiased tests we've seen, does the most essential part of Norton's security suite - its anti-virus program - rank number one.

The following is from Virus Bulletin. What is Virus Bulletin:

 "...Virus Bulletin quickly became the leading specialist publication in the field of viruses and related malware.

Editorial independence has always been VB's prime concern. From the very first issue, VB has cut through the hype and remained uninfluenced by vendors' sales pitches and marketing babble. The aim of the magazine is to arm users with all the information they need to stay current with the latest developments in the anti-malware field. ..."

"...In terms of pure detection rates in on-demand scanning, a beta version of GDATA's AVK 2009 topped the charts for both 'malware' (measured against 1,164,662 samples) and 'ad- and spyware' (94,291 samples), with Avira's Premium Security Suite 2008 a close runner-up in the former category and F-Secure 2009 placing second in the latter. Secure Computing's Webwasher gateway product, based on the Avira engine with some in-house heuristics, came third in both categories. ..." ( Source - http://www.virusbtn.com/news/2008/09_02)

You can read the actual test data from testing of anti-virus programs by another independent organization (AV Comparatives) here. Although these tests were conducted in August 2008, this data is useful  because it shows you how independent test results reveal that most of today's anti-virus software is very good at protecting your computer. Sometimes, in fact, there are miniscule differences between them.

Security Suites are bundles of security applications that include programs you don't need. These kinds of bundles waste your system resources, are more often than not annoying, and can be confusing for the average person to configure. We write our articles for the average computer user - not for geeks. We write our articles base on what we know, what we learn and what we use, not what we are trying to sell.

Who's trying to sell you what? Just ask yourself that question when you read articles touting a $49.95 per year (or whatever they are changing now) "Security Suite". Remember a suite is only as good as the programs that comprise it -- and some of those programs are a lot more important than others. The two most important parts of any security suite are its anti-virus and its anti-malware programs. The truth is simple: There are better anti-malware and anti-virus programs than those included in the Norton Security Suite - and some of them are free.

AVAST ranked near the top in unbiased tests of non-commercial (free) anti-virus programs.

Remember, just because PC World or PC Magazine or some newsletter says it's so - doesn't make it so. Facts will always be facts no matter how much you massage them.

As for you, the average computer user, you're left to answer the most important question we raise - and that is: Who do you believe?

Tags: Windows Computers Norton Security Trust

Down On The Farm
Posted On 02/22/2009 09:55:18

These are the dog days of winter and there is not much to do in my pathetic, little, town this time of year. I suppose though, it's all relative. Some folks find plenty to do indoors. I saw a bunch of people the other day standing around in Wal-mart and watching them put up St. Patrick's Day decorations. There was also a big crowd gathered in Wal-mart on February 15. They were watching Wal-mart "associates" tear down those big, red hearts and toss old boxes of unsold, out-of-date chocolates into the "reduced" bin. I can imagine that it was kind of exciting, watching those hearts being dumped into the "I am not wanted" bin. I think that there must be something in all that, but for the life of me, I can't get my head around it.

Winter is taking its toll on me. These bitter, cloudy, winter days seem to run together in an endless trail of torture this time of year. Nature's way of exacting a toll on someone foolish enough to live where I do? While there are some signs that winter is entering its golden years - tulips and crocuses sticking their heads up out of the frozen ground, the sun setting later and in a more northerly inclination - I know March will bring nothing but more harsh, wet, windy weather. Sometimes I think March is the cruelest month of all -- with its promise of spring wrapped in icy gift wrap of rain, wind, and cold temperatures. Every year on the news they show some St. Patrick's Day parade somewhere in Northern city and every year the spectators are dressed in winter coats, hats and gloves. St. Patrick's Day is March 17 --past the midpoint of March, two days after the infamous Ides of March, four days before the Vernal Equinox -- and winter just won't let go. I know that Winter's stubborn grip will last at least until mid-April. If we're lucky.

When you live in some god-forsaken place like I do, stuck in the middle of nowhere, you learn to be resourceful, or you just get grumpy. So many people in the Midwest are curmudgeons because they run out of ways to deal with winter. I am pretty happy sort. I like to find creative ways to entertain myself when I've grown tired of doing the things I have to do and sick of doing the things I usually do to chip away at the the time until spring finally comes and melts my world.

I really like spring. It's the time of year when the sun finally reappears after its long absence and things get warm enough for human beings to do fun things outdoors like mow the lawn, grovel in the garden, splat those first pesky mosquitoes, make potato salad, spray bug spray, pull weeds, and stuff like that.

Spring and summer bring with them a myriad of things to do. Girls look particularly good in summer. In summer us men can actually tell a girl from an old bum. In winter its tough to do that since bums and pretty girls look pretty much alike when they are swaddled in sweatshirts, winter coats, gloves, hats, boots, face masks and other winter accoutrements. I've learned to never want to toodle-up behind some crazy, brave soul walking in the winter wind and yell "Hey Babe!" That "babe", more often than not, turns out to be a toothless, prune-faced, old bum with gnarly skin and no hair. It can be very embarrassing. For me it can get expensive. I always feel sorry for old bums, especially in these tough economic times, and hand them a $5.00 bill so they can buy a new tooth or a meal. After too many "hey babes!" I've learned my lesson -- I will save my ogling for summer when a woman is a woman and a bum is bum.

I digress....

Last Thursday, the needle on my fed-up-with-winter-o-meter was bouncing in the red zone. By this time in February I have nearly exhausted my long litany of creative ways to pass the time in winter. For something new to do, I thought I'd take a walk on the wild side: I decided to take a trip to our local farm supply store. If you are a city slicker you have no idea what a farm store is. I am not going to bore you with details, but you need to get a know a couple of things about farm stores. Here's the picture you need to develop: A farm supply store is a Wal-mart-look-alike but instead of being filled with things you need or want, it's filled with things that farmers need and want. What farmers need and want is, apparently, quite different from what city slickers need and want. Farms stores smell like dusty cattle feed and wood shavings.

You will never find a computer, iPod, or LCD TV's for sale in a farm supply store. You might see iPod earbuds stuck in the ears of hip farmers or a LCD TV playing a DVD about how to cure goat scabbies, but they don't sell any gizmos like those in a farm supply store. What you will find, however, are many interesting things you never knew existed. Being a transplanted city-dweller, I was so astounded I spent almost two hours walking around in that earthy wonderland of things completely foreign to me. I might as well have been in a store on Mars. I was fascinated.

First, I wander into a section called "Pharmaceuticals". Ambien, Viagra, Paxil, Zoloft, and things like that? Not here. Animals apparently don't need help sleeping, or... you know. But what I do find are two aisles full of antibiotics like Ampicillin, Penicillin-K, Penicillin-G, tetracycline just to mention few. I gaze at all these fine antibiotics and debate whether the penicillin I've taken at times was the same as the stuff I'm looking at right in front of me; within my grasp, no prescription need, on sale for just $9.95 a bottle.

I read the label and it says "500mg, potassium penicillin G, USP." There are 100 tablets in the bottle. That's what is says but I don't count them to make sure. I ponder if would I dare take this if I thought I had some sort of bacterial infection? I think for a minute or two and come to the conclusion that, yes, I would. I bet it wouldn't kill me. Best of all no annoying doctor visit, and I hate doctors. I could save myself a couple of hours waiting in the doctor's stinky, hospitaly, waiting room, the embarrassment of taking off my shirt and having my belly fall out, and, the $80.00 fee for the office visit. I really like self-diagnosis and self-treatment. With cow penicillin so easily available and so cheap, I feel empowered. I hate coolspeak and trite phrases but I find myself muttering, "Whatever doesn't kill me makes me stronger."

I don't buy the penicillin. I am a little angry with myself. I can be such a wush. I'll probably get some nasty infection tomorrow and end up paying the doctor $80 to prescribe penicillin. I'll fold up like a accordion and I'll wish I would have purchased a bottle of this cow penicillin and treated myself. But, what if it's something serious? So much self-doubt. Cow penicillin would be handy to have in my medicine chest -- like aspirin or Tums. I think that if it won't kill a cow, it probably won't kill me.

I walk toward the next aisle regretting that I didn't put that cow penicillin in my green, farm store shopping cart.

In the next aisle, I am dazzled by an astounding array of cattle prods in all different colors and sizes. I'm gasping with excitement. These things look powerful - and very useful. The bright yellow ones really attract my attention. Just by browsing that aisle I learn that cattle prods are available in all sorts of colors, sizes, voltages and amperages. I look at the most expensive one. It's on sale for only $79.95, but the wand is extra.

I am enthralled and continue to digest the information I glean from the labels. I discover that these cattle prods pack a mighty electrical wallop. They are sort of like a TASER on a stick. I read the description on the box of the big, yellow one on sale-- it says that it's powerful enough to stabilize a large cow. Although I'm a city slicker, I know cows can be pretty big. I remember that because I can recall a trip to a farm I took in grade school -- and because I once bought a whole cow for my home freezer. It was all cut up though. If this cattle prod can stabilize something as big as a large cow it must be really potent. I think of several people I'd like to stabilize. I laugh at the images that follow that thought I think I'd better not - laws and so forth being that they are --so I pass up the cattle prods. However, once again I have second thoughts. A cattle prod would be a fun thing to own. I am thinking of the things I could use a cattle prod for and smile. Strangely, not one of the uses of which I am thinking have anything do with cows.

I push my shopping cart around the corner to the farm clothing aisle, where I am delighted to see a huge selection of bright green John Deere overalls. In all sizes from S to XXXX. I want a pair! I imagine myself working around the yard wearing a pair. They are so green and the John Deere logo looks hot on the pocket. I picture myself sitting around in those lovely green overalls advertising John Deere. I am sublime in my imaginary sartorial splendor -- and they are on sale for just $39.95! I seriously consider buying a pair. I wonder if a city slicker like me would look good wearing them in Bob Evans. If I had a pair I'd wear them everywhere. I'd even wear them to the doctor's office. I wonder if he'd make me take my shirt off then?

In spite of my John Deere lust, I pass up the sale on the overalls and move on. In the middle of my another bout of self-doubt, I spot a whole shelf full of John Deere hats. Like the overalls, they too are bright green and adorned with that sexy John Deere logo. Wow! I see that it even has earflaps on it too. It would be ideal for keeping my head and ears warm on those long winter walks. Winter still has a long way to go too. I try one of the hats on, fold the earflaps down and look at myself in the mirror. I look so cute! I find that the hat imparts a splendid farmy look to my countenance. The hat is very becoming, I admire the nascent farmer in the mirror. I really do look like a rugged, hard working guy I think admiring myself. I have that fresh-from-the-farm look. I look pretty much like a guy who drove a tractor to the farm supply store. I'm such a wush though. I take off the hat and put it back on the rack. I really want that hat -- but I pass. I know I would end up falling in love with it and wear it everywhere. After a few months it would become stained, soiled and ratty and I'd wear it anyway; and I'd wear it everywhere. I like to annoy people in restaurants by wearing hats while I'm eating. This hat would really be annoying to folks in the city. I laugh. I'm such a funny guy.

I don't buy the hat.

I look at my watch and I cannot believe that I've been in the farm supply store for almost two hours-- and my shopping cart is still empty. The cattle prods are hardest for me to resist. They're on sale today. I almost go back and get one, but I don't. Instead, I put my empty shopping cart back and walk out of the store -- into the gray gloom and harsh wind of an ordinary, bitter February day.

I should have bought that hat I think. I get into my car --which I am pretending is a John Deere tractor-- and pull out of the farm store parking lot and head back to my city slicker existence.

I drive all the way home thinking about those cattle prods and all the things I could do with one.

Tags: Farm Life Penicillin Cattle Prods John Deere

Press Release from Web Of Trust
Posted On 02/16/2009 14:41:54

Press Release

Michael Widenius, founder of MySQL, invests in WOT, Web of Trust

Helsinki, Finland (PRWEB) February 16, 2009

Michael "Monty" Widenius, founder of MySQL and a guru for the global open source movement, has invested in WOT, Web of Trust. WOT, a free community-driven security add-on that helps Internet users protect themselves against online threats, closed its second round of funding as the community exceeded 3 million downloads.

"When I first learned about WOT, I was intrigued because it answers the common question Internet users have - Can I trust this website? -by uniquely combining a community-driven approach, Internet resources and browser technology. The growth and success of MySQL was in many aspects due to our active user community. WOT's big and active community shows a similar strength, and I like the fact that through WOT we are helping making the Internet a better and safer place," said Widenius, who will take a seat on the company's Board of Directors.

"We are excited about Monty joining our team and bringing his wealth of knowledge and contact network. Monty had a key role at MySQL when it grew to become an open source icon and the developer of the world's most popular open source database. For Web of Trust this new injection of expertise and capital will help us to expedite our growth and take the company to the next level," said CEO Esa Suurio.

The investors in the second round of funding include Open Ocean, the investment company through which Widenius seeks to invest in disruptive technology start-ups and help them achieve success; and the Finnish Industry Investment Ltd, an existing shareholder.

Protection when browsing and shopping the Internet

Web of Trust offers Internet users preventive protection against Internet scams, identity theft, spyware, spam and unreliable online shops. The WOT security add-on provides safety ratings to search results when using Google, Yahoo!, Wikipedia, Digg and other popular sites, helping users protect their computers and personal information. Website rating information is continuously updated by the user community and from numerous trusted sources, such as listings of malware and phishing sites. The free Internet security add-on works with Internet Explorer and Firefox browsers and can be downloaded at http://www.mywot.com.

Supporting Facts of WOT

WOT has been downloaded by 3 million users

Information on 21 million websites

1 in every 20 websites is harmful

WOT users can contribute by rating and commenting on websites

WOT also receives information from a large number of trusted sources, such as PhishTank, hpHosts, DNS-BH Malware Domain list and Artists Against 419.


WOT videos: http://www.youtube.com/MyWOT

Screen prints, logos and photos:

Note from Cloudeight -

This press release was sent to us from Deborah of Web Of Trust. Deborah is also a member of the Hill, you can visit her page on the Hill at http://notoverthehill.com/deborahs

We use and encourage you to use WOT toolbar. Please read our article on McAfee Site Advisor vs. Web Of Trust (WOT) to see why we no longer recommend Site Advisor and why we do recommend Web Of Trust (WOT). You can read and comment on our article at http://thundercloud.net/infoave/answers/2009/siteadvisor.htm


Tags: Security Toolbars WOT

Posted On 02/11/2009 06:47:31


"...To those of us who knew the pain
Of valentines that never came
And those whose names were never called
When choosing sides for basketball
It was long ago and far away
The world was younger than today
And dreams were all they gave for free
To ugly duckling (guys) like me...."

 (Janis Ian "At Seventeen")

To me, February is the worst month of the year.

Though February is the shortest month, it seems like the longest month. February this year, like most years, has twenty-eight days. By the time it is over, it will seem like sixty-two days; at least to those of us who live in the Midwestern United States. Here spring begins on March 21st, according to the calendar; but it doesn't really begin until sometime in ate April.

February is a cruel. cold month. It is the mean, odious, step-mother of months. It leads us into March, that's when spring is supposed to begin. But, March is nothing but a cold, damp, tease. The calendar says spring begins on March 21. But spring does not begin in March. Not really.

February, is a month of wall-to-wall clouds; damp, cold, air; snow, rain, sleet, and ice. February is a month of horrid, cold, dark, ugly weather. Spring is so close yet so far away.We have to get through sixty-two days of February first, and that only gets us into March, there's no spring in March except for a date on the calendar. Each February day brings a slog through the snow, mush, ice, and mud under unending, depressiong gray skies.

I really don't enjoy February. The best thing we have going for us in February around my little town, is waiting for the world's largest rat, in Pennsylvania, to tell us all how many more weeks of winter we have left. I don't need a rat to tell me. I already know. Here's my prediction: We have at least ten more weeks of winter left to go. Now you're all thinking I'm the big rat, aren't you?

If you do live in the northern parts of the Northern Hemisphere, I'm sure you understand what I'm saying. But, if you live in Australia, New Zealand, or some place else in the Southern Hemisphere, you don't have a clue - so bear with me. I want all of you living in the Southern Hemisphere to know you've got problems with February too -- even though you may not know it. Did you ever think that you're being cheated out of three days of summer. It's a fact. Since February falls during your summer season, you're getting cheated out of those long summer days for which I long. At least our last full month of summer, August, has 31 days, but yours only has 28 (except, of course, during leap years). You are cheated out of three glorious summer days. Sorry!

February does have some bright spots at least if you work for the government, schools, or banks. If you're one of those lucky souls, you probably love February, despite the fact that the sun never shines and the February cold pervades every membrane of your body. You love it don't you! You love it because you get yet another day off in February. Presidents' Day is a holiday for you but not for the rest of us poor working stiffs.

President's Day? Humbug! It might be called Presidents' Day, but I have never yet met anyone who sits around and ponders the good deeds, heroics or exploits of George or Abraham on that day. I'll bet that most of you who work for the government, schools, or banks, will be eagerly thumbing through newspapers looking for Presidents' Day Sales. I'll bet that not too many of you who have that day off will spend it pondering these great American presidents or rushing to attend ceremonies honoring them. It looks like Target, Wal-Mart, Neiman-Marcus, for you. Poor old George and Abraham, they're both dead and now used as excuses for more "sales".

Some of you, mostly female I imagine, find another notoriously bright spot stuck smack dab in the middle of February. It's called "Valentine's Day". It's supposed to be a day of romance, but, in my cynical mind, it's a way for Hallmark, American Greetings, and other large purveyors of cardboard poetry to make money.  According to the Greeting Card Association, an estimated one billion valentine cards are sent each year. This makes Valentine's Day the second biggest "card-sending" holiday of the year - right behind Christmas with 2.6 billion. Yes, it's true-- eighty-five percent of all Valentine's Day cards are sent by women.

Then of course, there are candies, candles, "romantic items" and other Valentine's Day goodies that fill store shelves from the day after Christmas through the 14th of February. Valentine's Day is a ruse; a marketers dream come true. Money, not "romance" is the engine that drives Valentine's Day. Yes, I'm a cynic. Send me a Valentine's Day card.

Whenever I think of Valentine's Day, I think of myself as a fifth grader. I was not very attractive or popular. I was a fat kid. My mom had just died a few months earlier and I desperately needed attention. Even more than most ten year-olds. I began (pathetically) hoping that the girls in my would feel sorry for me and send me a Valentine's day card. Isn't that sad? Pitiable even. Of course, not many of the girls did.  I recall a song by Janis Ian called "At Seventeen" and one of the lines in that song is "For those of us who knew the pain, of Valentines that never came...."

And, in case you think I'm somehow anti-romantic or picking on women here, I'm not. One of the worst things every foisted upon the world is the "Super Bowl". Here we have a football game interrupted by 5 minute commercials, a one-hour halftime, and ridiculous 3 minute "TV timeouts". If I were a football coach I wouldn't even want to play in this media circus. It's a game between two teams that have probably played before - and no one took notice. It's a game that is covered relentlessly by the media for weeks. A game that is more hype than contest; more glitter than substance. Most of us cannot even recall who won the last Super Bowl.  And, all the beautiful people will be in attendance.  If you're somebody, anybody at all, you're required to make an appearance at "The Super Bowl" to prove you're someone important. Isn't the Super Bowl the height of American superficiality?

I like football (especially college football) and I watch many games during the football season. I often look forward to relaxing on a Saturday afternoon watching college games. But, to me, the "Super Bowl" isn't a football game. I don't have a clue what to call it. But a "football game" doesn't come to mind. I might be the only person not watching the Super Bowl this year. Does that make me strange?

So, besides the interminably long string of short, sunless, damp, cold and dreary days that February dishes up, the tantalizing thought of spring waiting somewhere in the distant future, and the continuation of a long, dark, dreary winter - I have other reasons to dislike the month of February. Its 62 days are stuffed into a calendar of 28. February is but a cruel joke and it plays its joke on me every year.

I remind my friends in Australia, New Zealand and other points in the Southern Hemisphere, that February is not kind to you either. It cheats you out of a few warm and wonderful days of summer.

I always try to accept things as they come but I have a hard time accepting February. It's the one month of the year that I don't like at all. The one month of the year that has no redeeming qualities. Just my luck February has 62 days. 

Think spring!

Tags: Winter Spring Summer Fall February Is Worst Of All

How Much is a Trillion?
Posted On 02/11/2009 06:12:47

The U.S. government throws the number "one trillion" around like it's just another number. Well, it is "just another number" but it's an incredibly big number.

I read an article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer yesterday that puts the number 1,000,000,000,000 in perperspective. The government might not think it's a big deal, but consider these facts:

If you lived one trillion seconds you would 38,166 years old. One trillion seconds ago Neanderthals were walking the Earth. By comparison, the average lifetime of a man is about 2.4 billion seconds. A billion seconds is about 32 years. A billion is a lot, but a trillion is a thousand times a lot.

With one trillion dollars worth of gold you could pave the entire U.S. interstate highway system with 23.5 caret gold.

With one trillion dollars you could buy 1000 boxes of Girl Scout Cookies for every man, woman, and child in the United States.

With one trillion dollars you could buy enough Habitat For Humanity houses to provide homes for 33 million Americans.

With one trillion dollars you could provide a four-year college education for every 2009 high school graduate.

A trillion is a big number to most of us, but to the government it's just another number. In the grand scheme of things, a trillion is a very small number. But then, everything is relative.  Light travels almost seven trillion miles in a year and the nearest star system to earth is Andromeda. Andromeda it 4 light years or about 27 trillion miles from Eath. Some stars are millions of light years away. I'm not even going to get into quadrillions, quintillions, or sextillions...but the U.S. government might.

Solving The Economic Crises
Posted On 02/10/2009 13:57:10

I am not a politician, thank goodness. I'm just your average, everyday citizen who's very concerned about his country and the economic situation we're in. This economic decline is unlike any I've seen in my lifetime - and I'm not a young man; I've seen a lot. I've seen good economic times and bad economic times, but I've never seen times like these.

I've watched as friends who've worked for the same company for years and years, lost their jobs. And these friends didn't have golden parachutes. They're looking for work that pays better than minimum wage, but there's no work to be found. They might well have to become greeters at Walmart or flip burgers at McDonald's before long. All that college for nothing.

I've got another friend who's older than I am and he's watching his retirement account dwindle in a downward spiral that, if it persists, will leave him with next to nothing.

Everywhere I look there is something to remind me that something is not right. I no longer have to wait in line to eat at a favorite restaurant. A factory near my little town, that once employed over 1500, recently went bankrupt. The owners of the company still live in million-dollar homes, but those left without jobs can't afford to pay their mortgages. They're out of work and, apparently out of luck.

I'm not going to get into a partisan debate over whether the Republicans whose ideas of economic recovery are to slash taxes, slash spending and increase freedom - or- the Democrats who think you can spend your way to prosperity are right.

But, it seems we just got through trying increased freedom (read: deregulation)  and cutting taxes with the hope that money trickles down from the rich to the poor.  I think that's partly how we got into this mess in the first place. The money that was supposed to trickle down from the rich to the poor never trickled, instead it was spent on million-dollar offices, corporate jets and junkets, $300 crystal glasses and $13,000 carpeting for company jets - and who knows what else. Deregulation (i.e. "more freedom") didn't work because Wall Street, bankers and investment firms, unfettered by regulations, ran amuk. Freedom only works if those who are free are also responsible enough to use their freedoms in a responsible way. This harkens to the age-old aphorism about free speech which never meant that you have the right to yell "FIRE!" in a crowded theater.

The Democrats have another way of dealing with economic crises. They want to throw hundreds of billions of dollars at it and hope, somehow, that it all goes away. I think this has been tried too. In fact, I'm sure that FDR tried it in the 1930's and it worked for awhile, but never really pulled the U.S. out of the recession. It took World War II to do that. Let's just hope our government doesn't resort to more wars to bail us out. It seems that we've got more wars going on than we know what to do with -- and war-mongering makes America look bad in the eyes of the rest of the world. World War II could hardly be avoided. Hitler was gobbling up Europe, killing millions of Jews, and Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. Six days after Pearl Harbor, Adolf Hitler declared war on the United States. So, it wasn't like we went looking for war, it was forced upon us. I'm sure we can't say the same for the war in Iraq, although I'm sure there are some that would argue that it too was forced on us.

Now that I've gotten all of you Conservatives and Liberals riled up, let me offer an olive branch. My olive branch is a simple plan to stimulate the economy that I know would work. I don't have much confidence though in how well the government could implement it. Government hasn't tried anything really new in six decades. But extraordinary problems call for extraordinary solutions. Unfortunately, you're not going see anything extraordinary coming out of Washington, no matter which party is in control. Everyone's too busy criticizing everyone else to get anything done. Disraeli once said that "it's easier to be critical than correct."

Anyway, today I'm the President. And, since I am, here is what I propose to solve the current economic crises.

1. Abolish the income tax and replace it with a 10% National Sales Tax (NST) on all retail sales except food and medicine.

2. Abolish all federal withholding for social secuirty and fund it with part of the revenue from the NST plus revenues from a new transaction tax of a few pennies levied on every stock transaction. There are billions of stock transactions each day.

3. Immediately issue a $500 pre-paid government-issued debit card to each single taxpayer or a $1000 pre-paid government-issued debit card to each married taxpayer filing jointly. The debit card would be used like any bank issued debit card. The nice part about this proposal is that the cards could only be used to buy things, not to pay down debt or put money in the bank. Plus, the goverenment would not have to put all the money out at once. The money would be doled out as the cards are used.

4. Start a weekly national lottery. The proceeds from this lottery would be used exclusively for education.

5. Add a 50 cent tax to each gallon of gasoline and use the money to fund the development of alternative fuels.

6. Form a commission to look into legalization of soft drugs (i.e. marijuana), prostitution, and gambling. The way I see it, people are going to engage in these activities anyway, so the government might as well earn tax dollars from them. It seems to me that hundreds of billions of dollars of potential revenue would be generated. Of course, church groups and morality groups would fight this idea big time, but the reality is people are people - always have been and always will be. There's always going to be vice and it's high time we come to grips with it. The huge amount of revenue generated from drugs, prostition and gambling would do a lot of good for society - and decrease the prison population which would also save money. Such a great idea, isn't it?

7. I'd make federal money available to states for infrastructure improvements available only after the states had made the improvements. The federal government would guarantee the loans the states would need to improve existing infrastructure and replace decaying infrastructure. Once the infrastructure improvements and replacements are completed and reviewed, then the government would make federal money available to partially reimburse the states. This way we're not throwing money at the states only to find it's been used to install new carpet in the governors' mansions or buy new jets and helicopters for the governors to fly around in.

I'm not a details kind of guy but I think my ideas are good ideas that would stimulate the economy, create jobs, and get people buying again. I'm sure many economists would not agree with me, but then again, look at the mess we're in righ now and you can't find one single plan on which all economists agree.

So, do we cut taxes and hope the money filters down from the rich to the poor? It didn't work before, so I don't think it would now. Do we throw hundreds of billions at the problem and hope it goes away? We've tried that before and it didn't pull us completely out of The Great Depression.

The real solutions to the problems we face are innovative ideas that are bold and different. The trouble is that government, whether it's Conservative-leaning or Liberal-leaning, will only dare do things that have been done before. When it comes to Washington, there really is nothing new under the sun.

If we want to solve big problems then it's time for big, bold new ideas and a brave new way of doing things.

Some of you are probably glad I'm not really the President.

Tags: Economy Depression Recession

Mercury, Sweet Mercury
Posted On 02/02/2009 14:05:14

A few years ago I wrote an article about the dangers of HFCS. I wrote it long before Pizza Hut started running TV commercials touting "No HFCS" and long before food labels started appearing on store shelves with "No HFCS" emblazoned on their labels.

Last week some new and disturbing news about HFCS came to light. It was covered in various newspapers The Washington Post, The Houston Chronicle, among others. The news about HFCS went generally unnoticed by the national cable news and broadcast networks. It should have been "breaking news", but it wasn't. You would think that the fact that mercury was found in about 50% of the samples taken from products containing HFCS, would have been of great interest to most consumers. Unfortunately most Americans never heard a thing about it.

By now we all know that we shouldn't eat too much tuna or salmon because of increased mercury levels in those kinds of oily fish. And those of us living near Lake Erie have been warned not to consume too much fish from Lake Erie because of high mercury content. Yet most of us don't know that a lot of the HFCS, so ubiquitous in American foods, is contaminated with mercury as well. If you live in the United States, you cannot avoid HFCS as easily as you can avoid tuna or salmon. HFCS is an ingredient found almost everything you eat and drink.

A hopeful sign for the future is that those of us living in the United States are slowly beginning to see HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) disappearing from our foods. This is a good thing. And I hope that sooner, rather than later, we will see a return to the use of sugar as the main sweetener in our foods and beverages. It's going to be a rough road back to sugar though. For if ever there was an example of the power of money it's the long, not-so-sweet story of HFCS. HFCS is cheaper that sugar. Foods in which it is used have a longer shelf life. But, mainly it's all about profit; it's all about money.

Sugar has been much maligned over the past few decades. In fact the first sign of this came some three decades ago when Kellogg's removed "sugar" from the name of some of its cereals such as  "Sugar Pops" which now known as "Corn Pops". Sugar was removed from the name but not the cereal -- at first. Later on though, Kellogg's removed the sugar all right, replacing it with HFCS. Tooth decay and weight gain were the affects of eating too much sugar. HFCS' dangers are far more serious.

The Corn Refiners Association has spent millions of dollars on advertising to convince you that HFCS is a natural product, the same as sugar. Their claim is that since it comes from corn, HFCS is every bit as natural as sugar.  But how natural is a product that takes this many steps and chemical reactions to make?

Indeed, corn is natural, but by the time the refining process is completed and the finished product is used in our food and drinks, it bears little resemblance to the corn from which it came. In fact, fructose is not metabolized like sucrose (sugar). While fructose is found in many fruits and vegetables, HFCS is altered chemically so that it contains an unnatural ratio of fructose to glucose - a ratio that isn't found anywhere in nature.

Natural foods are foods which are not chemically altered, yet the United States allows food processors to include the words "All Natural" on the labels of foods containing HFCS. There's nothing natural about HFCS except its source. By the time it ends up in your stomach there's nothing at all natural about it.

"...What does it matter that it was banned in Mexico and is rarely found in foods in New Zealand. Is it really that bad? Why should we care about HFCS?

There are several different names and forms of sugar, fructose, sucrose, and dextrose being three. Here we are focusing on fructose, which behaves differently than the latter two in regards to our metabolism.

Both sucrose and dextrose are broken down in our body before they ever make it to our liver, however fructose does not breakdown and reaches the liver “almost completely intact”. This feature of fructose (which in HFCS is of an even higher concentration) has been named “metabolic shunting” since the fructose is “shunted” or sidetracked towards the liver.

Fructose is used to build triglycerides in the liver, which it does by imitating insulin, causing the liver to release fatty acids into the bloodstream. The flood of fatty acids then causes muscle tissue to develop insulin resistance..." (Read the entire article here.)

If you think that quote was written by someone with their own agenda, here's a fact that even the Corn Refiners Association cannot refute: HFCS was never used in infant formula in the United States. Why do you think that is true?

I've written before about HFCS. I really believe it had a lot to do with making me more obese than I should have been, even though I was eating a lot more than I should have been. I have since tried to eliminate HFCS from my diet, but because I live in the United States, it's nearly impossible. I have almost cut out HFCS from my diet and never eat anything or drink anything where the main ingredient is HFCS (soda pop, Smucker's jellies, jams, and preserves, pancake syrup, Heinz Ketchup, et. al. ). I also never buy Kellogg's cereal, I buy General Mills or Post cereals instead. Too many of Kellogg's cereals contain HFCS. As far as I know, none of General Mill's or Post's cereals contain HFCS.

There was more bad news for consumers last week, particularly for consumers in the United States. Studies conducted by Environmental Health, researchers found detectable levels of mercury in nine of 20 samples of commercial HFCS.

According to a Washington Post article published in the January 28, 2009 editions Health section:

// -->"...Almost half of tested samples of commercial high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) contained mercury, which was also found in nearly a third of 55 popular brand-name food and beverage products where HFCS is the first- or second-highest labeled ingredient, according to two new U.S. studies.

HFCS has replaced sugar as the sweetener in many beverages and foods such as breads, cereals, breakfast bars, lunch meats, yogurts, soups and condiments. On average, Americans consume about 12 teaspoons per day of HFCS, but teens and other high consumers can take in 80 percent more HFCS than average.

'Mercury is toxic in all its forms. Given how much high-fructose corn syrup is consumed by children, it could be a significant additional source of mercury never before considered. We are calling for immediate changes by industry and the [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] to help stop this avoidable mercury contamination of the food supply,' the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy's Dr. David Wallinga, a co-author of both studies, said in a prepared statement...."

In a second study, the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), a non-profit watchdog group, reported that nearly one in three of 55 brand-name foods contained mercury. Mercury was found most often in dairy products, dressings and condiments containing HFCS. Heinz Ketchup, dairy products like yogurts and smoothies, Kraft salad dressings all contain HFCS.

Trade associations for the corn industry discounted these studies' findings by saying "it appears" that the test methods used were out of date and therefore the results were not accurate. HFCS is cheap to make and yields enormous profits for refiners in the United States. Once again, consumers are left in the middle not knowing who to believe.

How does mercury get into HFCS in the first place? It happens during the production of HFCS. A chemical called caustic soda is used in one stage of the complicated process that turns corn into HFCS. Some of the caustic soda used in the production of HFCS is manufactured using mercury cells which contaminates it. The IATP told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that four plants in Georgia, Tennessee, Ohio and West Virginia still use "mercury-cell" technology that can lead to mercury contamination.

For U.S. food manufacturers, the advantages of HFCS are many: It extends the shelf life of products in which it is used; it is sweeter than sugar meaning less of it is needed to obtain the same sweetness; products in which HFCS is used look "fresher"; it is cheaper than sugar, thanks to the artificially high government tariffs on imported sugar cane and sugar.

Once again, we learn that it's all about money -- not about the consumer. The FDA has known mercury contaminated HFCS for four years and has done nothing about it. The corn producers and refiners and their associated lobbyists and associations have mounted massive and expensive campaigns to convince you that HFCS is a natural product. Using the same logic, paint thinners and solvents made using peanut oil would be natural products too.

The whole truth about HFCS has yet to be revealed, but the evidence against it is mounting. There are many who are convinced that the introduction of massive amounts of HFCS into the human food chain in the 1970's, particularly in the United States, has led to increased obesity and a pandemic of type II diabetes.

HFCS is not a "natural" product. Take a look at the processes involved in its manufacturing. If you live in the United States, you'll find it nearly impossible to completely eliminate HFCS from your diet. But there's a reason that companies who manufacture infant formula are not permitted to use HFCS. There's a reason why countries like Japan and Mexico ban HFCS from food products. With all the money being spend by corn producers, refiners, and trade associations to obfuscate the facts and convince you that HFCS is a natural product, it becomes increasingly hard for consumers to get to the truth.

It seems to me that the less HFCS you consume the better off you'll be. Once again, it's not about you and me, it's all about the money. HFCS is cheaper and using it increases profits -they win and we lose. That's the truth as I see it.

Tags: HFCS Corn Sugar Food Diabetes Obesity

The Disturbing Tale of Windows Live Mail
Posted On 01/31/2009 08:56:26

You can help save your personal email program by sharing this page with a friend.

This article is based on our experiences with Windows Live Mail. While it is based on fact and our own personal experiences with it, it is, in the final analysis, only our opinion. We want to make it crystal clear that these are our opinions, based on observation and fact. We'd like your opinion too. At the bottom of this article is a link to a page where you can write and publish an opinion or express your thoughts. We hope you will take time to do this.

Microsoft will not be offering you a free personal email program with the next version of Windows. They'll be trying to convince you that Windows Live Mail is the "next generation" of personal email programs. It is not. It's a "cloud computing" application that exposes your private data, mail accounts, messages, and any personal information contained in them to much higher risks than if you stored such important information only on your own computer - such has been the case with Outlook Express and Windows Mail. Microsoft has what we call a "propaganda campaign" to make you believe that Windows Live Mail is the mail program of the future. It is not. The following then, is our opinion of Windows Live Mail and why you should be expressing your outrage at Microsoft for taking the personal email program out of Windows 7 - the next version of Windows.

We've been known to get all cranked up about spyware, adware, and hijackers. We've been known to blow a gasket when it comes to companies bundling garbage - so instead of getting just the program you thought you were downloading you get a bunch of garbage you don't want. FunWebProducts, a notorious adware/spyware/hijacker that bundles 18 or more programs after conning poor, unwary netizens into downloading its "SmileyCentral" hijacker/adware program - comes to mind.

But never, ever, did we ever think that someday we would be writing about Microsoft in the same article as FunWebProducts, adware, spyware, and hijackers. So, today is a sad day. Microsoft, stooping to new lows, has its own bundle of garbage called "Windows Live Mail". It's adware for sure - if you use a Hotmail or MSN account it will insert ads into your outgoing mail surreptitiously - you don't see it but your recipient will. It's a home page hijacker - it will change your home page from whatever it is to MSN. It's Cloud Computing application - meaning that all your messages, user accounts - even those personal accounts your ISP gives you, passwords, and other personal information, is hanging right up there in the cloud - an accident waiting to happen. If someone with a password cracking program harvests your emails addresses it's a simple matter to crack your password and see every mail you've ever sent or every message you've saved including private confidential mail from your bank, savings institution, software companies who've sent you keys, private family messages and more.

It's one thing to have a Hotmail account and use if for certain things - but quite another to have ALL of your email addresses in one location on the Web. Your ISP accounts, your Hotmail account, your Gmail account, etc. When you put all of your eggs in one highly visible basket, you're just asking for a basketful of trouble.

And it's bad enough that Microsoft even offers Windows Live Mail, but to think that in the next version of Windows - which is only nine months away, there will be no personal email program  like Windows Mail". You'll have no choice but to use Windows Live Mail because Windows 7 will have no desktop-based, personal email program like Outlook Express or Windows Mail. All you'll have is Windows Live Mail. Millions more of you will be forced to store all your private email account information, messages, and so forth on Microsoft's servers - where it's only a password cracker away from some criminal's hands.

Oh, you do have a choice. You can use Outlook - for which you'll have to fork over $150 - or install Microsoft Office for about $400. Or you can use Thunderbird, which is far less capable than Outlook Express or Windows Mail. There's a bevy of other free email programs too - but none of them are nearly as good as Outlook Express or Windows Mail. Besides, why should you have to go out and learn a new email program after all these years?

Microsoft isn't doing this for you. They're doing it for Microsoft. More specifically they're doing it to make more money. Yes, once again, Microsoft is going to stick it to its customers by not giving you what you want, but giving you what they want. No wonder Apple and Linux are starting to erode Microsoft's stranglehold on the computer market. They're taking away your personal email program and giving you a glorified Hotmail desktop - a browser that looks like an email program and where all your private messages and other personal information are stored in the "Cloud".

Microsoft's decision making of late leaves us scratching our heads. Windows 7 isn't going to be a brand new version of Windows as promised. It's going to be one giant Windows Vista service pack for which you're going to pay $100 or more. Windows 7 isn't about making Windows better, it's about making money. It reminds us of Windows ME which Microsoft threw together to quell uneasy stockholders. Microsoft made XP too good. Now they can't top it. So, instead of concentrating on making a whole new version of Windows with more features customers want - like faster boot-ups and shutdowns, better performance using less resources, they've decided to make Windows more like Mac - i.e. make it prettier. Windows 7 is a glorified Windows Vista. It's not the brand new operating system that it was supposed to be. It's all about the money with Microsoft and Windows Live Mail is another example of highly-educated people making really dumb decisions. Does General Motors ring any bells?

Let's talk about installing Windows Live Mail. It's a bundle. I don't care if they give you the option NOT to install the programs they bundle with it, all the programs are checked by default and many people will simply click "OK" and install the other programs - instead of the program they "wanted" to download - Windows Live Mail. It's software bundling - just as much as it's software bundling when some "freeware" program tries to get you to install Yahoo Toolbar with it. You may have the option to select or deselect but Microsoft is not stupid -they know that a majority of people will leave all the boxes checked (which they are by default) and install everything in the bundle- and you can bet your bottom dollar that they want you install all of these programs.

* Windows Live Mail
* Messenger
* Mail
* Writer
* Photo Gallery
* Movie Maker beta
* Family Safety
* Toolbar
* Microsoft Silverlight
* And even more stuff - depending on what you have already installed.

To add another breach of trust, Microsoft wants to hijack your preferred search provider and your home page. These boxes are both checked by default. Anyone installing Windows Live Mail and not paying attention and just clicking "OK" will find they have a new search provider and a new home page the next time they open their browser. If Microsoft was doing this the fair way, those boxes would be unchecked by default and you'd have to check them if YOU wanted to switch search providers - and home pages. Microsoft seems to be unwilling to admit that a ten year-old start up beat their britches off in the search provider game. Here's a hint for Microsoft: If you want to win the search provider game, make your search engine better than Google's and make your main search page simple like Google's instead of that bloated, ad-filled, ostentatious, eye-sore you have. People go to search page to search page to search not to be bombarded with ads and dazzled with page design. Here, take a look, http://msn.com/ compared to http://google.com/ .

It's not bad enough that Microsoft makes a game of hide-and-seek out of installing Windows Live Mail, but the preposterous idea of replacing the popular Outlook Express/Windows Mail with Windows Live Mail, just blows us away. Who makes these kinds of bone-headed decisions? Microsoft apparently doesn't care what you want or what you like, they'll spend zillions of dollars convincing you something less secure, with less features, is somehow better. "Everything in one place" they like say. Indeed. Everything in one place - a really dandy idea. Now, if we lived in a perfect world where there were no criminals or where everyone used secure twenty-eight-character, nearly-impossible-to-crack passwords, it might a good thing. A huge target for hackers and password stealers, Windows Live Mail is a virtual ocean of private, personal, and sensitive information all sitting there in one place waiting to be snatched up by miscreants with highly sophisticated password crackers - or sophisticated computer nerds who would like nothing better that breach Microsoft's Live servers. I guess the good thing about it is, someday we'll be able to write an article featuring our four favorite words: "We told you so!" Government servers and other sensitive servers are hacked all the time - but not even these servers have the quality of content hackers and password thieves drool over. They crack your Live Mail password, they have access to all your email, all its content, all your passwords, and more. If your bank sent you a Lost Password request in email, then they have that. They'll have whatever you have in your Outlook Express or Windows Mail folders right now.

Air-headed, money-driven decisions such as Microsoft's decision to remove your personal email client from Windows and replacing it with a Web-based, "cloud computing" mail program that is disguised as a personal email program- where every bit of your personal data is stored both in the "Cloud" and on your computer makes not one bit of sense - unless you're Microsoft, of course. The only reason for this decision is to provide an additional source of revenue - a source that wasn't being tapped before - and that source is your personal, private email. It's wrong and this decision will end up costing Microsoft a lot of credibility and a lot of lost customers.

There is absolutely no benefit to anyone other than Microsoft by eliminating the personal, private, desktop mail application from Windows 7. It's all about money and Microsoft will continue to decline while others, like Google, who find out what people want and then provides it, will continue to eat away at Microsoft, until all that's left of Microsoft is what they used to be.

If you agree that this decision by Microsoft to leave your personal email program out of the next version of Windows is wrong and that it again points out why Microsoft continues to lose sales to innovators like Apple, please express your opinion by leaving a comment at the bottom of this page. Maybe there is someone who cares about you more than money at Microsoft who will listen. Maybe if enough of you voice your opinion, we can get them to listen. Otherwise, in a few months the era of the personal email client from Microsoft is over and an era of breaches and security nightmares will begin. The only ones who will be hurt by this ill-advised decision will be everyone who uses Windows Live Mail, who installs Windows 7 or who buys a computer with Windows 7 pre-installed on it. And eventually that will be all of us.

You can help save your personal email program by sharing this page with a friend.

Tags: Microsoft Security Windows Mail Outlook Express Windows Live Mail

Come To My Anti-Super Bowl Party!
Posted On 01/31/2009 07:39:49

For one brief but ugly moment last week I deserted the cynic inside me. I left the comfort of cynicism intoxicated by the sweet poison of hope. Don't worry. I'm back in full vigor now. No more rose-colored glasses for me. There is comfort in cynicism. I have my blankie back. I am my old cynical self again.

This Sunday is "Super Bowl Sunday". I notice that restaurants and some stores in my little town are closing early because of it. I find it odd that Bob Evans, which closed at 8:00PM on Christmas Eve, is closing at 7:00PM on Super Bowl Sunday. The sign on the door says "We will be closing at 7:00PM on Sunday, February 1, 2009 for the Super Bowl." The store where I buy my daily newspaper also has a sign on its door. The sign reads: "We will be closing at 8:00PM on Sunday, February 1, 2009 for the Super Bowl." That store closed at 10:00PM on Christmas Eve. You have to love this.

The USA is tumbling headlong into a full-fledged Depression (capital "D" indeed) yet every grocery store I've visited has aisles full of chips, beer, pop and snacks all presented in a gala "Super Bowl Party" settings. Festive banners and ribbons and streamers abound. No one would ever guess the USA was in deep economic hot water or fighting in two wars. Unemployment is skyrocketing; financial markets are collapsing; people are being tossed out of their foreclosed homes in record numbers; factories and businesses are closing. "What me worry?"

Restaurants in my town are closing early, because it seems they think that everyone will be home eating pizza rolls, pizza, sandwiches, and drinking beer? What about me? Or are the using the Super Bowel as an excuse to send employees home early and save a few bucks on those outrageous minimum wage salaries?  I am not going to watch the Super Bowl. I might want to go out to eat after 7PM or buy a newspaper after 8PM. I have no choice but to sit home and brood. One thing for sure I will not watch the Super Bowl or care what the score is -- or who won.

Whatever network is carrying the game is off the air from 12:00 noon until 12:00 midnight as far as I'm concerned. Did you hear that coverage of the game starts at 12:00 noon Eastern Time? Guess when kickoff is? Kickoff is at 6:28PM. Guess when the game will end? I'm guessing somewhere around 10:30PM. You know they have a lot of high-dollar commercials to squeeze in. Lots of "TV timeouts". The last time I watched a football game on TV, my beloved Ohio State Buckeyes versus The Texas Longhorns in the "Fiesta Bowl", the commercials were so long I almost forgot what was going on in the game. The Buckeyes didn't prevail though. They lost but I digress.

All this hoopla over a football game between two teams from the same league who've played before? The Arizona Cardinals versus The Pittsburgh Steelers, that's who's playing, right? And this is a big game; why?

People are paying hundreds of dollars, even thousands of dollars, for tickets to the Super Bowl. In case you want to go, you can't --it's sold out. Companies are paying tens of millions of dollars to advertise during the Super Bowl. People are spending their last dollars on junk food, beer, and soda pop for their "Super Bowl Parties" yet we're on the cusp of a Depression? We must look like fools to the rest of the world. We have become a bunch of infantile whiners who complain about losing our jobs and our homes while we spend money we  supposedly don't have on potato chips, Fritos, Pepsi, chip dip, Miller Lite, Bud Lite, and other nutritious foods that build strong bellies twelve ways. It's important to have a Super Bowl Party and sit a around a 52" plasma TV - it's only $88.00 a month - and guzzle alcohol while unabashedly engaging in gluttonous revelry. All because why? Becuase the Pittsburgh Steelers are playing the Arizona Cardinals? It doesn't seem very fair, does it? A city against a whole state? Tomorrow those same revelers will be complaining they don't have they money to pay their mortgages or buy gas for the SUVs. Will you feel sorry for them?

One more thing, if you're one of those people who doesn't care about football but are going to watch it for the commercials, let me tell you something. Those commercials cost millions of dollars per minute. Do you think Budweiser, PepsiCo, and the other advertisers are actually paying for those? Really? They're not, you know. You're paying for those. Every dollar they spend gets figured into their cost of doing business and when the cost gets too high and their profits get too low they'll raise the price of their products and you'll end up paying that price. So laugh at the commercials if you want. Just remember, in the end, those companies are going to stick it to you and they'll have the last laugh. Take a look at how much PepsiCo paid in bonuses to their executives last year. Still laughing? If you really want to laugh and save time, just visit www.youtube.com the day after the game. You can watch all the commercials there without sitting through 3 1/2 hours of football. You can even watch YouTube videos while you chomp on chips and swill beer. I know. I've done it.

If there is anyone else out there who isn't taken in by all the hyperbole -- you folks in Pittsburgh are excused --- you're welcome to come to my Anti-Super Bowl Party. It starts at 7:00PM. At 8:00PM I'm going to insert a DVD movie into my old DVD-player and watch "Ground Hog Day". I'm having snacks too. You can have your choice of salad or you can choose one of my Lean Cuisine frozen dinners. If you get the munchies, I have pretzel rods. And, I have beer and I think there is some wine left over from Christmas - you can have your choice. I didn't buy any extra food, munchies or beverages for my Anti-Super Bowl Party. I will eat the stuff I already have. If I run out, you'll just have to settle for the movie on my little 25" LCD TV. No 52" plasma TV here. I have plenty of coffee and water though. So if you get thirsty and the beer and wine are gone, you can have your choice between coffee or water. You won't go thirsty at my Anti-Super Bowl Party. I might have a few jelly donuts too. Don't complain though - when they're gone, they're gone. But---don't come early just for the jelly donuts. I will not answer the door before 7:00PM. I probably won't be dressed properly until then.

The movie should be over by 9:45, so you'll get home in plenty of time to get some sleep so you can get up for work the next morning. We don't have any "post movie" interviews scheduled. We don't have any camera crews in the locker room of the ground hog. When the movie is over, you'll be expected to leave without delay. By 10:00PM I'll be ready for bed - bleary eyed and sleepy. You can only come to my Anti-Super Bowl party if you promise to leave right after the movie is over. We're not going to sit around and talk or pretend to enjoy each other's company. I'll be hospitable as long as you're quiet during the movie and don't complain about the food. You can have all you want to drink but if I run out, you'll either have to leave or go without. It's the best I can do. We're on the verge of a Depression here, and I am not going out to buy a bunch of junk just because you're coming to my Anti-Super Bowl Party. If my party sounds like a great evening to you, you're my kind of person.

Party hearty!

Tags: Super Bowl Party Thundercloud

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