IM Consolidation

I’ve had a lot of IM accounts over the years.  Powwow was I think my first, and then ICQ was a quick follow-up after that (which I had until some ‘tard decided it would be funny to brute-force the account and lock me out of it, and thanks to ICQ’s craptacular policies I have no way to get it back – so if you see 2109563 online, tell him he’s a fuckhead).  Anyway, the problem is disparity: With all these different networks, I have too many places to check for things.  For a while I used Bitlbee to keep all the networks together in one place which worked nicely – all of my chat logs where on my home computer which I could access from anywhere, no more searching through a few different machines to find that link that someone sent me, whatever.  The problem is with mobile access: I wanted to be able to IM Stephanie from my phone instead of using SMS messages all the time.  Combine that with the number of “friends” I would watch go online and offline and never say a word to me and I decided IM wasn’t worth it anyway.  When Meebo released their iPhone app, I decided to give it another go since Stephanie and I could use it instead of Google Voice for messaging each other.  It works very well – and I like being able to reply on the web site instead of being forced to use the phone when I’ve got a full keyboard in front of me – but I still have these networks like MSN, AIM and Yahoo where I rarely get messages, don’t want to ignore them, but don’t like that I can’t use whatever client from wherever whenever I want.  So I think I found a solution to the networks that don’t allow for multiple logins without extra complexity.  Using, an irssi script, I have a rule setup to automatically reply to someone who IMs me on AIM, Yahoo or MSN and tells them to use my Google Chat account instead.  If you don’t know the address, just send me an email and I’ll tell you!  This way, I can use whatever IM client I’m closest to and is most convenient, but they’re all connected in a way that I can seamlessly move from one to another – and still keep chat history in a single location.  It’s not as nice as having it all on my computer, since things like ‘grep -R’ aren’t available, but Google’s search works well enough that it’s not an issue.

Next step is to setup OTR messaging, but I have to dig around and see what has changed in the months since I last used OTR plugins in irssi.

Thanks, Whoever You Are

I forgot to post this back when I noticed it, but a little while ago I found something interesting.  I loaded my Google profile, and lo and behold!  What’s that in the upper right corner?  It’s a list of domains where my email address has been verified.  Fancy that, the option to turn them on finally showed up, and I did so.  And it was good.  Don’t know if my previous post on the matter had anything to do with it, but if some random Googler found my plea and fixed it.. thanks :>

Help Me Google, You’re My Only Hope

I’ve had a Google profile for some time now, and like that it makes a simple place where I can keep all of my “digital selves” gathered together.  If you search for my name, instead of showing up on page four after a painter and a programmer from Massachusetts I’m on the first page; follow the link to the profile, and there’s a photo of me, a little bit about me, and links to all the places online that have other information about me.  It’s a nice way to tie your digital identities together, since otherwise there’s just a mash of Facebook, LinkedIn and Flickr pages which don’t necessarily have anything to do with one another.  However, there’s one thing which still eludes me in my profile: verified domains.  Some people (such as Leigh, or Leo Laporte) have that little bit in the upper right that says “Verified email at <domain>”.  If you look at Google’s help pages, they say once you’ve added email addresses to your account and verified them (which is a simple process, you edit your account and type the new address, get an email, click a link, enter your Google password, you’re done) then those domains for which you have verified email addresses will show up as check boxes near the top of the page when you edit your profile, and you can choose which ones to include.  I have no such check boxes – and I have tried removing email addresses, verifying them again, hell I’ve even tried setting up Google Apps and verifying the domain itself with Google Webmaster Tools.  Nothing seems to get them to appear.

While that’s annoying, there’s something even worse in my opinion.  There is no place where I can ask for help with this.  There is no “Contact” link where I can fill out a form and be promised that I’ll get an email back in the next month or so.  There is no place where I can even post on a forum for this, because none of the Google Help forums have anything to do with one’s account or profile.  There’s no email address I can send a message to and say, “Hey this isn’t working, can someone have a look please?”  Nothing.  Nada.  Zip.  All the contact pages either point to some “try these things” items, or something asking you to go to the help forums (which as I mentioned, appear to not exist for profiles or accounts).  So, here’s where I decide to use the web’s collective intelligence and bargaining power, or something.

If you are, or if you know, someone at Google, or someone who can help with this, please have them contact me.  They can use the “Send a message” link on my profile (linked above), or not too much searching would probably reveal one of my many email addresses.  Or, if you know someplace where I can ask, or someone I can contact to ask for help, that works too.  I’m not expecting instant results here – Google is a big company, I’m one person.  But some place where I can get in a queue, even if it means I wait a couple months for someone to say “Oh, I see what was wrong, it’s fixed now” would be better than the current situation, which is basically any friends I ask about this saying, “Well it works for me.”

Overzealous Much?

To go along with my password article, here’s one showing the bad side of passwords.  This is a copy of the “password rules” for Intel’s website, which I use for getting access to their licensed compilers.  Before 1Password, the rules here were so draconian that I took to writing the password down on a piece of paper (yes, a sysadmin doing exactly what he tells people not to do!)  There was no way I could follow their rules and remember a password when I only use it maybe twice a year; especially since they require it be changed every couple months, so every time I’d use it I’d have to change it!  This proves that a password policy can be too “secure” – so much so that it drives security all the way back to the point where you might as well not ask for a password at all, since they no longer hold any meaning (or real security).

Password Rules:

  • The password must be at least eight characters long, and can contain letters, numbers, and punctuation.
  • It must not exceed fourteen (14) characters.
  • It must contain at least one alpha character [a-z; A-Z], one numeric [0-9] and one special character [`! @$%^&*()-_=+[];:'”,<.>/?].
  • It cannot contain spaces.
  • The password cannot be the same as any of your previous eight (8) passwords.
  • It cannot contain your login id.
  • It may not contain any of the following special characters: Asterisk (*) Comma (,) Backslash ( /) Forward Slash (\).

It must not:

  • Be a name (your own, family members, pets, or famous people)
  • Be your social security number, driver’s license number, passport number or some other identification number.
  • Be repeating numbers, letters or characters (111111, aaaaaa, !!!!!!)
  • Be a number or character combinations that are next to each other on the keyboard (123456, asdfgh)
  • Be a dictionary word of any language
  • Begin with an exclamation point (!) or question mark (?)
  • Contain your IDSID or WWID
  • Have the same first three characters.

Password Extravaganza

For some time now, I’ve been thinking that I needed to start changing passwords. Though I’m a sysadmin by trade, and therefore security is a very important aspect of everything I do, I too had fallen into a rut of using too few passwords and too little security for things. Not that I would use one password for everything, but I had about five or six passwords, with a few variations, that I would use everywhere. The passwords were ranked in order of security, so one was used for very high security things, another for less secure things, all the way down to an almost throw-away password for sites where I didn’t really care. But having the iPhone I figured I should be able to find something that would help me keep track of more than just a few passwords. A few applications came into view, but one seemed to have the best features for me: 1Password.
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Dear Verizon, Plz Don’t Suck Too

As I sit here watching my network connection go up and down, like it did a few days ago, I’m reminded of a problem I have with Verizon any time I have problems with my DSL (which I’ll happily admit is very infrequently, so kudos for that).  And that is, there is nowhere.. NOWHERE.. that I can go on their website to file a problem report.  No, call their 888 number, it’s “faster”!  Yeah, except when I don’t have time to call and wait on hold for a half hour for the next available representative.  I know they’ve got a trouble ticketing system in there somewhere, because once you’ve called and reported a problem you can track its status online.  But a company that deals heavily in Internet products having no way on the Internet to report problems?  Don’t suck.

I’ve had this conversation with people there every time I’ve had a problem with their service (since the first time I ever did when I asked, “Where do I go to file a ticket online, I couldn’t find it?”) and every time I’ve been told they’ll forward my request “up the chain” to someone else.  So I can only guess that there’s someone there who thinks end-users are either too stupid or otherwise undeserving of the ability to type in what their problem is and click submit.  At least calling the business DSL office, when you can get in touch with someone, usually doesn’t result in a comment about rebooting Windows…

When Did “Good Woman” Become “Bad Man”?

That’s the punchline to a George Carlin joke.  One particular word, a compound word really, which each part is fine on its own.  Why was I more tempted to put that in the title?  Because that’s what I thought when I found that this, and at least two other sites I run in one way or another, got compromised by a WordPress exploit some time ago.  Of course I didn’t even notice it at first, wasn’t until I wanted to change the theme on one of the sites.  Now I apparently have to change the theme on all of them, because those themes don’t exist anymore anyway.  Lovely.

I think I need a drink 😛

Linux + PS3: Emulation Paradise

Having seen a lot of people recently talk about running emulators on their PlayStation 3s under Linux, I thought I’d give it a try.  Quite frankly, I’m not sure how so many people can be happy with how their setups work when I see their list of things that aren’t working properly.  From wireless controllers which don’t work without a wire to full screen displays that aren’t full screen, most of the pages I found talked about all the little bits that weren’t working, while also mentioning all the things that worked great.  So for some unknown reason, I decided to try it myself; at the very least, I thought I could probably live with some of the caveats, and at most I might get everything working perfectly.  Well, I’m quite happy with the result, so I figured it would be good to share my experience and what worked.  Not so much that anyone reading this through normal means of reading my website would find it interesting, but Google Knows All.
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ICQ Number Stolen?

22:17:43 <@root> oscar(2109563) - Error: Disconnected.
22:17:43 <@root> oscar(2109563) - Signing off..

Seemed harmless enough.  My ICQ connection disappears sometimes, so on February 2nd I didn’t worry about it when this happened.  Hell, I probaby didn’t even notice.  However, that’s when the fun ended I guess:

22:17:43 <@root> oscar(2109563) - Reconnecting in 5 seconds..
22:17:48 <@root> oscar(2109563) - Logging in: Signon: 2109563
22:17:48 <@root> oscar(2109563) - Couldn't log in: Incorrect nickname or password.
22:17:48 <@root> oscar(2109563) - Logging in: Signing off..
22:17:48 <@root> oscar(2109563) - Logging in: Reconnecting in 15 seconds..
22:18:03 <@root> oscar(2109563) - Logging in: Signon: 2109563
22:18:03 <@root> oscar(2109563) - Couldn't log in: Incorrect nickname or password.
22:18:03 <@root> oscar(2109563) - Logging in: Signing off..
22:18:03 <@root> oscar(2109563) - Logging in: Reconnecting in 45 seconds..
22:18:48 <@root> oscar(2109563) - Logging in: Signon: 2109563
22:18:48 <@root> oscar(2109563) - Couldn't log in: Incorrect nickname or password.
22:18:48 <@root> oscar(2109563) - Logging in: Signing off..
22:18:48 <@root> oscar(2109563) - Logging in: Reconnecting in 135 seconds..
22:21:03 <@root> oscar(2109563) - Logging in: Signon: 2109563
22:21:03 <@root> oscar(2109563) - Couldn't log in: Incorrect nickname or password.
22:21:03 <@root> oscar(2109563) - Logging in: Signing off..
22:21:03 <@root> oscar(2109563) - Logging in: Reconnecting in 405 seconds..
22:27:48 <@root> oscar(2109563) - Logging in: Signon: 2109563
22:27:48 <@root> oscar(2109563) - Couldn't log in: Incorrect nickname or password.
22:27:48 <@root> oscar(2109563) - Logging in: Signing off..
22:27:48 <@root> oscar(2109563) - Logging in: Reconnecting in 900 seconds..

Never did reconnect.  Now, since my password wasn’t changed by me, I’m pretty sure that all the various IM programs I have which have the password stored will have it stored correctly.  My first thought when I saw all of this – the next day, mind you – was that there was some global ICQ problem.  It’s happened before.  That, or maybe ICQ was actively blocking the program that I use – bitlbee – from connecting to the network.  But it wasn’t long before I found out that everything was basically fine, except for my account.  Tried telling their website that I wanted a new password, only every email address I throw at the site comes back with a “We can’t email a password to that address” error.  Which really makes it sound like I was banned or something, but who knows?  Their tech support requires you to login before posting a question (cute, really) and it looks like nobody answers questions there anyway.  There’s no published information for actually getting in touch with a real person somewhere either.  So it looks like, while my UIN exists, and for all intents and purposes is still me (shit, my *photo* is still on there too…) I don’t have an ICQ number anymore.  Which annoys me mostly because of the fact that I created that account over a decade ago.  And since all the information about that “person” is still looking like it’s me.

So if you happen to know someone at ICQ, or are someone there, drop me a line – I’d love to have my account back, or at least know why all the methods provided for me to get it back aren’t working.

Idle Hands

I’ve mentioned IRC here before a few times; well, the network that Leigh and I setup a few years ago is growing ever so slightly. I installed a different services package, and we just changed server programs as well (to Charybdis since Hybrid seemed to be going nowhere and this has some nice features). We’ve also picked up another link, making three servers in the network. Why bother, you might ask?

Initially the “network” was just the two of us, and only because I’d been playing with IRC servers for a long time and thought it would be fun to link to the one Leigh already had setup. After running it for a while, we realized having more than one server was handy – if one of us had some kind of outage, we could congregate on the other server until it came back. We’ve never really “advertised” the servers, though I’ve posted about them here a few times, and picked up the occasional additional person now and then. But I’ve wanted to expand things for a while and make a bigger network – not necessarily thousands of users, but more than the handful of us who chat.

I checked out a couple websites that list IRC networks, and one of them had an interesting bit on their registration page: What does your network do that others don’t? What reason would users have to choose your network over some other one? Honestly, there wasn’t one. But reading through a lot of the posts on the site showed many people who don’t have a clue about how to run a networking service of any kind. They download the server code, compile it, run it, and think that’s the hard part – though sometimes getting the server configured can be quite difficult. So I thought, “What about a network that teaches people how to do this?” It seemed to be a good fit, after all – most of us are technically inclined and do similar things for our work, so we do know what we’re talking about. And too many people get the response of “STFU noob” if they ask questions which some might consider “newbie” questions about linking and networking. Of course they have to learn somewhere, why not here?

So that’s it. (and the network) exist, at least in part, to teach people about networking and server administration. I’m sure there will be other channels and other things that go on there, but you’ve got to start somewhere and that seems as good a place as any. For now at least, this page will serve as the network’s “home page” as well; at some point in the future I may get fancier with DNS and have a separate page for since I wouldn’t want to lose my homepage for it. But in the mean time, those who come here to learn about IRC might learn a bit about me, and those who know me might learn a bit about IRC. Seems like an even trade, no?