Thursday, November 18, 2004

Pet peeves ...

1> Phishing -- this is particularly dangerous! Phishing is the new scam technique where the scammer sends you a well-formatted e-mail that is supposedly from someone you trust, asking for an "update" of account or personal information. They often include links to Web pages that look just like the "trusted" site's pages, where you are supposed to input the updated information ... or ask you to put in the info via an applet in the e-mail itself.

I've seen these myself, supposedly from known entities like PayPal, eBay, or your local bank -- complete with "official" logos and formatting. If you do not look very, very close, you could be fooled ... I almost was.

The "giveaways " to these scams are not always obvious -- the formatting might not be "exactly" like the trusted entity, they may ask for information that you'd think is outside the scope of what the trusted entity needs (like bank routing/account numbers, passwords, etc.).

My recommendations:

If you get a request from someone you do e-business with for such an "update", DO NOT USE ANY OF THE LINKS IN THE E-MAIL TO REACH THE "UPDATE" SITE. Go DIRECTLY to the homepage of the business, and use its "normal" updating methods to make the update if you think it needs to be done.

If you're asked to send your password or account information directly from the e-mail -- either by replying, or through an embedded form -- DO NOT DO SO! Legitimate businesses NEVER ASK FOR PASSWORDS OR ACCOUNT NUMBERS TO BE SENT VIA E-MAIL -- OR FROM AN E-MAIL FORM!!

Inform the "trusted" entity that you have been the subject of a phishing expedition.

2> Spyware -- I just went through the home desktop last night with Ad-Aware, and found dozens of the little critters in my systems. Yeah ... I should run Ad-Aware more often, but why do we let people presume that their right to pursue happiness extends to cluttering up my computer, to the point that it fouls up my ability to get e-mail?

Speak freely and pursue happiness -- post a blog, build a site, sell stuff on eBay, whatever. Just remember that your rights do not extend to sticking your electronic camel's nose into my cybertent -- and leaving it there!

3> Low-flow toilets. I've had to unclog mine three times in the last four days. Low-flow toilets are a prime example of the counterproductive results you get when activists and politicians attempt to drive the design process with mandates instead of markets.

The goal is laudible -- who doesn't want to save water (especially if you pay the water bills I do)? The problem is, in order to meet the 1-gallon-per-flush target, the laws of sewage phyiscs get in the way. What you end up with is a toilet that clears on the first flush only if "everything" has the national-average consistency -- deviations from that average will result in multiple flushes.

If it doesn't clear the first time, you end up using MORE water than the old 1.5/2 gallon models. Frequently, it does not clear the first time. This is not what we engineers call a "robust" system -- when it comes to low-flow toilets, small changes in conditions produce large degredations in performance, including the very performance criterion that drove this latest design ... how much water is used for waste disposal.

Once again, the activists are guilty of practicing engineering without the qualifications -- in particular, the training to appreciate that fundamental design rule, "the devil is in the details".

We see it again and again -- from the 1980's debates about disposable diapers vs. cloth diapers (do you know what the REAL environmental impact of a cloth diaper is -- as in water usage, detergent usage, power usage?), to the attempts in California to mandate fleet percentages of ZERO-emission vehicles (which drove the auto industry down many unproductive roads, to the point that the introduction of virtually-zero-emission vehicles like hybrids have taken longer to get to us, IMO).

Before you attempt to legislate the physical world, you had better always remember the words sometimes attributed to Star Trek's Montgomery Scott:
"You canna change the laws of physics"


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