Gary D's Take

How did we get HERE?

How did we get HERE?

Aug 30, 2012

When I was in college at Southwest Texas Sate, some friends of mine and I were on our way back from a” field trip” to Nueva Laredo , which is just across the Mexican border from Texas. We had all been researching the local customs very diligently and one of my friends was ‘napping’ in the back of his van while I was driving. Somehow we found ourselves somewhere in Houston which is slightly off course if you are headed to San Marcos, just south and west of Austin. Also with us was another fraternity brother who , while not “napping” was still “overwhelmed” by the cultural experience we had shared. When my “napping”friend awoke , he looked around and asked me , “How the HECK did we get HERE?”

This (heavily edited) anecdote from my early college career is very descriptive of how we have reached the current state of our country at the present time. On the wall in my office is a saying,” There are three kinds of people – those who make it happen , those who watch it happen and those who wonder what happened.” Clearly my “napping” friend was the one “wondering” what happened. My “overwhelmed” companion watched it happen and obviously , I was “making” it happen. How was I chosen to be the “maker” of things happening? Clearly , I was the obvious choice out of the three as I was not as “sleepy” or “overwhelmed” as my friends. While I somehow managed to get us out of Mexico and into Texas (I still wonder about that) , my vision for the path we needed to take was flawed. We probably should gave recruited a different driver…… or taken the bus. My “napping” friend , now “refreshed and alert” , took over the driving and got us back to school without further mishap.

My hope is that those who have been “overwhelmed” and watching for the last four years , have recovered and are now ready to embrace a new driver for our journey. Hopefully , those “napping” are awake now and most importantly , the current “makers” of things happening , will realize that just because you may have been the “best” of a bunch of bad choices , you really aren’t capable of getting us where we need to go. It’s time to let someone else drive.

SOMEBODY-SOMEWHERE……

SOMEBODY-SOMEWHERE……

Aug 26, 2012

James Gregory, the famous southern comedian (and a personal favorite of mine) has a bit he does about labeling on packaging. Along with the part where he talks about how some  laxative labels say “Works while you sleep” and him saying, “I don’t want that!” (Me neither!) , he mentions the part of the labeling that says “ Warning! This is a medicine and is to be taken for medicinal purposes only. This product is not food or candy.” Gregory’s explanation for that is they put that on there because “SOMEBODY- SOMEWHERE” ate it like candy and were not pleased with the results.That hapless person then sued the laxative company and thus was born that part of the labeling. This leads into a whole segment about crazy warnings on products that are there because “SOMEBODY-SOMEWHERE” did that.

Adopting that mind set…when I got ANOTHER email from the “lawyer” in Nigeria who is representing the estate of that long lost relative who has been living in Nigeria and recently passed away leaving me a ton of money. I thought, “why do they keep sending these?” The answer , ala James Gregory, is “SOMEBODY—SOMEWHERE” has fallen for that scam and sent them five thousand dollars via Western Union to cover the “costs” of getting all that money from the non-existent dead relative they never heard of.

My family has always been very active in rescuing animals , particularly dogs. My wife was approached one time , via email, by a “missionary” family on a mission trip to Kenya that was looking for a “home” for their Papillion that “couldn’t stay in Kenya with them”. All the “missionaries” wanted was twelve hundred dollars to cover the air freight for the dog…in advance via Western Union. Then all we had to do was pick up the dog  at the airport. When we offered to pay the airline directly…our pseudo missionaries immediately lost interest. Once again I thought “Why do they do this ?”…the answer…”SOMEBODY-SOMEWHERE…”!

Interestingly enough, an article on spam and phishing by Owen Linderholm entitled “Keep Organized Crime out of Your Network” on http://www.itsecurity.com/features/mafia-2-protect-yourself-it-security-060707/says that “yes, the Mafia is getting involved.” WHY? Back to James Gregory…SOMEBODY-SOMEWHERE!

Spam has become a BILLION (with a capital B) dollar per year industry and the reason why is very simple, SOMEBODY-SOMEWHERE falls for this stuff….everyday….three hundred sixty five days a year! As P.T. Barnum said , “There is a sucker born every minute.”

I am sure you are saying to yourself , “I would never do something that stupid!” Granted if you are reading this you are probably in the top ten percent of savvy technology users..so what has this got to do with you? Simple , although YOU would never be sucked in to a scam , who do you know that is less techno-savvy who might? The answer to that is probably more than one person. So how can you help? Obviously when our less savvy brethren call us and say “Hey I got this email from……..” We always advise them to delete it and warn about the dangers….that’s a given. As we all well know, most of the time, they call us AFTER they click on that suspicious link or open that bot laden attachment. So what do we do? Do what I am doing now, write about ittalk about itkeep sounding the alarm….ALL THE TIME!

A famous member of the governmental war on drugs once said , “It’s not really the SALE of illegal drugs that is the real problem…it’s the BUYING of them that really cause the problems. If no one bought them, the problem would go away overnight.” If that SOMEBODY-SOMEWHERE that falls for the phishing stopped falling for it….. If sales of fake Viagra didn’t rise after a spam campaign…. if sales of bogus stocks DIDN’T go sky high when the spammers sent out those “stock tips”….. THEY WOULD STOP!

I remember a quote I read by a famous con-man who had gone straight and was working for the law. “ You can’t con a truly honest person. All cons have an element that appeals to the larceny in someone’s heart. If you truly believe that you can’t get something for nothing and are not willing to compromise your principals , NO ONE can successfully con you.”

So , my brothers and sisters in technology, keep preaching the gospel about spam and phishing. Do not shirk your task or waiver from your purpose! The soul you save from spam will be one less SOMEBODY-SOMEWHERE!

A Different Recession in Alabama

A Different Recession in Alabama

Aug 22, 2012

In 2007 there were eight Fortune 500 companies headquartered in Alabama. Today there is only one. Texas whose economy is rebounding at a faster rate than any other state has fifty one Fortune 500 companies that make their home there.

What happened to Alabama ? Other states that have seen an exodus of large corporations include Michigan and Maryland.  Michigan’s reason is pretty obvious but what about Maryland? By all accounts Maryland’s problem is the recent rise in tax rates. Big companies are sensitive to a lot of factors but  operating costs are high on the list. So did Maryland kill the “goose that laid the golden egg”? It certainly looks like it.

It doesn’t take an economics degree to realize the prosperity fallout associated with having a “500”  company headquartered in your state. Big companies tend to buy the things they need locally and large companies need lots of stuff. Remember this conversation , “Why is ABC Company buying so many widgets?” answer, “Oh they supply X to (insert name of Fortune 500 company here).”

So what’s the fix for Alabama’s “Fortune” deficit? I certainly don’t have that answer but I do know that if we don’t do some thing, Alabama’s comeback trail will be hard , long and treacherous.

Don’t clean the toilet with your toothbrush.

Don’t clean the toilet with your toothbrush.

Aug 18, 2012

I talked with a client the other day who was considering moving his business completely to cell phone. “ I think we can do everything on our cell phones.” he stated.

 

I tried to explain to him why that wasn’t a real good idea. I failed miserably. Now do I think he will eventually see the problem with this and change his mind? Yes I do but I wish I could have explained it a little better and saved him AND HIS EMPLOYEES some anguish. Maybe if I write about it here I can do a better job of explaining this.

Cell phones are one of those technologies that have become indispensible  very very quickly. Think about how long you have felt like you couldn’t get through the day without yours…it probably hasn’t been very long. For me it has only been in the last decade that I have become permanently attached to mine. Now granted “the last decade” is a pretty long time but it pales in comparison to my forty year relationship with the automobile .

Like the automobile , our cell phones are a very personal piece of technology. Mine has MY email and MY contacts it also has MY pictures. MY customers , close contacts and friends call ME on MY phone. “ I have his cell phone.” is a phrase we use to express our close relationship to that person.  I don’t have that kind of relationship with the phone on my desk. It’s a business tool like my calculator (yes I still have one) or stapler. My Dad always used to say that the key to doing a good job was having the correct tool for that job. To use an analogy that Dad used….” You CAN clean the toilet with your tooth brush , but you aren’t going to be very pleased with the results .”

The major problem with cell phones is their lack of ability to transfer a call. Have you ever called someone about a business matter on their cell phone and found that to accomplish your task you really needed to talk to someone else at that that business.  Then what do you do? Hang up and call that person? Cell phones are designed to communicate with a specific person directly not a group of people. They aren’t a collaborative tool. We all learned in Business 101 , that businesses grow by becoming a group endeavor and incorporating the talents and efforts of many people. Entrepreneurs expand their businesses by delegating tasks and “cloning” themselves. The ones who don’t do this well FAIL.

The good news is that modern phones systems are able to incorporate cell phones into the mix and enhance their collaborative power . For example , yesterday someone called my direct number at the office. I didn’t happen to be at my desk so I answered it on my cell phone which rings along with my desk phone. I needed something at my desk to answer the question so I sent the call back to my desk phone. I looked up the information I needed and answered that question. We then found that to complete the task , he needed to talk to another person in my office. I transferred him to that persons phone and we were able to take care of that customer and let him get back to doing what he does. Without our phone system , satisfying that customer’s needs would have been a lot harder and probably more irritating for him.

OK Hackers and Scammers…I Give Up!

OK Hackers and Scammers…I Give Up!

Aug 12, 2012

I recently posted about my annoying Twitter hack. It was just that…annoying….but no real damage done. Now I have experienced a whole new level of irritation…with E Bay.

I have been buying and selling on E Bay for years. I have not only bought and sold the requisite tech stuff but I have even bought and sold cars and boats.

I bought my 23 foot Regal cruiser on E Bay five years ago from a dealer in Coral Gables, Florida. My family and friends have had many great outings and lots of fun on her. Eventually , the second happiest day in a boat owners life comes…the day you sell it! I pulled her out of the slip on Smith Lake more than a year ago thinking I might move the boat to Guntersville or maybe even back to Florida. Time and circumstance have conspired to cause it to sit right here and eventually I decided to sell it.  Since I bought it on E Bay , it made sense to sell her that way…right?

The first auction went to a guy in Tennessee who had to back out. OK…….stuff happens. The next go-round didn’t get the price I wanted…OK. On my third attempt I made the acquaintance of a lovely  gentleman who claimed to be working on a cruise ship in the Caribbean. All I had to do , according to the fake email from PayPal that I got, to get the money that HAD NOT been deposited in my account was to send $1500 via Western Union to some bogus shipping company in Kuala Lampur and they would release the funds that weren’t actually in my account. I went through all the necessary fraud reporting procedures with E Bay and Pay Pal and relisted. Things were going well and the boat sold for what I wanted.

The buyer appeared to be a guy from a small town in Georgia near a couple of lakes…made sense. My first communication with my new buyer yielded a surly response demanding things that I was unable and not obligated to do like “test drives” and forgoing the deposit.

My business like response about terms and such stuff netted this reply-

“Sir,
Tnis is not the end of this situation. Crooks like u need to be brought to justice. I’m a police cnief and nave contacted the proper ajthorities.”

Obviously this is the work of a nine year old or another semi-literate hacker in some third world country working off a cell phone. I’m guessing the nine year old.

The net result is I have wasted two weeks, been irritated beyond belief and I have not sold the boat. Am I mad at E Bay? Maybe they could do more to keep out the scammers like my faux cruise ship guy…I don’t know what that would be. Maybe they could do more to keep nine year olds off??? Once again I am not sure how you filter out a determined internet savvy pre-teen with a smart phone.

Some people are hesitant to buy from E Bay because they are afraid of being taken advantage of. I personally have had thousands of transactions over the years and I honestly don’t remember having a bad experience as a buyer or as a seller….till now! I guess the old caveat “Let the buyer beware” gets reversed on E Bay…..”Let the SELLER beware!”