Monday, December 6, 2010

How to Have a Conversation with a Random Spammer

While I am a confirmed Skypernaut, I learned that Trusty Friends Nova and Stormy don't always have access to Skype.  They use Google Talk during these times.  I discovered that GTalk is pretty much like Skype, except not as good.  Now, to be fair, it works beautifully for IMing. It's fast, it integrates with Gmail nicely, and it doesn't use as much memory. However, it lacks a number of Skype features I've come to depend on.  For instance, it does not flash on my bar like Skype does to let me know there's an update in one of the numerous chats I'm in there.  GTalk beeps instead.  Anyone who knows me, or has read this blog long enough, knows that I am a Geeky Mom.

This means one of 3 things.

a. I'm playing Skillet, Lacuna Coil, Kamelot, or Handel's Messiah (depending on time of year) at outrageously loud levels while singing at the top of my lungs, and will NEVER hear the little GTalk beep. I may not have the same voice quality as Simone Simons or the sopranos singing the arias in the Messiah, but I make up for it in vocal enthusiasm.
b. The kids are screaming about who has to pack the last dirty coffee cup in the dishwasher, and I have stuck my fingers in my ears and have reached the LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA!!!!! stage of the evening, and will NEVER hear the little GTalk beep.
c. I'm fragging baddies in Middle Earth, Vabbi, Firenza the Eta Eridani Sector block, or on Dantooine, and will NEVER hear the little GTalk beep.

Switching conversations in Skype is incredibly easy if you have the recent conversation tab open.  In GTalk, you have to click on the overlapping buttons on the bottom windows bar and hope you get the right one.  There's no way I could have 9 (I'm not kidding) different conversations in GTalk like I do in Skype without that driving me crazy.  Still, I'm willing to deal with what works for others when necessary.

The other thing that Skype does much better than GTalk is handle privacy.  I can set Skype so that only people who I have exchanged contact details with can contact me.  This has saved me a lot of spam IMs from Chinese Nike shoe sellers, Russian prostitutes, and North Korean Viagra dealers.

Last night, courtesy of this blog, a spammer got through on GTalk. I answered because it was someone who had emailed me, and thus was in my contact list.  I had cheerfully ignored the email as probable spam, but GTalk decided since it was in the list of people who had emailed me, it must be OK.  It didn't help that I wasn't paying attention when I answered, since it was 2:30 am.  However, I am grateful for the line of thought this generated, because it gave me a perfect blog topic.

Anyway, here is the actual discussion we had. Names have been changed to protect the innocent and/or guilty.  Note that this was not one of the more brilliant things I've done on the internet, and you should avoid following this example.

2:30 AM jh: hi
  how r u?
 me: hello
2:31 AM jh: whr r u frm?
2:32 AM me: A Geeky town. You?
 jh: india
2:33 AM may i know about something?
2:34 AM me: It depends on the question. :)
 jh: ok
  wht is ur profession
2:35 AM are you busy?
2:36 AM me: Well, it's the middle of the night by me. :)
 jh: ohh
2:37 AM me: I write and manage the family.
 jh: it's your profession
 me: They keep me busy
  I take it you do tech?
 jh: ok
2:38 AM i can not understand what you want to tell exactly
2:39 AM me: you work with computers?
 jh: yes
  nad u
  sorry and u
 me: I play with computers. :D
 jh: ok
  what is ur age
2:40 AM me: Mary Kay had a wonderful saying when someone asked her age. She said "A woman who will tell her age will tell anything."
2:41 AM jh: ha ha
2:42 AM tell me you are man or woman
2:43 AM are you there?
2:44 AM me: My husband is calling me to bed--must go. Have a good night!
2:45 AM jh: okey
  sleep tightly
  good night

Now, let's examine this in Geeky Mom detail.  Let's say a random stranger meets you on the street or calls you up on the phone, and asks you where you live.  Do you look at him and say, "I live at 90033 South Moron Row, Stupidsville, 90210"?  No! Why?

Because that would be freaking IDIOTIC.

Who in their right mind is going to give a complete stranger their personal information? Apparently, lots of people on the internet, because I see this kind of stuff posted all the time on MySpace, Facebook, IMs, and forums.  For some reason, some people assume that everyone else on the internet is as nice and honest as they are.

Here's a newsflash, folks.  People tell lies on the internet.  Lots of them.  There are sick people out there who take great joy in sitting at their computer figuring out how to separate you from your hard-earned money, and sometimes even from your home or family.  They like to gather that information in one setting if they can, but sometimes these Bad Guys will do this over multiple conversations, gleaning little tidbits of information here and there, until it adds up to one nice, big package of information.  If you're lucky, they'll only sell your email address and info to spammers.  If you're not so lucky, they'll come visit your home and rob you blind.  If you're really unlucky, they'll find you and you'll disappear, with nothing left but a bad picture on a school milk carton and a mention on the America's Most Wanted 'Missing Children' tab.

Geeky Mom Communication Rule #1: Don't tell people you've never met ANY private information like your address, your phone, or the status of your tattoos.

If you wouldn't yell "I've got a a dove-and-heart tat on my left butt cheek!!!!" in the middle of a crowded New York subway during rush hour, don't put it on the internet. Frankly, most of it's TMI quality, anyway, and there really are some things we just don't want to know about you.

By the way, Mr. jh really is from India, believe it or not, and with any luck thinks that "A Geeky Town" is the actual name of my home city.  I can just see him looking it up on Google maps now.

Geeky Mom Communication Rule #2: Don't use your real name on the internet.

Why do I use a screen name? I don't want people looking me up in the phone book and figuring out where I, and hence my kids, live.  I'm rather protective that way.  I also don't want my boss reading my status messages, and I don't want potential future employers or complete strangers finding out about me via Facebook and other social sites, so I don't share my screen name with my co-workers or my employers.  Besides, I don't want to hear about how much my co-workers drank at some bar and then puked back up last Saturday night, either, so that works just fine.

Geeky Mom Communication Rule #3: Don't tell strangers what you do.
Unless it's a work-related site or public knowledge already, strangers don't need to know that you're a professional daisy-picker.  It'll also save you from a bunch of questions on daisy-picking techniques.

Since Mr. jh got info from this site, it was very easy for me to say 'writer and family manager' during our little chat, since as a Geeky blogging Mom, I'm obviously both by default. Of course, in the 'painfully obvious' vein, he answered that he 'works' with computers. Wow, there's a surprise.  When he asked my job, I thought briefly about answering "professional Russian hooker", but Trusty Friend Mishy had already said "5 bucks says he's going to hit on you!" I didn't want to lose the bet quite that fast.

Geeky Mom Communication Rule #4: The only people who need to know your real age are your family and your doctor.
I'm permanently 29, thank you.  This is an excellent age to be, by the way.  You're still young enough to have  great health, barring unusual circumstances, but old enough not to be insanely stupid like you are when you're going on 21.

This reminds me of a story. Yes, I know this is completely off on a tangent, but it's the most epic "I'm not telling my age" story, ever.  It needs to be told.

I had to ask a lady how old she was--in a professional capacity, of course.  She hadn't put down her age or her birthdate on the form she had filled out.  She was one of those women who colored her hair and had that non-descript kind of look that said "I'm anywhere from late 40's to early 60's".  I had absolutely no guess on her age.  Anyway, the conversation then went like this:

Me: "May I ask how old you are?"
Lady: "I'm 19."

At this point, I was thinking "Oh, she jokes around about her age like I do. That's awesome!"  I was about to laugh, when she said in a completely serious tone and with an entirely straight face:

"I've been resurrected."

At that moment, I understood why she was taking a page-long list of anti-psychotic medications.  Apparently, it was OK for her to list those on her sheet but not her age, but then we're talking about someone who, God bless her, connects regularly to the Mother Ship.  I ran my hand over my hair briefly to make sure I didn't have a tin foil hat on and just hearing things myself from the Mother Ship.  I paused, thought hard about what to say next, and wondered how I was going to find out her true age.

This was one of those moments where the insane part of the brain kicked in and hijacked my mouth before the sensible part of the brain could say, "Wait, what? NO NO NO NO NO Don't say that!!!"

Me, entirely seriously: "What year were you born in your former life?"
Lady, entirely seriously: "1953."

I couldn't believe I asked her that.  I couldn't believe she answered with her real birth year instead of whacking me over the head.  I couldn't believe the rest of our time together was spent as if absolutely nothing bizarre had just happened during that exchange.

Geeky Mom Communication Rule #5: The only people who need to know your gender are people who actually see you, like your family and your doctor.
If someone on the internet says "tell me you are man or woman", proudly tell them, "I'm a hermaphrodite, just like Jabba the Hutt!!" I'm not sure what part of "Geeky Mom" made "jh" think I might even be remotely male, but perhaps he was just trying to be polite and make small talk.

I was laughing at this point in the 'conversation', and sharing the potential hermaphrodite answer with fellow Skypernaut and Supremely Awesome Trusty Friend Sabretooth, when he cheerfully pointed out to me that "jh" was a confirmed spammer on the Stop Forum Spam site, according to this search. He also cheerfully and wisely pointed out that jh now had my email.  I said goodnight to jh, blocked him, and took the email address off my contacts list so that GTalk doesn't still think he's one of my best buddies in life.

Geeky Mom Communication Rule #6: If you are stupid enough to continue talking with a complete stranger on the net, especially one from another country, and he professes "True Love!" after only 2 weeks and wants to get hitched, he just wants a marriage visa to your country.

This actually happened to my sister-in-law, but her idea of being 'net-savvy' is knowing how to use a net to scoop fish out of the pond.  She called us from Pakistan on her honeymoon after marrying the guy in London, 6 weeks after "meeting" him in a chat-room.  Why London? He couldn't get a visa into the US to get married here.  She bubbled over in glee about marriage to Mr. True Love, and that she was staying on some family farm with a bunch of chickens running around, despite the fact that he was supposedly a banker at some unknown bank. I got off the phone with her and promptly called Homeland Security to report Mr. True Love. I thought about calling the Marines to go in and rescue her, too, but she got back to the US safely a week later, so we happily avoided an international incident.  I suspect Mr. True Love was watched rather closely for quite some time since he wasn't able to get into the US for several years after that.

Geeky Mom Communication Rule #7: If you come in contact with a spammer, run your antivirus and malware scanners.

I'm paranoid about viruses and malware.  I ran AVG antivirus, including the rootkit scan, and Malwarebytes.  These and many other fine programs are available at one of my favorite sites,

By the way, "jh" didn't hit on me, but Trusty Friend Mishy would argue that I cut him off before he got the chance.


Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Geeky Mom Guide to Installing, Configuring, and Opening the Package of your Razer Orochi

Razer USA Ltd snake logoImage via WikipediaLet me give you a little background first.
I a. am left-handed, and b. have small hands, being of the female persuasion.  Finding a wired gaming mouse to fit either of those requirements is hard enough.  Meeting both is darn near impossible, and thus miraculous on the order of the Virgin Birth and/or Congress abolishing income tax.  Take your pick on the miracle there.

Anyway, I was at Best Buy last night to get a new case fan to replace the cheapy one that comes from the manufacturer and has become ungodly loud.  I had to make this trip because I messed up and asked Trusty Hubby last weekend to buy a 120mm case fan, assuming in a rather large PC that this was the correct size.

Wrong.  It was an 80mm fan.

However, I'm never sad to go to any electronics store, so I was not devastated by this 'mistake'.  I found a nice Antec case fan, a 3 speed LED Tricool that glows blue.  The fact that it glows blue had nothing to do with the purchase; it was entirely because it was an Antec and looked better built than the other 2 fans on the shelf.  Honest. 

While I was looking at fans, I passed by the section with mice.  I love gaming mice, particularly wired mice, since I click buttons so often that I go through batteries approximately every 2.38 seconds.  However, the wired gaming mice found at any retailer are all made for right-handed people with Godzilla-sized palms.  When I game, it's typically for a long period of time, and huge mice make my hands cramp after awhile.  Using a righty mouse is impossible. Here's a hint for retailers--10% of the population is left-handed.  It won't kill you to keep at least 1 lefty mouse around for us to try out.  The only reason I don't buy a lefty mouse online is because I want to actually handle the thing before buying it so that I'm not stuck with something that only guys with hands the size of the Texas Roadhouse super-size 500 pound steak can use.

Usually, I've gone to ambidextrous laptop mice.  They work well enough for most of my needs--they're not righty-based, and they're usually small enough to fit my hand well.  The only problem is that they're not designed for gaming, so the dpi is not terribly high.  When you're fragging a boss, the higher the dpi, the better, and laptop mice typically just don't cut it.  Then there's the 2.38 seconds of battery life.  You have no idea how annoying it is to be gaming, have a boss down to about 2 hit points of life left, and then have the battery decide "Wow, now would be a simply EXCELLENT time to die!!"  By the time I get the battery changed, the boss has now pounded me into oblivion and regenerated all his/her/its health.  This is Not Fun.  It didn't help that I'd dropped it a few times and gotten enough cat hair inside the laser opening to create a giant hairball, so the functionality was lacking quite a bit.

So, there I was, browsing around the mice, not very hopeful of finding one that would meet all my needs. Imagine my surprise when I found a wired, ambidextrous gaming mouse that was small enough that my hand would not spasm after 3 minutes of play, called the Razer Orochi.  It's a laptop mouse that can be used either wired or wireless via bluetooth, which I thought was a very cool feature.  In case you're wondering, Razer loves naming all its mice after snakes, and giant, poisonous ones at that, like "Copperhead", "Mamba", "Naga", and "DeathAdder".  Apparently nice, friendly snakes like garden, corn, or milk snakes don't qualify.  I have to admit that the Cool Factor (tm) would not be quite the same if you called up your gaming buddy and said "Hey, I got the cool new Razer Milk Mouse!!"

In the past, I've used the Razer Lachesis, which, oddly enough, is named not after a 'Serpent of Terror' but a Greek goddess who determines one's fate and length of life. Despite the fact that it performed wonderfully for gaming, it was just a bit too big, and my hand kept cramping when gaming.  When the wire shorted out on it, I decided to go back to a mobile wireless mouse until the performance and battery issues drove me up the wall and out the door to actually shop. Having been generally pleased with Razer, I decided to try out the Orochi.  Now, the Orochi isn't a lefty mouse.  I'm probably going to have to get with some engineer to design lefty gaming mice for women or something like that.  Nonetheless, it met my needs--it could be used by a lefty, it was a gaming mouse, it was wired, and it was not Godzilla-sized.  

In case you're wondering, an Orochi is a mythical Japanese 8-forked serpent, complete with not only 8 heads, but 8 tails too.  This mouse is well named, because it takes 8 hands to get the package open.  The package had 4 separate compartments--I am not kidding.  It has the outer package, made of a sort of plasticized cardboard that was 'Hermetically Sealed For Your Protection' with about 18 thousand pieces of clear tape heat sealed on.  I.e., no one short of a 3 year old could get into it.  Fortunately, being of the female persuasion, I have some nails--not long, mind you, because that would get in the way of keyboarding, and a Geeky Mom does have her priorities.  Nevertheless, after about 10 minutes, I was able to pick enough of the tape off to get past the outer package to the 3 inner packages.  

Two of these 3 packages were in the same plasticized cardboard, but weren't heat-seal-taped shut.  These contained the handy zipper fabric pouch for the mouse, the detachable USB cord, and 2 AA alkaline batteries.  Including the necessary batteries is a very nice touch, because it is virtually guaranteed that when you buy an electronic item, you have exactly one battery less than what you need for it in the kitchen junk drawer.  

The other cardboard package contained the user manuals.  Plural.  There were 5 of them, I kid you not.  There was the 'quick start' guide for folks who have ADD and/or don't feel like reading more than one page of instructions, including the 2% portion that isn't pictures. Then there was the instruction booklet for Mac users, another one for PC users, and 2 more of the same, but in French.  Apparently, Razer ships frequently not only to the US but also to France, Quebec, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.  

The final package held the actual mouse.  It was made out of that heavy-duty clear plastic, hermetically sealed with another 18 thousand pieces of heat sealed clear tape which said "You are NOT going to shoplift this thing!!!" I.e., no one short of a 3 year old could get into this one, either.  After picking at this set of tape with now-sticky nails for another 15 minutes, I finally got one end open.  I discovered the mouse was embedded in more of this heavy duty plastic.  Fortunately, my hands are small, so I was able to get one hand inside the package to grab the mouse.  It was a good thing I didn't have bigger hands.  Anyone else would need a chainsaw to cut through that plastic.  I pulled on the mouse, only to discover it was stuck in the packaging.  I pulled harder.  The top came off.  Usually, this is A Bad Thing.  What I didn't know at the time was that the top is supposed to come off in order for you to insert the batteries.  After sighing my relief that the top snapped back on and I hadn't broken it, I managed to get 2 fingers of the other hand under the plastic that was hanging on to the mouse for dear life, and push up to pop the mouse out.  If your hands are too big to get inside the package, find a 3 year old or your trusty chainsaw to help you.  It's the only way you'll get the thing out of there.

The last thing I found, in a box virtually dripping with venom and Death, was a haiku. One does not typically find poetry inside a box of any electronic items, much less those promising to kill anything that happens to get in your gaming way.  It was titled "Ode to Yamata no Orochi".  Fortunately for the Congolese, it was also conveniently translated into French.

Eight-headed serpent
of myth, longer than mountains
Whose tail hides the blade.

Serpent a huit tetes
Du mythe, plus long que les montagnes
Dont la queue cache la lame.

I would like to take a moment to point out that odes and haiku are two very different types of poetry, and that the French version violates the classic 5/7/5 syllabic convention.  I did wonder briefly if the programmers sat around and had a little contest to see who could write the best and/or worst one, with a prize being a Starbucks latte, but I'm probably descending into the snarky at this point.

Shockingly, I read all the instructions, except the ones destined for Congo, prior to plugging in my mouse.  This is a Geeky Mom, thing, I think.  I hate having to go back and fix mistakes because Someone *cough*Trusty Hubby*cough* hasn't read the instructions first.  I learned you can only configure it in wired mode, and since I always re-map my mouse buttons to work with my leftiness, this was good to know.  Of course, I planned on using it only in wired mode anyway, but I deemed that useful information if I ever get another laptop.  I then plugged the mini-USB part of the cord in the proper place on the mouse and read the instructions on how to plug the mouse in in order to load the drivers. I cheerfully went to the Razer support site and downloaded the firmware updater software as instructed in the manual.

You have to understand that this is meant to be a laptop mouse.  The cord is quite short.  If you're like normal people and have your case at some distance from the top of your desk, the cord likely won't be long enough.  My case sits on top of a nice little glass tray table next to my desk so I can reach it more easily after having the knee surgery, so this worked just fine.  

After reading the discussion of how to plug it in to install the firmware, I realized that people with the "normal" computer set up would have trouble with following the instructions on installation unless they were either human pretzels or members of the Circque du Soleil.  In order to plug it in, you first have to turn the power switch on the mouse to the 'off' position, conveniently delineated by the side of the switch not marked with a tiny hash mark that one can see only with a 5x magnifier.  Then, while pressing the left, right, and center buttons simultaneously, you plug the mouse into a USB port on your computer.  If you only have 1 hand, or have the coordination of a dead flea like me, you're screwed.  So, I did a few taekwondo arm stretches, focused my chi, said a prayer, and got the thing plugged in.

Then I tried to find the "Configurator" as instructed in the manual.  I searched all over my computer for this. I tried to search on the Razer site, only to discover I 'had to be logged in'.  This required a serial number, helpfully located in miniscule numbers on the underside of the little plastic tab that you use to pull your batteries out when they die in 5.82 seconds (I figure Razer's batteries last a little longer than Microsoft's).  It did not help that on this tiny tab of plastic there was a string of numbers that was about as long as pi carried out to the 58th digit.  I registered my product and still needed to log in.  However, Razer has apparently decided login fields are not required on their site.  So, I did the next best thing, and googled my problem.  After a few searches, I found a forum where a guy posted a similar problem to mine.  After reading several of the less-than-helpful answers, like "RTFM!!" and "Dude, are you blind? It's so EASY!!", someone asked "did you download the drivers?"

This made some part of my brain go "Wait--didn't I just download and install the drivers???"  Then I looked back at the Razer site.  It turned out that you have to download TWO programs, not just one. I'm not sure why no one thought about bundling them into one package.  It did not help that Razer separated them on the list of programs, and put the drivers, apparently as a test of our intelligence, at the bottom of the list of software, completely separate from the firmware updater, which is at the top of the list.

So, just to be clear, you need TWO things to make your Razer Orochi run in anything other than 'basic' mode.
1. The firmware updater.  Install that first, then plug your mouse in using the method described in the manual. Consult the Cirque du Soleil if you have trouble with that.
2. Then, download and install the drivers needed to install the configurator.

Once I got that done, the configurator worked as the manual instructed.  I got my mouse buttons remapped, my scroll light turned on, and the mouse is working beautifully.  

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