Monday, May 9, 2011

Dreamworks SKG perpetrates digital media theft!

I noticed a problem recently with my digital media purchase of the movie titled "How to Train Your Dragon" from I contacted them and was told:

Due to licensing restrictions for How to Train Your Dragon., it's no longer available for viewing or redownload from Amazon Instant Video.

I had purchased this digital video in place of purchasing the physical media so that I could stream it to one of my many digital media devices (Roku). I'm angered that the same studios that rally against theft of their product essentially stole their product from my possession. How is this legal? Here is what I sent Dreamworks SKG:

I'm writing you to complain about the theft perpetrated by your organization. I am no longer able to view the digital video titled “How to Train Your Dragon” that I purchased on This purchase was made over 5 months ago. I called them to investigate and was told that I'm unable to view it due to some exclusive streaming agreement. I can understand if you disallowed new digital purchases at Amazon, but to take away my rights to view the content I had legally and rightfully purchased is outright theft! It's as if you came into my home and stole one of my DVDs. This is a perfect example of why people steal media. What ironic is you are one of the organizations protesting the theft of your product yet you steal it from me.

The studios and the mafia organizations (RIAA and MPAA) trample our rights and fair use rights. I am going to notify my friends, blog, Twitter, Facebook, EFF and representatives about this. I may even reconsider future purchases from your studio(s). With the rise of digital media purchases, eventually purchases of physical media will cease (i.e. printed books). The studios need to reconsider actions such as these or face consequences. At least Amazon gave me a credit. They did the right thing. I wonder what you will do.

These studios trample on our fair use rights. They just trampled on my rights to view a legally purchased video. What's next? Something has to be done to stop these jackbooted thieves!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Bye bye cable tv

I've had cable TV for the past 19 years. I never thought this day would come. Today is our first day without cable TV. I dropped digital cable but kept Internet and phone. Here are the products I used:

An RCA ANT751 antenna I purchased from Amazon:
A Rocketfish RF-G1179 signal amplifier I purchased from BestBuy:

An Apex DT502 DTV converter also purchased from BestBuy:

The installation took about 2 hours which includes unboxing, mounting, and all cables exterior and interior.

  1. I mounted the antenna to a rafter in our attic. I chose to do this because I read on Amazon that it worked for other people and being in the attic, the antenna is away from the elements.
  2. I added a signal amplifier because we are at the fringe of the antenna's range (40mi.), the antenna is in the attic behind wood & siding and our other TV with a built-in ATSC tuner probably has an 80+ ft run from the antenna.
  3. I installed a 10ft run of RG6 from the antenna to the amplifier. This was necessary to get the amplifier close to the nearest outlet.
  4. I moved the two cables from the existing splitter to the Rocketfish splitter.
  5. I changed the setup on our bedroom TV with the ATSC tuner and started a channel scan.
  6. While the bedroom TV was scanning, I connected the DTV converter to the TV in our living room and started a channel scan.

After the scans completed, both TV's have about 23 channels with crystal clear reception. The Apex DTV converter doesn't receive two channels that our bedroom TV does. I'm not impressed with the Apex, however it was free. I purchased it with BestBuy gift cards I received from my employer.

BayNews9? Now I've got channel 10's and 13's all day news channels and they're free! There's Qubo and channel 16kids for our 2yo.

I also have three Roku digital video players with a Netflix subscription ($8/month). I plan on purchasing a fourth Roku soon for a TV in one of my daughters' rooms. I really enjoy the Roku's with Netflix. I know Netflix doesn't have all their collection available to stream, but their business model is going away from DVD by mail, so I'll just be patient while they convert their remaining collection. I also know that the film studios don't want movies available to stream at the same time the disc is released, but I can wait. Besides, the studios would be foolish to keep movies from stream indefinitely because they know people will just rip and steal (I don't do that, but I know people that do). Besides, their flagship Bluray's AACS encryption was cracked in 2007 and we all know that CSS has been cracked since 1999. Therefore, it's in the studios' best interests to make their product available like the public wants. Don't take this as me condoning stealing, which is pirating. Even though the goods are not physical, pirating results in the content owner not receiving restitution for their work. You wouldn't expect to walk into a local movie theater and watch a movie for free, so how is it that people expect they can pirate?

Now if only Hulu+ had better content. I think that too will change as the broadcasting companies realize they can cut out the middle men cable providers from the TV distribution picture. I feel sorry for the cable companies because if they don't innovate to keep their customers, others (like me) can follow suite by dropping some of their services.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

User account security primer.

I've read a few articles about what constitutes good password security. I know the first question I'll receive is "how do you define good"? Well, that can be subjective, however here is my opinion on what constitutes a good password:

  1. Never, ever use a plain dictionary word. ex: cinema
  2. Always use numbers, letters (upper AND lower case) and special characters ($, #, @, etc.)
  3. Use eight to 16 characters per password.
  4. Try to come up with a phrase that you are likely to remember, then take the first letter of each word to form an acronym. ex: The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain = trisfmotp
    Then modify the newly formed word using rule#2. ex: Tr1$fM0tp39
  5. Change passwords frequently (again, this is subjective).
  6. Never re-use a password between sites that contain important information.
  • You should have one password for your email account and not re-use it on any other site.
  • You can have one password for social networking sites.
  • You can have one password for banking sites.
  • You can have one password for sites that contain your credit card information.
  • You can have one password to use on un-important sites (news sites, etc.)
Now, I expect a security savvy person to point out that re-using any password is not a good idea, however expecting people to have a password per site is not practical. If you make it too difficult, people simply won't follow it. So, I tried to come up with a password methodology that is secure and easy to follow. Btw, I adhere to it myself.

Once you've selected a password, I suggest you test its strength to get an idea of how strong it is.

One tool I use to make keeping up with my passwords easier is KeePass. It's a password database that utilizes military grade encryption algorithms (AES and Twofish) to secure the information.

Keep in mind that just like physical security (locks, alarms, etc.), no electronic security is totally secure or fool-proof. However, exercising good judgment can thwart most criminals.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

How to have some security while using Facebook

I've read many articles about Facebook's policy changes and I'm still amazed at how many people do not realize their information is open to other Facebook users, Facebook application developers or the entire Internet. So, I've decided to write up a howto for staying reasonably secure while posting on Facebook.

  1. Security starts with your password. Yes, your password HAS to be secure, creative and memorable. Here's my blog entry on passwords.
  2. A good password is useless if you're sending it over the Internet un-encrypted (i.e. without using HTTPS. This is the encrypted form of the HTTP protocol that transports website pages from the server to your browser.). Make sure you see the lock icon and https://.... See below:
  3. When you connect to Facebook, use this url: They are currently testing this, and hopefully they'll make it the default url for their site.
  4. Make sure you've set your Facebook privacy settings. I recommend only allowing your friends to view your content:
  5. Make sure you lock down the people that you share with and the applications you share with:
  6. Never use the Facebook connect feature to sign on to other websites. You should never use this account/password to access other sites (unless it's a site of a similar category, see my blog entry on passwords). I do not trust Facebook because of how they blatantly disregard a reasonable expectation of privacy regarding our information and content. If you want to use one account, then you'll have to see if the other sites support something like OpenID. Here are a few sites where you can get an OpenID account: Google, and my fav, MyOpenID.
More control over your information is key.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Ever get emails from some organization that belongs to someone else? I've been getting many of those and still receive emails even after notifying them that I shouldn't be on their list. One was from a home owner's association that had an attachment that gave me names, addresses & phone numbers. Well, I'm still receiving spam from one of these, so I figured I'd post their email addresses so that they too can receive some spam:

Happy deleting!!

Monday, October 11, 2010

BBC News - Russia inflates its military with blow-up weapons

BBC News - Russia inflates its military with blow-up weapons

Now I just need one made to look like me. However, I'll bet people would say I'm already full of enough hot air.