2009-08-18T15:56:48.392-07:00I ran into a minor problem when trying to watch video on my XBox. The sound on the XBox worked fine, but there was no sound when trying to watch video.
2009-06-26T22:22:33.258-07:00If you hang out with serious poker players of any sort, you've probably heard of Chinese Poker. Chinese Poker is a poker variant that is extremely popular in the poker community. When I lived in Ireland, I got heavily involved in Chinese Poker. To say that I got addicted to this game would be a gross understatement.The BasicsThere are many variations of the game, but the basics are pretty simple. Each player (up to 4 players) gets 13 cards from a standard 52 cards deck. The 13 card hand is split into three hands: a 3 card hand (the front) and two 5 card hands (the middle and the back).The back hand must be higher in value than the middle and the middle must be higher in value than the front. The highest hand you can have in the front is a three of a kind (straights and flushes don't factor into the value of the front hand). The other two hands are ranked based the standard poker scale.Each player plays one-on-one against each of the other 3 opponents. If you win 2 out of the 3 hands, then you win a certain amount of money. If you win all 3 hands, then you get more money. The amount that you win depends on the type of scoring system you use. The most common scoring system I have seen awards 2 points for winning two out of three hands and 4 points for winning all three hands (called "shooting" or "scooping").There are also "special hands" that are automatic winners, regardless of what the other players are holding. These hands include the following:* 6 pairs* 3 flushes* 3 straights* A 13 card straight* 12 of one suitBonuses are also awarded if you get high ranked hands in your three set hands. These include the following:* Trips in front* Full House in the middle* Four of a kind (middle or back)* Straight flush (middle or back)For more information on the rules of Chinese Poker, you can check out the Wikipedia entry:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_pokerFinding a Local GameLast week, I came across a dated blog post from 2005 about Chinese Poker being dealt at some of the local California card rooms. This rekindled my obsession with the game and I headed off to search a casino that still dealt it. I was directed to the Bike, where there was a game running in the outdoor pavilion. There was a $5/point game already going, but they started up a new table just for me (they were more than willing to accommodate a newbie). I sat down without knowing what the hell I was getting into.House Rules at the BikeThey use a 1-6 scoring system: 1 point for winning 2/3, 6 points for scooping all three hands. If you tie one hand and win the other two, then you win 2 points. Special hands are honored (4 points), but you have to turn your 13 card hand up (with just a single card revealed). Bonuses are awarded as well: 2 points for a full house in the middle, 3 points for trips up front, 4 points for quads, and 5 points for a straight flush.One strange twist that the locals play is called "Aces". If you have one more Ace than your opponent, then you get an extra point. If you have two more Aces than your opponent, you get two. If you have three Aces and your opponent has none, then you get 6 points. If you have all four Aces, then you get 8 points.The Ace rule does not require any skill and all players will break even in the long run. The only thing it does is increase the variance in the game. Playing Aces is optional, but players who do not participate are not exactly welcomed with open arms.The bad news is that I got my ass handed to me at that game. The locals are pretty much experts at the game although I did spot a few mistakes on their part. Unfortunately, I made quite a few mistakes as a result of being new to this version of the game and because of underestimating the power of the scoop. Since I usually play with the 2-4 scoring system, I wasn't quite used to the scoop being worth 6 times the two of three win. I'll be ready for round two in a few days![...]
2009-04-25T02:06:46.693-07:00Finding the Right eBook ReaderIn November of 2008, I started itching for an electronic book reader. After doing a little research, I found that there are really only two major products that were right for me: The Amazon Kindle and the Sony digital book reader.The Sony product is cheaper, looks nicer, has a (rudimentary) back light, has touchscreen support, and has support for PDF files. On the other hand it also has less capacity, no wireless capabilities, more expensive books and a crappy name (on Sony's site, they call it the "Reader Digital Book" or the "PRS-700BC").I admit that I am a sucker for good marketing. In the end, I went with the Kindle because it appears to have much more support from Amazon. I know that Amazon is dedicated in their persuit to make the Kindle line the number one product of its category. When you go to Amazon's web site, it's right there on the home page above the fold. If you go to Sony's site, it would probably take you a few minutes to find the PRS-700BC by just clicking around.This post really isn't about the differences between the two readers though. It's about some of the frustrations that I have experienced using the Kindle outside of the United States.Buying the Kindle 2I made my decision to get the Kindle in November of 2008, but there were rumors that a new Kindle was coming in the first quarter of 2009. I decided to wait and I put in my order the day the Kindle 2 was announced.I am an American national living in Ireland, so I still have an American credit card and an American mailing address. The product was shipped to my mother, who re-shipped it to me. If you do this, I would suggest opening the box and making sure that it doesn't look like you are going to resell the product. This way customs won't slap any duties on the shipment. My mother put "books" on the box and I received it with no hassle.If you don't have an American credit card, it's probably a deal breaker for you. Not only will it be difficult to purchase the Kindle, it will also be a pain in the ass to purchase accessories and books. Amazon won't even ship any of the leather Kindle covers outside of the US. I have heard some stories about non Americans using Amazon Gift Certificates to purchase the Kindle, but even if they were true, you run the risk of having that branch cut from under you at any time.Using the Kindle 2 AbroadThe biggest problem with using the Kindle 2 outside of the US is that you do not have access to WhisperNet, the free wireless internet service that is included with the device. Without WhisperNet, you cannot do the following:You can't purchase books/periodicals from Amazon and have them magically appear on your KindleYou can't access the free book samples at allYou can't shop for books using the device itselfYou can't use the "Sync to furthest page read" to synchronize the page you're on across multiple devices (like the iPhone Kindle app)You can't backup your bookmarks, clippings or annotationsYou can't register your Kindle on the device itselfThere's really only a work around for the first issue. You can connect your Kindle 2 to your computer using the included USB cable and manually upload the files that you have to download from Amazon. Finding these files for the first time is no easy task either. For the first week, I was going through a link on Amazon's web site that said "Your Media Library" and through that vein, I would eventually end at an error page that said "We're sorry, this title is not currently available for download." Eventually, I found the right link (under "Manage Your Kindle") and got the books on the device.This process is a little tedious, but not that big a deal for downloading books once every few weeks or so. What really makes this a pain in the ass is if you want to subscribe to magazines or newspapers. It would be great to wake up, eat a bagel, grab your Kindle and start reading today's issue of the Wall Street Journal on the train. No, you have to log into Amazon, download today's file[...]
2007-04-21T11:27:50.602-07:00I was able to resolve my Slingbox connectivity issue last week. I rebooted the Slingbox and I was able to access it afterwards.
2007-04-15T07:49:05.199-07:00(image) I am an avid supporter of Sling Media and their flagship product, the Slingbox. I am living overseas so my Slingbox in Palm Springs is my window to the world of US television. I have been using it for the past 8 months to watch my favorite US shows while living in Ireland.
2007-04-15T07:02:06.156-07:00I have been using the UT Starcom F1000 handset by Vonage for about 7 months now. Overall, it has been doing the job well, but there is lots of room for improvement. It is a good thing that Vonage does not have a lot of competition in terms of hardware.I am currently living overseas, so using a phone adapter is out of the question. I've already written a post about the details, but let's just say that you have to use a plethora of adapters to get everything working. My best bet is to use a standalone WiFi Vonage phone. Right now (over a year after this model came out), the F1000 is the only option.The UT Starcom F1000 is a WiFi phone that uses your existing 802.11b network and broadband connection to connect to the Vonage network and provide a Voice over IP (VoIP) access.Pros:This is the only WiFi handset that Vonage offers - period.If you have a good broadband connection, the quality of the call is satisfactory. I have only had a few people complain about the quality of the audio.The phone is fairly reliable. It rings when people call it. When you dial, it will ring on the other end.Setting up the connection to your WiFi network is relatively easy. If you know how to set up your WiFi access point, you can connect to it in a jiffy.The AC adapter will support 100v to 240v connections so you can use it overseas with just a plug adapter.Cons:Just like every broadband VoIP solution I have used, there is lag between the person talking and you hearing the audio. This often results in tons of hilarity as you and your friends talk over one another.When you pick up the handset, you immediately realize how little Vonage cares about style. The platic they used is cheap. The buttons feel cheap when you press them. The design of the phone won't be copied by Apple.You have to hold the phone perfectly up to your ear or you won't be able to hear the person on the other end.There is no way to mod any part of the phone. The 6 built in ring tones are all annoying and there are only two volumes: low and high.There are no volume control buttons on the phone. If the phone is ringing and you want to lower the volume on the fly, you can't (although you can send the phone directly to voicemail).The UI is not intuitive. You would think that the big red button on the phone could be used to hang up the phone. You would be wrong.Even if you have a good broadband connection, you are at the mercy of your WiFi connection. It seems that you can't wander too far from your access point without affecting the sound quality of your call.The battery life is not great. The unit can go approximately 2 days without charging with no use. This isn't a big deal since you will mostly use the phone around the house. This can be annoying if you forget to charge the phone and you have to stay tethered to the power cord for a long call.There is no hands-free speaker phone mode.This isn't a critique of the Vonage service. Overall, I think the Vonage service is a great solution for lots of people. This is mostly a review of the UT Starcom handset itself. If you need a Vonage handset, you should get the UT Starcom F1000. When Vonage comes out with a better phone, you should buy it and chuck your F1000 out the window.[...]
2007-04-15T05:43:03.943-07:00Whenever I log into a new computer, I go through an extensive script of customizing and tweaking the default settings to get everything just the way I like it. Since I have to do this quite often (because of getting new computers or reinstalling Windows), I try to keep this script short. I don't like to customize my environment too much because it becomes disorienting and frustrating when you use someone else's computer and your settings are not in place (and when someone uses your computer). This is the same reason many left-handed people don't switch their mouse buttons to make the right-click work like the left-click.I know a handful of co-workers who dock their Start Menu to the left-hand side of their desktop. Whenever I would get "behind the wheel" at their workstation, it always takes a few seconds to figure out what the hell is wrong with their machine. Pressing the Windows key usually answers the question that I am asking in my head: Where is the friggin' Start Menu?After cursing these co-workers for months, I decided to try it out for myself.When you start using this layout, it can be a bit disorienting. When you look for the clock, it's not where you want it to be. When you go to click the Start Menu, your mouse will drift to the wrong corner. Of course, this is all to be expected and it only takes a few days to get used to.The benefits become very obvious after just a few hours:You are making better use of the desktop. When you are editing documents, you typically have a lot of wasted space on the left or right side of the desktop. This is especially true if you have a wide aspect-ratio display (e.g. 1920 x 1200 resolution).You can fit a lot more applications in the Quick Launch section.You can see more running applications in the Taskbar. This makes it easier to switch tasks.You can turn off the annoying "Hide inactive icons" because you will have enough room to show all items in the Notification area (formerly known as the "Systray"). Seriously, how many times have you went to click on something in the Notification area only to have Windows hide it from you one nanosecond before clicking?The clock will display the date and day of the week. It sounds like such a small benefit, but it really helps out a lot.With every non-standard customization, there are always drawbacks.Some applications assume that you are using the Start Menu at the bottom of your desktop. This will cause some windows to appear with the left side under the start bar.When you click the Start Button, the popup menu will cover a large part of the Taskbar.For some reason, the Taskbar resizes itself each time I restart my machine (this only happens on one of my machines).Every time someone uses your computer, they will ask the annoying question, "Where is the friggin' Start Menu?"I am now fully converted to the left-docked Taskbar camp. The biggest overall benefit is that you will end up using your desktop more efficiently. You'll be like the Native Americans who use every single part of the buffalo. Now go open a casino.[...]
2006-08-31T07:52:04.256-07:00I recently moved out of the United States and I needed to take care of two things in regards to my phone situation. I needed a way to retain my US phone number that I have been using for the past 10 years, and I needed a way for friends and relatives to call me without paying an arm and a leg. The best solution that I found was to use Vonage's Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) service.Vonage is an internet-based telephone service that allows you to get low cost phone service over an existing broadband connection. Basically, you connect a Vonage adapter to your existing router and then you plug a regular phone into their box. The adapter connects over the internet to one of their phone switches, which relays the audio to and from your phone.Getting a traditional Vonage set up in a foreign country is a bit of a pain. If you follow the terms and conditions of their service, using their service is not allowed. I really don't think it's because they have a problem with people using their service in a foreign country. I think it is primarily because they don't want to have to deal with issues related to this set up from a customer service point of view.I already had Vonage service in the US, so I figured it would be pretty easy to set up overseas. I contacted Vonage customer support and inquired about the voltage requirements of their adapter. My Vonage box has a 110 watt adapter, and my host country uses 220. Vonage does not have a 220 watt version of their device, so the customer support person suggested that I get a step down transformer. You can get these at Frys or Radio Shack for around $40. I got one, but it was much larger than I expected.I was skeptical about getting this set up to work. I heard too many stories about fellow ex-patriates plugging in their 110 watt equipment and frying it beyond repair (even when using a step-down transformer).Here's how to set it up:Make sure your router is up and running and that you can connect to the internet from a connected computer.Make sure you have a DHCP server running somewhere on the network. This is usually enabled by default on the router. This will allow your Vonage adapter to pick up an IP address and connect to the Vonage service.Connect your step-down transformer to the wall, using the appropriate plug adapter (e.g. US to UK adapter). Make sure the main power is turned off.Plug the Vonage device's AC adapter into the transformer.Connect the Vonage adapter to your main router with a network cable. If the Vonage adapter is also a router, you can connect the "WAN" or "Internet" connection on the Vonage adpater to any regular port on your main router. You can also connect a regular port on your router to a regular port on the Vonage device if you have a crossover cable.Plug your phone into the Vonage adapter's "Phone 1" port. In my case, I bought a UK phone, so I had to also use a UK to US phone adapter.That's it! It's as easy as 1-2-3!This set up is not a whole lot more complicated than a traditional Vonage set up. The only additional components are the US->UK plug adapter, the step-down transformer, and the UK->US phone adapter. After setting it up, however, I realized that this was much more complicated than it needed to be.After setting up this monstrocity, I decided to go with Vonage's other product, the WiFi UTStarcom F1000. This is a WiFi enabled phone, which has a 220/110 watt charger, so I would be able to cut a lot out of the picture, including the Linksys adapter. After I recieve it, I'll be sure to post a review.[...]
2006-08-31T07:42:24.003-07:00I saw this on YouTube. It is the married televangelist couple that Jimmy Kimmel always shows. They are raving about how awesome the Slingbox is. The YouTube caption is "Slingbox - endorsed by God?".
2006-09-01T23:02:30.493-07:00The Slingbox is an internet enabled device that allows you to stream video content from your Television to any other computer on the net. I recently set one up to allow me to watch American television shows while I am living abroad.My review? Two thumbs up...way up. No, it's not perfect, but it fills a need that no other device even comes close to doing.Who needs a Slingbox? I have compiled this list of people who could use one:Expatriates who need to watch television shows not available in their host country (you must have a very understanding friend with broadband who will let you keep the Slingbox at their house!)Business people who travel a lot and have extended stays in hotelsCommuters who want access to their TiVo via their mobile phoneEven though I think the Slingbox is great, it still has its shortcomings:In order to stream the content reliably, the content needs to buffer for about one minute. The stream is not completely blank, instead, the content is streamed at a very slow rate (as low as 4 frames per second). The normal rate is 25 to 30 frames per second. The lag results in both stuttering and slowness. You can tell because when you start a TV show, the theme music will always sound really slow.Since the content is buffered, the actual content being displayed on the TV is on a 10 second delay. When you press a button on the remote control, you can't wait for the content to catch up, or else you will have to wait 10 seconds between clicks. When you use the remote control, the player goes into "Control Mode", where the player trys to display the most up-to-date content. This also results in choppiness and slowness, and can become somewhat frustrtating as you try to anticipate the remote control prompts.Since there is a bit of time-shift when using the remote control, it becomes very difficult to fast forward through commercials. If you have a TiVo, you should learn the "backdoor hack" that allows you to implement the 30 second commercial skip button. This is your best chance for skipping commercials, but even this becomes a bit of a game trying to hit the start of your programs perfectly.The on-screen remote is also frustrating. For most navigation functions, you have to click on the graphic within the button you want to press. For example, if you want to press "Channel Up," you need to click on the triangle on the button, you can't just click the top half of the button. Since you often have to stay 2 or 3 clicks ahead of the player, this can add to the frustration when navigating through menus.If you want to see the Slingbox in action, take a look at these video samples (from YouTube):Slingbox over Windows MobileWatching Slinbox from ChinaSlingbox on a Motorola Q phoneI think most people will be happy with the Slingbox if they can use it in conjunction with a TiVo. Simply trying to watch live TV would just be too frustrating. You can't use the Slingbox if you like to channel surf, because the video choppiness would make you want to shoot yourself in the head. Using the Slingbox with a TiVo (or any other supported DVR) is great because when you press play, you can "set it and forget it" and you will experience very little performance issues.[...]
2006-08-26T09:25:21.203-07:00I recently moved out of the US and I needed a way to get my daily 5 hour dose of American television while abroad. I found that Sling Media's Slingbox was the best solution.The Slingbox allows you to stream content from any video source over the internet. While away from your TV, you can view it using their media player, which is available for the PC, Mac and even Windows Mobile enabled phones.I would wager that most people use the Slingbox to watch their own live TV remotely. On the other hand, I chose to use attach mine to my TiVo. This means that I can queue up hours worth of content and watch it at my own leisure. I couldn't bring my TiVo with me anyway, since the video format for my host country is PAL, and my TiVo is NTSC.The Slingbox comes with an IR blaster, which allows you to control a number of devices, most importantly a TiVo DVR. The software even includes a TiVo remote control which works just like the real thing.Here are the components that I used:Broadband internet connection at the video sourceTime Warner Cable television service with HBOSlingbox with a non-wireless connection to a router (they do have wireless adapters available, but I would guess that the quality would degrade quite a bit)Series 2 TiVo with lifetime subscription and expanded 456 hour capacity and wireless NICBroadband internet connection in the destination locationI found sympathetic relatives who allowed me to park my equipment in their home and leech off their broadband bandwidth. They had a cable modem and router. I just got a coax splitter and plugged one end into my TiVo and the other into their cable modem. Then I configured their router to allow entrance through a specific port so I could access the Slingbox.The setup worked fine at their house, but I needed to test it from outside their network to be certain that it would work for me overseas. I wouldn't want to find out that it was screwed up after my 10 hour flight! I would have been up shit creek, since my relatives are not technical enough to fix the problem without me present. To test the remote viewing, I drove to the nearest WiFi enabled coffee shop and fired up the player. It worked!I am extremely happy with the Slingbox. I would be dead without it. Sure, there is plenty of room for improvement, but I can't think of an easier way to watch my shows. Yes, I could pay $1.99 for some of them on iTunes, but that would get very expensive. I could also BitTorrent them all, but that takes lots of time and is illegal anyway. The Slingbox allows me to watch the shows that I normally watch with very little change to my daily routine.[...]
2006-08-16T02:55:05.003-07:00(image) I had some questions regarding my post on Poker Tournament "Alternates" so I turned to Excel for the answers. I made a spreadsheet of the chip distribution numbers by table for the WSOP tournament that I entered. It shows how different the average chip stacks vary depending on what table you are seated at. As expected, the players with the worst situation are the ones who come in as alternates near the end ot the end of the alternate entry period. In the worse case scenario, the non-broken tables are a 5 to 4 favorite over the table of alternates (T1927.25 to T1500).
2006-08-06T15:33:20.743-07:00I recently played in a World Series of Poker event in Las Vegas. The WSOP is the largest series of poker tournaments, with 45 total events and it boasts the largest poker tournament (the "Main Event") year after year. The fields are so large that the casino cannot accommodate all the entrants at the start of many of the events. Typically, the tournament area can hold up to 2000 starting players. This year, the WSOP Main Event was so large that the "first day" was broken up into 4 first days (day 1a, day 1b, day 1c and day 1d) to accommodate the 8500 entrants. Harrahs, the casino operator that manages the tournaments, has implemented several other changes to satisfy the public's desire for these large tournaments.One thing that they did is sqeeze 11 players per table instead of the typical 9. This makes play rather uncomfortable (11 players plus the dealer!), but it is probably a necessary evil. Casinos have to compete with online poker rooms, which typically seat 10 players per table and can easily accommodate HUGE tournaments, with 5000+ players.The other measure that they take is the notion of "alternates." The casino will initially seat as many players as possible and then the rest of the entrants are designated as alternates. These players will fill the empty seats as the seated players bust out of the tournament.When I first heard of this, I thought that these alternates would be at an extreme disadvantage. This is because I assumed that the alternates would come into a table where a seated player was just removed, with his chips being spread around the 10 already seated players. Since (with all other factors being equal) players with more chips are more likely to win, you would usually be at a disadvantage to these 10 players. This would very likely result in the alternate player being eliminated and the next alternate player would have to take your seat, where he would be at an even greater disadvantage. This would result in somewhat of a "black hole seat," where each alternate sitting in this seat getting sucked into the netherlands of space.This was not the case. As players are eliminated, the dealer hands a card representing his seat to the tournament director. The tournament director would wait until he had 11 of these cards and he would go to the first unbroken table (first table #1, then table #2, etc) and distribute the 11 cards randomly to the players seated there. All 11 players at this table would have to move to the seats designated on the card they received.After this, 11 alternate players would be seated at this empty table. They start with the same amount that the non-alternates started with, so they are at almost no disadvantage. There is very little chance that they will fall into a "black hole seat" like the situation that I described earlier. Yes, they are at a slight disadvantage compared to the rest of the field, but the disadvantage is greatly mitigated by this method.If you want to know why, you can consider the tournament that I entered. My tournament started with approximately 200 tables, each 11 handed with each player starting with $1500 in tournament chips (T1500). That was approximately 2200 seated players, with around 800 alternates waiting at the rail. During play, I heard the tournament director introduce around 50 new tables, or 550 alternates.Let's consider the very first alternate. After the first player is eliminated from the tournament, the average chip stack for the table would be (11 initial players x T1500) / 10 players left = T1650, but you would only have T1500. Instead of having 9.090909% of the chips at your table, you would only have 8.333333%.On the other hand, with the "fill new tables with alternates" method, you are a[...]
2006-08-31T08:35:11.993-07:00(image) Another friggin' eBay buyer tried to scam me this week! I sold an old laptop (purchased in 2000) for $81. The buyer ignored the details of my listing and requested the following two things:
Ok, cancel deal, i leave good fedback for you, and hope you leave good for me. Usual americans agree sent to Russia, but as you wish.Gee thanks, ass-wipe. Consider yourself reported to eBay Safe Harbor.
2006-07-31T02:27:58.340-07:00There is no such thing as a free lunch. Sometimes when someone is fast-talking and you get caught up in the moment, you forget this. It has happened to all of us. I witnessed this last week in Vegas, where some mark lost $100 to a 3 Card Monte dealer in front of Treasure Island.The World Series of Poker is going on in Vegas right now. This is the world's largest poker tournament series (45 total events), with the main event consisting of a $70M prize pool. Needless to say there are lots of people in Vegas with money to burn. I have been to Vegas more than 50 times over the past 15 years and I have to say that this trip was the worst when it comes to witnessing crime.Hookers were everywhere -- and I mean everywhere. The high-priced good-looking hookers hovered mostly at the Rio, where the WSOP events were taking place. They would show up around 10pm in the area outside of the tournament and be very up front about propositions. I saw a few negotiating their terms with tricks up in the food court. The skanky ones were right smack in the middle of the strip, in front of Harrah's and the Flamingo, walking up to cars that stopped.A guy ran by me when I was outside of Ceasar's Palace. He was clutching a purse. A few minutes later, a woman with a bloody shoulder walked by in a daze asking where she could find a cop or a security guard. The purse was torn from her posession by the assailant. My brother and I almost got jumped by three guys trying to start shit outside of Harrah's at 4 in the morning.One thing that I saw was a fishy 3 Card Monte game. This is a game where the con man shuffles 3 cards face-down in front of you and you try to pick a card (usually a queen) after he is done shuffling. If you get the card, you win! If you don't, then you lose. There is a team of people involved in the scam. The majority of the scam is based on sleight of hand and misdirection. What this con man was pulling was much less sophisticated.There was a pretty large crowd around the con man. He would shuffle the cards and just ask a random guy to pick the queen. The random guy didn't need to put up any money, it was just for fun. The guy picked a card and the con man flipped it over, showing that the guy was wrong. It didn't really matter, because no money was exchanged. He did this a couple of times before he found his mark.He shuffled one more time and had the mark pick a card. The mark picked the card on the right. The con man peeked at the card and said "You got it! Just show me the $100 and I'll let you have it! I can't pay you unless I know you were serious about the bet." At this point, the mark did two serious things wrong. The stupidest thing that he did was pull a wad of cash out in front of strangers on the Vegas strip. You should NEVER do this in Vegas. I am reluctant to let people know how much money I have even when I am buying in at the blackjack/poker tables. The second stupid thing that he did was pull out the five $20 bills and hands them to the con man. At this point I can tell the mark was second-guessing himself. The con man tugged the $100 and you can tell he was resisting. The con man gave one final tug and said "OK, now flip it." The card was NOT the queen and the mark was $100 lighter.The mark seemed like a normal guy who just got caught up in the moment. There is a lot of craziness going on and first time Vegas tourists get lost in the lights, booze, money and scantilly clad women that they forget what how the real world works. I think there are a few things you can do to make sure you aren't getting ripped off:Figure out how the con man is making money. No one ever gives money away. Sometimes they w[...]
2006-07-31T01:29:20.350-07:00I give props to ING Direct, who is really taking a stand against phishers. ING Direct is a US-based online bank. They just released a new login process which makes the protecting the customer's identity its top priority.This is their description of their new security feature:Introducing a whole new way to feel safer.Our new state-of-the-art security feature is a way to make you feel even more secure when you login.By adding this new layer of security, you get added peace of mind that you are on the authentic ING DIRECT website (https://secure.ingdirect.com). No other user or website would know what image and phrase you choose – only you and ING DIRECT know.Here’s how it works.You will be asked to select an image and create a phrase when logging into your account. Images can be chosen from our library of images and the phrase you enter can be any words you choose, such as “Home Run” or “Dream Car.”The enrollment process is easy and will take a minute or two. And you will only have to do this once. After enrollment, when you login, your image and phrase will be displayed so you’ll know immediately that it’s safe to enter your Login PIN. To make your login experience even easier, you can “register” your computer with us, so that the next time you login from that computer, we will recognize you.Their login process goes through the following steps:You type in your customer number and submit the form.The next page will show an image and text phrase that you previously chose. If you do not see the image and phrase that you chose, then you either typed in the wrong customer number, or you are NOT at the real ING Direct web site.If you see the proper image and phrase, then you click on your PIN using a keypad that is on the web page.If you are NOT logging in from a computer that you have registered with ING Direct, then they will ask you one of 5 different security questions (such as "What is the street number of the house you grew up in?").The image and phrase verification is used to prevent phishing. If someone sets up a fake web site and they are trying to get you to type in your password, then they would need to know your selected image and phrase to get you to continue with the login process. Of course, this assumes that the consumer knows why they are being asked to select an image and phrase. If the person sets up a fake site and just ask for your customer number and PIN and you forget that you were supposed to see the image/phrase, then you are screwed.The on-screen keypad is there to prevent keyboard logging. This is very prevalent in places where computers are shared or in open areas. When I worked for a K-12 school district in Orange County, this came up much more frequently than you would think. Students are more devious than most adults give them credit for. You can put in a piece of hardware called a keylogger between the keyboard and the computer that will capture every keystroke that the user types in. The hacker later removes the hardware and goes through the stored logs of key presses. If the hacker knows your username, this makes the search easy. They just search for [username]+TAB and then the next set of keystrokes is the user's password.There are already a few things that a user should expect when logging into a web site. If they do not already expect these things, then no amount of security will protect them:The protocol that the web site should be https instead of http.They should see the yellow padlock in their browser indicating that the communication channel is secure and that the SSL certificate is valid.When they type in their password, the password is not echoed on[...]
2006-07-31T00:36:43.306-07:00For some reason, I found this this spam email quite interesting:
Hello my friend. My name is Sveta.
I am very sociable and clever girl.
I have good sense of humour. I am very like romanticism.
My birthday on Semtember, 6, 1979. I have finished the
state university, a trade the manager.
I work in big low corporation.
I am looking for the person which will not play with me in
games and to ask me erotic photos.! For me it is necessary
simple kind and able to love the main thing the person.
I want serious relations and I dream of the present family.
I am very trustful, naive, but can and take offence if I will
understand that use me. I do not like very much when
someone deceive me. If you this person which I need that
please write to me! =) I will be glad to find out you in
more details. I use the Internet because I want to increase a
circle of search of my second half. The previous attempts
to find the love, have ended with failure. The Internet for me
is a new thing. And except for mail I do
not know as it still it is possible to use, but I hope
I will soon learn. My hobbies equestrian sport to skate.
I very like to float. I love dances Very much! If you want
to comunicate with me, please write me: email@example.com
I shall answer any questions. I wait for your reply very soon.
2006-08-31T08:37:11.706-07:00Jesus Christ. Internet scams are popping up to the left and right of me. Maybe it's because I make so many transactions online that the law of averages just catches up with me.I recently sold a T-Mobile Sidekick mobile phone on eBay. The phone was barely used and in near mint condition. I got a pretty good price for it and packed it and shipped it with great care.After the buyer received the product, she emailed me with the following bullshit message:Jack, I have been tossing and turning last night, and became nausea because I spend $ on this pager and I am finanically struggling. I am hearing impaired and I live on this pager. The screen isnt working and didnt look right at all. I wouldn't send any negatives on your feedback because I am not that kind of person. I would send everything back to you, the pager, the case, chargers. You have been kind, and I feel upset about this. I need the $ back and look for another pager. I really need one . It might happen during mail? Please respond asap. Thank you. "cuntgal"I was immediately suspicious because I know I took great care in shipping the product. I took a look at her eBay feedback history. The last positive feedback that she got was for a Sidekick phone back in April (3 months before purchasing my phone). I was pretty confident that she damaged the older phone and planned to scam me for a discount or free phone.Here was my reply:The Sidekick that I sent you was in near perfect condition. I packed it very carefully in bubble wrap and I cannot imagine that it got damaged unless you received the box crushed. What do you mean when you say that the screen doesn't look right? Can you send me a picture? What is the IMEI of the Sidekick that you are referring to?The IMEI number is like a global serial number that spans all mobile phones.She emailed me the pictures but they were blurry. I could barely read the IMEI on the phone and she never sent it via email. I didn't really want to deal with a big hullabaloo, so I told her I would refund $50 of the purchase (it was not insured) or I would give her $75 if she shipped the phone back to me.She was both stupid and greedy. She wanted the extra $25 and she shipped the phone back to me. The picture of the phone with the IMEI was not the same unit that she shipped to me. The IMEI in the picture was xxxxxxxxxxx2689. The IMEI of the one she sent back was xxxxxxxxxxx9758.Also, the phone was registered to the username "cuntgal". You could not see this on the phone because the screen was severely damaged. Since I have a lot of development experience with the Sidekick, I was able to take screenshots off of the phone. She also had a lot of games that I have never purchased still on the phone. This was clear evidence that she used the phone for many weeks before it was damaged.I can say without a doubt, this cunt was trying to scam me. The most incriminating evidence is that the picture she sent me does not match the phone she shipped me. Guess what, cuntgal? You get nothing!Some of the differences to note:The IMEIs simply do not match. The one I shipped her ends with 2689. The one she shipped ends with 9758The item she photographed says "Sidekick II". The one she shipped me does not.The item she photographed says "PV-100". The one she shipped me says "Model: PV-100".The item she photographed is not damaged near the camera. The one she shipped me is clearly damaged near the mirror and lens.Here are some tips you can use to prevent this from happening:Before you ship an item, take a picture of the Serial Number and make that picture part of the eBay posting.Ask th[...]
2006-07-07T09:38:45.470-07:00I have been on personal high alert regarding phishing and other social engieering scams over the past few months. A few of my associates fell victim to an IM phishing scam a few weeks ago. More recently, a relative of mine was almost fooled by an email con. When I say she was almost fooled, I don't mean she was about to start forking over thousands of dollars; I mean she was genuinely sad because she thought a distant relative had died tragically.Here is a copy of the email she received:>From: " Walter Oko"
2006-07-07T09:37:29.963-07:00(image) In an episode of the Fox television show Prison Break, the main character, Michael Scofield, had to punch in an unknown secret code on a 10-key keypad. His whole 5 month plan hinged on his ability to figure out the code in a matter of seconds.
2006-07-02T02:46:32.333-07:00I absolutely hate Netflix. Netflix is an evil company spawned by Lucifer. Netflix employees all have sex with their siblings and they eat their own excrement.In case you don't know, Netflix is a DVD rental service where you queue up movies online and receive/return them via USPS mail. You pay a fixed amount per month and you can have 2 to 5 DVDs (based on your plan) "checked out" at a time. When you return a DVD, the next available one in your queue is sent to you. Netflix is even courteous enough to pay for your return postage.In theory, this service is great. If you rent a lot of movies, it can be a very good service. Just pay $18 and you can conceptually rent 20+ DVDs per month. That's less than $1 per DVD with no late fees!I signed up with them in 2000 when I bought my first DVD player. They started out great. I was getting tons of movies and I was cranking through them three at a time. I probabaly churned 15-20 DVDs a month for the first 4 months of my subscription.After my 5th month I noticed things started to change. The number of days between returning a viewed DVD and receiving a new one started to increase. In some cases, I never received the DVD at all and I had to fill out a form on their website (and wait several weeks) to resolve this issue. On other occasions, I would receive a damaged DVD and would waste 4+ days returning it and waiting for a replacement. Another big headache was that the "New Releases" would never show up. They would show up in the queue with the text "Long Wait" next to the title.I suspected that a couple of things a couple of things were in effect (keep in mind that these are just theories):Netflix wants to provide maximum customer satisfaction to new customers. They want the new customers to become satisfied with their decision to use their service. The day the customer decides that online DVD rental is the way to go, Netflix changes gears and lowers the customer's priority in the rental queue. If 100 customers all have the same movie at the top of their queue and there is only one DVD in stock, then the newest customer will have first dibs.Netflix purposely delays shipment of DVDs by one or more days on a somewhat random basis.Netflix purposely delays reporting returned DVDs by one or more days on a somewhat random basis.I believe that Netflix does not necessarily throw away damaged DVDs. If they have a scratched or broken DVD, they would ship it to an unprofitable/low-profit customer with high turnover. I believe it is in Netflix's best interest to provide low customer satisfaction to these customers to encourage them to abandon their service.Netflix may randomly not send out the DVD at all or report the DVD as never received. It will take a few days for the customer to report the DVD as lost in the mail and will result in a slower turnaround rate.I have seen this pattern happen each of the 3 times that I have subscribed to Netflix. At one point, I was getting the number 12 DVD in my queue. Each time I subscribe, I end up cursing the company and all the bastards that work there. I have read several web postings of other disgruntled Netflix customers with similar experiences.The most valued asset in Netflix is the New Release DVD. If you are an established customer, it is very difficult to have these DVDs sent to you. Most of the time, you will just see the "Long Wait" message next to your pick. Below is a list of tips you can follow to get these coveted DVDs before the newer members:Subscribe to an feed of new DVD releases. You can use some of[...]
2006-06-29T10:17:56.173-07:00Many poker spectators were recently introduced to the concept of "Running it twice" on the television show High Stakes Poker on GSN. When two players agree to "run it twice", they are agreeing to complete the hand with two sets of outcomes. If there is one card left to be dealt, then two cards will be dealt, each card acting as a the final community card for two separate outcomes. When a hand is run twice, the unknown cards are not shuffled between the two outcomes.If you win both times, you win the entire pot. If you lose both times, you lose the entire pot. If you win one and lose the other, then the pot is divided in half and distributed to the two players. Players who opt to run the hand twice are trying to lower the variance of the outcome. When you run a board twice, you are giving up some of your odds of winning in exchange for tieing a good percent of the time. This is an option that is only available in a cash game (as opposed to a tournament). In a tournament, players are not allowed to make any deals that affect their chip stacks.It is easy to see that your variance will go down. There are many opportunities to tie and your chances of winning or losing both decrease. What many people do not immediately understand is that your expected value (EV) does not change.The easiest non-trivial situation to analyze is a one outer situation with one card to be dealt. An example of this would bePlayer 1: 2♥ 3♥Player 2: A♥ K♥Board: 4♥ 5♥ 9♣ Q♥Both players have flushes, but player 2 has the higher flush. The only way player 1 can win is if the river is a 6♥, making a him a straight flush. There is a 2.27% chance that he will hit his one outer (1/44 chance). The total EV of this situation is 0.0227.If the players run the board twice, he has absolutely NO chance of winning. Since cards are not shuffled between the deals, it is impossible to hit his one out both times. He does have a 4.55% chance of tieing though.This is easy to calculate because it is 1 - the probability of losing. The probability of losing is (43/44) x (42/43). When calculating the EV for the 2x board, it is just the probability of winning plus the (probability of tieing)/2.EV = Pwin + 0.5 PtieSoEVrun it 1x = 0.0227 + 0.500 x 0.000 = 0.227EVrun it 2x = 0.000 + 0.500 x 0.0455 = 0.227I created an Excel spreadsheet with all of the possible outcomes for every situation with 1 or 2 cards to come (assuming there is no possibility of tying or redrawing). In every situation, the EV is identical.Download Spreadsheet[...]
2006-06-29T04:19:08.090-07:00Working with multiple computers at the same time can be a pain if you don't have everything set up nicely. Many people use some type of KVM device to share the same Keyboard, Monitor (V=Video) and Mouse. Typically, you will plug one keyboard, one monitor and one mouse into the KVM and then plug special cables from the KVM into each of the servers. You can switch which computer you are controlling by pressing a button on the KVM or pressing special keyboard combinations.SynergyAnother option is to use an open-source program named Synergy. Synergy allows you to use the same keyboard and mouse for multiple computers. Each computer still uses its own monitor. When you roll your mouse cursor off one monitor, it will appear on the monitor of your other computer.The biggest difference between a KVM and Synergy is that Synergy is a software solution. The keyboard and mouse actions are sent from one machine to another over the local network. Synergy can be used on different operating systems including Windows, Mac and Linux. This is an awesome solution if you have a lot of computers, a lot of desk space and a lot of monitors.Who Needs Synergy?At my work, our QA team has to run multiple operating systems at their desks. They also have the luxury of having 3 twenty-inch (and sometimes 24") flat panel displays at their disposal. Their PCs typically have a dual monitor set up and the third monitor is hooked up to their Mac. This allows them to bounce back and forth between computers without pressing a button on a KVM. It also allows them to watch processes on both computers concurrently.Setting Up SynergyFirst, you must decide which computer will be the server. The server is the computer whose keyboard and mouse will be shared. The other computers will be clients. To set up Synergy, you must do the following (in this example the server is on the right and the client is on the left):Download the executable from SourceForge.netInstall the program on the clientIn the Synergy program window, make sure the "Use another computer's shared keyboard and mouse (client)" radio button is selectedType in the name of the server in the "Other Computer's Host Name" textboxClick the AutoStart buttonClick the Install button under the "When Computer Starts" textNow click "Start"That's all you need to do for the clients!Install the executable on the serverIn the Synergy program window, make sure the "Share this computer's keyboard and mouse (server)" radio button is selectedClick the "Configure..." buttonClick the "+" button under ScreensType in the Server's name under "Screen Name" and click OKClick the "+" button under Screens againType in the Client's name under "Screen Name" and click OKIn the "Links" section, set it to "0 to 100% of the left of [RIGHT_COMPUTER] goes to 0 to 100% of [LEFT_COMPUTER]" and then click the "+" buttonIn the "Links" section, set it to "0 to 100% of the right of [LEFT_COMPUTER] goes to 0 to 100% of [RIGHT_COMPUTER]" and then click the "+" buttonClick the OK button on the "Screens & Links" windowOn the main Synergy window, click the AutoStart buttonClick the "Install" button in the "When Computer Starts" sectionFinally, click the "Start" button in the main Synergy windowNow, run your mouse off the left of the server onto your other computer! w00t![...]
2006-06-05T18:20:53.390-07:00Microsoft's Internet Explorer has a nice security "feature" that prevents you from saving certain files to your hard drive if the web site is using the https protocol. This is most noticable with Microsoft Office documents. This is true whether the file is saved on the web server or if it is generated and served as a byte stream.
2006-05-09T22:32:52.240-07:00The game of baccarat is a game that most people find intimidating. It has been portrayed in James Bond movies as a game for the sophisticated and uber upper class. The game is so special, that it is the only game where the casino lets the players deal the cards.The only decision you have to makePlaying the game is very simple. As a participant, you only have one of three decisions to make per hand. You can either bet with the "player", bet with the "banker" or bet on a tie. Even though the banker or player might draw more cards, once you make your bet the decision-making part of the game is completely out of the picture. Once you make your bet, your fate is set. The people sitting at the table have no influence on the outcome of the game. They cannot tell the player or the dealer to draw or stand.Game PlayThe game play is somewhat simple as well. Two hands of two cards are dealt on the table. One hand represents the dealer's hand and the other represents the player's hand. The card values are all face value, with the face cards representing zero. The object of the game is to get as close to a 9 total as possible. If a hand value is greater than 9, then the first digit of the total is ignored. For example, a hand of 8 and 7 is worth 5.If the player or dealer is dealt an eight or nine, the game is over. An initial total of 8 or 9 is called a "natural" and no cards are drawn. Both players show their hands. If they both have the same total, then it is a tie. Otherwise, the higher total wins.If both the player and the dealer have a total of seven or less, then the player acts first. Based on his total he either draws a single card or stands pat. The dealer then acts, drawing a single card or standing based on his hand total and what card the player drew.Hit or Stand?Whether the player hits or stands is simple. If he has a 5 or less, he always draws.The dealer's decision is a little more complicated.If the player did not draw a card, he will stand with a total of 6 and hit with a total of 5 or less.If the banker's total is 2 or less, he always takes an additional card.If the banker's total is 3, then he stands if the player drew a third card and it was an eight, but hits otherwise.If the banker's total is 4, then he hits unless the player drew a 0, 1, 8 or 9.If the banker's total is 5, then he hits unless the player drew a 4, 5, 6, or 7.If the banker's total is 6, then he hits unless the player drew a 6 or 7.If the banker's total is 7 he always stands.The House AdvantageThe house always has an advantage after every shuffle. If you bet on the player hand, then your Expected Value (EV) is -1.36% (for a typical 8-deck game). This means that for every $100 you bet on the player, you will get back $98.64.So betting on the banker must mean that for every $100 you bet, you will get $101.36, right? Yes and no. When you bet on the banker and win, then the house usually takes a 5% commission on your winnings. So if you bet $100 and win, you only get $195 back, for a net profit of $95. This results in an EV of -1.17%. Betting on the banker in Baccarat is probably the best bet you can get in a casino without learning complicated Blackjack Basic Strategy charts or wagering tons of money on the craps table.On the other hand, betting the tie bet is one of the worst bets you will find in a casino. Most slot machines in Vegas are in the -2.5% to -7.5% EV range. Betting the tie in Baccarat (which usu[...]