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CISPA, kind of like SOPA/PIPA, but without the MPAA

In a Nutshell:

Facebook caught a lot of flack for supporting CISPA, something they’ll hopefully rescind in the face of user outrage. The legislation is another one of those things which starts with a good mission (communicating effectively about cyber attacks), but trusts the government with too many really broad powers. I’ll weigh in as opposing this for the lack of controls over personal information which can be freely handed over to the executive branch. In an age where photographers are being put on terrorist watch bulletins for covering new worthy events, we need to demand more narrowly constructed legislation which protects our freedoms while protecting us from our enemies.

More Information:

A great EFF article about this legislation: https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2012/03/rogers-cybersecurity-bill-broad-enough-use-against-wikileaks-and-pirate-bay
PCMag’s perspective: http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2403036,00.asp
Wiki Entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyber_Intelligence_Sharing_and_Protection_Act
Facebook’s letter of support for CISPA: http://goo.gl/yWG25
Facebook’s explanation to users for it’s support of CISPA: https://www.facebook.com/notes/facebook-washington-dc/a-message-about-cispa/10150723305109455
List of Other major companies which have sent a letter of support for CISPA: http://intelligence.house.gov/hr-3523-letters-support

Updates:

CISPA passes the House: http://thenextweb.com/us/2012/04/27/the-house-passes-cispa-with-a-vote-of-248-to-168/

Obama Administration voices opposition to CISPA and recommends veto (unclear what Obama himself would do at this point): http://goo.gl/r1p29

The Easy Guide to the McAfee Glitch, Preventing It, and Fixing It

The McAfee Glitch starts when an automatic update is pushed out to users. It is supposed to contain updates targeting new viral threats, but instead becomes ths problem itself. Due to an oversight in McAfee’s quality assurance testing, the antivirus software inadvertently targets a core system process (SVCHOST.EXE) as being a virus. The problem doesn’t rear its head until the user rebooted the computer, which many often opt to do at a later time, but when the reboot finally happens, users are shocked to find that they either can’t access much of anything (including internet, networking, and the start menu/toolbar) or are unable to load windows at all. Safe mode boots were also affected as the core processes which are removed often take out USB functionality with it, disabling some keyboards and mice.

Luckily, McAfee is typically quick to respond through the removal of the original ‘bad’ update, and the implementation of a new ‘good’ update which doesn’t contain the problem. This means that if you use McAfee, and haven’t had a system crash, DO NOT reboot your computer until you follow the manual update instructions as described by McAfee here: http://promos.mcafee.com/LegacyLp/en-us/landingpages/npdatupdate.asp?cid=77151 This will make sure you have the correct ‘good’ update in place before the inevitable reboot. As long as you do this, you should be fine.

If you’ve had the misfortune of being hit with this glitch (and are likely reading this on another computer), you’ll need to do the following:

  1. From a working computer, download the file from http://download.nai.com/products/mcafee-avert/tools/SDAT5958_EM.exe (McAfee created)
  2. Burn that file to a CD ROM
  3. Boot your computer into safe mode (hold F8 during the boot-up sequence before the Windows logo)
  4. Run the file from the CD
  5. Reboot your computer normally
  6. Follow the instructions at http://promos.mcafee.com/LegacyLp/en-us/landingpages/npdatupdate.asp?cid=77151

For most, that should do the trick. If not, you can try some of the other more complicated solutions listed HERE and HERE.

UPDATE: After a more in-depth review of the information, it seems that the original glitch that made press, which I used as research material, actually happened in 2010. In my haste to help solve the current problem, I totally overlooked the year differences in the sources I used. However, this has affected a user here in 2012, and the same fixes fixed the problem, so it appears this may be a second shot of the same type of problem, albeit a new incarnation. A major difference is that this has affected a Windows 7 system, putting more than just Windows XP at risk. In light of the fact that this has happened before, I am strongly recommending an exodus from McAfee, who seems to have some issues with not targeting the systems it’s supposed to protect. Coverage of the original problem in 2010 can be found HERE and HERE, as well as McAfee’s original response and follow up.

My Disc-to-Digital Experience

First, a little history: Today (4/16/12), Walmart launched a new Disc-to-Digital service for getting your movies into the cloud for streaming. In other words: you can now turn your physical movie library into a digital one. This is all done through Walmart’s Vudu service. For those of you who don’t know, Vudu is a place you can buy and rent digital movies which you stream on your internet enabled devices (iPhones, iPads, PS3s, X-Box 360s, computers, app enabled HDTVs, and many newer Bluray players are supported). Think of it as a pay-as-you-go Netflix since there is no fee to have an account, but without the discs in the mail, and with a larger selection of HD titles. You can also think of it as a different kind of iTunes, but again with a larger HD selection. The quality of Vudu’s service is outstanding, and I’ve been using it for about a year now.

The neat thing that happened today is that Walmart/Vudu joined the Ultraviolet consortium. Ultraviolet is a relatively new alliance between movie studios and streaming services, which allow you to document your qualifying movie purchases in a way that allows you to stream through any of the participating providers. Until today, Flixter was the only provider signed on to stream the movies. The drawback to Flixter is that it isn’t available for playback on some devices (like the PS3), and it only does SD, leaving HD in the cold. But now that Vudu is onboard, Ultraviolet gains a way to provide viewers with an HD (called HDX on Vudu) experience that is available on pretty much any device they’d want to watch it from. The kicker is that unlike Flixter (or ANY streaming service before it), Vudu can let you get your existing movies that are on disc, put into the Vudu library.

Back to the Present: So after staying up all night (and morning) reading anything I could about the launch and how to redeem my discs (and seeing them update the Vudu site in phases live), I took a nap, got up, and found some time to travel to Tifton to walk through the process myself. Oddly, on the first calls, neither Tifton nor Cordele Walmarts seemed to know anything about the new service. Never taking no for an answer, I decided to call back the Tifton one (which was going to be near my planned trips for the day) and try my luck with a manager rather than a standard employee. I was put in touch with Heather, who really turned my day around for the better! She knew what I was talking about, and said that there was some software update that needed to be done on the photo lab machine in order to process the conversion details. She said she would see to it and give me a call back. An hour or so later I got her call, and I boogied over there (admittedly, I was in Tifton at that point eating dinner to allow the best chance of letting all this happen).

This visit was prefaced with the knowledge that I was the first person to do this at their store, so I was the guinea pig. I’m kind of getting used to pushing technological boundaries, so this was not a problem to me at all. Heather and her staff stepped through their instructions (with a little help from yours truly since I was already familiar with the whole process from my research), and we ended up getting 44 of my movies into the digital realm of Vudu. Some were DVDs, some were Blurays, some could be turned into HDX, and some stayed in SD. Having gone through the whole system, here is my advice for you when you decide to do it too:

  • Everything works better if you do as much as you can from home first!
    • Go to uvvu.com and setup your free Ultraviolet account (if you already have one, log in to make sure you remember your credentials and that everything is still ok).
    • Go to Vudu.com and setup your free Vudu account (if you already have one, log in).
    • While still at Vudu.com, click ‘My Account’ > ‘Ultraviolet Info’ and then link you account to your Ultraviolet account.
    • Now click the ‘Disc to Digital’ tab to make a conversion queue list.
      • Search for your movies (paying close attention to whether it’s Bluray or not).
      • Add titles to the list one-by-one, selecting ‘Add HD to List’ when it’s available if that’s what you want (Blurays will just say ‘Add to List’ since they are already HD, the same goes for DVDs that can not be upconverted from SD).
      • Once you’ve added all the titles you want, click ‘Print List’.
  • Time to gather everything (discs and printed list) and go to Walmart!
    • Go to the 1-Hour Photo Lab (not the self-serve kiosks).
    • Hand the tech your printed list and discs.
    • They may ask you to fill out a form with your email and phone number, use whatever is on the printed list.
    • They’ll match each disc to your Vudu conversion queue, authorize the conversion, stamp the back of the inside ring on the discs with ‘Walmart Entertainment’, and ask for payment.
    • You’ll get a confirmation email within the next 15 minutes.
  • Verify EVERYTHING before you leave the lab! Now that your discs are marked, if something wasn’t done correctly, you are going to have a hard time fixing it once you leave.

That’s it, you’re done! Go home (or wherever) and enjoy your movies by streaming them through Vudu. You can choose to put the discs up for storage, sell them to someone who doesn’t do streaming, or actually decide to still use them, the choice is yours.

Potential Problems/Solutions:

  • If the phone number doesn’t work, make sure you are telling them the one on the printed list, it’s the only one that will work.
  • Don’t get accused of shoplifting! Put all your stuff in a bag and make sure to hold it so the cameras can see it at all time. Also, don’t stand close to product displays, especially the movie racks/bins. Now that there are now bag checkers, there’s really no way to document you owned the movies prior to going in, so make it obvious starting at the front door.
  • Techs may miss titles or click the wrong buttons. If you have a smartphone, wait to get the confirmation email before leaving. Make sure everything is alright before you leave the desk.
  • Not all Walmarts know what to do this early on. Call first. If the tech doesn’t know about it, ask for a manager. Or go to the Tifton Walmart, they know what to do!

Get an iPad 3 Cheaper!


Do you have an iPad 2, but want an iPad 3? Hate to pay $500 all over again? Here’s a simple trick to parlay your old iPad into your new one: SELL IT! You may think the old adage that technology constantly outdates itself, thus killing it’s resell value after each new model, is true for all technology, but it’s not. This is especially true with Apple products, which tend to stay useful years after they are replaced with newer versions, and is even more so with the iPad.

Apple recently listed refurbished first generation iPads for $299 and sold out. They still list refurbished iPad 2s for $349. The nice thing about all of this is that there are no longer any first gen iPads available from Apple, locking in your resell value at $299! The other thing is that even though iPad 2s are still available, people don’t like to wait for high-tech gadgets to ship; they would rather get their hands on it right now. This puts you in a good spot to easily get the refurbished price for your used one (so long as it is still in near-mint condition).

So hop on Ebay, Craigslist, Amazon or others (or those things called newspaper classifieds, which are often free), and list your iPad for the refurb price listed on Apple’s site. You’ll be surprised at the response, and you should be able to sell your old iPad within a week or two, at which point you can apply the money towards the new one, effectively lowering the purchase price by at least $299! I do it every time, and now so can you 🙂

DON’T FORGET: If you are already backing up to iCloud, run a manual backup right before you part with your old iPad. Then go to Settings>General>Reset and select ‘Erase All Content and Settings’ to delete all your information off of it. When you get your new iPad, select the option to restore it up from an iCloud backup, and after all the apps download and you re-input your passwords, you’ll have everything you had on the old iPad on your new one!

Open For Business!

Here it is, all the new stuff I’ve been working on! I’ve decided to listen to everyone telling me that I should do this stuff professionally and offer my services to the public, so I’ve setup shop at my shiny new website 🙂 Virus removal, system boosting, setups, installations, website, advice, and more, so take a look around, and remember that many services can be done no matter where you are!