Safer Internet Purchases

September 27, 2005

Note: This post was migrated from my old blog software. It hasn't been cleaned up yet (and might not ever be). Don't be surprised if the formatting, links, images, etc... are messed up.

One of the fears of making a purchase over the internet is giving out your credit card information. After all, you have to send them all the info needed to make one charge which means they could theoretically make any number. A bigger problem is likely to be that the do something irresponsible with it and it winds up getting into the dreaded "wrong hands". CitiBank has a nice service that can help keep your credit card information secure called "Virtual Account Numbers". The way that it works is well though out. When you are shopping online and are ready to check-out you use a CitiBank tool to create a new Virtual Account Number. The process is simple, you log in (either to their web site or a small application which you can download to your computer) with your CitiBank username and password, and generate a new number. A three digit security code that some sites require and the expiration date for the number are provided as well. When filling out the billing information for your purchase you just substitute these "virtual" numbers for your regular ones. The purchase will still show up on your regular credit card statement, but if the company you made the purchase from loses your data you don't have to get an entirely new card since they won't have your real number. The expiration date of the virtual number is also set to whatever the next calendar month is from the time you create it. This helps to further limit exposure to insecurity. There are even some advanced features that allow you to set a limit on the virtual number and extend the expiration date up to one your. This is extremely useful for setting up subscriptions to things like web site hosting and music services that are billed monthly. If it's $6/month, you can set the expiration date for one year out and then set the limit on the virtual number to $75 (I bump in a few extra dollars just in case.) You need to create a new virtual number at the end of the year so your subscription doesn't get canceled, but that's easy. The only real downside that I've noticed is for some "Will-call" purchases. If you buy something like a ticket online but are going to pick it up later, some companies require you to have the credit card that made the purchase with you (one example is Fandango). Obviously, this isn't possible with a virtual number since there isn't a card. With luck, major vendors will put a solution in place for this. Till then, you'll have to decide if you want to put your real card number out there. I know CitiBank has this because I use it. You can check out their page on it here. Other card providers probably have similar things. – Tags: tagFinance tagSecurity tagInternet


The Spelling of "blog"

September 26, 2005

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I just posted an entry with the word "blog" in it. When I ran the BLOGger.com spell check, it wasn't recognized as a real word and there were no suggestions for what I might have been trying to type. That's funny.


About This Web Log

September 26, 2005

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UPDate: I need to update this. As I've kicked it around a little, it's changed….. I'll get to that someday.
We live in the "The Age of the Internet", "The Information Age", "The Digital Age", or any of a dozen or so other really important sounding names. I don't think those titles are quite right. I have a feeling the Internet along with vast amounts of digitally stored information are with us effectively from this point forward. The historians will figure out what they want to call it and their name is gonna stick because none of us are likely to be around to argue.
Call it what you will. The more important thing is what we've seen: the seemingly exponential growth of technology in the guise of computers, the web, digital cameras, e-mail, and all the other forms that surround us. While a lot of these technologies have older roots, I think it's safe to say that for the average person the first exposure and perceived birth of all this has happened in barely more than the past decade.
So, what is this all about? I was lucky enough to be at least a little involved in a lot of those technologies early on and I still make my living working on the web. As a result, I get asked a lot of questions about a lot of technology related things. Part of my plan for this blog is to simply talk about some of the things I see and have seen. With luck it'll help answer some of those questions or get someone thinking about something new.
A lot of the focus is likely to be on software, computers, the web and photography. Of course, I will also post about things I find annoying, interesting, just plain cool, etc… And last, but not least, as mandated by the fact that I'm a tech guy, part of my plan for this blog involves world domination. But, we'll get to that later.
I hope you enjoy,
-a


Yahoo Music Unlimited - still very Beta

September 26, 2005

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So far, not so good as I had hoped.
Ever since MP3s first made their way into existence I've been looking for a service like Yahoo's Music Unlimited (or Napster to Go, etc…). I think the balance of paying a subscription for access to a ton of music is a very happy medium between the theft by consumers via downloads and the highway robbery by record companies via hugely inflated CD prices.
And the price is, at least theoretically, quite good for the Yahoo offering. It's $5 a month if you sign up for a year at a time, or $7 a month if you go month to month. I took a shot at the year plan which means that I pay less for a month of music service than I do for a 7&7 at most bars when you figure in tip.
The problem at the moment is that they aren't really ready for prime time. Their software is still in 'beta' which basically means that they know it's going to screw up more than it should and some stuff simply might not work. Now don't get me wrong some beta release offerings work a lot better than others. Take Google Maps, for example. I would see nothing wrong if Google classified that as a production level service.
The software that powers Yahoo's setup, their Music Engine, is at the other side of the spectrum. It's often slow to start and more often than not causing odd things to happen with the rest of my machine. Since this is beta that would be fine except for the fact that Yahoo is charging for it. It pisses me off when companies do this, but I suppose it's more then norm than the exception. The philosophy seems to be: Get as many people paying as early as possible, even if it means launching a shoddy product.
My current frustration with Yahoo is that I had songs downloaded onto one of my machines that I transferred to my Dell DJ (more will probably come on that later). The way the system works you have to plug back into the net every 30days so the digital license can be updated allowing you to play your the tunes for another 30 days. I was running low on disk space from the computer so I erased the files from there, but left them on the portable player. It seems that this isn't good enough since the licenses have expired and I can't get them to update.
I've got a request into Yahoo, but haven't heard if this how it's supposed to be or if it's yet another bug. Either way, it's a poor experience. All I want to do is listen to some tunes, but the whole system makes that an exercise in frustration. Welcome to the Early Adopter Penalty.
The selection of songs seems pretty decent, but I've already run into a bunch of stuff that isn't in their catalog at the moment. I'd like to see something like PlayLouder which apparentlylets you download any song from sony as long as you are going thru their service. Of course, it would be better if it was every song out there. That's right, I'm still looking for the Celestial Jukebox.
– Tags: tagMusic


Digital and Film

September 26, 2005

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Just listened to a story on NPR about Herman Leonard losing a lot of his work that was in his studio due to Hurricane Katrina. Sad, but it seems he managed to keep most of his negs safe. His outlook is hard to beat, saying that it will inspire him to get back into the darkroom. This got me thinking about another difference between digital and film based photography.
With film, if a neg (or chrome) is destroyed or lost, it's gone. The best you can hope for is to try to get a reproduction from a print. Not the best by any means.
With digital, you can duplicate the original file in a virtually unlimited number of locations that should effectively provide for preservation of the original indefinitely. (Of course, with digital it's all to easy to not back something up and then do something stupid and erase them in a heartbeat.)
Photographer have been storing negs for a long time now, but as the migration to digital marches on, I wonder how the shooter of the future will think about the difference. Will they see the fact that there is one and only one original from film as terrifying? Perhaps digital formats will become so bogged down with Digital Rights Management that professional shooter will go back to film to ensure they to provide the services they need to their clients.
Whatever comes to pass, do your best to protect your film and backup your files.
Also, check out hermanleonard.com to view some of his amazing photographs.
– Tags: tagPhotography


Speaking of Movies

September 26, 2005

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If you haven't already discovered NetFlix, and you like movies, you should give it a try. Great for catching up with things like the AFI top 100.


Jack as Jake

September 25, 2005

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ChinaTown - really good.
The Two Jakes - Not so much. Pretend it doesn't exist. It's rare that I stop a movie without watching the whole thing, but this one was a strugle.
Jack should have convinved Roman Polanski to direct.
Also saw Cool Hand Luke a few days ago. You should see that if you haven't already.


First Post - Yeah, yeah

September 25, 2005

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I finally broke down and started a blog. I figure I run across some neat things from time to time and this would be a good way for me to keep track of them and share them with anyone else who might be intersted. Inspiration comes from: Kevin Kelly - Cool Tools.


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