Override

I am on the national Do Not Call list, I block every phone number that scammers use to call me, but I still get huge numbers of phonecalls from people (always Indian) who want to lower my credit card interest rate “to zero percent for the life of the card.” Sometimes if I’m bored, I’ll politely give them my fake AT&T Universal MasterCard and my fake Wells Fargo VISA and take up as much time as they want to spend on me.

Yesterday after I wasted a scammer’s time for twenty minutes until he tried both cards and realized that I was giving him fake data, he did something I hadn’t seen before: he told me my current balance (fake number), my most recent payment (fake number), and my next payment due (fake date and fake number), then wished me a nice day. I think it’s funny that each of us knew the other was lying, but we still carried on the conversation as if both of us were legit.

Today I got a call from another Indian guy who wanted to lower my rate on my car insurance. He never asked if I was interested or if I wanted his help, but he immediately started asking details about my current car and insurance. I told him I drive a Honda. “What kind of Honda? Civic, Accord?” I said I drive a Honda Pilot. “… Civic, Accord?” Okay, fine, I drive an Accord.

After I had given him all the fake information he asked for, he told me that someone would be calling me back within the next 24-48 hours. And then, oddly, he verified today’s date then said, “Just to inform you, this gentleman will override your number even if it is on the DNC.” Hold on, I said, what is that, I asked? He again verified today’s date and again said “He will override your number even if it is on the DNC.” Yes, but what does that mean?

Click. I got hung up on.

I’m a little puzzled by the last statement. Was he asking me to give explicit permission to be called, even though I’m on the Do Not Call list? Or what does it mean for a caller to “override” the list? And why would the guy who called me need to bring this up when he, himself, was calling me in violation of the list – or was he technically not in violation because it’s the next guy who calls me who’s the one to try selling me something?

I blocked the number. Let’s see them try to override that.

Echo

On a balcony at a cottage on the Atlantic beach, I’m warming myself in the morning sun. The waves crash against the sand below me. Seagulls and pelicans hover above; they aim a hungry eye in my direction, decide I neither have fish nor am fish, and move on.

I’ve left the world for a little while so I can decide whether I want to rejoin it.

Beside me is my knapsack with a book inside. I haven’t written in the book in the past eight months. I tell myself that I have no intention of writing in it today either, and that I really had no purpose in even bringing it with me in the first place; but both I and the book know that’s a lie. I pull it from the knapsack and set it on the table before me. It’s hardbound in bright blue. The only marking on it is a large lower-case ‘f’ in white on the front cover. I open it.

The pages inside depict a multitude of faces of people as they go about their day. Many genders, many ages, some of the images are of couples together, a few of them are cats. They notice me and hesitate, peer at me animatedly from the pages. I flip past most of them. Finally I find the page with the image of a woman in her late twenties – it’s a drawing, a self-portrait of the artist. It’s remarkably good.

She looks surprised to see me. “Where have you been?” she asks, curious.

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Why Computers Suck

Computers are a big part of my life, and I have a lot of gadgets. But at the heart of it I like to think that my needs are fairly simple. Phones, tablets, and laptops aside, when it comes to desktop computers, I use:

  • A Mac on which to keep my iTunes music library, the photos from my iPhone, and any other various files I need to keep around. I’ve bought in to the Apple ecosystem, and it’s handy to have a central place to keep all my data. Makes backing it up easier, too.
  • A Windows PC for gaming. I don’t trust Windows 10 with my important data, but it makes a great gaming platform, especially since I can get really good games for cheap from Steam sales and Humble Bundles.

For the past decade, these two needs have been served by a single computer: a PC that I built from parts and Hackintoshed so that it can dual-boot into macOS or Windows 10. I won’t go into the details, but the short of it is that Apple simply didn’t make a desktop computer that I wanted to buy. And I like to tinker, so getting macOS running on a PC was a fun challenge.

But I’m getting tired of that challenge. A small system update can wreak havoc with a Hackintosh, making it fail to boot and throw enigmatic error messages that would require me to pore over the tonymacx86.com forums until I could figure out what went wrong and how to fix it. I haven’t been able to upgrade my computer to macOS Mojave because it has an Nvidia Geforce 970 graphics card in it, and Nvidia hasn’t yet released drivers that work with Mojave (and there’s skepticism whether they ever will, as Apple has moved to ATI). And, really, I was getting tired of always having to reboot to switch between macOS and Windows whenever I wanted to play a game, or copy photos off my iPhone, or play a different game, or sync my music…

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Scams

I get exactly the same three scam phonecalls every afternoon, with the same exact scripts and even the same hold music.

They don’t honor my do-not-call requests and they have a different caller ID number each time so I can’t block them. So if I’m bored, I screw with ’em. I waste their time so they can’t call other people. I practice faking sincerity.

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Crushed

I check my Hackintosh computer’s disk with Disk Utility every now and then to make sure there are no problems. Usually it says the disk is okay. This time it said “error: drec_val object (oid 0x8f62a): invalid type (0). fsroot tree is invalid.” Disk Utility also told me that it couldn’t repair it. I found some discussion boards online which say the only solution is to reformat the disk and restore from backup.

This is a problem.

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Right

Jon Stewart addressing Donald Trump, on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert (June 28, 2018):

There’s one hallmark to your presidency that I think we’re finding the most difficult, is that no matter what you do, it always comes with an extra layer of gleeful cruelty and dickishness.

It’s not just that you don’t want people taking a knee; it’s that they’re ‘sons of bitches’ if they do. It’s not just denying women who have accused you of sexual assault; it’s saying, ‘They were too ugly, anyway.’ You can’t just be against the media; they’re enemies of the people. … Anyone in the Republican Party dares speak against you, they also must be humiliated — even if they have a terminal disease.

… What Donald Trump wants is for us to stop calling his cruelty and fear and divisiveness wrong, but to join him in calling it right. And this we cannot do.

More adventures in virtual reality

Last month I wrote about my initial foray into virtual reality … but I got distracted. Instead it turned into a crash course on hacking Android phones, and I learned more than I set out to learn about how Android and Android-based devices work. But finally I decided to get back to why I was doing all this in the first place.

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Unlocking

So my new Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 phone came installed with Xiaomi’s operating system “MIUI”, their variant of Android. MIUI comes with a bunch of custom apps that are useful, helpful, and – given that they are made by a private Chinese company – completely untrustworthy, in my opinion. My goal was to replace the operating system with LineageOS, a vanilla installation of Android.

Here’s how that turned out.

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Virtual Reality

Jill and I enjoyed “Ready Player One” at the theater last week. We didn’t set a very high bar for its plot (and we weren’t disappointed), but the idea of wearing a VR system and interacting with other people in an imaginary world really caught my interest. I’ve also been watching the anime “Gun Gale Online” (a spinoff of “Sword Art Online“) that has a similar concept about donning a headset and becoming a different person in a different place. I believe that VR is the future of how people are going to interact with computers, and I think we’re only now seeing the very start of the technology that’s going to do it.

And I want to get in on it.

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We Are Out Of Duck

(I facebooked this when it happened to me three years ago. Apparently the story has become legend around the office. I’m putting it into my blog for posterity.)

You say the message you’re seeing on the site is ‘we are out of duck.’ Are you absolutely certain?

“Yes.”

You’re completely sure? That’s the wording? ‘we are out of duck?’

“Yes.”

That is the EXACT message? You can reproduce it?

“Yes.”

Send me a screenshot.

We Had to Duck Out