Archive for October 2008

Nacho Suarez: Illustrator, Speed Painter

There’s a computer illustrator called Nacho Suarez in Spain. He works with Adobe PhotoShop and a Wacom drawing tablet. In my daily blog travels I frequently come across blogs with links to his “video monitor captures” or “screencasts” on YouTube.  These are time lapse videos of him at work.  Well, you don’t see Nacho, but you do see a close up of his computer screen.

One of the more popular screencasts is his rendering of Heath Ledger as The Joker in The Dark Knight blockbuster. I don’t know how much time it actually took him to draw this picture, but you can see it in 4 minutes and 44 seconds.

The final product:

You can see more of his videos online at YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/user/nsuarezdraws and you can check out his blog, in Spanish, at http://www.nachosuarez.blogspot.com/

Here are some of the tools Nacho uses to create his works:


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Walt Mossberg Reviews the new MacBook Aluminum

Today, Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal reviewed the new low-end MacBook which is carved from a solid block of aluminum. His tests revealed it to be lighter, thinner, cooler, but slightly slower and more expensive than the previous incarnation of the MacBook. All in all he says, “Apple’s new MacBook is a terrific choice for consumers and students, if you can handle the $1,299 price.”


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Last Day of Dell’s “10 Days of Deals”

Today is the last day for Dell’s “10 Days of Deals”.  Click the image at right to check them out. Today’s specials are:

Sling Media Slingbox Solo: Reg. $179, Today only $149! Watch and control your favorite TV source with the Slingbox Solo that ensures TV entertainment – anywhere you go! Plus you can cut clips from your favorite programs and share them online with family and friends. Using an Internet connected computer or compatible mobile phone, you can watch and control your home TV, DVR, digital cable box, or satellite receiver anywhere around your home. Additionally, it comes bundled with AC Adapter, Ethernet/Network Cable, Composite AV Cable, Remote Control IR Cable. With a Slingbox Solo, you will never be separated from your favorite TV shows, sports broadcasts, breaking news stories, digital video recordings, or video on demand!

Sony Bravia 52″ LCD HDTV: Reg. $2,799, today only $2,199! Enhance your digital home entertainment with the Bravia 52″ LCD HDTV from Sony. This TV incorporates Advanced Contrast Enhancer (ACE) which uses real-time image processing to dynamically adjust backlight levels for improved contrast without masking details. It also features Motionflow technology that uses special algorithms designed to reduce judder and deliver a smoother, sharper picture with more natural motion of the original film. Additionally, the TV works on the BRAVIA Engine to reduce noise and produce sharp, vibrant, life-like images. Its Digital Media Extender (DMe ) offers a digital connection path for Internet Video Link, as well as other modules you can add in the future.

XPS M1530 Laptop: Reg. $1,600, today, only $1,099! Includes an Intel® Core 2 Duo Processor T8300 (2.4GHz/800Mhz FSB, 3MB Cache), Genuine Windows Vista® Home Premium Edition SP1, 2Yr Ltd Hardware Warranty, InHome Service after Remote Diagnosis, High Resolution, glossy widescreen 15.4 inch LCD & 2MP Camera, 4GB Shared Dual Channel DDR2 SDRAM at 667MHz, 320GB 5400rpm SATA Hard Drive, Slot Load DVD+/-RW (DVD/CD read/write), 256MB NVIDIA® GeForce® 8600M GT video adapter, Dell Wireless 1395 802.11g Mini Card, High Definition Audio 2.0, amd a Finger Print Reader. Personalize with software & accessories, McAfee SecurityCenter 15-months, Dell Online Backup 30GB for 1 year, and more.

Inspiron 1525 Laptop: Reg. $678, today only $499! Incloudes an Intel® Celeron® 550 (2.0GHz, 533Mhz, 1M L2 Cache), Genuine Windows Vista® Home Basic Edition SP1, Microsoft® Works Plus 2008, 1Yr Ltd Hardware Warranty and Mail In Service, Glossy, widescreen 15.4 inch display, 2GB Shared Dual Channel DDR2 at 667MHz, 120GB SATA Hard Drive, Intel Graphics Media Accelerator X3100, CD / DVD Writer (DVD+/-RW Drive), Dell Wireless 1395 802.11g Mini-Card, and High Definition Audio 2.0. Other options and upgrades available. (Picture shows special edition artwork by New York City artist Mike Ming. http://www.mikeming.com/)


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Dymo Label Printers

Continuing my series on label printing which started yesterday.

If you print a lot of labels, but have trouble keeping track of your label sheets, then you should consider getting a label printer from Dymo. These are specially designed printers just for printing labels. It’s very compact, too, just 5 inches by 7 inches in size. Checkout the picture at right for the Dymo Labelwriter 400. You can get the Dymo LabelWriter 400 Label Printer (69100) from Amazon right now for under $90 with free shipping and one roll of address labels included. An additional roll of 350 labels costs $20.

I’ve had one of these labels printers for about a year now, and it’s a real time saver. The only trick is for me to remember its’ not the only printer attached to my computer. I dealt with this subject in an earlier post about printing to secondary printers.

Whenever I want to print a label in Microsoft Word, I click File, then Print, and then I select the Dymo Labelwriter 400 from the dropdown menu before clicking OK. Or, if you prefer to use the keyboard to print, just start the process with CTRL+P.

This method works great with the contact management tip I provided in yesterday’s post.


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Envelopes and Labels

I’ve been receiving a lot of question about printing address labels and envelopes using a contact list or address book. So I’ll be starting a series of articles today on various printing methods relative to the questions I’ve received.

One of the simplest methods for maintaining an address book or contact list is with Microsoft Word.  The two most commonly found versions today are Word 2003 and Word 2007, though some people are still using Word XP (2002).  Word XP (2002) and 2003 are very similar to one another and their preceding versions, but Word 2007 is very different, and will most likely “put off” anyone familiar with the older versions. If you’d rather stay with the familiar, plenty of used and new copies of Word 2003 can be found online through Amazon or eBay.

Simple Contact Management with Word 2003

There are several methods you can use for storing addresses in Microsoft Word. The easiest method works best if you only print one address label or envelope at a time.

To store your contact information just type a list of addresses as you would if you were addressing an envelope. Place the first and last name on one line, the street address on the next line, and the city, state, and postal code on the thrid line.  Additional information such as phone numbers and email addresses can be entered beneath that.

Skip a line between each individual person or business on your list.

Some may ask, “How do I sort this list?” Well, there’s no easy way to do that with this method, you have to do your sorting by hand, either by cutting and pasting to rearrange items, or by dragging and dropping.

The easiest way to make your way around a long list of names is to use CTRL +F on the keyboard, or select “Find” on the “Edit” menu. Then you can type a name or some piece of information that you’d like to find.

Printing Single Labels or Envelopes

This contact list is very easy to use when printing single address labels or envelopes. All you have to do is highlight a name and address in the list. Then click Tools > Letters and Mailings > Envelopes and Labels.

  • If you’re printing a single address label, click the Labels tab, then click the “Single label” option. If you’re reusing a sheet of labels, specify the “column” and “row” for the label to be printed on. You can use the “Options” button to specify which label product and size you are printing on.
  • If you’re printing an envelope, click the “Envelopes” tab, fill in a “Return Address” if you wish, and specify the envelope size with the “Options” button.

Envelopes and Labels Tool

Envelopes and Labels Tool

Come back tomorrow for more methods on managing address lists and printing envelopes and labels. We’ll be working our way up to mail merges for mass mailings, and I’ll show you some other printing tools and software packages along the way.


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ID Theft: It’s in the family

A lot of time has been spent in this blog discussing spam and false or misleading identities associated with spam, but I have yet to tackle the subject of identity theft until today. It came to a few days ago while reading the morning news.

Did you know that 47% of all identity theft cases are traced to family members, relatives, friends, and neighbors? Similarly, 36% of all Identity theft victims know the person who misused their information?

It’s my opinion that most people think that most identity theft occurs online then anywhere else, but a study in 2006 reveled that 90% of all identity theft takes place offline. The primary sources of theft are through lost or stolen wallets, checkbooks, and credit cards. Garbage cans and refuse are decreasing as sources of theft as nearly 70% of all consumers shred their documents before throwing them out, so the trash is now responsible for less than 1% of identity theft sources.

ID Theft Trends by Age Group

  • The 65+ age group has the smallest number of victims (2.3%)
  • The 35-44 demographic age group has the highest average fraud amount ($9,435). No connection was found between the age group and Internet usage. Most fraud cases arose from offline areas such as lost cards, checkbooks, wallets, and carelessness in leaving personal information in an accessible area.

Four Misperceptions Surrounding Identity Fraud

Misperception #1: “Consumers are helpless to protect themselves”

  • In 63% of fraud cases, the point of compromise was either theft by close associates of the consumer (friends, family, neighbors, etc.), lost or stolen wallets, cards and checkbooks, breached home computers or stolen mail or trash.
  • Consumers detect almost half (47%) of identity fraud cases. Self-detection is faster (averages 67 days vs. 101 days), results in smaller average fraud amounts ($4,431 vs. $8,466) and smaller consumer costs ($347 vs. $538).
  • A key way to detect fraudulent accounts is through credit monitoring / reports. Eleven percent of fraud cases were caught via this means.

Misperception #2: “Consumers bear the brunt of the financial losses from identity fraud”

  • Average out-of-pocket cost for identity fraud victims is $422.

Misperception #3: “Internet use increases the risks of identity fraud”

  • Less than 10% of identity theft cases occured online.
  • Internet use can lead to lower damages from identity fraud.
  • Electronic account monitoring is the fastest way to detect fraud and leads to lower losses – (22 days and $3,806).

Misperception #4: ” Seniors are most frequent targets of fraud operators”

  • Generation X (ages 25-34) has the highest rate of identity fraud at 5.4 percent. The average fraud amount for this demographic is $6,270 as compared to the average fraud amount for the 65+ segment which is $2,665.

Identity Safety Tips That Can Protect Consumers

from the Better Business Bureau

PREVENT access to your personal information

  • Do not release Social Security or account numbers in response to e-mail, phone or in-person requests. When responding to e-mail, ignore any Internet links provided and type the full address instead.
  • Keep all sensitive documents, checkbooks and credit cards securely locked away at home and at work.
  • Carry only those credit cards that you need in your wallet.
  • Before discarding, shred all private documents.
  • Retrieve paper mail promptly and place outgoing checks or other sensitive documents in a U.S. Postal Service mailbox.
  • Sign up for automatic payroll deposits.
  • Replace paper bills, statements and checks with online (paperless) versions.
  • Keep passwords hidden (even in your own home) and change them frequently.
  • Use and regularly update firewall and anti-virus software.
  • Do not respond to suspicious e-mails. Delete them, and if there is any doubt contact the company to determine if the e-mail is real.
  • Don’t discard a computer without completely destroying the data on the hard drive.

DETECT unauthorized activity

  • Review bank, credit card and biller statements weekly – available through online account access.
  • Contact your financial provider if you fail to receive statements in a timely manner.
  • Review your credit information regularly (free annual reports are available at www.annualcreditreport.com or call 1-877-322-8228).
  • Use e-mail-based account “alerts” to monitor transfers, payments, low balances, withdrawals, or detect any out-of-pattern activity.
  • Visit your bank’s, credit card issuer’s or biller’s web site(s) frequently to monitor regular account activity.

RESOLVE fraud promptly, minimizing losses and protecting your credit record

  • Ask your financial provider about zero-liability guarantees against fraud and dedicated resources to help you resolve and recover from any potential losses.
  • Victims of theft: notify your financial providers, begin monitoring your accounts more frequently, and place an “alert” at all three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian or TransUnion).
  • Alert federal and local law enforcement if you suspect or detect identity fraud.

More Online Resources

Statistics by Javelin Strategy and Research:

  

About Javelin Strategy and Research
Javelin provides research-based strategic direction for financial services, payments, e-commerce, and identity fraud. Javelin rigorously researches technology issues, industry trends, attitudes and activities of consumers, small businesses, institutions, processors, merchants, billers, and other organizations in order to deliver relevant, high-impact strategic guidance. Javelin can be found on the Web at www.javelinstrategy.com. For more information on this project or other Javelin studies, visit www.idsafety.net or www.javelinstrategy.com/reports/

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Game On!

Dell’s One Day Only Game Sale from October 10th has been renewed! The coupon codes offered here last week are good now through October 18 or while supplies last. Click the link above to check out the deals on Guitar Hero (Aerosmith bundle, Xbox 360 and PS3), GRID (Xbox 360), Madden 09 (PS3), Crysis Warhead (PC), Star Wars: Force Unleashed (Xbox 360 and PS3), and Grand Theft Auto IV (PS3). Just enter the coupon codes provided on the earlier post at checkout to get the savings.

After last week’s posting one reader from Rego Park, NY wrote in:

Shoot – that’s a great deal. My roomate just bought the Force Unleashed for XBOX 360 yesterday. I could have saved him $20 bucks but I was out sick so I missed the email :(. Thanks so much for sending the info – I’ll pass it on to others.

Plus Dell is adding three Xbox 360 holiday bundle offers. The coupon codes for these items are good now through October 23. Enter the coupon codes provided below at checkout to get the savings.

  Xbox 360 Arcade Holiday Bundle – includes 5 existing games plus SEGA Superstar Tennis
$30 off, Coupon code 6VKNSMJK0PD7L8 (Originally $199, now $169 with coupon code)
Expires: 10/23/08 or after 500 redemptions
$30 OFF Xbox 360 Arcade Holiday Bundle – includes 5 existing games + SEGA Superstar Tennis with coupon code 6VKNSMJK0PD7L8
  Xbox 360, 60GB Holiday Bundle – includes LEGO Indiana Jones and Kung Fu Panda
$50 off, Coupon code M69N0GW8WF$71V (Originally $299, now $249 with coupon code)
Expires: 10/23/08 or after 650 redemptions
$50 OFF Xbox 360 60GB Holiday Bundle – includes LEGO Indiana Jones and Kung Fu Panda with coupon code M69N0GW8WF$71V
  Xbox 360 120GB Elite System Holiday Bundle
$70 off, Coupon code 7H7JHWM8?HQTBR (Originally $399, now $329 with coupon code)
Expires: 10/23/08 or after 350 redemptions
$70 OFF Xbox 360 120GB Elite System Holiday Bundle with coupon code 7H7JHWM8?HQTBR


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33 percent of all spam ended yesterday

Sort of….

The FTC (Federal trade Commission) won a preliminary legal victory against the world’s largest spam gang  by persuading a Chicago Federal court to freeze the gangs assets and to order their spam network shutdown.

The spam gang, known by spamfighting agencies as HerbalKIng, had a networks of 35,000 computers which which could send out 10 billion spam messages a day.  Many of these computers were owned by people who didn’t know their computers had been remotely commandeered to send email on behalf of the spammers.  The network had ties in the United States, China, India, New Zealand, and Australia. The network was referred to as the “Mega-D Botnet”.

If you’re unfamiliar with the term “botnet, here’s an explanationation from SearchSecurity.com:

A botnet (also known as a zombie army) is a number of Internet computers that, although their owners are unaware of it, have been set up to forward transmissions (including spam or viruses) to other computers on the Internet. Any such computer is referred to as a zombie – in effect, a computer “robot” or “bot” that serves the wishes of some master spam or virus originator. Most computers compromised in this way are home-based. According to a report from Russian-based Kaspersky Labs, botnets — not spam, viruses, or worms — currently pose the biggest threat to the Internet. A report from Symantec came to a similar conclusion.

The network was purportedly responsible for a third of all spam at one point, and had been collecting $400,000 in Visa charges in one month.

The spammers had been sending messages hawking various pharmaceuticals and male-enhancement drugs. The charges brought against them are more than just spamming counts, but the charges also include making false claims about their product, selling pharmaceuticals without a prescriptions or doctor’s intructions, and selling drugs from countries such as Indie which aren’t regulated or approved for sale in the US.  Many of the drugs being sold had harmful side effects.

The FTC’s investigation aginst this organization had been ongoing for over 2 years.

Here’s a bio about HerbalKing from Spamhous spamfighting organization:

HerbalKing is a massive affiliate style spam program for snakeoil Body Part Enhancement scams (penis enlargement). It has also done spam campaigns for replica luxury goods, pharma (counterfeit pills) and porn. Spam arrives via botnets with spamvertised sites on “bulletproof” hosting offshore, particularly in China. The group also uses fast-flux hosting, running sites on hacked botnet PCs.

HerbalKing, with connections to India (possibly due to pharmaceutical supplies), rivals the traditional Eastern European spam gangs for volume and criminal botnet methods of its spam. “Tulip Labs” appears to be the source of HerbalKing’s herbal remedy products. The main operation may be run out of New Zealand or Australia by long-time spamming brothers Lance & Shane Atkinson. (see: http://www.geekzone.co.nz/juha/2237 )

There are hundreds of SBL listings related to HerbalKing but some may not be linked to this ROKSO due to the tremendous number of identities and domains used by the program. Lists of domains should be considered examples of that abuse of domain name space, not comprehensive lists of their registrations.

Read more at the FTC‘s web site; the NY Times; and the ars technica web site.

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10 Days of Deals at Dell

Try to say that 10 times fast.

Click the image at right to see Dell’s “10 Days of Deals” page with savings on computers, monitors, Blu-ray disc players. Each day through October 14 through 23rd will feature discounts and savings on different products, so check back each day. Here’s a list of some upcoming products.

Day One:

Dell's Studio Hybrid mini-desktop

Get a new Dell Studio Hybrid computer for $699 after $180 off!  The studio hybrid is small, powerful, and economical. It takes up 70% less space and uses 70% less power. It comes with an Intel Core 2 Duo CPU (the T5750 with 2.00GHz clock speed, and 667Mhz FSB), Windows Vista Home Premium, 1Yr Limited Hardware Warranty, InHome Service after Remote Diagnosis, Dell SE198WFP 19 inch Widescreen Flat Panel Monitor, 2GB RAM/Memory (Shared Dual Channel DDR2 at 667MHz), a 250GB SATA Hard Drive for storage, a CD/DVD Burner (Dual Layer DVD+/-RW Drive), and a Dell Wireless Desktop Keyboard & Mouse. Upgrades available.

Get a Dell Inspiron 1525 laptop for $499 after $150 off!  It comes with an Intel Celeron 550 CPU (2.0GHz, 533Mhz), Windows Vista Home Basic, Microsoft Works, 1Yr Ltd Hardware Warranty and Mail In Service, a glossy, widescreen 15.4 inch display, 2GB RAM/Memory (Shared Dual Channel DDR2 at 667MHz), a 250GB SATA Hard Drive, a CD / DVD Writer (DVD+/-RW Drive), Dell Wireless Internet 802.11g Mini-Card, and High Definition Audio. Upgrades available.

Day Two:

Get a Sony BDP-S350 Blu-ray Disc Player for $269 after $30 off!  Get the superb picture and sound quality only available on a blu-rayu disc player. CNET had this to say about the BDP-S350, “the combination of its small design, solid feature set, and excellent image quality make the Sony BDP-S350 a worthwhile standalone Blu-ray player–especially if you can find it for less than $300”. And her it is, under $300. Speaking for myself, this is the price I’ve been waiting for, a blu-ray player under $300.

Get $120 off on a Dell E248WP 24″ widescreen flat LCD monitor for $299! It has 1920 x 1200 native resolution for stunning detail without compromising desk space, a 5 millisecond response time which helps reduce ghosting and motion blur when gaming or watching movies, a 1000:1 contrast ratio for darker blacks and sharper images, crisp text, better color saturation and greater detail for HD entertainment.

There are more items available which I’ve not mentioned here.

Coming up on Oct. 16:

The Phillips DVD Home Theater System, Canon Rebel EOS XSi digital SLR camera, the Inspiron mini 9 laptop, and the Studio Desktop Mini 9 bundle computer system.


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Star Trek, MacGuyver, 90210, Young and Restless on YouTube

CBS Networks has started adding past episodes from such popular TV series such as Star Trek (1966-1969), MacGuyver (1985-1992), Beverly Hills 90210 (1990-2000), and The Young and the Restless (1973 to present) on Google‘s YouTube web site.


There are currently 5 episodes from each series, and 13 episodes for The Young and the Restless. The site is carrying the full length episodes with a 15 second ad before each epidoe, and another ad spot in the middle of the epsiode, and another at the end of each episode.

Google has been trying to patch things up with content owners (networks, etc) due to the constant unauthorized uploading of copyrighted material by fans to the YouTube site.  Many of the fan uploads were of poor picture and sound quality. The involvement of CBS should reduce unauthorized uploads of their content while providing superior sound and picture. It also creates a new revenue stream for the network and Google by selling ad space on re-runs of old episodes.

I’m wondering if any royalties will be paid to the actors on these programs. Certain airing agreements entitle actors to residual income from re-runs and syndicated programming after the series has ended production. The growth in online broadcasting has been a sticking point with the professional acting unions such as SAG (Screen Actors Guild) and AFTRA (American Federation of Television and Radio Artists). (See the July 27, 2008 New York Times article “Board of Screen Actors Guild Backs Negotiators’ Internet Demands“).

New Features

The episode pages will differ from the standard YouTube pages, which usually feature a filmstrip icon and the ability to add tags or labels of your own to the video clips.

YouTube has also added a “Theater View” option whcih presents an enlarged views of the video (and the ads) while hiding all other content on the page.

There is also a “lights out” mode, which will keeps the standard YouTube interface with a darker screen thereby putting more emphasis on the video.  It may also be useful for viewers who like to watch their videos in a darkened room.

Go the the CBS Playlists on YouTube to view the episodes.

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