News and Observer and I part ways

Over the summer the bank canceled the credit card used by thieves on their New Jersey shopping spree. This was the same card used to pay for our News and Observer subscription, and on 12 July our subscription officially expired. The N&O continued to deliver papers and supplemented that with several letters in the mail asking us to call them. After repeatedly leaving messages for Miriam Widger, the newspaper’s “Audience Retention and Collection Agent,” she finally called me back.

Miriam told me we could continue to subscribe for the incredibly low price of $351 for 52 weeks.

“Gosh,” I responded, “I see on your website that we can get a new subscription for only $109.20 for 52 weeks. Why would you charge your long-time customers three times as much as a new subscriber?”
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Scanning 3D objects with the Structure sensor

This is a 3D rendering of me

This is a 3D rendering of me

As an employee of a company located on N.C. State’s Centennial Campus, I have access to the tech lending program of the N.C. State libraries. One of the more interesting devices I found there two weeks ago was a 3D scanner kit consisting of an iPad Air and an Occipital Structure 3D Sensor device. Not knowing much about it I thought I would take it home for a week and see what it could do.

The sensor integrates with the iPad by using the iPad’s built-in camera in conjunction with the Structure sensor. The sensor paints the scene in front of it with infrared grid points. The sensor then detects how this grid is bent by the object in the field and, together with the iPad’s sensitive accelerometers, computes the dimensions of the object. All of this happens in seconds and it’s quite amazing to watch!
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The Psychedelic Furs

The Psychedelic Furs play Raleigh's Lincoln Theatre.

The Psychedelic Furs play Raleigh’s Lincoln Theatre.

Months ago, Kelly and I bought tickets when The Psychedelic Furs announced they’d be playing at Raleigh’s Lincoln Theatre. Last night was that night and I was on Cloud Nine. Kelly was initially ambivalent about going but once the Furs took the stage she really got into it.

I made jokes on Twitter about being in an older crowd and, truly, it was a more mature crowd. Richard Butler and his bandmates didn’t slow down, though, as the Furs played the many hits they’ve racked up over the years. What a show! The faces may be older and there might be some new bandmates, but other than that it could’ve been a Furs show in their heyday.
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N&O changes

Gary Pearce weighed in on the News and Observer’s recent print changes so I figured I should do the same.

During our fair visit Friday, I stopped by the N&O booth and chatted with one of the reps there. I volunteered that I liked the new changes to the paper (the local section and front section have been merged) and was told that I’m “one out of a million.” Apparently the feedback from subscribers has been mostly negative.

I pay more attention to the local stories since that’s something the N&O can cover better than anyone else. I like that the local coverage is getting more prominent.

On the other hand, though, I do have to fight with my daughter (mainly) for a section of paper to read in the mornings. Not having a front and local section makes it difficult to share.

I certainly don’t blame the N&O for experimenting, though. I think any newspaper that doesn’t try to change and adapt in these times is at risk of extinction in these fast-moving times for journalism.

Dueling phones: iPhone vs. Android

As luck would have it, I have been issued a company cellphone, an iPhone. Company policy is that all mobile phones accessing corporate resources have to have a self-destruct app installed. Thus, if I don’t want to expose my personal smartphone to potential destruction (does it say “this message will self destruct…” before smoke pours out?) I must carry two. While this is inconvenient, having both an iPhone and an Android has given me insight on the two that I wouldn’t ordinarily have.

My thoughts? What, did you expect to come to MT.Net and not get my thoughts? Here’s what I think about the two platforms:

Speed – advantage iPhone. My new 5s runs rings around my Samsung Galaxy Epic 4G Touch. That’s not surprising since my Samsung is positively ancient.
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Blue Cross Blue Shield of NC has great customer service!

After losing my job in December, I signed up for an Affordable Care Act health care plan, a.k.a. Obamacare to cover the family. It could have been cheaper, of course, had our short-sighted state leaders implemented a healthcare marketplace (you know, free market competition and such) but the rate I got was significantly cheaper than a COBRA plan.

Anyhow, I recently submitted paperwork for an automatic bank draft for the policy but the paperwork apparently hasn’t gone through. This necessitated two phone calls to Blue Cross Blue Shield of NC Customer Service this past week. These calls uncovered a technical snafu that’s still being solved but still I have to say that the customer service representatives I spoke with are two of the finest who have ever assisted me with anything. They love their jobs, they love talking to people, and seemed to be willing to spend whatever time it took to get my issue sorted out.
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Careerbuilder ignoring location preferences

This is a case of “too much of a good thing.” A few weeks ago, tired of the few job opportunities coming my way from LinkedIn, I posted my resume on The job opportunity floodgates opened and I was soon inundated with job opportunities.

One would think that would be a Good Thing, but instead the opportunities left something to be desired. Out of state recruiters, some who could barely speak English, were calling me about jobs that were nowhere near Raleigh, which is the only place I want to work.

I want to somehow add “NOT interested in relocating” to my Careerbuilder profile but Careerbuilder doesn’t have any such option. Now, Careerbuilder does offer the ability to specify what location its job seekers are interested in. I’ve taken advantage of that option as seen below: Continue reading

N&O spreads flawed password advice

Courtesy Davide Restivo

Courtesy Davide Restivo

In today’s Connect section of the News and Observer, reporter John Bordsen asked a panel of technology experts about how to protect oneself from online hackers. I have a few beefs with this article which I’ll describe here.

The first is from Dr. Magdy Attia, dean of the College of STEM at Charlotte’s Johnson C. Smith University:

Change your passwords and make them long. “Your password should be changed every month or every two months – and make it hard to guess,” Attia said. “Some people use kids’ names, birthdates or whatever. But there are software packages that can scan a large number of passwords to find out what can work. A hacker can use these tools to scan for possibilities.”

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Time Warner Cable raising Internet rates 40%

As a customer of Earthlink’s cable modem service, I’ve been happy being relatively immune to the frequent and outrageous price hikes imposed by Time Warner Cable on its customers. I’ve heard grumblings recently from my friends unfortunate enough to still be Time Warner Cable customers that their Internet rates were going up. Thinking I was once again free from this nonsense, I chirped at how my rates weren’t rising.

Then a friend pointed out the insert in this month’s bill, clearly stating that, yes, my rates would be going up. How much, you say? By thirty-eight percent!

That’s right: Internet service that has been $41.95 per month would now be $57.99, an almost 40% jump in one month.
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Facebook echo chamber

I’ve written before about the Facebook echo chamber where, like karma, like-minded Facebook friends are drawn towards you. This becomes an echo chamber as one only hears from those who share your views.

Yesterday I was shown again just how much filtering Facebook does, when my friend Tanner Lovelace commented on an update Kelly made to Facebook.

“Wait, are you and Tanner Facebook friends?” I asked Kelly.

“I am,” she answered.

“How come I’m not Tanner’s friend?”

“Well, the only way I know Tanner is through you,” she said, “so you must be his friend.”

I checked my list of Facebook friends and, sure enough, there was Tanner. Then I checked Tanner’s page and saw how many of his updates I haven’t been getting because for some reason Facebook never thought to show them to me.

Without me knowing it, Facebook was steering me towards some friends and away from others. I never knew what I had been missing.

This is what I find really frustrating about Facebook: the view it gives you of your world is highly distorted. And you might not ever realize it.