Browse Month: February 2014

SAP security

I ordered some software from SAP about five years ago. Today I needed to access the order data (long story) so I attempted to login to my account. I have my order number, so I used the “forgot password” function. I figured I’d receive an email with a link to reset my password, or possibly a temporary password I could use. Instead, I received this:

Dear Jeff Schroeder,

Thank you for contacting us on SAP.

The password you requested is: somepassword

Please ensure that no additional spaces are copied when using the ‘copy/paste’ function to enter your password.

Sincerely,
Customer Service

Note that somepassword was my actual password. They sent it in a plain-text email. This means they’re not hashing the password, and possibly not even encrypting it in their database. Rule number one of password security is to never have password data in a format where it can be recovered like this. For a supposedly “enterprise-level” company like SAP, this is shameful. I can’t believe in 2014, after all of the password breaches we’ve seen in just the last year, that there are companies who still do this.

Naughty, naughty, SAP.

Now that’s a discount

I’m doing some test work for a major product launch tomorrow. Fortunately I have control of the product administration area so I can control the prices a bit. My latest order included quite a discount.

wow-savings

By Grabthar’s Hammer, what a savings!

Welcome to 2008

I’m working on a Windows 2008 server for a client, and ran into problems doing something as simple as extracting a zip file.

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Path too long? Seriously? Doing some searches on the web, apparently even Windows 8– the latest version– has this same problem. Unix solved it around 1975; Linux and Mac systems have no limit and never have. It’s 2014. Why can’t Microsoft figure out a way to allow long pathnames?

Ugh, I can’t believe people use this operating system daily.

Honor orchestra

Tonight we headed up to the Colorado State University campus in Fort Collins to watch Kyra perform in an honor orchestra. This is the third elite group she’s played with in the past month, which is pretty impressive– and also pretty taxing. She has to get up early, head out to wherever the band is playing, and spend 6-8 hours straight practicing the pieces the conductor has selected. But since these are the really good high school musicians, selected from all over the area, the performances tend to be quite impressive.

kyra-orchestra

She had a brief dinner break after her all-day rehearsals and before the performance, so we picked her up and went to dinner. We learned two important things about Fort Collins:

1) The Beau Jo’s pizza parlor has closed down. We were all set to go there to celebrate Laralee’s birthday, but when we arrived at the spot, the place was shuttered and they’re building some new restaurant. Bummer.

2) There’s another restaurant down the street with a name that is as mysterious as it is awesome.

drunken-monkey

Whoooooooaaaaaaah, crash boom bang

Back in the spring of 1993, some friends and I decided to go to the Smoky Mountains for spring break. I had just bought my very first car, a classic baby-blue 1982 Nissan 300SX.

As we left St. Louis for Tennessee, I was fiddling with the CD player. I had a Discman jacked into one of those cassette tape thingies that you insert into a cassette player in the dashboard. Yeah, pretty high tech. Anyway, I was changing the disc and not watching the road, and I drifted left a bit too far, hitting the interstate guardrail at 70 miles an hour. The entire left side of the car was scraped to bits, and the driver-side door was badly dented.

My poor baby! But, what’s done is done, and the Smoky Mountains still awaited. So we soldiered on, me a little sobered by the fact that the accident could’ve been much worse, and my friends joking about my bad driving. Later in the trip, we decided to re-enact the fateful moment when I hit the guardrail. The result was a classic photo that I loved so much I had it blown up and hung in my room for years.

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As it turned out, the driver-side door wouldn’t even open any more, so we spent the rest of our week-long trip climbing over each other to get out the passenger side. I later had the door repaired so it would at least open, but the lock never worked quite right. (I later had a radar detector stolen out of the car, likely because of the lock issues.)

Ahh, good times. That trip had a lot of good memories… just ask Dirk.

Family history, or pile o’ junk?

While I was cleaning out the storage room today, Laralee was plowing through boxes and boxes of “family history” stuff her mom had collected over eighty years. These boxes contain everything from written diaries to dusty photos to crazy mementos. She was looking for things we should scan so we have digital copies (papers and photos) as well as organizing the piles into family members and approximate dates.

family-history

As you can imagine, it’s a daunting task. It took her about two hours to go through the first box, and judging from the pile still on the table, I think she might be halfway finished with it. Then there are all of the other boxes in the corner.

At some point, it might come down to a decision like the Christmas card archive: some of this stuff is just not worth keeping. I guess we’ll see if she’s as much of a packrat as I am.

The Ghosts of Christmas Past

Today I bought a couple of (fairly) watertight storage boxes with the intent of putting some things in our storage room into them. When I was helping with cleanup of the flood damage last September, I saw too many basements where everything the people owned had been completely destroyed by the mud and water. Although we don’t have anything truly irreplaceable in our storage room, I think it’s prudent to at least take some precautionary measures.

Armed with the boxes, I went into the storage room to figure out what should be stashed. My eye was drawn to the pile of large manila envelopes stuffed with Christmas cards from years past. Yes, that’s right: each year we gather the hundred or so cards that we receive, and put them into neatly labeled envelopes which go on the storage shelves. We’ve done it for eighteen years (since 1995) and every year Laralee says, “Are we really going to look at these? Ever?” I assure her that one of these days we’ll be glad we kept them.

Today, looking at an entire shelf of cards and pondering whether they’re “important” enough to go into our anti-flood containers, Laralee once again pointed out that it’s just silly to keep all of them. “In fifty years, Kyra is going to hate us,” she said. “When it’s time for her to put us into a home, she’s going to be cleaning out the basement and find all of these cards, and have to haul them to the dumpster.”

Sadly, I had to acknowledge her logic. In eighteen years, I haven’t ever thought to myself, “I’m kind of bored this afternoon– maybe I’ll pull out the Christmas cards from 1998 and read through them!” So I went to work, emptying the envelopes into a big pile. I glanced through them, laughing at a few clever cards or remembering old friends we don’t hear from any more. By the time I was done, I had a pretty impressive pile. Kyra and her friends buried me with the cards:

pile-o-cards

Assuming we get around a hundred cards a year, and considering this is eighteen Christmases’ worth, this pile probably contains close to two thousand cards. It was pretty heavy on top of me.

We hauled them upstairs and half-filled the recycling bin. Then I went back to the storage room and found all sorts of things that went straight to the trash. Broken blenders, stale food, parts from appliances we don’t even own any more, cracked picture frames, old posters, stacks of papers from college, and dozens of other odds and ends that make absolutely no sense to keep. Load after load went to the trash. I had only intended to spend a few minutes stuffing a watertight box, but in the end it was three hours later when I brushed off my jeans and looked at a storage room that was quite a bit more empty, and a tad more organized.

Oh, and in the end I only had enough stuff to fill one of the bins. I guess next weekend I’ll tackle the other half of the room and fill the other bin…

$19B

The tech world is abuzz with the news that Facebook bought WhatsApp, a phone messaging service with about 450 million users. The price tag? Nineteen billion-with-a-B dollars.

Seen on Twitter:

Xeni Jardin
By my notes, NASA’s 2014 budget is about $16 billion. Facebook just paid $3 billion more for WhatsApp.

Matt Bors
But all NASA can do is put robots on Mars and send spacecraft beyond our solar system. WhatsApp is like you can chat and stuff.

Sad because it’s true. Our priorities are pretty out of whack these days.

What’s brighter?

Randall Munroe, creator of the awesome web comic xkcd, has a knack for putting things in perspective. I really enjoyed one of his “What If” questions regarding supernovae.

Which of the following would be brighter, in terms of the amount of energy delivered to your retina:

A supernova, seen from as far away as the Sun is from the Earth, or

The detonation of a hydrogen bomb pressed against your eyeball?

Answer? The supernova is brighter… by nine orders of magnitude.

Wow. Astrophysics is so cool.

Small World

One of my new favorite games is Small World.

small-world

What other game has Flying Trolls and Berzerk Elves? Sweet!

Zack the ham

This is what happens when Zack gets a hold of my new camera.

zack4

Jesus tortilla

It’s a miracle! Alex toasted a tortilla and the face of Jesus appeared!

jesus-tortilla

It’s pretty obvious this is a message from the Lord. Or perhaps Che Guevera is channeling himself through Mexican food.

Awkward happy birthday

It’s always a little awkward when someone texts you and clearly knows who you are, but you have no idea who it is.

happy-birthday-text

I don’t recognize the number (although these days, who memorizes phone numbers?) and since it’s not coming up in my contact list, it must be someone who I either don’t have a cell phone number for, or who I just didn’t add to my phone’s contact list.

In any case, I texted back a generic “Thanks!” and hoped for the best.

So if whoever texted that message is reading this, I’m sorry…

Happy birthday to me

Today it was an unseasonable 60 degrees and sunny, so of course to celebrate my birthday I figured I should play some ultimate. The wind was gusting around 20+ mph which made for an interesting game, but I was pleased to see that even on the 17th anniversary of my 25th birthday, I can still run around with the fast kids.

Logoff sound?

Ahh, Windows, you’re so easy to mock.

I’m logged into a remote server that’s running Windows 7, and I just finished what I was doing so I clicked “log off”. Much to my surprise, I wasn’t able to log off because the system couldn’t play the log off sound. Yeah, really.

logoff-sound

After waiting a moment for Windows to figure out how to play the sound, I finally clicked the dangerous-looking Force log off button. I was asked if I was sure, because it might cause system instability, and I took a big risk and proceeded. Heaven knows if the server is even running now.

New toy

My new toy came today: a Canon S110 camera. Per Thom’s suggestion, I decided to get a slightly more “serious” camera for my photography work. I always feel a little self-conscious when Thom and I are backpacking somewhere and he pulls out his massive Canon MegaShot SuperCam 2000X or whatever, and I whip out my little silver Canon ELPH point-and-shoot. Although I really like that camera and it’s certainly easy to use, it has a fairly limited feature set.

I chose the S110 for three reasons, really:

1) It’s compact– basically the same size as my old Canon, so it’s not ten pounds of high-tech magic to lug around.

2) It’s cheap– only $200 on eBay, compared with at least $400-600 for a serious DSLR sort of camera.

3) It shoots in RAW mode– Thom and others say that’s the only “true” way to take pictures because it allows for a great deal of post-processing.

After charging the battery, I took a few exploratory pictures. The quality is noticeably better than my old camera (as it should be, I suppose). Here’s an example of a quick point-and-shoot of Laralee’s Valentine’s rose:

canon-s110-first

Wow!

I completely understand that buying a fancier camera doesn’t mean I’m going to suddenly transform into a fantastic photographer. But it’s my hope that with some better tools at my disposal, I’ll at least be able to take my work up a notch.

Zack at DQ

Zack finally had a chance to use the Dairy Queen gift card from Aunt Kari today!

zack-dq

Imploded cupcakes

Yesterday, on a whim, I decided to make some cupcakes. The great thing about being an adult is you can do stuff like that. Kids have to wait for their birthdays or whatever.

When I took them out of the oven, they’d all imploded. I don’t mean they’d been all puffy in the oven and then slowly crumpled as they cooled– they were all completely dented-in from the start.

imploded-cupcakes

How is this even possible? Is it some kind of divine commentary on my cooking abilities? The recipe is about as simple as it gets: mix eggs, oil, and some magical brown powder from a bag, and pour it into cupcake pans.

Fortunately, when I frosted them I was able to “level out” the tops so the finished cupcakes look pretty normal. And that means the middle bites are pretty awesome because they have a half-inch of frosting.

Magic at the checkpoint

I’m flying home from Seattle this morning, and I had an experience at the TSA security checkpoint that can only be described as magical.

I didn’t have to remove my shoes.
I didn’t have to take my laptop out of my bag.
I didn’t have to empty my pockets.
I didn’t have to opt out of the full-body scanner.
I didn’t have to be subjected to a full-body groping.

The reason? I don’t actually know. Seatac has the full-body scanners, and many passengers were being routed through them, so I’d already steeled myself for the exciting experience of explaining that I don’t want to go through them, and being pulled aside for an embarrassing and ultimately pointless pat-down.

Maybe I was routed to an “express lane” or something like that. Regardless, it was really nice to breeze through a metal detector, grab my bags, and go.

Upon reflection, the tragedy in all of this is the fact that something so simple can change my travel experience for the day. I despise air travel, mostly because the TSA treats everyone like criminals, but also because the airlines seem to do their very best to make flights uncomfortable, remove even the tiniest perks, and charge for literally everything. Everyone– including the TSA itself– knows that the current state of airport security is nothing more than theater. Why can’t we all just use a metal detector for passengers and an x-ray machine for bags, and call it a day?

Seattle trip – day 3

Today we headed up to Crystal Mountain, which is one of maybe a handful of ski resorts in Washington state. I joined Thom and Julian there about a year ago, when the two of them were first learning to ski. I’ve been skiing since I moved to Colorado eighteen years ago, but in the last year both Thom and Julian have probably gone out as many times as I did in eighteen years, and now both of them are far better skiiers than I am.

Here’s a picture of Julian as we got started. Or, perhaps, it’s some random kid– it’s kind of hard to tell.

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Here are Katie and Thom at the top of a lift:

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And Julian and Thom on the lift ride up the hill:

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Julian shot off a few jumps and I managed to catch him in mid-air:

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I also took some opportunities to capture a few shots of the trees and snow.

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The wind was blowing pretty hard, and with temperatures in the 20’s it was really chilly. After lunch it started to snow, and by the end of the day it was really coming down. The icy hard-packed spots were gradually covered with powder, and as the wind died down late in the day it seemed a bit warmer. Strangely, the conditions at the end of the day were better than earlier, although we were all pretty tired and cold. We called it a day and chalked it up as another successful ski trip.

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