Hashemian Blog
Web, Finance, Technology, Running

IE8 and JScript / WSH Bug

by @ 10:42 am
Filed under: computers,microsoft

Had a hell of a time chasing an inexplicable and sudden crash in one of my JScript programs last week. In the end Internet Explorer 8 was the culprit.

Thankfully removing IE8 is simply done via the Control Panel and it's rolled back to the previously installed one. Guess we have fair-competition rulings to thank for that or else IE8 would have been impossible to remove without damaging Windows.

Anyways, if you have IE8 installed and you run JScript in WSH, watch out, your program could crash under certain conditions. As for VBScript or other languages, I haven't tested them, so can't speak to those.

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Google Voice, SMS Texting, and Gmail

by @ 4:52 pm
Filed under: google,technology

It's hard for someone like me who doesn't have a cell phone to stay in touch with people these days. I know, I should just get one and some day I may, but for now I stand on my principles. Besides, I don't really have that many people to stay in touch with, nor that much to talk about around the clock.

But there is one functionality of the cell phone I wish I had, without the cell phone itself - texting. To me texting via Short Message Service or SMS has been a blessing. No longer must we endure endless chatter in the stores, on the trains, or at the airline gates. I have no problem with people quietly texting, as long as the annoying bell is off. And I think texting does have its uses, like when I need to send a quick message to my kids. I could do that with email too, but texting is so much easier. Enter Google Voice.

Google Voice is the old GrandCentral service after Google bought them and ported over the accounts. By itself, Google Voice is a pretty good service. You get your own number and can forward it to another phone/cell number, use it to take messages and even make cheap calls with it.

What I didn't know until recently is that Goggle Voice also comes with SMS texting. Even better, I was able to forward the incoming texts to my Gmail account, and yet better, I can reply to the texts right from Gmail and it's just like texting back the sender. And even yet better, it appears that this service is free, although I still don't have definitive confirmation on that.

What that means to me is that Google Voice has given me another opportunity not to bend my principles to get a cell phone just so I can text a few times a month. At the least it has delayed the dreaded inevitability of dropping a dead-weight in my pocket and making ridiculous monthly payments for the privilege.



SMS Texting in Google Voice


SMS Texting via Gmail

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Glorious Winter

by @ 7:13 pm
Filed under: environment,running-hiking

Winter in New England was heralded by a storm that dumped a pile of snow in the area. No records were in danger of being broken though. For many living in the area, the cold and ice and snow are annoying curses, not me. I have a hard time understanding why some people choose to live in a certain area and yet they incessantly complain about the weather. Ok, I don't like the rain much, specially when running, but I try not to whine about it.

To me having the four seasons is a blessing. Yes, the bitter cold and stifling heat are hard to bear on some days, but on balance each season offers its own unique beauty. The arrival of the snow season is a chance for me to get outside and enjoy the serenity and purity of nature. Some may dream of tropical weather, palm trees, and the sound of the waves crashing on the beach. That has its own appeal too, but I wouldn't want to have it year-round.

Winter Swans
As I was passing a lake near my home on one of my jogging routes today, I stopped to appreciate the beauty of my surroundings and snapped this photo. Quite a contrast to my recent Arizona trip where I was jogging in 100-degree desert temperatures, and both quite enjoyable in their own ways.

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Oracle and Sun

by @ 12:27 am
Filed under: computers,financial,technology

Oracle reported stellar earnings tonight that promises to send the stock up to a 9-year high tomorrow, at least judging by the after-hours activity. The company's latest acquisition of Sun Microsystems, announced back in August, is still pending EU regulatory approval, but the latest signs appear to indicate that it will clear that hurdle soon and complete the take-over. It has already been cleared by the US regulatory bodies.

EU has reasons to be worried about Sun's acquisition by Oracle and it has valid points. I and many others happen to share the same concerns. At the center of this debate is the future of open-source and mostly free products currently offered by Sun and used by millions of users and businesses worldwide. Chief among those products is MySQL, the database engine that powers the majority of Web sites operating on the Internet today. Java, the popular programming language created and maintained by Sun, is another product that's facing an unknown future under Oracle's ownership.

What will happen to MySQL and Java once Oracle takes control of these products? Oracle is playing nice promising innovation and continued support, but can that claim be trusted?

The situation is quite different from a couple of years ago when Sun itself acquired MySQL. Sun didn't have a competing database product and it had a track record of commitment to open-source and free products, namely Java. But Oracle is a different kind of company. Sure, it has solid products, chiefly the Oracle database and it has a proven history of successfully absorbing other companies' products into their mix. But it charges exorbitant prices for its products and its expensive maintenance contracts are legendary in the business. Oracle offers very little, if any, in terms of open-source and free products, and there is no reason to believe it will do so in the future.

What that means is that most likely Oracle will kill MySQL and Java in their current forms and integrate them with the rest of their expensive products. Once it has removed the potential threat, what's the incentive to continue with the free format? At best it may offer watered-down, crippled versions of MySQL or Java that will be useless to most, except perhaps for hobbyists and students.

In the end Larry Ellison will get his wish and Sun will be rolled into the Oracle's collective. The Sun's take-over challenges harken back to 2003 and Oracle's take-over of PeopleSoft. Back then Ellison came out swinging, steamrolling PeopleSoft's board and the regulatory agencies and eventually got his wish. This time around the damage to the industry will be worse, and the only beneficiary will be none other than Oracle itself.

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Super-Earth Discoveries

by @ 12:02 am
Filed under: space

The reported discoveries of super-earths (extra-solar planets larger than earth), can certainly do a number of one's imagination. At least it did to mine.

Imagine for a moment, if you will, that some 100 light-years from our planet, a rocky planet is orbiting its sun. What would that planet look like? Would there be any life there? If so what would its inhabitants look like? Would they even qualify as life form to us?

I know, a bunch of what's and no real answers. Sorry, but I must take a religious detour here. Creationists will have us believe that other than earth no other planet harbors life because there's no mention of this in any Abrahamic books. Then again some still believe that earth is flat and the center of the universe.

But, let's assume that god exists. Then couldn't he have created other worlds and simply not mentioned them in the books. It's possible, right? Are people that arrogant that they assume god must share all his knowledge with them? Who’s the master here? Maybe god didn't think these people deserve to know everything. I know I wouldn't share everything if I created them.

Anyways, if we apply mere probability, then there is a chance that there are other worlds with some kinds of life forms, maybe primitive, maybe advanced, or maybe totally incomprehensible to us. Would be a mind-numbing discovery for sure.

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Network Solutions Domain Renewals

by @ 11:36 pm
Filed under: internet,web

I don't know if Network Solutions (netsol) is anymore the biggest domain registrar on the Internet. That title may now belong to GoDaddy. But one thing is for certain, Network Solutions seems desperate. Ok, just saw this on domain registrars and now it's clear.

The other day I called Network Solutions after having trouble taking domain protect off a domain name. The agent with an attitude threw so many roadblocks in my way that I nearly gave up in disgust. In the end she offered to renew the domain for $9/year if I just dropped the matter. That's something they charge their unsuspecting customers $35/year for.

What kind of extortionist business practice is that? Is it even worth their time to haggle with their clients over one domain? Seems so petty, but if you are desperate enough, as Network Solutions seems to be, it's better to strong-arm their customers one domain at a time than to lose them to another registrar.

So the next time you are ready to renew your Network Solutions domains, don't just renew online. Simply call them up and threaten them with a domain transfer and get 75% off the renewal price.

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Cloud Computing Pitfalls

by @ 11:47 pm
Filed under: computers,internet,technology,web

From a development standpoint, cloud computing is a flexible and elastic computing environment. Sort of a server with unbound resources capable of running infinite programs for infinite users, with infinite processing power, memory, storage, and bandwidth.

Cloud computing is a dream for people like me who are developers at heart but spent much of their time as involuntary administrators, be it on Web servers, database servers, file servers, firewalls, networks, or whatever.

Of course everything good must come with something bad. Cloud computing is no exception. There is the lack of complete control over the resources, the risk of unforeseen outages and the risk of data leaks and data loss. And being at the mercy of the cloud vendors may not be good either. They could just shut you down by mistake or because of some bogus reason.

But one aspect I hadn't given much thought about is cost, specially the unexpected ones. Last weekend at work an unforeseen condition awoke a piece of bad code in our data access layer causing CPU thrashing on our database server. The systems still worked, albeit near a denial-of-service condition. By Monday we identified and patched the code and everything was back to normal. No cost was incurred as a result, other than perhaps some extra heat generated by the server.

If our systems were hosted on a cloud we might have been faced with a large invoice from the provider for the processing and bandwidth used. Or the provider might have just shut down our services to protect their other clients. The results could have been catastrophic.

When you operate your own servers, you may be able to get away with some mistakes. But in the cloud mistakes could cost you a lot, even your job. That risk is something we should be keenly aware of, as the computing landscape slowly shifts to the cloud. Like it or not, cloud computing will eventually usurp customized systems. It'll come with many benefits, but we must recognize that it won't be as easy as dumping in the applications and calling it a day.

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Google's Big Wave

by @ 11:01 pm
Filed under: google

Google WaveAmong my other emails this morning was finally an invitation from Google Wave. I had applied for Google Wave a couple of weeks ago, so at first it seemed exciting to get the invitation. Turns out that I wasn't so special after all. apparently throngs of people had received the same invitation over the weekend and some hadn't even applied.

Wave is an interesting concept. It's sort of a cross between email and chat, social media and collaboration. After kicking the tires for a bit, I found it to be useful tool, but nothing earth-shattering. Conversations (known as waves) are kept as lists. People participating in each conversation can update it and the updates are visible to others in real-time.

Each user is assigned an email with the address username@googlewave.com, but it cannot be used to send or receive emails to/from external users. That's one feature that would make the product more useful. At this point I think Gmail is still a more robust service, but Wave is a work-in-progress. At some point Google may decide to integrate it with Gmail.

As Wave matures and as more people jump on, it has the potential to become a valuable tool, as many other Google products have proven to be. We'll see.

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Google's Big Wave

by @ 11:01 pm
Filed under: google

Google WaveAmong my other emails this morning was finally an invitation from Google Wave. I had applied for Google Wave a couple of weeks ago, so at first it seemed exciting to get the invitation. Turns out that I wasn't so special after all. apparently throngs of people had received the same invitation over the weekend and some hadn't even applied.

Wave is an interesting concept. It's sort of a cross between email and chat, social media and collaboration. After kicking the tires for a bit, I found it to be useful tool, but nothing earth-shattering. Conversations (known as waves) are kept as lists. People participating in each conversation can update it and the updates are visible to others in real-time.

Each user is assigned an email with the address username@googlewave.com, but it cannot be used to send or receive emails to/from external users. That's one feature that would make the product more useful. At this point I think Gmail is still a more robust service, but Wave is a work-in-progress. At some point Google may decide to integrate it with Gmail.

As Wave matures and as more people jump on, it has the potential to become a valuable tool, as many other Google products have proven to be. We'll see.

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Credit Card Interest Rate Games

by @ 11:55 pm
Filed under: financial,money

Credit CardsCitibank MasterCard - for me it started years ago like many others. The 0% offer in the mail and the 1% cashback, and I was in the game. Fast-forward a few years and the cashback is still there but I just received a notice that the interest rate on the card will soon be 23.99%. It hasn't happened abruptly. First it was 5%, then 9%, then 13%, then 17%, then 20%, and now 24%. What is it with the 0.99%? Do they think that consumers are stupid?

Ok, I'm not exactly a profitable customer for these guys. I never carry a balance. Yes, they make a marginal profit from merchant charges, of which they return 1% back to me, and who knows how long that's going to last. But with new consumer protection laws looming the banks have just gone wild, hiking fees and charges and interests all over the map. Why stop at 24%? Why not 50% or 100% or even 10,000%?

But wait, it gets even better. The letter states that if the account is in good standing and there are $1,500 or more in monthly charges, they'll credit 10% of the total interest for the given month. "This can offset the increase in your purchase APR.", the letter states. How kind of the bank to make this generous offer.

First of all, the naïve customer may think that the bank will drop the interest rate from 24% to 14% - hardly. That's 10% of the 24%, for the grand total of 2.4% in credits. In other words the interest rate will be 21.6%. Second, who has the time to spread out the charges every month in a precise manner to take advantage of the credit? Third, who is going to make certain that the bank is actually abiding by this rule? I'm sure the rules are so complex that the bank will never have to honor the credit. And last, as stated in the letter, "We reserve the right to change or end this program with 30 days' prior written notice." In other words, good luck getting a dime back.

There are some who advocate ditching credit cards altogether and paying everything with cash instead. It's a great idea on the surface, but hardly practical. The banks have rigged the system so well that a cash-only lifestyle in the modern world is all but impossible. Try to book a flight, rent a car, reserve a hotel room, or shop online and you'll be running back to the credit card with your tail between your legs. Use a debit card? Good luck getting your money back when a hacker empties your bank account and vanishes into the ether.

For now the only thing you can do is to use the credit card sparingly, pay off your balances every month, and just try to stay one step ahead of the banks as they continue to change the rules of the game in the hopes of tripping you up.

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