It being so close to St Patrick’s Day, I decided to finally deal with the non-working music on hold at work since it gave me a good excuse to put Irish music on. Many years ago I had set up an ancient PC running Damn Small Linux (DSL) with mp3blaster running in shuffle / repeat mode connected to the PBX (private branch exchange) phone system. I had created a bunch of short audio tracks with little advertisements that would play while callers were on hold and it worked pretty well. The PBX has a wire with a standard 1/8″ male jack that can be plugged into a music player, and so I had just plugged it into the speaker port of the PC. That machine (a Dell Dimension L400c) definitely had a good run. After it died I realized that it had been built in 1999.
To get some music playing again I looked around the office to see what I had available and my eyes fell on an old Acer A500 tablet (running Android 4.0.3 which I think is the most recent version of android Acer had pushed out to it). I didn’t want to set up a gmail account on the tablet, so I used the android browser to navigate to: https://f-droid.org/
and downloaded and installed the .apk for F-droid (you have to change your security settings to allow from unkown sources to install). F-droid is an alternative “app store” for free and open source android applications which I’ve used in projects like this in the past.
Once I had f-droid installed I was able to install two key applications: OpenExplorer Beta which is a file manager that can operate on files located on an external USB drive (the A500 has a USB port which I intended to use to load music files). After copying over a bunch of albums to the Music folder, I installed Vanilla Music Player which I’ve read is very stable. I loaded it up and it found all the music files and seemed to parse them correctly into albums or artists. I created a new playlist for St Pattys Day and added each album to the playlist. I was able to set the playlist to shuffle and repeat and set it to play and its been running good all day!
The top sponsored ad on the Microsoft search engine for the biggest company in the nation (Walmart) should not be sending people to a phishing server.
The user got an annoying pop up which locked up the browser (had to be killed with task manager). I notice that Bing is set as the default search engine in the user’s browser (Firefox). The user had been searching for “Walmart” and clicked on the first result (a sponsored Microsoft ad) which sent the user to the non-secure (http) walmart.com. Apparently that machine or the DNS pointing to that machine is redirecting folks to pcxxrry0555.xyz (a domain registered with GoDaddy and seemingly sitting on a Highwinds server in Arizona somewhere).
The default privacy settings for Windows 10 anger me. Hiding the fact that you will be collecting everything a user types, says, or searches for on the Internet behind a big, obvious “Express Settings” button (which most users are likely to click during the setup process) and providing only a tiny text link to “Customize” these very important choices is just sneaky and wrong. Providing a way to turn all this tracking off is great, but such overt trickery makes me wonder if switching these settings to off really does anything at all. Some users might be happy to hear that Windows 10 offers bitlocker disk encryption, but at least in the Home version your private key gets uploaded to a Microsoft server which pretty much makes using it a non-starter for me.
If you’re one of the folks who need to use this operating system, you can find out what privacy settings Microsoft makes available to you by reviewing the stories linked below but understand that with every update these options may (and likely will) change. There is no guarantee that any of these settings will actually do what you might expect them to do because with any closed source, proprietary software there is no way for a third party to audit the code directly. All that a concerned person can do is poke around with network tools and infer.
If you have older machines that are running Windows 7 you may have run into an issue where Windows Update gets stuck at the Preparing to install screen (seemingly forever). I’ve been able to get past this issue just by stopping the Windows update service, then applying the “July 2016 update rollup for Windows 7 SP1 and Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1” (see KB 3172605 below) though its possible thats because I already have applied a bunch of other patches so your mileage may vary. Also, it appears this may cause some issues with bluetooth so be aware of that if you use BT (my machines do not). There is a good article about the issue on InfoWorld by Woody Leonhard from back at the end of July.
FBI Chief Comey blames Snowden for releasing info, ignores the fact that mass spying on Americans was illegal and anti-American and so the FBI’s actions essentially were the catalyst for the mass adoption of encryption to begin with. Wants the US to have an “adult” conversation about how math should work – sounds like a child whining that his homework is too hard. With all the hacks and leaks over the last couple years talking about making encryption weaker (or outlawing software that protects folks) seems ridiculous. There should probably be some minimum requirements for becoming the FBI director which are more rigorous than going to the right school and getting a degree in theology. Comey is a lawyer, not a technologist and it shows.