Sunday, April 13, 2014

Maxpedition Rat Wallet as USB Battery Pack Case

My wife has always referred to it as the "man purse" but that wasn't the reason I didn't use it. The Maxpedition Rat Wallet is durable and awesome looking, but it's just wasn't that functional for any use case I had in mind for it ... until now. I noticed a while back that my solar USB charger fit perfectly in one of the compartments, but it seemed a waste to use it just to carry one thing. Then it dawned on me that my Ruinovo Battery Pack which had killed about $500 worth of stuff with it's sleek aluminum edges would fit in the Rat. Not only did the battery pack fit the Rat's cell phone pocket perfectly, but it left the Android charging port of it open. Now I can use that battery pack without removing it from the Rat!

Maxpedition Rat Wallet

I put the Ruinovo in there just to get it somewhere where it wasn't scratching everything I own. Then one day I noticed I could see the Apple port and then thought what a shame that it didn't show the Android port. Then my slow-working brain figured out that hey, I could turn the battery pack around. I still have to push the button through the elastic to start it charging, but that's even a benefit because the button won't get accidentally bumped when it's in the Rat.

Maxpedition Rat Wallet With Ruinovo USB Battery Pack 1

Maxpedition Rat Wallet With Ruinovo USB Battery Pack 2

Maxpedition Rat Wallet With Ruinovo USB Battery Pack 3

The Rat also fits my solar USB battery pack/charger and various cables, too.

Maxpedition Rat Wallet With Ruinovo USB Battery Pack and Solar Charger

Even better, the Rat attaches to the outside of my SwissGear laptop bag for easy access to my USB charging packs. It would have been genius had I actually planned it.

Maxpedition Rat Wallet With Ruinovo USB Battery Pack Attached To SwissGear Laptop Bag

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Phone Scammers Part 2

They've been calling my work number almost every day.  Never the same phone number twice, in fact never the same state twice. They claim be calling from  "account services" and ask me to press 1 to lower my interest rate, which then gets me on hold about a minute. I rarely get very far with them before they sniff me out for purposefully leading them on. When asked "what company are you with?" they usually reply with "this is account services" or some such mumbo jumbo.

They are pretty good about sniffing out questions that would catch them in an outright lie, and usually just hang up immediately after being asked such a question. Asking something like "are you account services from my bank?" usually gets me a hangup. One creative guy yesterday answered "no sir, your bank would never call you to save you money" which I thought was an interesting response and thanked him for his honest and creative reply before I pressed the hangup button.

At any rate, if the name of your company is "account services" and you routinely spoof your caller ID to mask your true whereabouts, then there is a special circle of hell reserved just for you. It makes me wonder how many vulnerable people like the elderly they are preying upon. I try to do my part by keeping them on the phone as long as possible.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Phone Scammers

I have this game where I try to keep phone scammers on the line as long as possible. I consider my time valuable, but I figure if enough people string them along and waste their time, then there will be less time for them to scam people who are more vulnerable.

Lately though it seems like they are catching onto this technique of stringing them along. The last few times they've called me, I must have sounded too enthusiastic because they've hung up right after I say "I would LOVE to hear more about lowering my interest rates!"

My original thought was that they keep records on their system about who messes with them, but if that was the case, then they probably wouldn't call me in the first place. So they must be really good at detecting mock enthusiasm.  Most people are probably skeptical, so next time I have resolved to saying something like "This isn't a scam is it? because I'm really hard to scam" or something along those lines.

Either way, these types of calls have been increasing, so while some people look at it as a big hassle, I look at it as refining my technique.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Build Your Own Photography Light Box

A decent camera is just part of the setup you need to take closeup pictures of small objects, which I do for a couple of my blogs. It's a natural progression: you start by taking whimsical photos of your objects pretty much wherever you happen to be standing, then you work on getting your photos consistently good, and then finally you end up with a light box for some or all of your photos.

Commercial light boxes aren't too expensive. If you're going to lay down $500 to $1,000 for a good camera, then $50 for a light box won't be a problem. But they don't get very good reviews, and they don't really look like they are worth the $50. What you're after is basically just diffused light on a white background. 

Since we all have light sources, and we all have diffusers in the form of printer paper, I set out to cobble together my own setup before I gave in and spent the money on something off-the-shelf. Somewhere I read an article about making your own light box from a plain cardboard box, so I decided to start with that design.

  1. Large cardboard box
  2. Small stack of printer paper
  3. Small roll of tape
  1. Box cutter or pocket knife
  2. Scisssors
Complete Setup
  1. Camera
  2. Tripod
  3. Macro Filter (goes on end of lens)
  4. Light Box
  5. Table
  6. Desk or standing lamps

Building the Light Box

Most of the work is in modifying the cardboard box. First, cut off all the flaps with a pocket knife. Make sure it is nice and sharp and the flaps should come off with little effort. Since I collect and blog about pocket knives, this wasn't a problem. You'll want to take the box and put it on a table or workbench with the opening facing you. This is how the box will be oriented while you take pictures with it.

Next, cut three small windows in the top and sides of the box using the same pocket knife or box cutter. The windows should be smaller than a piece of printer paper because the paper will cover the windows and act as a diffuser, giving your light box some nice, soft, light. At this point your cardboard box is done.

Now it's time to add the diffusers. Take 2 sheets of paper and tape them over the two side windows you just carved. They will just hang freely. Next, put a sheet over the top window. Using the top can be a little tricky because you either have to have the lamp standing over it or find a lamp bigger than the window so it won't try to fall through the top. Other solutions would be a small pane of glass or securely taping the paper so it could hold up a small lamp. I just used an old aquarium lamp I found from digging through the garage.

Once the diffusers are attached, break out a couple lamps and a tripod and you're ready to go!

Below is the result of the picture I was taking above. This setup is giving me professional quality results for a total cost of zero dollars.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Solved: Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 Won't Charge All The Way

I do believe in an emergency she would save her Kindle first
The missus was very happy to get her Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 for Christmas this year. But a few days later she came to me with it and said she might have to return it because she couldn't get it to charge past 81%. My first thought was to take the battery out, but that's not possible with this model. The next idea was to do a reset and that worked!

These days even a simple battery has a computer, and being a computer, sometimes it can glitch. Either way, something inside the Kindle has a glitch with charging the battery, and resetting it fixes the problem. I bet they'll do a firmware update at some point which addresses this issue. In the mean time, the missus hasn't had any problems charging her HDX since having to reset it.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Improve Your Privacy At The Computer With Tape

Most computers come with web cameras. Most computers because of Windows are virus magnets. It's not really Microsoft's fault--Windows is just a big target. And lots of Trojans and viruses these days do things with your web cam, none of them good. If you are a woman, especially a young one, you yourself are a target. No es bueno.  What's worse is that not all web cams have a little light that comes on telling you that you that your camera is turned on. And even worse than that, the malware is getting more sophisticated and in some cases can turn on your web cam without you seeing any indication that you are being recorded. It disables the blue light that most web cams have.

Improve Your Privacy With Tape: Roll Of Electrical Tape
Now, I'm not that paranoid, but then again I'm probably not on anyone's 'must record' list either. I don't often use my web cam, so why not just cover it, at least when it's not in use. It's a small risk for me, but the web cam is just one more thing to leak your privacy with, so no sense tempting fate. I got to thinking about how to cover a web cam (especially a laptop one) in such a way that it a) it can be uncovered without a lot of fuss if I ever need it and b) didn't look too hokey.

Problem solved ... with common electrical tape! I'm sure about a million people have thought of this already, but there's no such thing as too much knowledge. What I did was cut a very small square of it and put it over my web cam lens. Since this type of type is not very sticky, I can easily take it off when I need the web cam (almost never) and even reapply it when I'm done using it.

My laptop is black so the piece of tape isn't even visible enough to worry about looking cheesy. But if you have a different colored machine, you can even purchase other colors of electrical tape. So if you have an Apple and use it in a professional setting, you could buy white electrical tape and nobody will even be able to see (unless they really look, which is creepy anyway) that you have your camera covered.

Improve Your Privacy With Tape: Square Of Electrical Tape
Just a little square is all you need
Improve Your Privacy With Tape: Square Of Electrical Tape Over Laptop Web Camera
It's mostly invisible unless the light hits it at a certain angle
 Until the day that they invent a computer virus that can take off the tape, you can sleep soundly knowing that nobody is counting your beers, or worse. Physical security is the most important kind because it cannot be defeated by software.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Power Of Mobile Workforce

Note: This is a guest post from HOB

While the prevalence of mobile working and BYOD has many positive effects for companies and their employees, IT teams must face the increased security risks associated with these benefits. For more information on secure remote access solutions, check out these free e-books