Let Us Fix Your Problem: Latest Internet Scam

Apple logoWaking this morning to a splendid 3G signal in the desert from my iPhone’s Hotspot, I finished up my previous night’s review and uploaded it. As I went to publicize the piece I got an “alert” from applemac.us saying that a porn site “pornjizz” was attempting to hack my system. It warned that stopping my browser or restarting my computer would cause valuable information to become more accessible and to stop what I was doing immediately and ring the support number – 1-844-608-4612.

Alarm bells ringing in my mind, I did indeed cease and desist my publicity efforts and rang the number. The first clue that told me something was wrong here was the lack of Apple-ness by the chap who answered the phone. Indian, as in from India or Pakistan, he was polite enough but answered as technical department and not with his name.

I read off the message on the screen and he immediately informed me that they could take care of my problem with little fuss and I did not need to do a thing. Okay, I responded slowly, what happens next, the technician then read me off a url which I needed to type into my search engine, it was: www dot fast support dot com.

The second alarm went off because there was an obvious lack of Apple anywhere in the address provided. The third and final alarm, which by this time sounded like a fire alarm on steroids, was the next thing out of the technician’s mouth.

“We will take control of your computer and fix the problem in minutes.”

*Freeze Frame.*

I thanked the chap for his help and told him that my phone signal was fading and needed to ring him back. He offered to ring me back within the next 10 minutes. I thanked him and when he rang back, explained that I could not use my laptop and my phone at the same time and would ring them later.

Ringing the real Apple support number which is a 1-800 number…always…I got the familiar Apple answer where I was informed how long my wait would be, asked certain questions, sent to the right department and when the technician came on the line she gave me her name. The lovely lady informed me that yes this was a scam where they could charge you for the amount of time they took to “fix” your problem.

I pointed out that they also wanted to take control of my laptop which would have given them access to all my information. She congratulated me on recognizing that it was a scam and for calling them to double check.

Speaking earlier to the fake technician at no time did he ask for my serial number or what Apple product I had. He also zoomed in on the “let us take control of your computer” bit. With nothing but an on-screen alert, which claimed to be from Apple, and a 1-844 number he expected me to let him access my computer.

Not happening mate.

Looking at the site later the thing looks genuine enough but it is not, just as the real Apple folks.

So be advised there is a new scam in town. I assumed it was a Chrome issue but Stephanie at Apple assured me that the message was showing up on Safari as well. So consider yourself warned, if you see a message from applemac.us with the following number attached 1-844-607-4612 disregard the information and do not bother to call the number. Completely ignore the fast support dot com instructions, if you do ring, and do not let anyone you do not know or trust take control of your computer or laptop.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, the above urls have been spelled out since I could not get WordPress to stop putting a link to the fraudulent site in my article.

10 June 2015

Michael Knox-Smith

An Open Letter of Gratitude to Apple

Marketing shot of MacBookPro
Dear Apple,

Firstly I have to say that I was a reluctant convert to the MacBookPro. My daughter got one for her studies at University, and the run-up to Uni, College. Her, now aging, MacBookPro stood her in good stead during her time learning about the video game industry and still does quite well considering it is now several years old. She talked me into purchasing a Mac when my old PC bit the big one.

Amazingly enough, the big reason I decided upon the MacBookPro was the iMovie editing capability which, having watched my youngster edit her video reviews on game, looked infinitely easier than anything Microsoft had on offer.

I bought my Pro in 2013. I edited quite a number of videos in the UK, before you went and changed the way iMovie works. Still, I do not do videos that much anymore so that is not a real big issue, plus I’ve gotten used to the changes now so I forgive you for making it that bit more difficult.

So far my MacBookPro has survived being taken to South Africa on a whirlwind fact-finding tour where I had to interview several sources who claimed that Nelson Mandela died in June 2013 and not December as official sources insisted. It made a trip across the ocean to Las Vegas unscathed in 2014 and even managed to escape damage at the many conventions attended at Vegas. From The Amazing Comic Con to the Star Trek Convention, my MacBook resisted all my clumsy handling to stay scratch and dent free.

Later on at the start of 2015, while in the Southwest desert of Arizona, my MacBookPro has managed to keep working after being transported via backpack all over the hardpan floor and the local “one-horse” town. It still performs admirably despite it’s carrier falling down a wash while walking across the desert.

MacBookPro 11.4"
My trusty MacBookPro

It has also survived its owner being knocked off his bicycle by a hit and run driver in Love’s Truck Stop car park. An incident that resulted in my going airborne and landing on my back. The backpack with my trusty MacBookPro clunked heavily on the hard ground and 5 weeks later, when I could finally ride my bike again, I fell off the same bike outside the local Burger King and once again my poor MacBook hit the ground hard.

Despite all these tumbles and falls, the only real damage seems to have been on the case itself. A few scratches and dings that are superficial at best. This “cosmetic” damage has not interfered with the workings of my “laptop” and it still labour effortlessly as my only blogging and vlogging device. On top of being the instrument I used to write nearly 2,000 articles for the newspaper I worked for, it still functions as my main source of news from the outside world via the Internet.

MacBookPro
My Survivor, you have to look close to see those scars…

I mention all this because I’ve never felt the need to write any sort of letter to any company, open or otherwise, about any of their products. My MacBookPro has proven to be the best purchase ever made by this consumer. Sadly, my iPhone 5 has not had quite the same track record, for some odd reason the display screens in my phone go off and I’ve had replacements twice now, but I am not complaining, as your customer service is head and shoulders above the competition.

In closing, let me just say thank you Apple for continuing to make such a workhorse of a laptop. I am writing this open letter of gratitude, admiration and praise about my MacBookPro, the one that I call survivor, and the dependable tool that I plan to use for a long, long time.

A most impressed customer,

Michael Knox-Smith

6 May 2015

I’ll Have the McTest-Tube Burger With Cheese…

Hamburger on the hoof.

So, they are working on a test-tube hamburger are they? Well that’s what CNN say’s anyway. I had a quick look at their article and found out that a couple of scientists are both ‘racing’ to develop their own brand of ‘man-made’ meat.

Scientist Gabor Forgacs from the University of Missouri (otherwise known as the ‘Show Me’ state, it kind of figures) actually made a bit of the man-made meat and ate it in 2011. Since it didn’t kill him or turn him into some sort of genetic superhero (well not that we know of, superheroes are supposed to be secretive, it’s part of their law or something), he didn’t even have to reach for the antacids after he’d finished.

I’m not doubting the veracity of CNN’s news flash, but am I the only one that finds it a little bit funny that Forgacs originates from Hungary?

All kidding aside, Forgacs is so convinced that this is the way forward to feeding the worlds hungary (sorry) that he has a business already set up and running. Modern Meadows has already attracted investors and has funding from the US Agricultural Department.

Forgacs has a little competition in the test-tube meat race from the Dutch. A country not well known for its humane treatment of their meat on the hoof, so to speak. Mark Post and other researchers from the University of Maastricht are promising a very public launch of their man-made beef patty this year.

Both teams have stated that this new source of meat will not catch on with the public very quickly. I’m not surprised, does any one else look at this and not immediately think of Soylent Green??

Again kidding aside, both teams have said that in the area of retail, this will be more of a novelty. Like Kobe beef, the Japanese beef raised on beer that costs between 125 and 350 dollars per kilogram. So I don’t think you’ll be taking the kiddies down to the local Mcdonalds, Burger King or Wendy’s for a few test-tube burgers and french fries unless you’ve recently won the lottery or are a direct relative of J Paul Getty.

Research from Oxford University shows that traditional meat ‘farming’ uses up an awful lot of the planets resources. Water, grass, and so on. Not to mention the live meats issuance of methane that is destroying the atmosphere. All this sounds good, so good that the ‘man-made meat’ brigade like citing these stats as a reason for their pursuit of the new meat. Now all this makes manufactured meat sound like a great deal. But what about the existing livestock?

If and when these test tube treats become commonplace, what will happen to the animals? I’m pretty sure that retiring them all and putting them in petting zoos is not the answer. For one thing there just isn’t enough room for that many petting zoos. For another thing, won’t these living, breathing, pooping creatures still use up resources? And if they’re using resources they will also be blasting the ozone layer with their methane emissions.

So what are they planning on doing? Killing them? Send them to third world countries that can’t afford the man-made meat? Have they thought this whole thing through? Probably not. When you’re trying to make a better mouse trap you don’t think ahead to the day when all the mice have been eradicated and your money making labour saving device has been made redundant and therefore not a money maker any more.

No you just keep making that better mouse trap and damn the torpedoes. Just like the guys who are making the new improved and ‘bloodless’ beef patties. No animal will ever have to give his or her life for the greater good, ever again.

But folks, they are still going to eat, procreate and poop. So I don’t mind the idea of man-made produce, although I’m curious about how they’ll make bacon, the attempts so far don’t taste like the real thing at all; but guys? Leave out the “We’re doing this to save the world,” bit, okay?

By all means keep making your Soylent Green. I’m all for man creating a ‘better burger.’ But for all that is holy, make sure it’s really livestock. I’m too old to run down the street yelling, “Soylent Green is people!

Soylent Green Is PEOPLE!

Today Mars, Tomorrow the Universe

Aerial Regional-scale Environmental Survey
Aerial Regional-scale Environmental Survey (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Monday was a real red letter day for NASA (You see what I did there?). Their nuclear powered discovery vehicle, the aptly named ‘Curiosity‘ has not only managed to land on Mars but it has sent it’s first pictures back.  Pretty exciting stuff and it’s guaranteed to pique the interest of every ‘wanna-be’ astronaut and space scientist the world over.

NASA is also one step closer to building that ‘giant’ rocket that will be necessary to send bigger payloads up into space. With a projected launch date of 2017, it’s beginning to look like a manned mission to Mars might just happen in my life time.

It’s about time.

NASA,  like everyone else, has suffered from the world-wide funding problems that plague us all. The space program has had some pretty devastating cutbacks in recent history and they are now moving ahead at ‘warp-speed’ to catch up.

With the world concentrating on the 2012 London Olympics and daily bad news updates of scandal, shootings and subterfuge it’s nice that outer space issues can still generate interest.

Most importantly, this Mars landing is a benchmark event. The next step will be, of course, a manned flight. If we can send folks to Mars and it turns out that we can use the planet as a ‘stepping stone’ to the rest of the galaxy, how wondrous would that be. We could literally explore, in person, the rest of the galaxy and the universe.

I can still remember the first moon landing in 1969. I was eleven and my brother was about three or four. We all watched this momentous event on my parent’s huge Curtis-Mathis entertainment centre. My father was, if you’ll pardon the expression, over the moon. He told us about one of his school teachers, Mrs. Jones.

She had told all her students that man would one day walk on the moon in his quest to conquer the stars. Needless to say, way back in the early 1940’s this was an almost heretical view. Man had only really come to grips with aeroplanes and jets were just making their appearance known towards the end of WWII. She was called ‘crazy old Mrs. Jones.’

My father said that she was fairly old (although to a child, anyone over the age of thirty is old)  when he was a child, but he hoped that she had lived long enough to see the landing and to hear those historical words. “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.

I like to think that she saw and heard her vision come true as well.

It was ‘crazy old Mrs Jones’ that I instantly thought of when the Curiosity sent back her first low resolution pictures of Mars surface. I can only hope that live long enough to see the first manned flight land on Mars.

English: Manned mission to Mars : Ascent stage...
English: Manned mission to Mars : Ascent stage (NASA Human Exploration of Mars Design Reference Architecture 5.0) fev 2009 Français : Mission habitée vers Mars : étage de remontée (NASA Human Exploration of Mars Design Reference Architecture 5.0) fev 2009 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How the Internet Changed the Way We Watch Television

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (TV series)
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (TV series) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The internet has changed the way that we view television. I first noticed the increased presence of the ‘net’ while Buffy the Vampire Slayer was in its relative infancy of seasons.

By the time the series had moved up a gear or two and was entering its third season, my daughter started buying Buffy ‘fan-zines.’ The first thing I noticed was the magazine’s inclusion of several different sites that were forums for fans.

If you logged onto the net, you could access these ‘fan-sites’ and either read the current thread of discussion about the program or enter the debate. The latter choice could be a little disconcerting.

While reading the intense and sometimes heated discussions on the forum I noticed that a few of the more fervent fans would get excited enough to give a figurative ‘bitch-slap’ to folks who disagreed with them.

I, for some reason, thought that these ‘fan-sites’ were indicative of the “Buffy-verse” alone and therefore rather unique. But the internet was a great place for fans of many different television programs to meet and discuss or even bitch about the latest episode that they’d just watched.

Certain programs listened to these fan groups and acted upon  the fan feedback.  Lost, for instance, listened when fans  relayed that the introduction  of two new major characters in the program had resulted in characters that they despised. Producers acted quickly and killed off these two new characters in the same season that they were introduced.

Going back for a moment to the verse of Joss Whedon, it is imperative to mention the huge internet support for Firefly when it was unceremoniously axed by its network. The fans of Joss’s fledgling western/science fiction show rose in mass to show support for the program and to petition the network for a reprieve.

While the fan protest wasn’t enough to save the beleaguered show, it was enough to convince both Joss and the studios that an audience existed for a film. And thus Serenity was created to give the loyal fans some closure for a program that they’d grown to love.

Independent film producers learned very quickly of the power of the internet in areas of marketing their products and drumming up interest in upcoming film releases. Paranormal Activity is one such “internet” driven film but it was by no means the first in a long list of films that would use the net as the perfect advertising tool.

The American re-make of The Grudge (Ju-on) used the web to show ‘diaries’ of the actors and set up a site with a ‘tour’ of the grudge house and a fictional account of one of the producers.

Apart from certain network affiliates I have not seen any increased activity across the board for web ‘snake oil publicity’ with the  exception of The Walking Dead. AMC vigorously utilized the internet in the upcoming months to the pilot  air date of The Walking Dead. They continued the vigorous net campaigning well into the second season.

Of course I’ve not mentioned the new “webisodes” that have taken the net by storm. The hugely popular The Guild, brainchild of Felicia Day is just one of many. Joss Whedon also did a webisode series which coincidentally had Felicia Day in a major role,  Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog was another hugely successful venture into this new medium.

I have postulated before about how YouTube was becoming the ‘new’ television and now believe that it’s not just YouTube but the internet that is ‘becoming’ television. Either by replacing it as another medium of entertainment or influencing the direction that existing shows are going.

Think I’m exaggerating? Just check out the first related article, Dr. Horrible is going to be on television in October.