Where I Discuss POODLE & The State of Financial Institution IT…

Unless you’re completely ignorant of all things technical and interwebby (in which case, what the fuck are you doing reading this blog?), or you’ve been living under a rock or in a deep, dark cave somewhere, you’ve probably heard of the recent POODLE vulnerability.

And no, before any of you smartass bastards say anything, POODLE is *NOT* a particularly nasty venereal disease one contracts from having questionable relations with their four-legged friends… (Remember folks: It’s ok to love your pets, just don’t *LOVE* your pets…)

But seriously, I just had to share this email that I received from my financial institution. As many of you know, I’m not a fan of banks on a good day, but this message makes me shake my head and feel not a little bit of shame to admit that I work in the IT industry.

At first glance, the email appears both factual and well worded, but it is quite apparent that it was in no way filtered through any PR department worth their meager paychecks.

Imagine the reaction to this email from someone running a 5yr old PC with Windows XP…

Anyway, without further ado, here’s the email:

“Have you tried to log onto Hilltop National Bank’s website since this past Friday and gotten
the message, “This page can’t be displayed?”
The issue lies with the operating system and settings of your computer.
A new and very serious software attack, called POODLE (that harmless sounding acronym stands for
Padding Oracle On Downgraded Legacy Encryption), reared its head this past week.
Because of the immediacy and urgency of the situation, we acted very quickly to upgrade our systems to protect you – our
customer. Most banks across the country have done so, as well.
To protect your data, we have changed to a different encryption system when you visit our website.
So, if you’ve gotten the “Page can’t be displayed message,” and are perplexed, you simply need
to upgrade your operating system to at least Windows 7.
Windows 7 and higher can handle the more sophisticated encryption system.
Otherwise you’ll continue to be unable to connect.
You may need to get a new computer.
If you are currently running Windows 7 or higher, please continue reading for more tips.
Windows 7 or higher has the ability to use a different security protocol called TLS.
Click on the little ‘gear’ in the top right-hand corner of Internet Explorer and select
‘Internet Options’
cid:image001.png@01CFED3D.52EDD520
Next, select the ‘Advanced’ tab at the top and scroll all the way down.
Make sure that ‘Use SSL2.0’ & Use SSL 3.0’ are NOT checked.
Be sure to check “Use TLS 1.0,” “Use TLS 1.1” and “Use TLS 1.2” boxes.
cid:image002.jpg@01CFED3E.CA069CE0
Click ‘OK’ and close all Internet Explorer windows.
We would suggest checking your work computer, and also your personal computer at home, for
these settings to help stay protected.
Finally, you may find that you encounter the “This page can’t be displayed” message on other,
non-financial sites for the same reason as companies continue to upgrade their systems.
Thank you.
Hilltop National Bank
For additional information or questions,
please call us at (307) 265-2740 and ask for
Client Services.”

So yeah, wow!

I hope this has been both entertaining and educational. I now return you to your productive day of watching kitten videos or surfing for porn on your work computers… Yes, we see you and we know what you’re doing… :p

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The @Bitcasa Service: Good Potential, Shitty Execution

As most of you know, I subscribed to the Bitcasa Cloud service a few months ago.

I realized that the service had serious potential, so I subscribed and stuck around, hoping against hope that they would correct the multitude of accessibility issues that I and others found and reported.

More than six months have passed and not only has Bitcasa not made any improvements to their service or website, but their accessibility seems to be getting worse.

The accessibility of the Bitcasa website is so bad now that when I became fed up with their unacceptable accessibility practices, I could not even accessibly cancel my subscription.

I sent the following email to their support address:

“Hello,

I am cancelling my subscription due to your continued inability/unwillingness to make your product/service accessible to blind users that rely on screen readers to use our computers and other devices.
However, your website is such an inaccessible hunk of garbage that I cannot even manage to cancel my subscription. The URL https://my.bitcasa.com/#/account/cancel does not appear to have any area for actually cancelling. I’m sure it’s there somewhere, but the site is so inaccessible that it cannot be found.

I would like my subscription cancelled immediately and my comments here forwarded to someone who may be able to affect some change.

I stuck by Bitcasa for almost a year, hoping for some progress, but it has become apparent that your company just doesn’t give a damn about the cloud storage needs of the millions of blind consumers around the world.

I am copying the National Federation of the Blind on this email in the hopes that word can be spread to avoid your service and instead choose another option like Dropbox, who actually strive to make it’s products and services more accessible.

Please let me know what can be done to immediately cancel my plan.

Thank you.

– 
Rick Reed
WYOAssist Low-Vision Specialist
Certified Assistive Technology Specialist
iOS Accessibility Advocate
President, National Federation of the Blind of Wyoming”.

The following is the reply I received from Bitcasa Support:

“Hi Rick!
Thanks for contacting Bitcasa! I’m sorry to hear about your experience with us.
I did go ahead and cancel the automatic renewal on your account and you will no longer be charged.
I do apologize that you have had a bad experience with us. I will definitely pass along your feedback to my management and developers. There have been a lot of things on their plates so the improvements that we want to make have been slower than we would like.
Please let me know if there is something else that I can help you with.
Thanks,
Wilson”.

While this is far from a reasonable explanation of their complete lack of attention to their service’s accessibility, at least I can rest assured that no more of my money will be going towards the further development of this hunk of crap.

So to all of my fellow tech-minded blindies out there, I recommend that you steer clear of this company and urge others to do so as well.

Woof! :D

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KNFBReader Release Date To Match iOS8 Release:

Twitches! @KNFBReader has released the following in regards to it’s upcoming iOS app:

“FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Hai Nguyen Ly K-NFB Reading Technology, Inc. hai@knfbreader.com

Announcing KNFB Reader for iOS Release Plan

Waltham, MA (August 29, 2014): Responding to worldwide inquiries, K-NFB Reading Technology and Sensotec have announced today that the release of the KNFB Reader iPhone app is being scheduled to coordinate with Apple’s upgrade to its new iOS 8 operating system, expected to occur on or about September 10, 2014.

Commenting on this decision, K-NFB’s Vice President of Business Development, James Gashel said: “All of us at K-NFB and Sensotec are truly gratified with the worldwide interest expressed in the KNFB Reader iOS app. The app has been built for use with iPhone 5 or above, and running iOS 7 or higher. Our plan to coordinate its release with iOS 8 will best assure that the app works as intended for all users without any interruption or possible need to uninstall and upgrade due to Apple’s newest operating system release.”

The KNFB Reader iOS app was first announced and demonstrated during the 2014 convention of the National Federation of the Blind in the United States. Since that time excitement about the life-changing potential of this app has been building as word of its release has spread around the world. Designed to be fast, accurate, and efficient, the KNFB Reader iPhone app allows anyone to snap a picture of printed text, in several languages, and quickly have the words read aloud. The first release will initially support read aloud in 11 languages, with more to come. The app has been designed to particularly benefit blind, visually impaired, and print disabled users.

Documents can be saved, stored, and shared with others as well. More information about the KNFB Reader for iOS app is available at http://www.knfbreader.com, with links to video and audio presentations, description of features, and more. Please visit the website for progress announcements as the days tick down to release of both iOS 8 and the KNFB Reader iOS app, and sign up for our email notifications as well.

###

About K-NFB Reading Technology, Inc.

Located in Waltham, Massachusetts, K–NFB Reading Technology, Inc. is a joint venture between Kurzweil Technologies, founded by Ray Kurzweil, a forty-year innovator and pioneer in assistive technologies and the inventor of the first print-to-speech reading machine for the blind; and the National Federation of the Blind, the largest, most influential membership organization of blind people in the United States. The company is known worldwide having launched the world’s first hand-held text to speech reader in 2006 followed in 2008 by release of the world’s first reading technology—the popular knfbReader Mobile software running on a cell phone. The company’s latest product, the KNFB Reader iPhone app will be released in late summer 2014 and made available for purchase and download from Apple’s App Stores throughout the world.
About our development partner, Sensotec
Located in Jabbeke, Belgium, Sensotec was founded in 1986 as a company active in the development of aids for visually impaired persons, assisting them so that their integration into society is not just a fanciful notion but to actually make it happen at home, at work or in education. Sensotec currently is a leading company for the manufacturing and distribution of assistive technologies for the visually and reading impaired. It’s main products include the Reporter Smart Reading machine, the EuroSoft braille notetaker software, the localized versions of Kurzweil 1000 and Kurzweil 3000 software, Kurzweil 3000 Mobile, WoDy, Daisy apps… and the KNFB Reader App for iOS which is developed in collaboration with K-NFB Reading Technology, Inc.
www.sensotec.be

Now you know, and knowing is half the battle! :D

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#Omniscience vs #Omnipotence: Which Would You Choose?

Hey there Twitches, long time no post I realize, but screw you, I’ve been busy… :p

As most of you know, I often mull over interesting philosophical questions in my spare time. Well, today, I thought I’d let you Twitches in on one of my more interesting debates.

So, with that, I give you the poll below… Feel free to argue, discuss and debate your answers in the comments area…

Flame On! :D

Given the choice, would you choose to be Omniscient or Omnipotent?

View Results

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The BlindDIYPC, Revision 1

Ok Twitches, this isn’t gonna be a long post, but I wanted to quickly update everyone on the status of the first modifications I’ve really made to the BlindDIYPC since I built it. I’m slowly replacing old, dated components as I can afford to, so I’ll keep this post updated and bump it to the top of the list as I do.

With that said, here’s what I’ve done so far…

As many of you know, the main HDD in the system, a 320GB Samsung Spinpoint leftover from my old Acer, has been getting ready to shit the bed for a few weeks now. I got a good deal on a Samsung EVO 840 series 120GB SSD on Amazon and have replaced the failing drive with that speedy little bitch!

Also, I had a Seagate FreeAgent 2TB external USB 3.0 HDD that was failing. The issue with this drive turned out to be merely the USB controller in the external enclosure, so I tore it apart and am now rocking the Seagate 2TB as an internal SATA drive.

I replaced the 2TB Seagate external with a Western Digital 3TB MyBook USB 3.0 external HDD and it now handles the Seagate’s old duties.

So, to summarize, I’m now rocking a 120GB Samsung EVO 840 Series SSD as my (C:) drive, a 2TB Seagate internal HDD for data storage and a 3TB Western Digital MyBook for everything else.

Other than that, I’m still rocking the quad core 3GHz AMD Athlon II processor with 16GB of G.Skill DDR3, my kickass ASUS mobo, 850W Rosewill power supply and an ASUS 24x DVD burner all wrapped up in a Thermaltake V9 Armor case.

Yeah, it’s a boatload of badass if I do say so myself!

Got any questions or want to configure a BlindPC for yourself? Just hit me up on Twitter where I’m both @BlindSarcasm and @BlindPCs.

Woof! :D

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How To: Reset A Forgotten Windows 7 Password!

Ok Twitches, since I end up fixing this exact issue for people fairly often, I thought I’d do you all a service and outline the steps required to unbugger yourself if you’ve somehow forgotten your Windows 7 login password.

The steps below are written as simply as I think I can make them, but if you run into issues, feel free to contact me on Twitter, where I’m @BlindSarcasm, or via email at rick@theblindgeek.net.

Resetting a forgotten Windows 7 password:

1.
Insert either your Windows 7 install DVD, or a Windows 7 System Repair disc, into your optical drive and restart your computer. If you have it on a flash drive, that works too.
Note: If you don’t have original Windows 7 media and never got around to making a system repair disc, don’t worry. As long as you have access to any other Windows 7 computer, you can burn a system repair disc for free.

2.
After your computer boots from the disc or flash drive, click Next on the screen with your language and keyboard choices.
Tip: Don’t see this screen or do you see your typical Windows 7 logon screen? Chances are good that your computer booted from your hard drive (like it normally does) instead of from the disc or flash drive you inserted, which is what you want.

3. Click on the Repair your computer link.
Note: If you booted with a system repair disc instead of a Windows 7 installation disc or flash drive, you won’t see this link. Just move on to Step 4 below.

4. Wait while your Windows 7 installation is located on your computer.

5. Once your installation is found, take note of the drive letter found in the Location column. Most Windows 7 installations will show D: but yours may be different.
Note: While in Windows, the drive that Windows 7 is installed on is probably labeled as the C: drive. However, when booting from Windows 7 install or repair media, a hidden drive is available that usually isn’t. This drive is given the first available drive letter, probably C:, leaving the next available drive letter, probably D:, for the next drive – the one with Windows 7 installed on it.

6. Select Windows 7 from the Operating System list and then click the Next button.

7. From System Recovery Options, choose Command Prompt.

8. With Command Prompt open, execute the following two commands, in this order:
copy d:\windows\system32\utilman.exe d:\
copy d:\windows\system32\cmd.exe d:\windows\system32\utilman.exe
To the Overwrite question after executing the second command, answer with Yes.
Important: If the drive that Windows 7 is installed on in your computer is not D: (Step 5), be sure to change all instances of d: in the commands above with the correct drive letter.

9. Remove the disc or flash drive and then restart your computer.
You can close the Command Prompt window and click Restart but it’s also okay to restart using your computer’s restart button.

10. Once the Windows 7 logon screen appears, locate the little icon on the bottom-left of the screen that looks like a pie with a square around it and click it!
Tip: If your normal Windows 7 logon screen did not show up, check to see that you removed the disc or flash drive you inserted in Step 1. Your computer may continue to boot from this device instead of your hard drive if you don’t remove it.

11. Now that Command Prompt is open, execute the net user command as shown, replacing myusername with whatever your user name is and mypassword with whatever new password you’d like to use:
net user myusername mypassword
So, for example, I would do something like this:
net user BlindSarcasm IPuntY0urT4int!
Tip: If your username has spaces, put double quotes around it when executing net user, as in net user “Blind Sarcasm” IPuntY0urT4int!.

12. Close the Command Prompt window.

13. Login with your new password!

14. Create a Windows 7 Password Reset Disk! This is the Microsoft-approved, proactive step you should have done a long time ago. All you need is a blank flash drive or floppy disk and you’ll never need to worry about forgetting your Windows 7 password again.

15. While not required, it would probably be wise to undo the hack that makes this work. If you don’t, you won’t have access to accessibility features from the Windows 7 login screen.
To reverse the changes you’ve made, repeat Steps 1 through 7 above. When you have access to Command Prompt again, execute the following:
copy d:\utilman.exe d:\windows\system32\utilman.exe
Confirm the overwrite and then restart your computer.
Important: Undoing this hack will have no impact on your new password. Whatever password you set in Step 11 is still valid.

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#Recipe: One Pot Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup!

Nothing says “comfort” like a hot bowl of chicken noodle soup, but nothing says nasty quite like that crap in a can masquerading as “real” chicken noodle soup.

With that said, I propose this easy, one pot version of this kitchen classic. This was my first dinner of 2014 and I sincerely hope you try it soon as well.

Ingredients:
2 large chicken breasts, boneless & skinless, cut into small chunks
1Tablespoon olive oil
2 cups baby carrots, cut in half
1 small to medium white onion, coarsely chopped
2 celery stalks, coarsely chopped (complete with the leaves, please!)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
1/2 teaspoon rosemary
1/2 teaspoon Herbes de Provence
1/2 teaspoon thyme
4 cups good chicken stock (no bullion crap here folks)
2 packages frozen egg noodles, thawed (I prefer Reames Egg Noodles here)
Coarse sea salt or Kosher salt
Freshly cracked black pepper

Directions:
Heat the olive oil in a large stock pot over medium-high heat and add the chicken. Cook the chicken, stirring frequently, until you can smell the pieces beginning to brown. Add the onions, celery and carrots, reducing the heat to medium and continue to cook for about 5 minutes. Return the heat to medium-high and add the stock and spices save the salt and pepper. Bring to a low boil, cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Let simmer for about 20 minutes or until the baby carrots are almost tender. Taste your broth and add the salt and pepper to suit your taste. Let simmer an additional 5 minutes to let the salt and pepper mingle with the other ingredients. Add in the egg noodles, cover and let cook an additional 10-15 minutes or until the noodles are tender and the broth has thickened just slightly. Remove from heat and let rest for about 5 minutes. Serve with crusty bread and butter.

Serves 4 normal people or 2 Fat Bastards!

Enjoy! :D

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#HowTo: Create A Streaming, #AudioDescribed Station For VLC Media Player:

Ok Twitches, if you, like me, have ever wanted a random audio described station from our friends over at BlindyTV (@BlindyTV on Twitter), you could just play in our favorite media player, VLC, (and you know you have, or you wouldn’t be reading this), you’ll love this little gem!

Anyone wanting specific instructions for Mac will just have to figure it out on their own since I no longer do the MacMac thing…

Here we go:

Creating your station in VLC for Windows:

1. Open VLC Media Player however you normally do so. (If you don’t currently have it installed, I recommend installing it using the Ninite Accessible Installer.)
2. Once VLC loads, copy and paste the following link, without the quotes, directly into the program’s main window: “http://blindy.tv/audiotv.m3u”
3. VLC will give you some instructions. Listen to them and then tab to the play button to confirm your new station will play correctly. You should hear whatever station is currently playing.
4. Open the “Media” menu and select “Save Playlist To File”.
5. Give your new station a memorable name, ( I called mine “AudioTV”), and save it somewhere where you can find it. You may want to save it to your desktop if you’re prone to losing things.
6. That’s it! Now just run the created file whenever you wanna listen to your new station.

Alternatively, just cause I like you Twitches, you can download the AudioTV file that I created and use it. There, don’t say I never gave you anything… :p

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#Recipe: Apricot Balsamic Chicken!

Simple, sweet and savory are the 3 s’s I’d use to describe this fruity, yet tart staple in my dinner repertoire. Give it a shot and you won’t regret it!

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 pounds chicken breast tenderloins, cut into bite-size pieces
salt and pepper to taste
1 large onion, chopped
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, or to taste
20 dried apricots
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup apricot preserves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (optional)

Directions
1.Heat the olive oil in a large skillet with a lid over medium-high heat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper, and cook in the hot oil until golden brown around the edges, but still pink in the center, about 5 minutes. Stir in the onion, and cook for about 3 minutes more. Pour in the balsamic vinegar, bring it to a simmer, and allow it to reduce for a few minutes.
2.Cut half of the apricots in half, leaving the others whole. Place the apricots into the skillet, and pour in the chicken stock. Bring to a simmer, then stir in the apricot preserves and thyme. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the apricots have softened, 10 to 15 minutes. Sprinkle with chopped parsley to serve.

I particularly love this dish served with my Roasted Rosemary Potatoes and a fruity Chardonnay!

Enjoy! :D

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#Recipe: Roasted Rosemary Potatoes!

I absolutely love the combination of good olive oil and rosemary on potatoes! This easy recipe combines simple, earthy flavors into a side dish worth waiting for.

Ingredients:
1 1/2 pounds small red, gold or white-skinned potatoes (or a mixture)
1/8 cup good olive oil (EVOO preferably)
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoons minced garlic (3 cloves)
2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary leaves

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Cut the potatoes in half or quarters and place in a bowl with the olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic and rosemary; toss until the potatoes are well coated. Dump the potatoes on a baking sheet and spread out into 1 layer; roast in the oven for at least 1 hour, or until browned and crisp. Flip twice with a spatula during cooking to ensure even browning.
Remove the potatoes from the oven, season to taste, and serve.

This is a delicious side dish I particularly like to pair with my Apricot Balsamic Chicken or Herbed Salmon.

Enjoy! :D

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