Written: February 5, 2019

Thank You Notes

In our modern era of digital technology the old art form of hand writing a thank you note seems to have been forgotten, except that I just received such a nice thank you note from the Tualatin Chamber of Commerce after renewing my annual membership. Enjoy your day, and maybe consider writing your own thank you note for a special client or person in your life.

thank you
Thank you
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Goodbye Google+

Social media over the years has taken many twists and unexpected turns, so it was not too surprising to hear that Google decided to shutdown its social media platform named Google+. I did open a Google+ account for myself personally and a Google+ Page for my business, Tualatin Web. One of the issues that I quickly saw with Google+ was that they didn’t allow you to auto-post to their platform, unlike Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Google+

Here’s the official goodbye letter from Google:

You’ve received this email because you have a consumer (personal) Google+ account or you manage a Google+ page.

In December 2018, we announced our decision to shut down Google+ for consumers in April 2019 due to low usage and challenges involved in maintaining a successful product that meets consumers’ expectations. We want to thank you for being part of Google+ and provide next steps, including how to download your photos and other content.

On April 2nd, your Google+ account and any Google+ pages you created will be shut down and we will begin deleting content from consumer Google+ accounts. Photos and videos from Google+ in your Album Archive and your Google+ pages will also be deleted. You can download and save your content, just make sure to do so before April. Note that photos and videos backed up in Google Photos will not be deleted.

The process of deleting content from consumer Google+ accounts, Google+ Pages, and Album Archive will take a few months, and content may remain through this time. For example, users may still see parts of their Google+ account via activity log and some consumer Google+ content may remain visible to G Suite users until consumer Google+ is deleted.

As early as February 4th, you will no longer be able to create new Google+ profiles, pages, communities or events.

See the full FAQ for more details and updates leading up to the shutdown.

If you’re a Google+ Community owner or moderator, you may download and save your data for your Google+ Community. Starting early March 2019, additional data will be available for download, including author, body, and photos for every community post in a public community.  Learn more

If you sign in to sites and apps using the Google+ Sign-in button, these buttons will stop working in the coming weeks but in some cases may be replaced by a Google Sign-in button. You’ll still be able to sign in with your Google Account wherever you see Google Sign-in buttons. Learn more

If you’ve used Google+ for comments on your own or other sites, this feature will be removed from Blogger by February 4th and other sites by March 7th. All your Google+ comments on all sites will be deleted starting April 2, 2019. Learn more

If you’re a G Suite customer, Google+ for your G Suite account should remain active. Contact your G Suite administrator for more details. You can also expect a new look and new features soon. Learn more

If you’re a developer using Google+ APIs or Google+ Sign-in, click here to see how this will impact you.

From all of us on the Google+ team, thank you for making Google+ such a special place. We are grateful for the talented group of artists, community builders, and thought leaders who made Google+ their home. It would not have been the same without your passion and dedication.

Google LLC 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway, Mountain View, CA 94043

You have received this mandatory email service announcement to update you about important changes to your Google+ Page, product or account.

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Charles Schwab, Epic Fail

I’ve been doing business with Charles Schwab as my IRA account for many years now, and they’ve done a fantastic job, until now. I wanted to make a transfer from Charles Schwab to my bank account, so on Thursday I sold a security, kind of expecting to have the cash ready to transfer on Friday, maybe Saturday the latest. To my complete shock the funds are not ready to transfer until Tuesday, huh?

I went online at schwab.com and used their convenient Chat feature to talk with a representative about how to get the cash from the security sale ready quicker, in order to transfer it to my bank, but they only reply that he had was, “Wait until Tuesday”.

In the past when I sold a security it seemed like I could transfer the cash to my bank account much quicker. The Chat support guy couldn’t really help me to get funds ready to transfer any quicker, so after the Chat session ended I tried their online survey, however look what happened when I submitted their survey:


To those of you who are not technical, this is an error condition when a user submits a form but the web server doesn’t know what to do with the form results. In a word, epic fail.

How in the world can a trusted company like Schwab have an online survey form that cannot be submitted? It’s almost like they really don’t want to hear any feedback in their survey, what a sad state to be in.

Of course, for a small fee, I could fix their broken online survey system in under an hour. Let’s hope that Schwab web support can be alerted to their online survey failure and get it fixed quickly. I did leave an email message for my local Schwab advisor telling him about my sad saga, so maybe this story will have a happier ending.


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Frontier FIOS Tech Support was Right

At my home office we use Frontier FIOS for Internet, what that means technically is that Frontier has routed a fiber optical cable to my curb, then up to my garage where there’s this white box mounted on the wall that converts the optical signal into Ethernet, aka the ONT box. For many years I was using an entry-level plan that offered download and upload speeds of 25/25 Mbps, although now when we have three devices streaming Netflix, and a few YouTube channels streaming that our network was getting quite sluggish. Simple problem to solve, just upgrade.

The folks at Frontier had a plan with speeds of 50/50 (Download/Upload) for only a few dollars more per month than my old, now obsolete 25/25 plan, so I upgraded. I’ve never used the Frontier-supplied WiFi router, instead opting for a Netgear Nighthawk router just because I read good things about that router online. For the 25/25 plan the Netgear Nighthawk router was just fine, however with the upgrade to the new 50/50 plan I noticed that the Netgear router had much slower upload speeds. At first that kind of bugged me, so I would contact tech support at Frontier and complain about the slow upload speeds, then they would do some magical “line refresh” and somehow my upload speeds neared 50 Mbps, but only for about 24 hours or so, then back down to a very slow 6 Mbps upload speed.

On Saturday we had a Frontier technician visit the home office and declare that, “all is well with our equipment, so it’s your Netgear router that is slow. Try this Arris router to see if it works faster.” I was really unconvinced that it was my Netgear router, so I did some Google research to find out how to make my router upload faster, trying a few things unsuccessfully:

Reluctantly I then swapped out the Netgear router and used the Frontier supplied Arris WiFi router. Wow, now I had 50/50 speeds with the new router, however the Arris router had no parental controls, which is something that I wanted to continue using for my network. A bit more Google search for Frontier-tested WiFi routers yielded an article that tested and recommended six different routers, so my eye was attracted to their recommendation on the Netgear R6700 router, because I knew that Netgear allowed me to filter content quite easily.

A quick look at Fry’s and Best Buy located similar model numbers to the Netgear R6700, and then to my delight I found a used R6700 on Craigslist and negotiated a price of just $60.00, sold. At home the router swap was pretty easy, because I was already familiar with how Netgear allows setup.

Netgear R6700

The new R6700 router did a firmware update, then I rebooted my computer and ran a speed test, showing me great 50/50 speeds:

Speedtest with Netgear R6700
Speedtest.net

Instead of paying Frontier a $10/month service fee for using their Arris WiFi router, I now own a $60.00 Netgear R6700 router that runs quite fast and supports content filtering. I also learned that Frontier tech support was right, it was my old Netgear Nighthawk router that was slowing my uploads way too much.

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How Quora Handled Their Data Breach

Literally every week we read online about yet another data breach at a company that we trusted to protect our login credentials, name, address, phone number, and possibly our very sensitive credit card information. Today I received one of these “I’m sorry” email messages from a company called Quora, and they provide a place to raise and answer questions on any topic. I think that Quora did a decent job of alerting me, so I’m including their full email below:

Dear Daniel Payne,

We are writing to let you know that we recently discovered that some user data was compromised as a result of unauthorized access to our systems by a malicious third party. We are very sorry for any concern or inconvenience this may cause. We are working rapidly to investigate the situation further and take the appropriate steps to prevent such incidents in the future.


What Happened
On Friday we discovered that some user data was compromised by a third party who gained unauthorized access to our systems. We’re still investigating the precise causes and in addition to the work being conducted by our internal security teams, we have retained a leading digital forensics and security firm to assist us. We have also notified law enforcement officials.


While the investigation is still ongoing, we have already taken steps to contain the incident, and our efforts to protect our users and prevent this type of incident from happening in the future are our top priority as a company.

What information was involved

The following information of yours may have been compromised:

  • Account and user information, e.g. name, email, IP, user ID, encrypted password, user account settings, personalization data
  • Public actions and content including drafts, e.g. questions, answers, comments, blog posts, upvotes
  • Data imported from linked networks when authorized by you, e.g. contacts, demographic information, interests, access tokens (now invalidated)

    Questions and answers that were written anonymously are not affected by this breach as we do not store the identities of people who post anonymous content.

What we are doing
While our investigation continues, we’re taking additional steps to improve our security:

We’re in the process of notifying users whose data has been compromised.

Out of an abundance of caution, we are logging out all Quora users who may have been affected, and, if they use a password as their authentication method, we are invalidating their passwords.

We believe we’ve identified the root cause and taken steps to address the issue, although our investigation is ongoing and we’ll continue to make security improvements.

We will continue to work both internally and with our outside experts to gain a full understanding of what happened and take any further action as needed.


What you can do
We’ve included more detailed information about more specific questions you may have in our help center, which you can find here.


While the passwords were encrypted (hashed with a salt that varies for each user), it is generally a best practice not to reuse the same password across multiple services, and we recommend that people change their passwords if they are doing so.

Conclusion
It is our responsibility to make sure things like this don’t happen, and we failed to meet that responsibility. We recognize that in order to maintain user trust, we need to work very hard to make sure this does not happen again. There’s little hope of sharing and growing the world’s knowledge if those doing so cannot feel safe and secure, and cannot trust that their information will remain private. We are continuing to work very hard to remedy the situation, and we hope over time to prove that we are worthy of your trust.

The Quora Team

So, I was able to reset my password pretty quickly:

Then I could choose my new password:

I don’t like having my private data breached, but it looks like Quora spotted the trouble, communicated what I should do, and let me quickly change my password to regain a secure identity. Well done Quora.

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New Website for Local Author

I first met Kathryn at a Tualatin Chamber of Commerce networking event and then helped develop a consulting business web site for her. Just recently the purpose of the site was changed to become an author site, so I created a totally new look and replaced all of the content. Here’s the new Home page:

KD Scott, home

It’s popular now to have your Home page use a banner image that fits the entire web browser width. The photograph in the banner helps to create a mood, then the opening text on top of the photograph has a READ MORE button as a compelling event for visitors to click.

Mobile browsing is always important, and this site is responsive and it looks great on a mobile device:

KD Scott, mobile

The Contact page lets a visitor fill out a form, then sends an email to the owner, all while protecting the identity of the owner email address. It’s a best practice on the web to never publish your email address, because that allows spammers to harvest your email name and quickly add it to their lists of un-wanted email messages.

KD Scott, contact

We used WordPress, so the owner can login and maintain their own site without always having to ask a web developer like me to make updates.


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New Artist Website Remodel

Art and technology go together, and if you love viewing oil paintings then please browse the newly remodeled site for Anna Lancaster. She came to me looking to refresh the look of her website and gain the control to make all of her own changes, instead of having to always contact a vendor to make changes. Anna wanted the Home page to have a slideshow with larger images, then thumbnails to show off the different categories of her work.

Anna Lancaster, home page

Home Page

The header of each page includes social media icons for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. When you click on one of the thumbnails it brings you to a Gallery page that uses a masonry style where each image fits into a column and has a title:

Anna Lancaster, gallery

Gallery

Clicking on a galley thumbnail brings up a full-size painting with more details about it:

Anna Lancaster, painting details

Painting Details

To see more full-size paintings just click the Left or Right arrows. To stop looking at a full-size image click the X in the upper right corner.

Ann writes blog posts that include some of the locations that she paints from and her philosophy of painting.

Anna Lancaster, blog post

Blog Post

The site even looks great on a mobile device like your smart phone where you just have to scroll up and down to view the artwork:

Anna Lancaster, mobile

Mobile

The site is easy to update using any web browser, and you login to a WordPress account, which is a free Content Management System.

So if your looking for some artwork to place in your home or office, then give Anna’s site a look, then contact her or the gallery to get pricing information.

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Dear Retailers – Please Check Your Review Systems

It’s popular with online retail shops to offer their buyers a review section, written by real customers so that I can decide if the product is a good fit for me or not before the purchase. Today I received an email from Performance Bicycle, and they requested that I review a recent purchase of cycling gloves.

Review Request

Review Request

OK, that sounded reasonable, so I clicked the Green Button and went through an entire page of questions to get my review all ready to publish, but then, uh oh. The dreaded error message from their web site that wouldn’t accept my review:

web failure

Web Failure

So here we have the classic Catch-22. A company wants my review, I comply, but their system isn’t even working, so they get no review.

I would expect that a large, public company like Performance Bicycle would have a web development team that does not only development, but they also test their own system, but not in this case. The frustration on my part is large enough that I will now avoid their store all-together, and just shop at Western Bike Works, River City Bicycles , Lakeside Bikes or Bike Tires Direct.

So the moral of the story is, build a web site, then test your own web site before your customers do. That way your customers are happy and return.

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Upgrading Internet Speeds

I’ve been using Frontier FiOS as my Internet provider for several years, however my entry-level package had speeds of just 25M/25M and I wanted to know about upgrading to a faster connection. Yesterday I spent 25 minutes on the phone just to find out if:

  1. What packages do you offer?
  2. What does each package cost?

Ironically their website does list the Internet packages, but there is no mention of pricing. Why is no pricing listed?

My speedtest.net results were pretty close to the advertised rates:

Frontier 25M/25M Speeds

Frontier 25M/25M Speeds

My support person on the phone didn’t know if upgrading from the 25M/25M plan to the 50M/50M plan would require new hardware and an installation person to visit, but then she thought that it would be OK as-is. Hmm.

This morning I logged into my MacBook Pro and ran the www.speedtest.net again and I noted that Download had increased to 48M, but the Upload actually slowed down to just 15M. I started a Chat session at the Frontier web site and Tiffany started to help me, but then my Internet connection went dead and Tiffany phoned me. She asked me to turn off the WiFi Router and wait about 15 seconds, then powered it back up. Success, I now had faster speeds:

Frontier 50M/50M Speed

Frontier 50M/50M Speeds

For just $8/month more I have double my Internet speeds, so yes, I’m a happy camper, and probably a bit more efficient in running my web business. I would’ve preferred to upgrade online, without intervention from a support person, but that’s just how it is with Frontier FiOS, they have secret pricing and their upgrades require technical intervention remotely to completely work.

For personal use our household likes to stream Netflix, so I expect to see the biggest improvement in viewing movies in the evening, after work hours.

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Monday Morning Blues and an Apple Kernel Panic

Ah, Monday morning, the least enjoyed day that starts out every week. I had a 9AM appointment with my physical therapist, but then they phoned to cancel and suggested that I reschedule for Tuesday. Hmmm. After breakfast I went to my office and clicked the mouse, which was supposed to wake-up my Apple MacBook Pro, instead I was met with the dreaded kernel panic message:

Apple Kernel panic

Apple Kernel Panic

I bought this laptop about two years ago, so I think it’s still covered under the Apple Care program. Once the computer started up I dutifully filled out the report and sent the info to Apple engineers.

apple trouble report

Apple Problem Report

No computer operates perfectly all of the time, so buyer beware, I recommend purchasing that warranty on your new computer, especially if you use it in business and cannot afford to be without one for any period of time.

Well, at least my laptop is working again, so I can dive right into reading my client email messages and planning work for the day. Bonus, it’s a sunny morning in Oregon, how nice is that for October?

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