What's Happening?
Barnes & Noble

It's not for everyone, but if you like verse (or poetry or whatever you want to call it), take a look at this collection I put together a while back.


Raspberry Pi SD Backup

I'm breathing a little easier today after backing up the SD card in my Raspberry Pi. I realized there was a problem while I was at Starbucks and tried to connect to my home VPN... no joy. When I got home I found the Pi sitting with a single red light. This happened once before. The last time it was after a power outage and it seems that was the case this time, too. I had no success reviving the thing, but just like last time, re-flashing the OS onto the SD card did the trick. Well, sort of... I still had to re-install and configure openvpn, setup 2-factor authentication, etc.

I suspect the issue is related to the power supply I'm using. It's a Motorola PSU that I had on hand; 5V 550mA ... a little on the low side, but I've got nothing connected via USB so it seemed to work OK.

I jumped on Amazon and picked up a new power supply

and another SD card

The steps below are for Mac OS X.

To create a backup of the SD card:

  • Launch Terminal
  • Issue the following command
    diskutil list
  • Note the disk number of the SD card. It has a FAT32 and a Linux Partition. In my case it was /dev/disk1.
    !! It's important to get this right. If you use the wrong disk number, you could lose data on your hard drive !!
  • Issue the following command (substituting the appropriate number of your SD disk)
    sudo dd if=/dev/rdisk1 of=~/Desktop/pi.img bs=1m

    This accesses the raw disk and writes it to an image file on your desktop. There's no progress display, so just wait until it finishes. It will take several minutes.

When you're ready to restore the image:

  • Unmount the disk
    sudo unmountDisk /dev/rdisk1 
  • Restore the image to SD
    sudo dd of=/dev/rdisk1 if=~/Desktop/pi.img bs=1m




Safer Online Shopping with Virtual Credit Cards

Last week I received a troubling voice-mail claiming to be from the Fraud department at Citibank. They asked that I call back at specified number to discuss "suspicious activity" on my account. In case it hasn't already occurred to you, NEVER CALL someone who leaves you a voice-mail wanting to talk about your credit card or banking information.

Instead, I called the number printed on the back of my Citibank card... and was automatically routed to the Fraud department. Seems like the voice message was legit, but you can never be too cautious. The agent said they had flagged a suspicious transaction that they wanted to review with me. Had I recently tried to purchase $1099 worth of god knows what from a Swedish website I'd never heard of? No. Would I like to check with other family members on my account and call back? No. "No problem", she said. The transaction was declined, the account number disabled, a new account number created, and new cards on the way. Quick and painless.

It's worth noting that I rarely use this account. In fact, reviewing my statements, I saw that I had made 2 purchases in the past 6 months. The first was at a local bar that I've visited many times over the past couple of years (don't judge me!). The other was an online payment for a 're-up' on a month-to-month mobile calling plan for my mother-in-law's cell phone SIM. That's not to say that the card number could not have been compromised prior to these 2 transactions. I had used that card for all my travel expenses on an international business trip last year. But, the timing definitely felt suspicious to me.

So, when it came time again to re-up the MIL's SIM card, I was faced with a dilemma: Use the newly replaced card to make the purchase and assume they weren't the source of the problem? After all, they're a fairly well-known company whose products you can purchase at 'respectable' brick & mortar retailers.

The problem is they only accept one form of payment: credit card. Ugh! I use PayPal for my online purchases whenever possible. The merchant gets an authorization from PayPal without ever getting my banking information and PayPal then transfer the amount of the payment from my checking account. I've used 2FA (two factor authentication) since it was an option (originally with the PayPal security key and now with Verisign VIP Access for Mobile) with PayPal and I feel much more secure doing business this way. But, like the merchant in question, not everyone accepts PayPal.

What I did find is that Citibank offers a "Virtual Account" service. They describe it quite simply as 

...a free service which allows cardmembers to generate a substitute credit card number which can be used in place of their real credit card number during online or telephone shopping.

Sounds good, right? A couple of additional great benefits (beyond hiding your real account number from the merchant) are the abilities to set a purchase limit on the Virtual Account Number as well as a custom expiration date. The online tool is easy to use and with just a couple of clicks you've got a virtual card with all the info you need to make an online or telphone purchase.

Citi provides a nice overview video as well as FAQ.

This completely solved my problem for the non-PayPal-accepting site. I'll also be using it for any over-the-phone purchases that require a credit card in the future.

I'm sure other card issuers have similar programs. Leave a note in the comments if you know of any.



Microsoft TechEd 2014... See you there

This May in Houston will be my 3rd TechEd.

Always a good time and a lot to learn.

See you there!


Inverted Mouse Wheel on Windows

Using a small mouse with the Surface Pro makes it a lot easier to use the "Desktop". The incredibly tiny touchpad on the removable keyboard is an exercise in frustration. And, there are still some occasions (particularly on the desktop) where physically reaching out and touching the screen either isn't natural or the targets are just too small for my lack of dexterity.

With the mouse attached, however, I soon found myself scrolling the "wrong" way. At home and work I use a MacBook Pro and I've grown totally accustomed to the inverted scrolling that Apple sprang on us with OS X Lion.

Luckily for me, there's a way to get the same behavior out of Windows 8 (and earlier versions).

1. First, find the Device Instance Path for your mouse. Navigate to Control Panel Mouse. Click theHardware tab and highlight your mouse in the list.

Since the mouse I care about is removable, I turned it off and waited for one of the listed "mice" to display a status of "Device is not connected". Click [Properties], then select the Details tab.

From the Property drop-down choose "Device Instance Path" and note the value.

2. Now launch the Registry editor (regedit.exe) and Navigate to: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Enum\HID\{Path from the Previous Step}\Device Parameters

Double-click the registry entry for FlipFlopWheel and change the Value data from 0 to 1.

Close the registry. You may have to disconnect and reconnect your mouse to get the change to take effect.


Can You Break The Code?

Wanna take a crack at a number series?

The details:

The "answer" changes every hour based on local time. I don't have much more in the way of info and I don't have the answer ... yet. Just looking for some input. The sample data below is based on EST.

The data:

082613 / 12:43 / 041806
082613 / 12:46 / 041806
082613 / 13:00 / 041936
082613 / 13:12 / 041936
082613 / 13:59 / 041936
082613 / 14:00 / 042035
082613 / 15:31 / 042157
082613 / 16:12 / 044468
082713 / 08:36 / 053308
082713 / 09:12 / 053410
082713 / 10:03 / 055105
082713 / 11:07 / 055263
082913 / 16:41 / 030739
091313 / 16:56 / 021730