Nice try but not even close update

About a week ago I posted a blog about a threat I received that said they had hacked my computer and unless I sent $810 in bitcoin to a certain purse within 48 hours, my computer would be frozen. If I didn’t, the person issuing the threat would release screen grabs of some of the more questionable sites I’d visited to my contacts list. And to “prove” their claim, they told me what password I’d used. Wrong. They further stated that they had installed a trojan horse that would advise them if I changed my password and would also automatically delete itself once I had made the payment. Well, I laughed at it, wrote a blog about it and deleted it. Of course, nothing happened because they had their facts wrong, mainly the screen grab claim since I don’t have a webcam. Here’s the actual claim: I made screenshot with using my program from your camera of yours device.

If people were taken in and actually paid the $810 and then nothing happened to their computer, they would assume they had satisfied the demand and the malware had indeed been removed. What really has happened though is that they paid over eight hundred dollars to a scam artist and nothing was going to happen anyway.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Do not be taken in by these scams and threats. Keep everything backed up on regular basis and remember that in the event such a demand for money is real, it will be cheaper just to take the computer to a technician and have the hard drive replaced than pay the ransom. That, and change your passwords.

Stay safe online and remember to hug an artist – we need love too.

Cat.

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Nice try, but not even close

I received the following email in an address I rarely use:

Hello!

I’m a hacker who cracked your email and device a few months ago.
You entered a password on one of the sites you visited, and I intercepted it.
This is your password from ghoward@shaw.ca on moment of hack: watson

Of course you can will change it, or already changed it.
But it doesn’t matter, my malware updated it every time.

Do not try to contact me or find me, it is impossible, since I sent you an email from your account.

Through your email, I uploaded malicious code to your Operation System.
I saved all of your contacts with friends, colleagues, relatives and a complete history of visits to the Internet resources.
Also I installed a Trojan on your device and long tome spying for you.

You are not my only victim, I usually lock computers and ask for a ransom.
But I was struck by the sites of intimate content that you often visit.

I am in shock of your fantasies! I’ve never seen anything like this!

So, when you had fun on piquant sites (you know what I mean!)
I made screenshot with using my program from your camera of yours device.
After that, I combined them to the content of the currently viewed site.

There will be laughter when I send these photos to your contacts!
BUT I’m sure you don’t want it.

Therefore, I expect payment from you for my silence.
I think $810 is an acceptable price for it!

Pay with Bitcoin.
My BTC wallet: 1JTtwbvmM7ymByxPYCByVYCwasjH49J3Vj

If you do not know how to do this – enter into Google “how to transfer money to a bitcoin wallet”. It is not difficult.
After receiving the specified amount, all your data will be immediately destroyed automatically. My virus will also remove itself from your operating system.

My Trojan have auto alert, after this email is read, I will be know it!

I give you 2 days (48 hours) to make a payment.
If this does not happen – all your contacts will get crazy shots from your dark secret life!
And so that you do not obstruct, your device will be blocked (also after 48 hours)

Do not be silly!
Police or friends won’t help you for sure …

p.s. I can give you advice for the future. Do not enter your passwords on unsafe sites.

I hope for your prudence.
Farewell.

Where do I start? Let’s pick the obvious and that is the atrocious English. Now, the only sites I visit that require passwords are Facebook and WordPress, and neither of them have “watson” as my password.

As for my “sites of intimate content”, well, depending upon your point of view, I suppose you could consider videos of Street Outlaws worth telling others about. Oops! I just did, so there goes that threat.

I use very good antivirus programmes, so I’m not concerned about any trojan horses on my system. Another threat dealt with.

If this person did in fact have access to my contacts on this email, they’d note I have only one – and that’s a Toronto Police detective. I’m sure the sergeant would be fascinated by my interest in street racing, considering I don’t have a vehicle.

As for the claim this person used the camera on my computer to capture screen shots of what I was looking at, well, I don’t have a webcam. As I said, nice try, but so wrong.

If you get this, or something similar, I think it can safely be ignored. DO NOT send anything through Bitcoin. There is no way of retrieving it if this is a fraud.

Cat.

For the writers among us

A few thoughts and observations on that demon that haunts us ink-stained wretches:

“… writers don’t like the actual writing bit.”

“Being literate as a writer is good craft, is knowing your job, is knowing how to use your tools properly and not to damage the tools as you use them.”

“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.” Douglas Adams, (1952 – 2001)

The above three quotes are from Douglas Adams, best known as the author of the five books of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy trilogy. (I know, but that’s how he described it.) And from personal experience I can say that first quote is spot on. As well, I have written many short stories that prove the third one as well.

As for the second, that would be for the reader to determine. I like to think I write well, and use, but not abuse, the English language properly. One piece of advice I was given is “write the way you speak.” In other words, if you don’t commonly use “ten dollar words” in your daily vocabulary, don’t use them in your writing, even if you can get them half-off. You’ll sound pretentious and will probably use them wrong. My writing always uses the vocabulary and speech patterns I use in everyday communication and people have told me that when they read my stuff, they can hear my voice reading it in their minds. I consider that a compliment. The only time I vary from that is if the character requires it.

There are several other “rules” of writing that make little sense to me at least, such as “write what you know”. That may be fine if you’re writing a technical piece, but doesn’t necessarily apply if you’re writing fiction. When it comes to my fiction, many of the stories start with me asking myself “what if …?” then answering the question. How bleak would the literary world be if authors only wrote what they know? We’d have been deprived of works like J K Rowling’s Harry Potter series as well as many books that are now considered classics.

“Write what you know.” I’m a blogger – sporadically recently because there are things going on that interfere with the writing as well as Douglas Adams’s first observation – and my blogs are usually about things or events that either interest me or incense me. And given the newly elected government in Ontario, I think there’s going to be a few things that incense me. In my more honest moments, I frequently describe my blogs as “rants, raves or reasoned discussions – reader’s choice.”

One thing I read somewhere (I think it was a writer I friended on MySpace years ago) was that in order to be a writer, you must write 600 words a day. What that writer didn’t add was that it must be six hundred words you want to keep. I don’t agree with that word count. You can only write so much and if only 10 words will come that are “keepers”, then that’s ten words you don’t have to worry about later.

Many people who don’t write and don’t understand writing will often joke about the process and sometimes point to the hoary opening “It was a dark and stormy night” as an example of writing. Actually, I used that twice in one story just to see if it was possible to use it without seeming trite. Here’s what I came up with:

It was a dark and stormy night – a real nasty one – the kind I’ve come to dread ever since that night. I was sitting quietly, enjoying my beer, when I noticed the guy staring at me. I ignored him as I do anyone who is rude enough to stare. Then I sensed him coming over.

After a bit of small talk, he stopped talking and just looked at me. I looked back. “What, you want to hear about the time traveller?”

“If you wouldn’t mind telling me,” he said, signalling for refills for both of us.

I thanked him, then said, “I don’t mind telling, if you don’t mind listening. All I ask is that you don’t interrupt too much, because I don’t really like talking about it.”

He agreed and, after a sip of the beer, I started.

“It was a dark and stormy night “ I stopped as I saw him glaring at me, then I said “I know, I know – any story that starts that way has to be pure bull, right? Hear me out, then you tell me.

In the introduction to this piece I wrote “I planted my tongue firmly in my cheek and here’s the result”. I know it’s hard to tell from this short intro, but what do you think? Did I pull it off? If you like, I’ll post the entire story later this week.

Okay, let’s try to get serious for a few minutes here. Writing is, by its nature, a solitary pursuit. When you’re working on a piece, be it fiction, a blog, essay or factual, most writers don’t want anyone around to derail their train of thought. I usually have classical music playing quietly while I work. In one short story, I destroyed an entire planet with “Ride of the Valkyries” in the background. Yes, some writers say that so-and-so is their muse, their inspiration, but that doesn’t mean that muse has to be present all the time. I’m fortunate in that respect as I live alone so there are minimal interruptions.

“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.” Very true. I can’t count the times I’ve started writing something with a plan in mind only to have the characters dictate what happens through their actions. I usually just leave it since on the occasions I’ve tried to bring the story back to my vision, it didn’t work as well.  And yes, it can happen that something you’ve written will send a story off in a new direction rather than following your roadmap. I think it works this way: You write something and your mind picks up on that and asks “what if I follow that line instead?” That is what I mean by the character dictating the ensuing actions.

It seems that many good writers are also voracious readers. Not to see what the “competition” is doing, but simply for the enjoyment of the written word. No, the excuse that it cuts into writing time won’t work. Without some kind of break or diversion, your mind goes stale and your work will suffer.

And, I think I’ve done it again – started off with one idea in mind, but ended up somewhere else. I could have probably spent much less time writing this if I’d simply said “write about what interests you; write it with passion and in cohesive sentences and the readers will come.” To finish off, a quote from Robert A Heinlein (1907 – 1988), the great science-fiction writer “You must write.”

Enjoy your day and remember to hug an artist – we need love too.

Cat.

Do it your way

Every once in a while, someone will look at some of my photos, or read something I’ve written and suggest that I should teach photography and/or writing. That presents a problem for me.

I’m sure that each of you is very good at some pastime that gives you a sense of accomplishment. But, how would you go about explaining to somebody else just how you do it? That’s the problem with my photography and writing. Oh, I could probably teach each, but the course would be twenty minutes tops. I’ll try here to explain how I do what I do.

Photography: My philosophy is simple – if something catches your attention, snap it. You may look at the image on the camera screen and not see what you expected, but wait until you get it up on the computer screen when you process it. (I do digital photography, so my comments are restricted to computer processing.) The larger image may show you something surprising that you can turn into a beautiful photo. The photo at the top of this is an example of a photo I thought was “okay” until I saw it on the monitor, then it went up in my estimation.

Take advice if offered. I’ve had some free-lance photographers give me some advice that I think is worth passing on. First, remember that a digital camera darkens an image about 30 – 40% from what you see with your eye. You’ll want to restore that brightness before anything else. This of course wouldn’t apply if you feel the darker image is more effective.

Next, a free-lancer told me to avoid weddings if at all possible because you’ll never please everyone.

Finally, if you want to be a free-lance news photographer, the best advice I was given for this was “f8 and be there”. You can’t take the shot if you aren’t at the scene and an aperture of f8 will give you a decent depth of field.

As I said, I do digital photography and process my own work. There are many photo processing programmes available. My personal preference is a Corel programme called “Paintshop”. Some people prefer Adobe’s Photoshop. I’ve used both and prefer Paintshop. If you can, try as many as you can – some places offer free trial copies – before spending your money on one.

The choice of camera is up to the user. Many of my best work was done with a Canon point and shoot, including the header photo. I currently use a Canon DSLR, but depending upon my plans for the day, I have often used the camera in my phone. The quality of phone cameras has improved greatly.

I’m torn about suggesting photography courses. Yes, I can see the benefits for some people, but when I told an artist friend it had been suggested I take one, her comment was “Why? That would only ruin you. The course would only teach you to take photos the way the instructor does.” If you feel you’d benefit from one, go for it. As my friend said, if you feel competent, save your money.

In photography the most important advice I was given was that you have to have imagination and the ability to think outside the box. Photography is as much about feeling as technique.

Writing: I’ve always written, at least back as far as Grade 5. I was fortunate in having teachers who encouraged my writing and have since received advice from others. There are many courses in creative writing available through community colleges that you can take. My ex-partner was part of a group of writers who would meet once a week and present short stories for criticism. Some members were published authors; some were taking courses and others just sat down to write. Through the members of this group (I was a casual member since they often met at our house) I learned the proper format for submitting stories, but that’s about all.

Most often, aspiring writers are told “write what you know”. That is fine if you’re writing factual articles and stories. I have a blog and frequently write opinion pieces that I laughingly refer to as “rants, raves and reasoned discussions – reader’s choice.” The main exception to that is a series of blogs under the general title “Bring him to justice”. This series concerns the attempts by the Toronto Police Service to arrest a man charged with several counts of aggravated sexual assault. This series is factual and, full disclosure here, I’m doing it because I know several people he dated.

For my fiction, it’s rather difficult to write fiction strictly sticking to “what you know”. If I’m writing fiction, the process usually starts with me asking myself “what if…?” then writing a piece to answer the question.

Perhaps the best advice the writer me was given was “write the way you speak.” If you don’t use multi-syllable words as part of your usual vocabulary, don’t use them in your writing. I sometimes paraphrase this as “if you don’t use ten dollar words all the time, don’t use them in your writing, even if you get them half-off. You’ll probably mis-use them.” Something else – spelling counts. Spell-check is great in most cases, but if you use a homophones – and yes, I had to check the definition of this – such as “hear” or “here”, spell-check won’t catch it. Proofread, then proofread again.

There. My courses on photography and writing are finished. As the title suggests “do it your way.” Class dismissed.

Remember to hug an artist – we need love too.

Cat.

Could I have some logic with that?

I haven’t picked on commercials in a while, and there are two at the moment that bother me because they appear to treat the viewer as unable to think. I don’t know for sure, but I suspect these are being shown internationally. (I have a transportation background, so to me “international” refers to Canada/US, not overseas.)

First is a spot for the Chevrolet Malibu. The vehicle is in a showroom, surrounded by a group of people. They are asked to describe the car in one word. Among the replies is “fast”. Idiot! This is sitting in a showroom, so how the hell do you know it’s fast? It could be a real slug on the road? Case in point: back in the late seventies and early eighties, the Thunderbird had a reputation for being a car that could bring it. In the years I mention, it was powered by a 2.3 litre four. I had the same engine in my ‘81 Mercury Zephyr and even with the four speed transmission I had, there is no way I could characterize it as “fast”. So how the hell can you tell, just by looks, this Malibu is fast?

 

Next is an ad for ZZZquil. Man is lying in bed and a mechanic rolls his creeper out from under the bed and says something along the lines of (and I think I’m quoting accurately here) “your car’s in terrible shape. It needs parts I’ve never even heard of. And it’s going to cost a fortune.” Okay. Number 1, if you’ve never heard of these parts, how do you know the car needs them? As an addition to this, if you’ve never heard of them, I don’t think much of your abilities as a mechanic. And, number 2, if you have no idea what these parts are, how do you know it will be expensive to replace them?

In both these commercials, which I presume are meant to be serious, the one thing lacking is logic. In the case of the Malibu, unless that man has driven one, or been beaten by one at a stoplight drag race, how does he know how fast it is? In the Zzzquil ad, well, I asked the questions in the last paragraph.

Commercials such as these two, which talk down to viewers and potential customers, do not impress me, nor probably a lot of other people. Logic may be as rare as common sense, but some of us do possess it and don’t like being treated as if we aren’t intelligent enough to buy and use the products being hawked.

Cat.

 

Some random thoughts

Riding the bus today, my mind wandered and touched on various items.

1 – The Region of Durham is doing some serious road work at a major intersection. This of course is causing massive traffic backups and pretty much throws bus schedules out the window. The irony in that is the construction is they are installing “bus only” lanes to speed up public transit.

2 – If you were to ask Canadians the origin of Canadian English, no doubt most, if not all, would say “England”. According to a documentary I watched, they would be indirectly correct. The documentary stated that the major influence on “Canadian English” actually came from the United States, which was settled in large part by the British. Pronunciation, definitions and some nuances are all courtesy of our friends south of the 49th parallel. Spelling is a different matter. In the 1870’s, Sir John A. Macdonald, the Prime Minister at the time was the head of the government that passed a bill that made the use of “u” in words such as colour the only official spelling. So when I use that spelling for neighbour and honour for example, I’m only following Canadian law.

3 – Watching some programmes on Germany before and during WWII. Am I the only one who sees irony in the fact that the Nazis ideal was a tall, blond, blue-eyed physical specimen while neither Hitler nor his inner circle were anywhere near that ideal?

4- This isn’t exactly a random thought, but was a private Facebook message regarding a string I was involved with, and thought about during my bus ride. I think it bears repeating here:

I am horrified by some of the postings I read from my American friends regarding their troubles with housing, medical care and employment. Granted I lost a job when I came out, but someone through church told me that if I could get my Pickering taxi licence, he’d hire me. I did and he did and I drove for seven years until I was injured. Perhaps it’s the Canadian psyche, but except for the young drunk men on Friday and Saturday nights in the cab, I’ve never had a problem. As an example of what appears to be the general view (and yes I know generalities can turn and bite me in the butt), during the last provincial election campaign, not one candidate; not one reporter from any media, nor any member of the public brought up the fact that Kathleen Wynne, the Premier of Ontario, is lesbian. Everyone stuck to the issues. I think that had this been an American election campaign, her sexuality would have overshadowed the actual issues. By the way, she won and now heads a majority government. Based on my experiences over the past twenty years, I sometimes think that my brothers and sisters in the United States would consider Canada, specifically Ontario, a trans Utopia.

Not quite, but we’re working on it.

Since it’s Friday, enjoy your weekend and remember to hug an artist, we need love too.

Cat.