The Soapbox Archives:
I think the line in the sand has been crossed.
Before this, it was always just time that these spammers were stealing. It took about 10 seconds to delete each piece of email spam. Who cares about the fact that I didn't give spammers permission to use the mailbox for which I paid real money to fill with their illegal advertisement. I get over 1000 pieces of spam at work each morning, of which less than one percent is legitimate email. If it weren't for SpamAssassin, I wouldn't have time to do anything useful for the first half of the day. Just downloading that email every morning takes about 20 minutes of time. Plus it takes about 10 minutes of my time at the end of the day to report the day's spam to SpamAssassin so they could build better spam filters.
I've never felt that the laws against Spam were strong enough. Yes, they have to protect legitimate advertisers, but we all know what the illegal spam is. Considering the amount of time I spent clearing out spam in my email program every day, and then multiplying it by the tens of millions of people who have to do the same thing, we have *a lot* of cumulative lifetimes that these spammers are stealing. I think that we should take one of these spammers and make a public and messy example of them to deter the rest...like burning at the stake.
However, now we have something substantive to take to our lawmakers to convince them to pass tough laws against spam. Now these spammers are stealing *money*. It costs me money when I receive a text message. It's okay if I decide to send text messages to friends who also send me those messages. It's a different thing if I have to pay money for every spam text I get. It's going to add up quickly and could devastate the cellphone industry. Please take a few minutes to contact your local US congressman and/or senator and explain that these spammers need to be taken more serious because they're costing you *money*.
A friend of mine immediately had an inspired moment and came up with:
"Green Eggs and Ham!"
I wish I had thought of that first.
I get asked to help a lot of people with their computer-related technologies because I happen to know some of this stuff (not from any work-related training, though) and it's fun to help people out.
However, I think that some of this technology is so complex that users are overwhelmed and they tend to stick their heads in the sand and hope for the best.
I just helped two households to deal with their new combination phone/internet/TV setups.
In the first situation, I got into an argument with the technician the telecomm company had sent to set up one of the installations because he was setting up the wireless router with WEP encryption. Just doing a Google search on WEP vs WPA" will tell you that WEP is the older and *less* secure encryption. This telecomm's default setting is the 64-bit encryption which is less secure than the 128-bit encryption that is also available with WEP and thus, only one step up from *no* encryption. Turns out there was a reason for that. The router they give to their phone/Internet/Cable TV users *only* has WEP encryption. Not only that, there's a default encryption key they set those routers to (the router's MAC address) so that means someone outside your household knows the encryption key to your home network routers, not to mention the default username and password to that same router. The means to change those keys is confusing enough so that most people will just throw their hands up in the air and accept the defaults until something bad happens. That something bad *probably* won't happen, but then, that's what all those TJX customers must have thought. Look on the web to see how long it takes to crack WEP encryption.
I'm just guessing that the telecomm bought all these routers a long time ago and have to go through them until they run out and have to order a new batch.
In the other case, the people needed their game systems connected to the Internet. The new router (replacing the Linksys 802.11g router I set up for them) was set only to WEP encryption (I now assume they didn't have WPA encryption available) . The telecomm people (justifiably so) said that they didn't provide support for equipment they don't supply, though I know that they did set up the customers' computers to work with the router. The customers were told to contact the customer support for the other vendors' equipment (XBox, Playstation, etc). It would have been *nice* if the telecomm had gone the extra mile and gotten the rest of the customer's hardware to work with the new router that the telecomm had installed, especially while the technician was there anyway. Of course, I was unlucky enough to get asked to help them out. It took a while to figure out what settings to change to get all the equipment to work with the wireless router; I can't imagine that most of their customers would know what to do and most likely they'd just give up or end up shelling out a lot of money for someone else to do it for them.
FYI: I just set up the XBox on the Internet for the first household by plugging in a wire between the console game and the router. My cost for making a 55-foot ethernet cable? About $12 (a certain computer store in Cambridge is charging $60; that computer store in Needham has much better deals on cables); the wireless network adapter for the XBox is about $100. Which would you pick?
In both cases, both families originally had Wireless-G (802.11g) routers with the WPA encryption so I think they took a step backwards. When I got my broadband connection from the same company (phone and Internet only), they gave me a new router but I just plugged my recently bought Linksys router into their interface box and it worked without any changes. Of course, that wouldn't have worked in this case because of the addition of the special router for TV.
I checked one of my neighbors with the same phone/Internet/cable service and he too had a WEP-only router from the telecomm.
Why should you do this?
Note that some consumer products like the XBox console or the handheld Playstation PSP include the capability to use the more secure WPA encryption. You should use the strongest possible encryption with your home wireless network. I've stopped using any equipment that has only WEP encryption.
Why does this bother me? I work for a company that builds network security monitoring tools that capture information off computer networks. My co-workers were quick to show me how my email program was sending my username and password in the clear through the Internet to the email server. I've become very paranoid about data security on the network ever since then.
One last thing: Some wireless products claim to offer WPA encryption. It turns out some of these products were rushed out to the shelves too soon because you still had to get online and download the latest patch to have WPA encryption. Be careful out there.
Please remember that I am not a mind reader so I will have no idea that you have new additions to your schedule unless you tell me what they are. Since I'm providing a free service to the dance community and so many other organizers actively send me their information (every day!), I have no incentive (and no time) to look at any individual website for any potentially new events or any changes. Please be sure to send any new dance dates to me in an email message addressed to *me* (I don't pay as much attention to newsletters and press releases). If you're not motivated enough to cut & paste the information from your website into a message to me, then I won't be as motivated, either.
Those of you who hold events that I don't attend should pay particular attention to the list of frequently asked questions. Unless you send me email (regularly), you're off my radar and I won't remember that you haven't sent me anything in a while. It is the responsibility of the dance organizer to get their information to me in a timely fashion because it is the dance organizer who wants the paying customers. This website is not a business for me.
Anyone who chooses not to send me their dance schedule should understand that the other dance businesses holding events on the same day will be happy if your event is not listed on this website.
One of the ladies pointed out that they seemed to get more offers after the ladies had danced with us, the guys who came along on the road trip.
That was an interesting notion. It sort of made sense. Some people at a dance might see strangers at a dance and wonder if they're just newbies who don't have a clue on the dance floor. These people might not want to risk getting stuck for the three minutes of a song with someone who couldn't dance so they wait until they see those new people on the dance floor.
This is just a theory, but it's worth testing out. If you and your friends go dancing in a new location where you're not known, make it a point to dance together for a couple of songs and make sure you're seen and noticed. See if you get asked to dance more often.
I believe this website is about to lose another sponsor.
I lost one last year because they weren't doing so well and couldn't afford to help out. I hope they do better this year. I lost one this year due to a retirement. That's normal and I wish them well.
I removed one for non-payment; after many promises of support and not seeing a check for several years, I can get the hint.
I suspect that another *might* be leaving since they're not very active in doing what's necessary to renew their support.
However, it's the latest one that bugs me. One venue told me that they'd be supporting Swing-only websites.
This website got started because I loved swing dancing. I wanted all my friends to see what else was happening in the area and I wanted all the dance venues to be filled with new dance customers and grow the community. I do mostly Lindy Hop and East Coast Swing; I wish I could dance West Coast Swing better. However, I noticed that most of the dance studios also offered other dances and it seemed stupid not to list them. I'm don't believe in excluding venues just because they're not pure swing, not to mention that there are still arguments about what "swing" really is. (You might notice, however, that on the listings of dance studios and places to dance, the Lindy/WCS/ECS venues get listed closer to the top.)
The fact that this website also lists non-"swing" venues is the very reason to support this website. A swing-only website has a narrow subject focus and a limited customer base. They're preaching to the choir. The DanceNet website encourages *non-swing* dancers to visit and they get exposed to information of which they might not known. These non-swing dancers might not find a ballroom or hustle or salsa venue on the night they might want to go dancing, but they might notice a swing dance venue taking place that very same night. This website is *inclusive*. This website reaches out for dancers with a very wide net and reels them into the swing dance venues.
No, this doesn't mean I'm in need for new sponsors and I'm not upset about losing sponsors. I still use the same rules to decide if I want a particular venue as a sponsor. This website is not a profit center for me; I don't do this to make money. The cost of running this website has actually gone down over the last 10 years so I've actually lowered the sponsorship fee that gets paid. It does pay for all the flyers I put out at dances; it does pay for the flash drives on which I carry the files for this website (for some reason I fried a couple of those drives) and it did pay for a new monitor when the last one died. I expect that the remaining sponsors see that this website helps all dancers, not just "swing" dancers, and in turn, they help themselves.