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Year: 2014

Security Update – Links & Tips

SecurityHere are some infosec-related resources, tips, and interesting things I’ve come across in the last few days, all of which are related to to cyber security and you. Hope you find this stuff useful.

Edit: Here’s a late-breaker to add to the list:

  • Surveillance Self-Defense is the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s guide to defending yourself and your friends from surveillance by using secure technology and developing careful practices.




Photo by Brad & Ying

Reno Style Banjo

My banjo buddy Jason Skinner, a phenomenal Don Reno-style picker, has made some updates to his YouTube channel. I’ve had the pleasure of learning from Jason in person over the last few years, and I’m glad to see he’s back at it online. I’ll be hitting the woodshed for the winter to study and learn. If you don’t see me until next spring, you will know why.

Charter Communications Nightmare

Big fat meanie heads.

I’m not sure anyone will want to read this entire post, but I wanted to share it and document it in case anyone else finds themselves in the same boat.

Charter Communications is a bad, bad company. Charter Communications has terrible customer service. Here is my story.

We bought and moved into a new house in July. We called to have Charter set up a couple of days before we moved in, and their Residential department said they did not service our address because the line was over 1000 feet away. However, there was a Charter box at the end of our driveway, roughly 35 feet from the house, and the people who sold us the house guaranteed that Charter was available. Our new neighbors have Charter Business being served from that box, so Charter was clearly available.

I called Charter Business, and they said they could definitely service us from that box. It’d be a little more money each month, but we knew we needed it, so we jumped in. We were assigned a friendly Business representative who was very helpful in getting us all set up. At this time, we were told we could cancel and get a refund within 30 days.

A couple of weeks into the Business service, I called Residential back, just to see if they could switch us over since we were unhappy with our Business account, and since we clearly had Charter access at our house now. With Business, we were paying more for fewer features, such as a poorer channel lineup, no music channels, and no On Demand. They said they could definitely help us, however, we’d need to have Business cancelled separately since they were “two separate things” in Charter. They said that there was nothing they could do to make a seamless switch, and that they’d have to treat this as a new service being set up.

They sent a Charter Residential technician to come out and set up our new Residential service. He said he had to replace all of our HD boxes and our modem with new ones since this was considered a new setup. I thought that was silly, but he swapped out all the hardware, got us set up, took the old hardware with him, and went on his way.

The next day, I called Business, as instructed by Residential, and asked them to cancel our service. They obliged. Unfortunately, they also sent a guy out who promptly disconnected our service altogether. Apparently, he didn’t know we had switched over to Residential service.

We had to call and schedule an appointment for reconnection. You know how appointments go: they give you a 4 hour window in which you must come home from work early for, only for them to arrive late. It turned out we didn’t even need to be there for the reconnection to occur, but they didn’t tell us that ahead of time. A pain, but they got us reconnected. We went about our lives, thinking this was all over.

Then we got the bill from Charter Business in the mail. They wanted us to pay for the first month of service and three missing HD boxes: the boxes that the Residential technician took with him when he switched over. The bill was about $650.

Here we were with none of the hardware they said we had, thinking we’d actually be getting a refund since we cancelled within 30 days. Instead we got a $650 bill!

I promptly called the Business billing folks to clear up the situation. They filed a lost equipment report of some kind regarding the HD boxes and said they’d let me know the results the next day. Then, they told me that because this was not a “change of service” or a “switch” that we didn’t qualify for the 30 day refund. I told them that when I called to switch from Business to Residential, I was told I couldn’t do a switch, that it had to be two separate transactions. The customer service rep said it didn’t matter. I got off the phone, exasperated.

The next day, they didn’t call me about the missing equipment report as promised. I called them back to find out the status, but there was no record of it on my account, apparently. So they filed another one.

I also asked about the refund again. This time, I got a whole different story. Wait until you hear this. The Billing customer service lady told me that because I didn’t mention the 30 day refund when I cancelled service, I didn’t qualify for it. I asked her how I was supposed to know I had to mention it, and she said I should have known based on commercials or advertisements. That seemed absolutely insane to me. After asking to talk to a manager, which she wouldn’t let me do, she told me I’d need to talk to my original Business sales rep about it since he was the only one who could reverse the charges or do anything about it.

So, I emailed him back and explained the situation. He said that he couldn’t do a thing, and that I’d have to call Billing. I told him that they sent me to him, but he never emailed me back.

At this point, I filed a complaint with the FCC.

Then, I started getting calls from a strange number at all hours of the day. I finally answered and it was an “equipment recovery” company (aka collections agency) attempting to find the missing HD boxes. They were persistent, even thought I told them what happened. Finally, they made a note of it on my account and let me go. I still got a letter from them saying the same thing: that my HD boxes needed to be turned in or I’d owe $125 each.

Charter CEO Thomas Rutledge makes over $2 million a year. I don’t.

I haven’t heard from Charter since the FCC complaint, but I did hear from the collections company again. This time it was about the cable modem from the business account. I told them that the Charter technician took it with him. They guy said he’d make a note of it.

So that is where I am after almost 2 months of this rigmarole. I have yet to see a credit to my account from Charter Business. It would be about $239 I could really don’t think I need to pay since I cancelled within the 30 day trial period. They have since sent me another bill asking me to pay up.

I’ll update this post as I learn more. Maybe Thomas Rutledge, the Charter CEO, will see this and realize how screwed up his company is. One can hope, anyway.

Update 9/28/14Here are the terms of the Charter Business 30 Day Guarantee. I certainly don’t see anything in there that suggests I don’t qualify for it.

Update January, 2015: I received a phone call from a Charter Business representative not long after this blog post came out. He assured me that he would have an account specialist look into the situation and that I’d soon hear back from him on the status. I never heard anything. I also never got another bill from Charter Business!

Netflix on Apple TV 2: “An error occurred loading this content”

First-world problem.
First-world problem: Netflix on Apple TV

This problem has plagued us for a few months. Each time we start watching Netflix on our Apple TV 2, it stops and throws up this message after about 20 seconds.

We have two Apple TV 2 units on two different televisions, and it happens on both of them. Netflix on Google Chromecast,, my phone, and my Nook, all work perfectly.

It’s definitely a problem with the Apple TV units.

I have searched around for solutions, and certain fixes seem to work for some people, but there are many folks who still have the problem.

Restarting the device doesn’t help. All updates have been applied. I have even reset the devices completely, to no avail.

Anyone else having this problem? Anyone know a solution?

As the Earth Spins, or, Chatham Family News

IMG_20140606_194306For those of you keeping score at home, these are the things that have been happening around here.

First, Rachael is pregnant with a boy. He is due on Halloween and, needless to say, we are super excited. Gray and Dax are excited too, though each in their very different ways: Dax outwardly, Gray more inwardly. We do have a name picked out for the little fella, but it being a quest that doesn’t necessarily end until the day he pops out, we thought we’d hold off on the big reveal for a little bit 😉

Second, we are moving! We decided to find a place that is a little more conducive to having a baby. We love our current house, but with features such as a 30 foot high deck, a front yard next to a frequently traveled road, and a balcony overlooking the living room, we decided something a little safer would be better.

Our house was only on the market 10 days before it went under contract, and we soon put a bid in on a new one. That should all be going down in July, so we are preparing for a move.

Third, my parents are having a low-key 50th wedding anniversary today, so a big WHOOP WHOOP to them. They may have a juggalo-style celebration with their neighbors tonight, from what we heard.

Fourth, Gray graduated from 5th grade last week. He will be venturing to middle school this fall, and I am still completely blown away about that fact. Dax will be in 3rd grade…also hard to believe!

So that’s that for now…more soon.