Saturday, August 25

WCD and random stuff

Greetings. Well, I guess I'm back in blog form. If you look back at my posts this year, it seems that I posted about once a month from Feburary to June, then in July, it got kicked up into overdrive. Like I said back a few months ago, we're back up to full force in my department at work now, so there's people to cover for others, sort of, and things feel good again. We're two, nearly three, months into the "new system/direction" at work, and though I was a little skeptical in the beginning, it looks like this will work. I'll write in another post about it if anyone's interested. Anyway, life is good, I'm feeling good about work, and I've gotten back into my routine of posting about once per week, at a minimum.

On the subject of the White Cane Day website, its growing nicely. When It first went live about two weeks ago, there's was a basic framework of the article and a few random links. Since then, there's now links for sponsors, participating agencies, efinitions and articles on the white cane and the day itself, a "Model White Cane Bill" that many of the laws around the country are based on, a graphic of last year's proclamation, places to buy white canes and cane accessories from, and more coming. I've just added a section on media coverage, which I'll upload when I confirm some information. One of the committee members had an interview yesterday with one of the top Austin radio stations which will really kick this thing into gear. I want to wait until I get more information on that interview and verify that it will aire, but once that's done I'll upload the updated page. The hit counter is chugging along, with 22 visitors at last count. That number will really jump once all those posters and flyers are distributed around town, and hopefully even after the radio piece airres. We've got another committee meeting next Thursday, which will be cool and exciting. Look for more graphics to be added as well.

I'm off to enjoy the weekend and hopefully forget about tonight's Dallas Cowboys loss. Well, better to have a loss in the preseason rather than the regular season, though those will happen as well. There are those in Dallas that are already predicting that the Cowboys will go to the Super Bowl this year. We'll see.

Monday, August 20

Setting up a website

Greetings. Periodically, I get emails from friends or others asking about the process of getting a website started. Below is a response that I sent out recently on this very subject, which I think covers all the bases for starting a site. I could write a separate post on things to consider when designing the site. This one however is simply questions to ask yourself before you start, and might help you clarify what you want before you jump right out and do it. Links are provided where appropriate. Enjoy.

Hello. You recently asked me about starting a website. Here's a brief list of what you need to consider. 

Website name: Do you want your site to have a long address, like 

Or, a shorter name more on the web, like 

The longer site names are usually free, but may have ads associated with them. While the shorter names are not free, but if you look around, you can get
a good price on a domain name. The domain name registrar, as they're called, that I've used is Go Daddy, and they really do discount their prices for new names. For instance, I recently purchased a domain name for $45 over 5 years. You might also want to consider getting the privacy protection that Go Daddy offers. I forget what its called directly, but basically, with this protection, your contact information and email address will be hidden on the Who Is database, which keeps track of all the domains on the web. This can be a great help since it can cut down on the amount of spam you might get from having your email address exposed. For that domain name I bought, the protection was $35 over 5 years. 

Site design: do you want to design the site yourself or get someone else to do it? If you get someone else, there may be cost involved. If you design it yourself, then do you want to write the HTML or web code yourself (which is very easy), or do you want to use a program to do the coding for you? By writing the code yourself you can see exactly where errors are and fix them immediately. But, you might not want to be weighed down by all the ins and outs of coding. Incidentally, coding isn't that hard. If you want to do your own coding, there's tons of sites to learn from. Two of the easiest are:

Web Monkey. 

Web Monkey is the one that I learned from when I started, and my personal fave, but as I say, there's lots to choose from. If you're into more advanced coding or want to do more with your site, then check out:

Blind Programming. 

Web space: you will need to purchase space for your site from a web host, if you're going to have a real domain name like Again, there's lots to choose from. The one that I use and advertise on my site is Ultra Host:

Ultra Host.

They offer the most for the least amount of money, IMO. I'm paying $50 per year for 250 MB of space. They have annual and monthly plans, but the annual ones tend to be a little less. 

Uploading files: Some web hosts give you utilities for maintaining your site and some don't. You can also get file transfer protocol programs to upload files. I've used FTP Voyager for several years now and have had good success with it. I've also used FTP Explorer. Both of these programs are about $40 or so. I've heard that you can also use IE to upload files, though I haven't done this as much. 

That should get you started. Feel free to contact me with any other related questions. Also, refer to the web development section on my computer resources page:

Computer Resources page

for a list of helpful resources on web development. 

And, once you get your site rolling, send me the address and I might add it to my site.

Enjoy, have fun, and good luck

Thursday, August 16

Beware of greeting card emails

Greetings. Note the following article that I received today in my email Inbox. As was true before, a little common sense goes a long way. Enjoy.

Greetings! Someone has sent you an e-card virus

Todd R. Weiss
August 15, 2007 (Computerworld)

Think you got a cheery greeting card from a friend via e-mail?

Well, think again, and be careful before opening it. A new form of fake e-card notification e-mails are unleashing nasty viruses and virus-carrying Trojan
horses on unsuspecting users.

While e-card-triggered viruses and Trojan horses are not new, the latest versions are becoming more difficult for typical antivirus and antispam defenses
to detect, according to alerts issued today by security software vendors Avinti Inc. and F-Secure Corp.

The new complication, said Dave Green, chief technology officer at Lindon, Utah-based Avinti, is that the latest slew of fake e-card e-mail notifications
are using plain text in their messages, which don't get scanned and scrutinized by antivirus and antispam defense applications. While the e-mails don't
contain pasted links or attached files that a recipient can click on to get a computer infection, many e-mail clients automatically convert the included
text into a clickable link when the e-mail clients recognize a Web address in the text.

"It appears they have done that to get around a lot of the parsing used by antivirus and antispam applications" to fight such attacks, Green said. "It's
an interesting cat-and-mouse game between the bad guys and the good guys."

"Apparently, they've found that they can be very successful in getting these through by not having it be formatted as an HTML message," Green said.

All recipients have to do to trigger the virus is to click on the link created by the e-mail client once they have read the message, he said.

Adding to the confusion and the potential seriousness of the problem, he said, is that the perpetrators sending these e-mails are using the names of some
of the most popular electronic greeting card companies in their messages and Web links.

Avinti said it has updated its Avinti Isolation Server product to protect against such attacks, while other vendors are still updating their own products.

Avinti's alert said the links to the fake e-greeting cards lead to IP addresses in various locations, including the U.S. and Eastern Europe, and many are
registered to U.S. Internet service providers. The damaging payload files are new variants of the Storm Worm virus that was first detected in January,
the company said.

In its alert today, Helsinki, Finland-based security vendor F-Secure said the fake e-card messages from one group of online criminals appear to have changed
since last night, when they dropped the use of attached files and went to plain-text messages.

An included link then tells the recipient to install a free "Microsoft Data Access" application to retrieve the e-card, but that file -- msdataaccess.exe
-- is a damaging virus. F-Secure said it has identified the virus as

Danny Allan, director of research at security analysis vendor Watchfire Corp. in Waltham, Mass., said he has seen similar all-text e-greeting mailings
before, but the numbers have increased lately.

For antivirus and antispam vendors, the theory had been that if the message includes plain text without links and attachments, it could cause no harm,
he said. That approach has to change, Allan said.

User need to be cautious and not click on links they find in e-mails, Allan said. Instead, they should go directly to a Web site by typing its address
into a Web browser and go there on their own, bypassing links that could be malicious.

Vendors will have a tough time making the problem go away completely, he said, because they can't devise ways of evaluating every Web link or instance
in an e-mail. However, they can improve detection of suspicious encoded characters and domain names in messages.

"If there was a silver bullet that could solve the problem, the antivirus companies would have done it," Allan said.

Zully Ramzan, a senior principal researcher at Cupertino, Calif.-based security vendor Symantec Corp.'s security response team, said Symantec has seen
plain-text attacks before and doesn't view them as a new problem.

"There's been a bit of a resurgence lately" with e-card notification messages, possibly because of last month's July 4 holiday or because criminal groups
have been organizing mailing campaigns, he said.

Andrew Jaquith, a security analyst at Boston-based Yankee Group Research Inc., said the latest e-greeting attacks are an example that criminals "are going
to be coming up with more and more ingenious ways of tricking people or exploiting ways of tricking your e-mail client. This is just one of any number
of ways that these guys are going to try to lure users to do something they shouldn't."

Thursday, August 9

WCD website update

Greetings. I just wanted to write a quick note about today’s White Cane Day committee meeting. (Incidentally, if I ever use the abbreviation WCD for White Cane Day, you'll know what it means). It was quite fun to run down my list of points at the meeting and presenting what I had done to a group. However, what brought me more satisfaction and joy was to hear one of the people from the local major grocery store here, say how much she and her fellow coworkers liked the site. She said that it looked very well done and that they appreciated the link that I put for their store. (Got to keep the sponsors happy, :) Anyway, that was cool and something I’ll remember for some time to come.

Toward the end of the meeting, I asked if the committee would like a hit counter on the site, or a means of keeping track of how many unique or individual visitors come to it. Once I explained what a counter was, they liked the idea. I thought that doing this would be hard, but all I did was copy the code from my Wayneism site, change some numbers in the associated files, renamed those files, and uploaded the pages to my web space. Now, we’ve got a hit counter, and as of this writing, there have been a whopping 2 visitors. It’s a work in progress though. What made me think of this is the fact that various flyers and posters with information on the event, including the web address, will be distributed around Austin. I thought to myself, “Imagine the kinds of numbers we would draw if the site had a counter.” Incidentally, though my Wayneism site has been a hobby, all be it a resourceful one for a lot of people (which I’m grateful for), this site for the White Cane Day celebration is a big deal. Dozens, perhaps hundreds, of people will see the web address and hopefully visit the site. That raises the bar higher for me, but it also brings me lots of satisfaction. If we can pull anything close to what Wayneism has, then this could be a really cool thing. Perhaps not this year alone, but give it a few years and who knows.

Anyway, thought I’d update you, the thoughtful Wayne’s Blog reader, as to my activities. Till we meet again, :)

Tuesday, August 7

Celebrating White Cane Day

Greetings one more time. See, this is what happens when I go awhile not being able to put my thoughts and ideas on the web, :) I've been assigned the task of developing a website for the Austin celebration of White Cane Day! This is one assignment that I'm embracing. I've already got some good introductory content on the site, including a description of White Cane Day, information on ordering T-Shirts, a list of participating agencies and groups, and more. Check it out and let me know what you think, either through comments on this entry or sending me an email through the site. Among other things, I was very pleased to get the domain of for the site. I'll be going to the White Cane Day committee this Thursday and presenting a short piece on the site and opening it up to the committee for ideas. That will be fun, to stand up in front of the group, give my name and job title, and then to say something like, "I'm the webmaster for the website." Should be fun! Incidentally, if you're out of town and want to order a T-Shirt, then you're certainly welcome to do so. Also, remember that this site is a work in progress and that it will be updated regularly as we get closer to the event, and perhaps even a few times afterward. If anything's not working as it should then let me know so I can correct it. I hope to put some pictures/graphics on there soon, and would appreciate any feedback on how those look. Us blind folk are good, but sizing pictures can be a challenge, :)


Greetings. I haven't been posting in awhile. Though the gap between tonight's post and the last one isn't as long as in the past few months, I had something interesting happen to me.

Apparently, shortly after the July 28 post, the Blogger spam bots got the idea that my blog looked like a spam blog. Whenever I went to the blog to try and post, I was presented with a visual word verification graphic, those annoying graphics that JAWS doesn't read and that you either have to get someone to read or use the audio solution to hear what letters/numbers are in the graphic and that you need to fill in. Actually, this started happening before the July 28 post, but it was after this post that I finally got fed up with having to approve my own posts in essence for publication. I was ready to pull the plug on Blogger and move to another blog host, when someone gave me a solution. Thanks to Darrell Shandrow of the Blind Access Journal for bringing this to my attention. He said that there was a link near the verification graphic that offered help. Previously, I thought this had to do with filling in the letter/number combination, which is why I didn't initially check it out. Rather, the page that came up explained that from time to time, Blogger misidentifies blogs as relating to spam, and then it prompted the reader to fill in one more word verification and their email address, in order to have a human review their blog. This was to ensure that the blog wouldn't be in the spam category anymore. I completed and submitted the form, and now I have a regular old blog again and can post to my heart's content. Its funny though that I can go weeks without putting a post up, and then when I have news or something to say, I'm unable to do so due to the word verification, :)

One other thing: while I totally support the implementing of word verification on sites to cut down on spam and automatic sign-ups, as long as an alternative is presented to the blind/low vision person that they can independently use (whether it be audio or otherwise), the idea of having to approve your posts to your own blog is going a little far. Thankfully Blogger has a fail safe for that if it ever happens. If you have a blog on Blogger and are faced with this situation, then do submit that form in the Help link near the graphic. Though they said it would take 2 days, I filled out the form yesterday and got a response back today.

PM Omni news

Greetings. Here's a couple of items relating to the upcoming PAC Mate Omni release. First, Jonathan Mosen was on the Tech Talk Internet broadcast from Accessible World on July 30 to demonstrate and talk about the new PM Omni. Download the PM Omni demonstration and Q&A from Tech Talk. In the July 2007 monthly edition of the Freedom Scientific podcast, Jonathan takes the Omni through its paces and explores many parts of this upgraded machine. Click here to download the July FS Cast on the PAC Mate Omni. Both of these programs are around the same length, at about 90 minutes. Enjoy.