Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Disabling Applications with Active Directory

I often search for "how tos" like this on Google and often I can't find the information I need. I had to spend a while trying to find this hidden setting today, and thought I'd help others by posting a brief tutorial. Hopefully someone will find this post helpful in the future.

How does one disable application programs for a specific group of users via Active Directory? The following directions assume you're running a Windows 2000 Server.
  1. Log into your server. Click on Start, Programs, Administrative Tools, Active Directory Users and Computers.

  2. Navigate to the group for which you want to edit the policy. Right-click on the group's folder/directory icon, and select Properties. Click on the Group Policy tab.

  3. If you wish to edit a current policy, click on the policy's name under Group Policy Object Links and then click on the Edit button. If you want to create a new set of policies, click on the New button, name your new Group Policy Object, and then click on Edit. A new Group Policy window will appear on the screen.

  4. Under User Configuration, expand Administrative Templates and then click on System (you don't need to expand it; just click on the name). Double-click on "Don't run specified Windows applications." (Note that there is also a "Run only allowed Windows applications" policy. If you want to specify only a few specific programs that the user group can run, you may wish to use this instead.)

  5. Make sure Enabled is selected. Click on the Show... button. Add the file name of any program you want to block (for example, telnet.exe). Apply all changes and exit the program.
Magically delicious!

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

ER Solutions

Last Friday evening I got a phone call. A woman asked me if I was Joshua, and I said yes. The person who called said, "I have some important business information for you. Could you verify that the last four digits of your social security number are [****]?" How strange, I thought, that someone was asking me to verify whether they had my social security number before introducing themselves. Well, it wasn't my social security number, but sensing a scam I told the lady "That's none of your business. It's not right to ask for someone's personal information, especially a social security number, over the phone." I hung up, satisfied that I had foiled some telemarketer or scammer.

Yesterday (Monday), I got another call from a different lady who asked me the same questions. Wow, I thought, these scammers are serious. Again I refused to verify whether the four digits she supplied were indeed part of my social security number. I asked what company she worked for, and she said a name rather quickly and mentioned that it was based in Washington. She asked me if I had ever lived at a particular address, one which I had never heard of. I tried explaining to her that my phone number is on the National Do Not Call List, and she rudely cut me off saying that it didn't matter. I told her in a little louder tone that I had never signed up with any "D. R. Solutions" or whatever she said the company's name was, and she yelled rather brashly, "You don't sign up with a collection agency." The plot thickens.

So was this a real collection agency, or was this a scam? I had no idea. All I knew was that if this was a real collection agency, I wasn't the person they were looking for, but if it was a scam to try to telephonically phish for my real social security number by process of elimination, then I didn't want to talk to these people anyway. Regardless of what the real situation was, I had no business with this group.

I don't recall exactly how the conversation ended, although I remember the lady saying that if I refused to verify whether the social security number or address had ever belonged to me then I would continue to get calls from them.

Tonight (Tuesday night—apparently they only take the weekends off from harassing people) I got another call. This time it was a man. When I picked up the phone he asked for Joshua, and rather than confirming my identity I asked who was calling. The man refused to tell me and said that it was an important business call and he needed to verify that I was who they were looking for before he could give me any information. Like the two before him, he asked me if my social security number ended in a certain four digits. As far as I could remember, it sounded like it may have been the same as before, although I hadn't written it down when the other two people called me. Again, I told the person that social security numbers were too private to verify over the phone, and a similar conversation to the one last night ensued. This time, however, I was starting to get pretty ticked about being harassed by some company when I had no way of knowing if it was legitimate, and I told him so. The man was even more brash and rude than the lady last night. He accused me of being the person they were looking for simply because I refused to answer his personal questions, and for the remainder of the conversation he talked to me as though I was this other Joshua they were supposedly looking for.

So why didn't I just admit I wasn't this other guy and get it over with already? Because I still had no way of knowing the legitimacy of this company. Anyone can call someone and claim to be someone else. I don't have Caller ID, but even if I did it's not very trustworthy. Anyone can hack Caller ID. The man offered to give me the address of their Web site, and I immediately told him that anyone can have a Web site claiming to be part of some legitimate company. I told him that if I called someone and told them I was from Microsoft and told them to go to www.microsoft.com, that wouldn't prove anything. Of course, that probably made him more angry.

After a few minutes of trying to explain myself to no avail, I told the guy to give me the company's Web address. He didn't even know it off-hand and took about 30 seconds to find it and give it to me (hmm, I thought, real legitimate). He told me that his company was called ER Solutions, and the address he gave was www.e-r-solutions.com (hm, dashes in funny places... that looks legit). I also asked for his contact information, something I could use to look up the company and call him back, and he said something to the effect of "Certainly, sir. When you're ready to admit who you are and pay what you owe, you're welcome to call me back and we'll talk." Whatever. I told him that if I continued to be harassed I would notify the police, to which he replied "Oh, I'm not afraid of that at all, sir. You go right ahead." Right. If it was a scam, what better way to make someone trust you than to say you're not afraid of the authorities?

After getting off the phone with this man, I began contemplating my options. I had looked up the Web site (which begins with a cheap Flash intro, while the rest of the site looks like it was designed in the mid-1990s). I Googled for the 800 number he provided (1-800-847-2461) and it turned up no results. So far, no evidence that this was a legitimate company. I wondered whether I should call the police right then and file a report. I looked up the local police phone number. The phone book said to dial 911 for emergencies (which this wasn't) and another number for "business calls." I didn't think my call fell into either category, and we don't have the non-emergency number 311 in my area, so instead I pondered a few more minutes. I realized that I didn't know if the phone number given me was actually real, so I called it and asked for the man by name. They transfered me to him, and I could tell by his voice (and his attitude) that it was indeed the same person. So now I finally had a real solid link between the information he gave me and his company... but unfortunately I still could not verify whether the number really belonged to a legitimate collection agency since Google hadn't turned up any results for it. As I sat processing this for another minute, an idea occurred to me of how I could get them off my back without giving them any of my private information.

The first time I was on the phone with the male employee, he jumped to the conclusion that I must be the man that they were looking for, and he revealed that the man in question had a Verizon Wireless bill of over $300 that had not been paid. I told the guy that I had never had my own Verizon Wireless account, nor had I ever cosigned with anyone else (of course, he didn't believe me). The man said that his company was contracted by Verizon to find me. Now as I sat pondering my options, the thought occurred to me that I had a Verizon account—not a Verizon Wireless account, but I did have a Verizon home phone number under my name. So, I thought, if Verizon was working through this company to find me, why couldn't the company just contact Verizon, give them the number at which they had been harassing me, and ask them to verify whether the social security numbers on the accounts matched? This seemed like a good idea; if the people who had been calling me were legitimately working for a Verizon-contracted collection agency, then Verizon would have no problems sharing information that could help track down those who owed them money. On the other hand, if Verizon knew that these people did not work for them, then Verizon would (hopefully) not divulge private customer information.

I decided to call back the man I had talked to and present him with this brilliant idea. I was certain that this would prove one way or the other whether this was an elaborate social engineering scam or a legitimate collection agency that had called the wrong person. Again I asked for the man by name, but this time I was told that he was unavailable (how convenient). I asked if I could leave my name and number (which they already had on file) so he could call me back, and the lady who answered the phone offered to help me personally. I decided that there was nothing wrong with that, since I had already verified that this phone number indeed belonged to the man's organization. I was perfectly honest with the lady, who actually let me explain myself rather than cutting me off or making accusations like the others. I explained to her why it did not seem possible for me to verify whether her company was legitmate, and that regardless of whether the four digits of the social security number matched mine I did not want to reveal this information in case it was a scam. I offered my suggestion that she contact Verizon and give them the phone number at which they kept calling me, and simply ask Verizon to verify whether the social security numbers matched. The lady informed me that Verizon Wireless was a separate branch of Verizon than the one that handles home phone numbers, and that her company was contracted specifically by Verizon Wireless. Well, my brilliant idea was foiled... but what she was saying did seem to make sense. In regard to my concern about the company being legitimate, she explained that they had three locations in the U.S. and that they were registered with the Better Business Bureau and operated under the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA—she didn't know a Web address for it, but I looked it up later). She explained that my first and last name are fairly common, and she said that it may have been possible that I could be a different person with the same last four digits of my social security number (this wasn't the case, but theoretically it could have been possible). She read me the entire social security number that she had on file, and asked me if that was my number. Perhaps because she was making a lot of sense and had given me more ways to research the legitimacy of her company, perhaps because she had listened to me rather than raising her voice or accusing me, and perhaps just because I wanted to get the whole thing over with, I confirmed to her that the complete social security number she read was not mine. She asked me if I had ever lived at the address I had been previously asked about, and I confirmed that I had not. She said that she was very sorry for the trouble that her company had caused me and that I would not receive any more calls from them about this case. Before hanging up, she asked me if the man I had talked to earlier had allowed me to hear the whole social security number or any part of it other than the last four digits, and I said that he had not. She said something to the effect of, "Okay, well as long as he didn't accuse you of being the other person, that's okay." I said with a chuckle, "Well, actually, he did accuse me of being the other person." She said she would talk to him about that and wished me well. I asked her for her name before we hung up, she obligingly gave it to me, and I thanked her for her help.

I felt a little better after having talked with her. I still did not know with absolute certainty whether an elaborate plot was at work here. However, I felt obligated to do some more investigation in case I had just given into some scheme after all, and after some more Googling I came across a page that contained several bits of information on the company that matched what I had heard on the phone. Considering all the pieces that seem to fit together after more research, the probability of this being an extremely complicated scheme is very, very slim.

Nevertheless, the tactic used by this collection agency is rather intrusive and sounds rather fishy to the street-smart. Maybe some people just volunteer their social security number on the phone, but even though I had nothing to hide I wasn't about to confirm anything to anyone without sufficient proof of the caller's identity.

Be very careful about giving personal information to people who call, e-mail, or instant message you, or even show up at your door without invitation. Anyone can pretend to be someone they're not, or to be affiliated with a group when they're actually not. Know your rights, and do a little investigation before you share anything as personal as your social security number, credit card information, or bank account information. Ask yourself what's worse: dealing with a belligerent collection agency for a couple days, or having your identity stolen, your credit or your reputation fouled up, and potentially having to deal with the effects of this identity theft for years to come?

Friday, November 19, 2004

The Incredibles Lives Up to Its Name

Have you seen The Incredibles yet? You have, haven't you?? If not, get out and see it already! It rocks.

I'll admit I had somewhat low expectations for the latest Pixar movie. The previews seemed less than incredible. But I have to say that this movie is definitely my new favorite Pixar film. I'll probably get it when it comes out on DVD -- and that means it has to be good, because I almost never buy things for myself.

The Incredibles is packed with nonstop action, humor that the whole family can enjoy, and of course it's powered by Pixar's legendary animation. For adults and kids alike, I highly recommend The Incredibles.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

"Virus Free" Mac T-shirts!

Check out my brand-new t-shirt designs!

Other shirt styles are available, as well as a "Smug" mug.

The first design (shown here on a hoodie) reads "SMUG VIRUS FREE Mac USER" and on the second is "VIRUS FREE (i use a Mac.)"

Now you can be stylish, teach others that the Mac is virus- and spyware-free and help them switch, all at the same time!

On sale now. Reasonable prices. Show the world you're proud to be a VIRUS FREE Mac user! (And until November 1, 2004, you can get $4 off the hoodie by entering coupon code CPSWEATSAL.)

Design and Sell Merchandise Online for FreeWant to make your own products? It literally costs you nothing. No setup fees... no fees whatsoever. Just make some cool designs, upload them, and CafePress.com takes care of literally everything else.

Monday, August 16, 2004

A Capital Idea

Okay, this is just plain idiotic...

Remember Wired magazine? How it used to be all cool and stuff way back in the 1990s? And how nobody cares about it anymore? (I hear you asking, "Wow, that thing still exists??") Well that same Wired magazine has a Web site now, which is apparently called Wired News. This Internet publication declared that as of today it is changing some long-standing grammar rules; namely, Wired will no longer capitalize Internet, Net, or Web.

So, this begs the question, "Um, and just who do you think you are, Wired News? Aren't you that washed up lame-o news rag that nobody reads anymore?" To which Wired News would probably reply, "Why, no, we have absolutely no idea what you're talking about. We own the internet." To which you'd reply, "Um, you misspelled Internet, doofus." To which it would reply, "Actually, that's how it's spelled now. We're not German, you know."

I'm serious. Wired would say exactly that. How do I know? Because they said almost exactly that in their article. Go ahead, open it in a new tab and take a look. Now the Almighty Wired thinks it's proper to make fun of Germans. Didn't that go out of style shortly after World War II? Come on, Wired, Germany's cool now. It has been for a while. Wolfenstein? Rammstein? Franken—oh, wait, no, not that one. Well, anyway, Germany's cool. So while you're stuck in ye days of olde, the rest of us are right here in the present. Not liking your attempts to poke fun at Germany or changing English grammar rules.

Really now, even if Wired was some kind of actual Internet authority, where does it get off thinking it can change the English language?

Oh my gosh. I just realized that the fool who wrote this Wired article has my last name. That just makes me mad.

For the love of all that is good in this world, don't start lowercasing Internet or Web. I don't care if you lowercase Net (since I always thought a more grammatical way to write it was 'net anyway), but Internet and Web are supposed to be capitalized. Microsoft Word marks "internet" as a grammatical error because it is. "Web" is supposed to be capitalized because it's an abbreviated form of "World Wide Web," and even Wired still plans to capitalize "World Wide Web" (because it's a "more official entity," which apparently the Internet is not... go figure).

Honestly, I think Wired is mainly doing this as a publicity stunt ("Wait, you're really serious that Wired still exists?!"). And now, like a fool, I'm giving them free publicity. Because, you know, now all two of you who read my blog might actually click on the links I gave to Wired's site. Nevertheless, I feel that as a netizen I have the duty to uphold and defend all that is true and right. Like the capitalization of "Internet" and "Web." And so I call on you, my fellow netizens, to take a stand against the washed up Wired publication. Take a stand and keep on capitalizing! Show Wired just how little it means to us!

Do it because you're a good netizen. And because, you know, I said so.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Moof! Clarus the Dogcow Lives (in Classic)

At work yesterday I was in the middle of a project involving a multiple-OS networking environment when I stumbled upon a cool Easter egg:



"Moof" is what Clarus the Dogcow says. Clarus is somewhat of an Apple developer mascot. As the Apple Turns tells the legendary tale* of a Clarus-modded iBook that received a smile of recognition from Apple founder/CEO Steve Jobs at a WWDC.

But I digress. I'm guessing that this little "Moof" Easter egg was being used by developers as a placeholder or something and was accidentally left in the Mac OS. It sure was fun to come across it, though!

Let me assure you that this is a real Easter egg, not something I made up; nor is there anything at all on the network named "Moof". Here are the circumstances involved so you can try to reproduce it on your own systems: Screenshot taken on Mac OS X 10.2.8 running a Classic app. This is a standard Save dialog in Navigation Services-enabled Mac OS 9 apps. The network volume is a shared folder on a Windows 2000 Server with AppleTalk sharing enabled.

*This article was updated March 11, 2013. Sadly, As the Apple Turns has been gone for many years and the AtAT article I referenced was never indexed by the Wayback Machine, but I did find an archived copy of the original "Clarus iBook" page which tells the full story. Also, the image of the Easter egg in this blog post had been broken for years, so I've replaced it with a higher-resolution PNG image (the original was a low-res GIF which was once hosted on the now-defunct users.aol.com).

Saturday, June 05, 2004

Mmm, can't-go-to-sleepy goodness

Well, with hours to go before I get married, I'm sharing a hotel room with my parents and my brother, and my parents can't stop snoring — and I can't get back to sleep. It's 3:36 am. I was finally able to get to bed about 12:30, and was planning to get up at 6:00. So basically it looks like I'll be running on a half-tank on my wedding day — 3 hours of sleep. Fun stuff, eh?

Thank goodness for my brother Seth. He's also wide awake because of the parental snoring. He was thoughtful enough to bring his AirPort-equipped PowerBook G4 on our trip (and this happens to be a Wi-Fi enabled hotel), and now he's being kind enough to let me use it. Well, at least until he realizes he can't get back to sleep either. =)

2 hours and 15 minutes 'til 6:00 and counting...

Sunday, May 30, 2004

Shrek 2

Just saw Shrek 2 tonight. Good movie! I liked it even better than the first. When the movie started I very much doubted it would end up as good as the first, but by the end of the movie I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Now don't get any crazy ideas about me being a Dreamworks Animation fan. No way. Dreamworks' stupid Shark Tale movie advertised in the previews is clearly a dirty ripoff of Pixar's Finding Nemo. And don't even get me started on the Antz/Bug's Life conspiracy. (Too late, now I've gotta explain myself.) K, first Steve Jobs (Apple and Pixar CEO) came back to Apple, and Apple started turning around and becoming hugely profitable again with great, innovative products. So what does Microsoft do? Owning a huge chunk of Dreamworks, it gets the movie company to begin churning out a crappy knockoff of Pixar's A Bug's Life as fast as possible to beat the Pixar flick to the theater. Why? To keep Steve Jobs focused on Pixar instead of Apple. Or so the rumor goes (search for "Antz" in the latter two pages).

Anyway, I've enjoyed all of Pixar's movies, and I'm a loyal Apple fan so all the more reason to love and defend Pixar. Nevertheless, Shrek 2 was good. As much as I hate to admit it.

Sunday, May 16, 2004

General Purpose Statement

This is the JoshMeister's blog. Basically it's Josh's personal journal. He's often found in front of his computer, so in his estimation, the easiest and most logical way to keep a journal would be to have it hosted by a spiffy type-and-publish blog site like this one. So here you have it.

You're welcome to browse my postings here, if you're bored or something. You might find something insightful here on occasion. Anything's possible, right?

I'm getting married in 20 days

That's right, all zero of you who know about my blog (heck, I just put it up last night -- what do you expect?), I'm getting married in 2 weeks and 6 days. In fact, exactly 2 weeks and 6 days from now I'll already be married. Wowee! It's coming up quickly.

I have finals this week. They actually started on Thursday, and then I have a test tomorrow and a final that's worth 20% of my grade for the class on Wednesday, then the following Monday I have my final final. All this while preparing to move into my first apartment and trying to shove most of my posessions in the little place so I can get officially moved in. Did I mention I work full-time? Well, I do. So I've been pretty darn busy lately and I expect to be for a while yet.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Finally!

the JoshMeister finally has a blog!

... First Post!