Still more sharks in the phishing hole: That PayPal email scam sure gets around

smile, you son of a b!!!!
This online phish is predatory, but it’s not that smart. Still …

I know. I’ve written about it before, but it just won’t go away.

In a blog called Miraculous Ladies I saw another account of the infamous PayPal email scam that just keeps bugging me. Here’s the gist of it:

I received an email from PayPal yesterday afternoon. It was about a restriction on my account. While reading the email and noticed two things. First, their email address was pay@bills.com. Secondly, I spotted grammar mistakes. Alarm bells rang!

I logged into my PayPal account. There were no messages about my account being restricted.

– See more at: http://www.miraculousladies.com/beware-paypal-scam-emails/#sthash.c5Ddd79Y.dpuf

That’s the main stuff here. She outlines things to watch out for, which is really useful stuff.

I’ve written extensively about this myself, as I’m sure you know:

Sharks in the phishing hole: That email isn’t really from PayPal

and …

More sharks in the phishing hole: Some folks never give up

This begs the question. Just what is this card-carrying member of the Testosterone-Toting club doing on the Miraculous Ladies site?

Linkedin, of course. Got the link from there. So if you’re on LinkedIn you’ll see the discussion.

Anyway, you know the deal. Watch out when you surf. You could be sharing waves with something predatory.

-endit-

Talk to me: Have you run across this email yet? Have you clicked on that link yet? What were you thinking?

everything-siggy-workingsize

 

 

 

 

 

 

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More sharks in the phishing hole: Some folks never give up


Ho-hum.

Got me another one, Ethel. Another of those notes from PayPal saying my account has been temporarily blocked.

Again.

Just for grins, let’s take a look at the email to find the obvious BS. because this stuff is getting old.

 

ΡayΡal
   Unfortunately , Your account is temporarily blocked   please follow the instructions below 

    Dear ΡayΡal Customer,

    ΡayΡal is constantly working to ensure security by regularly screening the accounts in our system.
We recently reνiewed your account, and we need more information to prove your ownership .
to help us to provide you with a secure serνice.
Until we can collect this information, your access to sensitiνe account features will be limited.
We would like to restore your access as soon as possible, and we apologize for the inconνenience.

    Why is my account access limited?

    we haνe reason to belieνe that your account was accessed by a third party.
Βecause protecting the security of your account is our primary concern, we haνe limited access
to sensitiνe ΡayΡal account features.
We understand that this may be an inconνenience but please understand that this temporary
limitation is for your protection.

    How can i get my account fully restored ?

     Please follow the link below and login to your account then reνiew your account information

     Confirm now

     Sincerlye ,ΡayΡal customer department!

   

 

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

A couple of things come to my attention:

Here’s the horse it rode in on email address it came from:

secured@inc.pay2.com

Got that so far? Doesn’t look like a PayPal to me.

A couple of other things that in of themselves are not deal breakers, but they’re sure red flags:

Unfortunately , Your account is temporarily blocked

   please follow the instructions below

Notice the space between Unfortunately and the comma. Again, no biggie by itself, but it’s far from what a professional operation like PayPal would produce.

There are other grammatical errors, mostly in capitalization. And it’s not “sincerlye.”

This tells me this note was written by someone who does not speak English as a first language. Russian perhaps? North Korean? One of those nations that specializes in malware and computer hijacking?

After checking my firewalls, bumping up my security and all that good junk I clicked on the link. Here’s what I got:

 

Reported Phishing Website Ahead!
Chromium has blocked access to sssecu1rity.com. This website has been reported as a phishing website.
Phishing websites are designed to trick you into disclosing your login, password or other sensitive information by disguising themselves as other websites you may trust. Learn more
 Advanced

* * *

In case anyone misses it, it’s on a red background.

Now, I don’t ever advocate clicking on links like that. In fact, if you click on “confirm now” in the text of the letter, you probably need to snip your Internet connection, turn in your computer and stick with something safe. Like skydiving or something. I figured I can get away with it because a) I know what I’m doing, b) my security is extremely tight and c) I’m using Linux anyway.

Oh, yeah. I forgot to mention. This email came in two of my accounts (I have several). My PayPal account is only attached to one domain name. These two email accounts are under another domain name. So as far as these senders are concerned I really don’t have a PayPal account.

Hey, y’all. Watch the sharks.

# # #

First add: I covered this issue before, and it keeps coming back. You’ll find my story here.

# # #

Second add: I also ran some precautions when I wrote that. They were pretty much off the top of my head, but the original story is here. I pasted in the list below just ’cause I like you:

  • Choose your tools carefully. If you use Internet Explorer, take that icon off your desktop right now and surf with a different browser. Chromium (an open-source version of Google Chrome) is good, as are Firefox and Opera.
  • Keep that browser updated.
  • Be careful about passwords; PayPal_Andy’s advice of having a designated password for each site is highly recommended, even though I’m guilty of using the same passwords for more than one site.
  • Don’t open any attachments if you don’t know the sender.
  • Be wary of attachments from someone you know; zap it with your virus and malware protection tools before you open it.
  • I’d also be wary of links sent by email, especially when they’re shortened through bit.ly or some other service. Also be careful of links posted on your favorite social media sites; you can click on some malware real easily that way. I’ve seen malware propagate among everyone on your friends/followers lists, making them the gift that keeps on giving.
  • You do have virus protection, don’t you? You do keep it updated, don’t you? Virus protection that’s not kept up to speed is totally worthless.
  • Grab some spyware protection, too. For that I recommend Spybot Search And Destroy.
  • Be careful about using public wireless for any business involving money; it’s too easy to tap into your information that way.
  • If surfing in a public place, watch for anyone behind you or sit with your back against a wall. I know this sounds goofy, but when some lowlife is trying to grab your information the low-tech ways are often the most effective.
  • Don’t let me scare you or anything.

If you use a smartphone:

  • Guard it with your life. Even if you want to be a good neighbor and help someone in a pinch, don’t let that person “hold” your phone. It’s too easy for him to snatch it and run. Most smartphones carry way more information than you’d think, and most of it can be found in seconds.
  • Be careful about dropping or leaving your phone somewhere. Same reason.
  • I use a lanyard from an old mp3 player and attach it to my phone holster. The other end is attached to a small carabiner, which I clip onto a belt loop. The holster’s flap is closed when I’m not using the phone. That way, if the holster falls off (happens more often than I’d like to think) or someone tries to snatch it off your belt, you’d know immediately.
  • Stay aware of what’s around you, even if you’re texting or playing Angry Birds. I’ve heard of folks stealing someone’s phone while the person is using it.
  • Two words: Password protection.

# # #

Final add: For your edification and amusement, I added this video at the last minute. It seemed to fit the theme somehow. I wonder if anyone told the diver that one side of his cage is missing?

# # #

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Sharks in the phishing hole: That email isn’t really from PayPal

smile, you son of a b!!!!
If you conduct your business online, make sure you don’t put any blood in the water …

Much of my life is automated via the Internet. I do my work, pay my bills and buy things online. Shoot, I haven’t been inside a bank in two years because all this is done over the ‘net. I even have an account with one bank that operates completely online, without a brick-and-mortar branch within sight.

This is great in most circumstances but it sure leaves me open to all sorts of security glitches.

If you’re reading this on your computer, you may be in that same boat. Of course you have an Internet connection. You might buy things online, pay your bills through the Internet or even govern your whole life through a coaxial cable or wifi connection. It’s great, it’s convenient, and sometimes it’s dangerous.

I received more confirmation of this danger the other day when I checked my email. It’s allegedly from PayPal, and it carries all sorts of dire warnings.

The email that set stuff off

Here’s the note, in its entirety but with the account ID deleted. Other than that, I kept the capitalization and spacing (this part’s important) just as you see it here:


Your account has been limited Paypal ID PP-xxx-xxx-xxx

Service@paypal.com

Identity issue PP-xxx-xxx-xxx

Please complete the attached form to verify your Profile information and restore your account access.


Personal Information Profile

Make sure you enter the information accurately, and according to the formats required.

Fill in all the required fields.

Dear customer ,

As part of our efforts to provide a safe and secure environment for the online community, we regularly screen account activity. Our review of your account has identified an issue regarding its safe use. We have placed a restriction on your account as a precaution.

To lift the restriction we will require some further information from you.

If, once we review your further information and we’re convinced that the use of your account does not present a safety risk to our service and customers, we’ll be happy to reinstate your account.

We have sent you an attachment which contains all the necessary steps in order to restore your account access. Download and open it in your browser. After we have gathered the necessary information, you will regain full access to your account.

We thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.

Very sincerely,

PayPal Review Department.


There’s an attached document that came with this note.

Did I download and open it?

Uhh, noooo … forgive this journalistic lapse, but I’m really not as dumb as I look.

Things that made me go h’mmm …

PayPal
Watch it if you get an email purporting to be from these guys.

There were a couple of red flags that went up right away.

One of those red flags was the address this email went to. I have six email addresses, and two of them (my Gmail addresses) are attached to my PayPal account. But this email went to two addresses that have nothing to do with PayPal, and both are under my ericpulsifer.com web domain.

Now understand the importance of this. PayPal uses your associated email address to make all transactions. That means if you use that service and want to send me money (hint hint) you’ll send it through the email address associated with it.

(So if you’re feeling generous, crank up your PayPal and my email address is epulsifer@gmail.com. Be sure and send it in small unmarked bills and I’ll be real happy.)

All my PayPal communications go through that one Gmail address. So to receive this email through one of my business (non-Gmail) addresses gives me pause right away.

This gets really suspicious when I get simultaneous emails to different boxes under the same domain name.

While the email’s reported sender is Service@PayPal.com (with the capitalization just as you see it here), the actual email address is security@info.com. Now, how suspicious is that?

I checked my PayPal account and found nothing even resembling the account ID number listed in the email. I do have a merchant ID number, but it’s not even close. Could be that I’m not looking in the right place, but I don’t think so. Paypal’s ID is basically your email address. Got that?

After receiving the email I checked my PayPal account right away. Everything was copacetic. I was able to access it like I always have, without restrictions. So you know the sender was trying to baffle me with BS.

Chasing the story

Being the troublemaker that I am, I ran a Google search using the phrase “paypal restore account information email” and man, did I get a pantload of results. None of them carried good news either, but it was highly educational.

Just from looking at the first page of the search results, I saw this scam has been kicking around since 2006.

According to consumerfraudreporting.com, PayPal will never send you an email without putting your name on it. In other words it will be “Dear Eric Pulsifer,” not “Dear customer.” And you can bet they won’t leave a space between “customer” and the comma in the greeting; this just tells me it’s just some guy sending these emails from some basement somewhere.

Oh, yes. According to my research, PayPal doesn’t send attachments. I know I’ve never seen one from them. Forget it.

I checked on the PayPal community forum, and found some more revealing information. Several users reported similar emails and the forum administrator, who identifies himself as PayPal_Andy (I’ll assume he’s an employee) wrote this:

First, I’d recommend running a virus scan just to make sure you didn’t pick up anything unsavory when you clicked there. If everything’s fine (or once it is), I would recommend going to PayPal and changing your password and security questions through the ‘Profile’ link. Make sure this password is brand new and you haven’t used it anywhere else and you should be fine. Just keep an eye on your PayPal account for any unauthorized charges, and if you see any, let us know ASAP.

Andy

Sound advice. It’s common sense, but you can ride with the assumption that the phisherman probably snagged some of your information before sending that email. Change your password immediately just to make sure.

By the way, Andy posted his response in August 2011, so you know this scam is an oldie but goodie. But phishers and other off-brand types wanting to access your valuable information tend to stick with a winning formula.

If you get that email …

Generally, if you have an issue with access to your PayPal account, you can do all the fixing through the actual site. They have a “resolution center” where you may or may not get immediate answers, but it’s sure a lot safer than downloading/filling out an attached form you got from some random person and sending it via email.

Consumerfraudreporting.org suggests forwarding any fraudulent PayPal email to spoof@paypal.com — which I just did as I was researching and writing this piece. Here’s what I wrote:

I received this at two separate email addresses under the same domain, and neither one is associated with my PayPal account. Smelled a rat immediately and didn’t bother to open the attachment, so I won’t pass that part along to you.

Thought you might like to know, especially if you’re counting.

Thanks,

–Eric Pulsifer

So far, no response. But let the record reflect I went through proper channels.

Despite PayPal’s somewhat squirelly reputation (every year it finds itself in the running for the most evil company by the Consumerist website), I’ve never had a problem with them. Never. I once had to send some paperwork to prove I was who I said I was, but everything was resolved quickly by phone after that. While that was inconvenient, I have to give them brownie points for taking that security step.

I also have my account set up to send me an email and a text message when I make a transaction, and this has served me well. I found out within seconds when a restaurant tried to charge my PayPal debit card twice for a meal, so after I complained to the restaurant management, PayPal fixed things on their end without me having to prompt them. I might have scared the PP out of everyone involved, but somebody had to do it.

So from my perspective I have nothing bad to say about PayPal’s customer service. They’ve always been responsive and went that extra mile with me. Maybe I’m just Texas-lucky here, but I’ll take it.

The upshot of this whole mess is, if you receive this kind of note from PayPal, don’t panic. Don’t click on any attachments because it’s not from them and it’s probably malware anyway. And if you a) get it in an email box that’s not associated with your PayPal account or b) you don’t even have a PayPal account — that’s been reported too — then you know someone just tried to pull a fast one on you.

Enjoy your computers. Keep your online experiences fun and/or profitable. Just watch out for the phishing holes; there are sharks aplenty in there.


(For more information on protecting your computer and your information, be sure and check out my sidebar here. I even covered smartphones here, including my favorite 99-cent hack that may keep you from losing your phone.)

 

 

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Google Reader marked for death, news junkies flee

rss icon
If you see this on a website, you can subscribe. I’m just not sure where now.

I think I cried in my coffee when I heard the news. I think. I know my mind went utterly blank. What am I gonna do now?

But the news: Google Reader is shutting down!

It’s all part of search giant/Internet gadfly Google’s spring cleaning. In the past that company scrapped Google Buzz (which needed killing because it was a total cluster), Google Wave (did anybody use it?) and iGoogle (which I kinda liked). Usually they cut products hardly anybody uses. There was speculation it might kill Feedburner, but that hasn’t happened yet. But that forced me to make a few adjustments and I’m glad I did.

But Google Reader. That one hurts. According to plan, its execution date is July 1.

To those who don’t know about such things, Google Reader is the RSS reader to end all RSS readers. Sometimes literally. As soon as Reader hit the scene, some (such as Bloglines) pretty much bit the dust. Netvibes is another that I question whether it’s even relevant. Feed Demon, a software-based (as opposed to Web-based) RSS reader, is either dead or dying.

OK, some of y’all may not know what this RSS thing is, so pull up a chair and I’ll give you the story. RSS, or Real Simple Syndication, ranges all over the Internet and pulls articles from all your favorite sites. They’re then put into your reader, and you can go from there. Most sites (including mine) are set up so you can subscribe in an RSS reader.

Think of RSS as a gigantic newspaper where you set the editorial policy.

You choose your feeds, they load any new copy into your reader, and off you go. From there you can send news items, save them, share them, bump them over to Evernote or Pocket, or put them on your to-do list. I save many links in my to-do list (in my case ToodleDo), building a pool of ideas for blog posts. I send wacky news items to my brother, and you can bet I saw those in my RSS feed first.

Since about 1995, Google Reader was the big one, and many of your smaller readers — including those on cell phones — are built as little more than a front end for Google Reader.

What’s a news junkie to do?

Admittedly, RSS has a high geek quotient and it’s not all that popular with your average Joe Mouseclicker. But to news junkies like me, it’s a wonderful timesaver.

Or a wonderful time-suck, depending on your perspective.

newspapers in a pile
RSS is like reading a whole bunch of online newspapers without having to surf for them.

Being a person with a serious news addiction and some decent chops in technical matters, of course I swear by RSS feeds. I’d tell you how many feeds my Google Reader pulls in every day, but then you’d tell me I have a major problem. I’m in denial and need counseling. You’d shake your head and try to hook me up with a 12-step program.

Newsoholics Anonymous, anyone?

My name is Eric, and I’m a news junkie (applause).

Anyway, I’m frantic right now. OK, maybe not frantic, but kinda concerned. Yeah, that’s it. Concerned.

Since I heard the news I’ve been weighing some RSS options, and most are found wanting. I’ve tried Feedly (too slow and not good for offline reading on my phone), the Thunderbird mail program (I’d rather gargle razor blades), Flipboard (beautiful, but won’t work with a marginal signal), and a bunch of pretenders. On my Android phone, where I do most of my news reading, I’ve tried numerous options. Most either drain the battery, make it run hot enough to blister my hand, gobble up tons of memory or serve as a front end for … Google Reader.

Already I think this is gonna end badly.

Folks tell me RSS is dying and Twitter is the new way to grab news, but I can’t see it. Even with a third-party program like Hootsuite it’s still way too disorganized. Twitter’s signal-to-noise ratio renders it useless. I guess Facebook can be sort of an option, and I might consider it if I didn’t despise that medium so much. I want to know the news, not what my friends are having for dinner (unless there’s an invite there somewhere).

Google-fied and frantic

This also makes me a little nervous. I use Google for so much of my work. Gmail. Google Drive (formerly Docs). The search engine. Google Calendar. Google Voice. Google Reader. Google Analytics. My Android phone, which is a Google brand. Occasionally Google Plus. Shoot, I’m totally Google-fied.

I mentioned Feedburner. I used that extensively, but when I saw that might not have long to live I took to managing my blog’s RSS feeds myself and went to MailChimp to send posts by email. I’m glad I did that, though I’m still a little chary about crapping up your email box like that. But if you want to subscribe to my stuff, that might be the way to go, hint hint.

(Note to self: Set up The Column on MailChimp, like I did with my flagship blog, creative&dangerous.)

With Google’s propensity for cutting services, you can almost set up a “dead pool” and pick what’s next to go. Maybe win whatever’s in the pot if you guess right. Hey, this might be a good office pool once everyone’s done with March Madness.

I don’t see Gmail going anytime soon. Nor Google Drive or Google Plus. That company invested too much of its reputation for those three. However, I am shifting most of my email traffic to my own Web domains and looking into other, in-the-cloud office options.

In truth, the Google project that would kill me is if Google Voice feels the nip of the executioner’s blade. So the fact Google killed off its Blackberry version in the latest sweep gives me pause.

Now, I use Google Voice as my business line, and it feeds directly into my cell phone. I also give that number to people who are not in my inner circle because it’s easy to screen calls with it. Shoot, I can make certain phone numbers go away if I needed to. If you’re hounded by bill collectors or the law, Google Voice may be your best friend.

But Google Voice going into a horrible death spiral hasn’t happened yet, and it may not. With Google, however, you never know. Not after Google Reader.

Meanwhile, I must find some alternatives to feed my news habit. It’s like my morning coffee; I get evil unless I’ve had my fix.

# # #

What say you? What do you use to read your news feeds? I’m talking about online and anything that’ll work with Android. Help a brother out.

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Facebook IPO brings memories of coulda-been contenders

Myspace's strength is in music promotion, but its social media model fell apart.

Of course it’s interesting watching some social media service that some college student dreamed up in his dorm become a multi-gazillion-dollar company with stock and everything. But with Facebook’s usage near the billions and other online companies hitting Big Casino on Wall Street, it was bound to happen.

Facebook didn’t popularize the Internet, and it wasn’t even the first social media site to show up. Half a decade ago it was trying to catch some crumbs dropped by Myspace. It was just another Web presence.

But Facebook, despite its security holes, privacy issues and the creep-azoid aspects of friending and poking other people, must be doing something right. Whether that sticks now that it’s gone public, well, that question won’t be answered for another few years.

While Facebook was negotiating out its initial public offering (IPO), an article came out in Mashable! about some of the other Next Big Things on the Internet. These are companies that had a great deal of popularity, broke some new ground, and fizzled. These are the companies that, if this was a boxing movie, would be telling you “I coulda been a contender.”

America Online: AOL is still around, though it’s hard to tell sometimes. The days of the free AOL demo CDs that will hook you up to the Internet for free as long as you give them a credit card number are gone. AOL was huge during the dialup days, but couldn’t gain traction as DSL, broadband and Wi-fi took over. But AOL was more than just a way to get online and drain your bank account; they were a community. The first real “walled garden” in Internet parlance. Members could get into various chat rooms and read news that was unavailable to everyone else. AOL’s Instant Messenger was revolutionary in itself, and a lady friend even considered having the (now defunct) AIM logo tattooed on her butt. Despite a disastrous merger with Time-Warner, AOL stayed alive by shifting gears. It’s now in the news business, with national (Huffington Post) and hyperlocal (Patch) up front. AOL is now in the content generation business and finding new ways to lose money.

Friendster: We’re talking late 1990s, early 2000s here. Friendster was one of the first social media sites and for a while, the biggest. I understand they still exist as a social gaming site, although I’m not sure anyone really cares.

Myspace: This was the first truly successful social media site until it collapsed under its own weight. Literally. Users were encouraged to load their pages with all sorts of gingerbread, and it often took forever for a page to load. Facebook, with its slimmer, one-size-fits-all design, ate Myspace for lunch. Myspace is still a favorite site for bands because it’s easy to upload music files, and the thing that may save the company’s butt would be to specialize in that. It’s changed hands several times and the purchase price reflects its fortunes; NewsCorp bought it out for $580 million in 2006, and later Specific Media purchased it for $35 million. Ouch.

GeoCities: Back in the early 21st Century there were several online companies that allowed you to build your own Web page to a pattern. GeoCities’ social aspect allowed users to link their Web pages by interest, so in effect writers could get together under the GeoCities network. GeoCities no longer exists, which probably means the experimental web site I threw together under its banner probably doesn’t either.

sixdegrees.com: A short-lived social site tracing the I-know-someone-who-knows-someone thing. Is it true everyone’s only six degrees (layers of friendship) from Kevin Bacon? The web site is still there, open to members only. I never bothered with it.

Second Life: Fantasy meets technology. Caught virtual fire when folks realized you can be anyone you want online. I’m sure Second Life got as much blame for divorces as Facebook does now. Second Life currency became as good as the real thing in some circles, and somehow dealing in stolen Second Life credits became a cottage industry for some unlawful types. Some of these Second-Life-based businesses kicked off its decline, along with issues with unstable servers. It still exists, if you’re interested.

Orkut: This Google company now has 66 million users, but you’d have to go to Brazil to find them. But back in the day Orkut was a social networking site with serious Google gravitas behind it. But Google does have a history of trying new things and abandoning them when they don’t pan out (see: Buzz, Wave), and the search giant is proving once again with Google+ that social media isn’t as easy as it looks.

Coulda been.

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Social media: It’s about choosing your tools

Don’t call me a social media expert. I’m just an old guy who likes to keep up on things. If keeping up means playing with Twitter and the other media, so be it.

I really envy those who can work Twitter and Facebook like professionals, using these tools to build tribes, promote a cause, create policy, change public opinion, or make the unknown things popular. I wish I could be that good. I only know enough to be dangerous, and in fact my social media approach resembles a wrecking ball on a chessboard.

But I do have accounts with all the major ones, and I find each social medium seems to have a specific use in my compartmentalized life.

To say I have a love-hate relationship with Facebook isn’t entirely accurate. It’s more like a tolerate-hate relationship. I use it mostly because so many of my real-life flesh-and-blood friends use that as their sole means of communication. I’ve shut off all third-party apps, and stick with the messaging system and timeline. I guess Facebook is the thing if you want to keep up with your buddies and play online games, but things like FarmVille or whatever it is this week don’t exactly float my boat. I’ve also had problems with malware and security glitches through the site, and if I was running a Windows system I probably wouldn’t go near Facebook.

If this sounds like an anti-Facebook screed, you’re wrong. If I was of a more frivolous nature I might go in for all its trappings, including the games. But when I park at the computer, I’m generally all about business unless I’m tweaking my system. But in truth I try to look more serious than I really am; just don’t tell anybody.

I like Twitter enough to have two accounts there, though I’m finally starting to get the idea how to work it. Twitter is a mass unchecked stream of unrelated data at 140 characters per, and it’s up to the user to figure out how to filter such a random mess. I find it a lot easier with a Web app like Hootsuite, and when you learn the #hashtags a little bit you can get up-to-the-minute dispatches on whatever news item or trend you’re following. People really can have conversations, too, turning Twitter into a gigantic chat room.

There are other social media sites like LinkedIn (which I use for professional purposes), Eons for people over 50, and that now-irrelevant MySpace, buth those are bit players in the scene right now. Of these, LinkedIn has the most use but it’s not for everybody.

Google+ finally went public, and I think I’ve found my social media weapon of choice. It’s like Twitter in that you can do mass following, but the “circles” aspect makes a lot more sense out of it all. Your circles can include family, real-life friends, and people you admire. My own circles include writers, photographers, musicians, Linux geeks, and “bellwethers” — folks who know tomorrow’s trends today because they’re busy creating them.

In my very short time on Google+, I’ve had very good discussions on writing. I’ve picked up ideas for this column. And Google Plus is my go-to for getting the word out on some of my projects. In that sense it’s like Twitter except the stuff you send out actually gets read.

At first I thought Google+ would turn Facebook into another MySpace, but now I don’t think so. Facebook was merely a better-designed, faster-loading version of MySpace, but the audience remains the same. Google+ seems to be geared toward a more serious crowd, kind of a bridge between Facebook and LinkedIn. If anyone’s going to lose action to Google+, it might be Twitter.

OK, with all these choices, which social media to use?

It all depends on what you want to do with it. Business or personal. Serious or not.

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A 36% failure rate on innovation doesn’t faze Google

Interesting read from MediaBistro. Let’s put it this way: How many companies would handle a 36 percent failure rate for its innovations? Without getting all panicky, that is? Without committing hara-kiri?

Then there’s Google:

Thoughts On Innovation, By Google – MediaJobsDaily

Excerpt:

” … at any rate, Google, one of the most successful tech companies in the world, has a lot of failures. More than a third of their product launches fail, according to The Next Web … out of 251 Google projects or add-ons since 1999, 90 have been canceled. Out of 22 major product launches, eight have been huge flops.”

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Possible fix (maybe) for mobile Gmail

It was one of those oh-the-heck-with-it ideas, and I still don’t know if it was an actual fix. But after five days of being semi-incommunicado I am finally able to access my Google Mail box from my cell phone.
For me, it was simply a matter of changing my email preferences to always use https. Whatever that means.
I was shooting wild here, but not completely. I remembered .https was my default gmail setting for a long time, and I took it off because it wouldn’t feed into iGoogle. So I kind of worked backward from there. Maybe it will make a difference in how my email loads, I thought.
So what the hey. Tuesday evening as I was finishing up at work (using the wifi hotspot in the office) I went into my Google Mail settings and clicked on the “always use .https” box. If it worked, great. If it didn’t, it cost me nothing to try and I can always try something different later.
In truth, I thought so little of the idea I didn’t bother to check until I got home an hour later. I cranked on the cell phone and went to my iGoogle home page. There, gmail refused to load:
–The Gmail gadget does not support the “always use https” preference that you selected in your Gmail settings. Learn more (includes a link from there)–
Just like before. Something, obviously, was happening. But just for grins, I went to my mobile bookmarks and tried to get into my Google mail that way, with https on.
And got in. And read my mail. Like I am supposed to.
Later I checked the Learn More link from iGoogle. It seems https is a lot more secure than http, and is recommended particularly if you’re using public wireless Internet like I do. I’m not smart enough to figure a lot of this out, but https is sort of a combination of http and SSL, which is a security thing. But it does create its problems with iGoogle, and https is not an exact science yet. According to Google:
– Errors in the Gmail for mobile application may result in enabling this (always use https) setting.
– Errors in Google Toolbar may result from enabling this setting.
Errors in Gmail for mobile? Shoot, I’m getting more errors from not using that setting. And I really don’t care for Google Toolbar, the resource hog that it is. So https it is.
So I’m not able to fully use iGoogle with the https setting on. Shoot, I’d rather be able to actually read and answer my email than just look at iGoogle and see what my most recent email communications are without being able to read them.
When I reported the mobile Gmail problem in this space, I did get a suggestion. Open a Hotmail account and forward my Google mail into that so it can be read. I considered that, but I’d prefer not to go through all this forwarding routine just to read some email.
Meanwhile, the folks at Google were working on the problem. Ethan, who identifies himself as a Google employee in the mobile Google support forum, wrote the following missive Tuesday afternoon:
“Thanks for your reports. The m.google.com team has narrowed down the cause of the 404 errors, but we need your help to investigate further.

“Please visit our secure webform to send us your phone’s IP address so our engineers can debug:
http://goo.gl/ThpeQ

“Thanks!
“Ethan
And the matter remained ignored by much of the tech media. I subscribe to several: ReadWriteWeb, Slashdot, TechCrunch, and Mashable! While I’m able to keep up to speed on many tech issues with these, I have not found a word in any of these online publications about mobile Gmail access issues. According to MPCS-ProxyMan in the Google forum, we need to resolve this issue, we have over a million customers who are getting HTTP error 404 for your gmail app … this is also affecting our android app for gmail.” While it’s hard to take anything mentioned in a user forum as gospel, I don’t think this “over a million” is a funny number. Not at all.
But for me, the “always use https” setting seems to work. I’m not going to argue with the results, at least not right now.
Anyway, there it is. My fix, or maybe it’s not a fix. Maybe it really is just in how you hold your mouth. Anyway, you’re welcome to try it.
[You tell me: Does this little hack work for you? Anything else work? Are you able to get your mobile Gmail? Please share.]
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Web-enabled cell phones having trouble accessing Google Mail

My Google Mail is acting all weird, and answers seem a little few and far between. But I’m not the only one with this particular problem.
For the record, I really like my Gmail. It is probably the best email innovation since … well, the computer. It’s easy to like the search functions, the way it integrates with other Google tools, and the huge storage. A friend turned me on to Gmail several years ago when it was in beta, and I never looked back. What’s Yahoo?
When away from a wireless connection I can usually check my news and process my email by phone. I have a Samsung 451 phone with a slider keyboard. It’s good with phone calls on those rare occasions that I actually talk on the phone. It’s super with text messages, and I can do a lot of things with it. It can surf the Internet, kinda sorta. The phone doesn’t have the Java fixins and the browser is prehistoric, so its Internet powers are limited.
Call it what it is. My phone is not a smartphone. At risk of going all non-politically-correct on y’all here, I’m using a tardphone.
But that’s OK, too. While I’m not qualified to be a hacker (in this case, meaning programmer), I can whip up a few baling-wire tricks that can make my computers and phone do things do things you wouldn’t expect. I get a lot of mileage out of my tardphone.
So the other day I needed to check my email on the phone. I hit the link out of my mobile iGoogle homepage, like always.
No joy. This error message flashed on my tiny, two-inch screen:
HTTP Error: 404 Not Found
At first blush I thought maybe my links got screwed up. Such things happen. So I tried hand-typing it in:
http://google.com/mail
http://gmail.com
No luck. Let’s try the mobile site, although that’s usually automatic:
http://m.google.com/mail
http://m.gmail.com
Tried again, this time using https:// as the prefix. Even went so far as to try the straight .html version of Gmail, and got the same result. That error message.
What’s odd is that I can access many of my other Google services. I can get the search engine, iGoogle, Google Reader for RSS, Voice, my Gmail contacts through Voice, and my calendar. But not Gmail.
It turns out, though, it’s not just me. I’m glad to hear that. I think.
A Twitter search using #gmail as the key shows several others having this problem. As far as the mainstream and tech media, not a peep through Sunday.
Several have written to the Google Support Forum, saying they lost access around Feb 8 (my connection went Tango Uniform on the 11th). Some report losing access to all Google functions (Calendar, etc.), and apparently the problem is not just with tardphones. Real smartphones seem to get this problem, particularly of the Crackberry variety.
A fella named Ethan, who identifies himself as a Google employee in the support forum, seems just as baffled as anyone else. Another person on the forum, The C Man, reported this Saturday: “Google employees are investigating the problem and have not been able to reproduce it.”
Already this doesn’t sound promising.
It was recommended the user clean out the phone browser cache. I did this, and it worked about as well as it did with some other folks who tried — like, not at all.
I pulled the battery out, reset the phone, even reprogrammed it in case that worked. Again, nothing. At this point I was so desperate that if the Verizon/StraightTalk folks suggested I dance naked in a bucket of steaming chicken guts during a full moon (now that’s a visual for you!) I would have tried it.
So far, this error seems awfully random. Some folks report it, others don’t. Some have problems getting access to all Google services, some — like me — just Gmail. Several cell phone carriers were involved. The whole thing seems like a crapshoot, one of those problems where no one knows exactly what’s going on, how it happened, or how to fix it.
I should feel better that it’s not just me, and not just my non-Java phone.
I’d hate to think Gmail is revamping its system so that you can’t access it from a tardphone like mine. It could be something that corrects itself in time, but you never know.
Knowing all that, I should feel better.
But I don’t.
[As this situation progresses and/or finds resolution, don’t be surprised if I report back in this space.]
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