Hurricane Irma, Burgers, and Cream Biscuits

Ok, on Saturdays I usually put up jokes.

Nope.  Not today.

You may have been reading about this monster storm.  If you’re in the path of Hurricane Irma, stay safe, and stay under cover.

At one point the path for this beast had landfall in Key West – 200 miles away.

At one point the path for this beast was literally 3 blocks away from me here in Wilton Manors, Suburban Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Then it moved into the ocean between us and the Bahamas.

Then back to us.

Then to where it is, now, Friday evening.

By my reconing, it would be coming ashore about mile marker 30, the Seven Mile Bridge in the Keys, just West of Marathon, FL.

A second landfall would be east of Marco Island, and then North up the state.

Enough Naval Gazing.

A power outage here can happen because a butterfly farted on a power line.

I have become convinced that the infrastructure here is made from old abandoned barbed wire that was sourced from fence posts on a farm in the Southwestern US.

You know those pictures of rusted barbed wire stapled to a weathered piece of drift wood?

Thanks, FPL, power goes out on a Thursday here.

So I spent the day debating and went on a cooking binge.

Made up 20 hamburgers for the dog because it would free a space for another bag of ice in the freezer.  It’s now about 2/3 ice in a freezer that is about as tall as I am.

I’m a big guy.  Tall, built like a gym teacher.

Then I started looking at the fridge.

Found Cream.  Specifically Whipping Cream.

Made 2 and a half batches of:

Cream Biscuits.

2 cups Self Rising Flour.

1 1/4 cups of Whipping or Heavy Cream.

1 tablespoon of table sugar.

Mix, then knead until it becomes semi sticky.  Like modeling clay.

Divide into 10, and bake at 450F for 11 minutes or until golden brown.

Sorry for only Imperial Units, I actually weighed everything to the gram and annotated the weights in my recipe book, but it’s late and …

Hey if anyone wants my metric measurements, Ask!

See, the point is that cooked food has a longer shelf life when the power goes out than “raw”.

The other point is that you really do have to analyze your every move in a hurricane for preparation.

So this weekend no jokes.

If I get to have power tomorrow morning, Saturday, I will go through the normal morining rituals which includes putting up jokes for Sunday.  Then I’ll write something for the next couple articles.  Nothing fancy.

“If you’re reading this, my blog is on auto pilot, blahblahblah, Hi There!”

If no connection to the internet because power is down, well folks, think well of me and I’ll get back to you when everything comes back.

When Hurricane Wilma hit here in 2005, my own block was without power for 2 weeks.

If Hurricane Irma goes on that path that will do so much damage to South West Florida, the storm will not be quite as strong as Wilma was.  We here will be safe.

I’ll be back then.

Stay safe, no matter where you are reading this from in the world.

Help your neighbor if they need it.  Mine did.

Save your prayers, get off your collective butts and do something that positively changes the world.  Vote for people who will actually DO something to reduce carbon emissions and stop Climate Change or Global Warming.  Millions of people doing small acts of improvement will move the world the right way, away from having two 500 Year Storms in one month.

As the old CB Radio jargon said – See Ya On The Flip Side!

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Is It Me Or Is Everyone Updating Computers These Days?

The short of it is that since you’re reading this on a computer go and do your system’s update.

Windows almost always has updates.
Mac OSX has one for Safari for the supported operating systems.

Even my Linux system needed it, but that’s normal when you have 1500 projects updated by probably as many different groups of people.

What got me started on this was that this morning before sunrise when I started the main computer, I saw a “helpful” yellow text show up on Windows.  It was warning me that there was an important update available.

I’ve gotten so that Windows seems to be the Boy That Cries Wolf, but ok let’s check.  Definition Update for Windows Defender.   It’s a built in virus scanner in Windows 8 and above.  It’s the love-child of the old Microsoft Security Essentials.  I’ve used it for quite a few years now, and while I trust it, I have grown to expect a message telling me to update.

Since it is Windows, it is the operating system everyone seems to like to attack.   More ways than one, I’m afraid.

I installed that particular update, and since it didn’t demand a restart of the system, I shrugged and got on with my business.

I also have a Linux machine, two actual laptops, and a number of virtual machines, so just for giggles, I thought I’d check.  172 updates on Linux, but that’s not a shock.  With Linux, avoiding viruses is easy, just go to a known repository and use their software – in Windows terms, only use Windows Update and don’t install from an unknown source.

That doesn’t help with backdoors, and that is what the Heartbleed bug was last month.  Someone had found a backdoor into the software and everyone needed to change passwords.

You did change your password didn’t you?

It went on its happy way, and I realized that I had a couple other virtual machines that needed attention.  Since they’re all lightly used, they’ll get it when I run them.  Virtual Web Servers and the like.

Even Apple has gotten in the mix of it all, since they want an update to their browser.  Part of being popular I guess, and that means that iPhones will probably need it too.

I know for a fact that my Android phone needs an update, but that’s a very different thing.  It’s a very old version of Android that’s named Gingerbread, on a very old phone, relatively speaking.  Even the “alternate ROMs” don’t support this phone fully.  Not to mention the software that I installed through Google Play needs updates.  Since I don’t actually want Facebook on my phone, I tend to ignore things like that.

So if you got this far, go find out how to update your Windows Computer (Start, Windows Update), Apple Computer (Apple Menu) and Linux Computer (Software Update or Synaptic or “apt-get update”) and watch the pretty thermometers go.

Now, if you will excuse me, my Linux Virtual Computer says Restart is Required.  Strange that Windows didn’t need it, but Linux did… Never mind that, time to restart!

Since Windows XP "Dies" Tomorrow – Hit Windows Update Today

Consider this a Public Safety announcement to my friends and readers that see this today. 

Tomorrow is the big day.  Microsoft stops supporting Windows XP unless you are the US or UK government or some other organization that pays for extended support.  This may change, but better to be safe than sorry.

Today I went in and checked and there was an update for my Windows 7 computer, a new definition for my anti-virus program.  Since I use Microsoft Security Essentials, which is built in to Windows 8 and 8.1 and available for download on Windows 7 like me, and Windows Vista – and TODAY ONLY on Windows XP, it was there.

In fact I did a “double windows update” just to be sure and there was a second definition update for Microsoft Windows Essentials.  So I installed it.

You people still running Windows XP will may not be able to get it tomorrow, even though Microsoft says that they will provide updates for a “limited time” for XP.

The rest of us are fine.

Why the rush?  I’m saying “Better Safe Than Sorry”.  You just don’t know what happens when someone does something major.  The whole Year 2000 bug was one of those things.  It wasn’t a major problem because so many people worked so many hours to make sure it would be nothing.

With Windows, you hit the start button and look for the Windows Update link on your start menu.

It is also in your Control Panel, if you can’t find it on the start menu.  Windows 8 and 8.1 will have to go into their start page and find control panel themselves.  It will drop you onto the old school Desktop and then launch Control Panel.

Very sloppy, Microsoft.  Very Schizophrenic design.  You could have done better.  Try again.

Oh wait, you just announced that you did.  You’re bringing the start menu back.  Good boy, now go sit back at your desk and give me that nasty Dunce Cap.

Really… tsk tsk tsk.

I suspect that basically they’re throwing a bone to people and saying that they will make their new Windows 8.1 work like their older windows simply because so many people disliked Windows 8 and 8.1.  As of this weekend more people were still running Windows XP than there were running Windows 8 and 8.1 together.  Windows 7 has the largest market share.

Now, if we could only convince them to make Internet Explorer go away – or at least be faster.  I swear sometimes it takes a minute just to repaint the page that I had up on it when I clicked Minimize let alone go for the next link and I have an i7 computer.

Now It Looks Like Windows XP Will Get Virus Updates After All

Microsoft blinked.

After saying April 8, 2014 XP Users will get nothing from Microsoft, they changed their minds a little.  It is a reprieve, and a temporary one at that.

Microsoft will provide Virus Warnings until July 14, 2015.

Bastille Day?  Interesting choice.  All the virus writers will have to wait to storm the defenses until that day.

Of course if you are using some other virus scanner like McAfee or Norton,  they will continue to support you like they have been.

This doesn’t mean that they promised to provide fixes in Windows Updates, the holes that scare the IT Guy at your office will still be there.   It only means that they will be providing updates to their anti virus program Microsoft Security Essentials for Windows XP until that date.  You will still be targeted by virus writers for those holes in the system.

Microsoft Security Essentials is the same program that runs on Windows Vista and Windows 7 and is included or “baked in” to Windows 8 and 8.1.   It seems like the virus signature file downloads are most likely the same in both products but there’s a switch somewhere that will be thrown to stop it from working with Windows XP.

Planned Obsolescence.  Pay more and upgrade or else.

Their response is straightforward – upgrade to a newer operating system.

This might be why I have so many Linux based computers around these days… But for people who don’t want to learn a new operating system, don’t stick with XP – the holes will still let the viruses get in, and if the antivirus doesn’t catch them, you won’t get a fix from Microsoft.  If you really are against learning a new Operating System, Windows 7 is the closest thing that you can get for that old beater of a computer that looks “normal”… you know – looks like XP.  Even Windows 7 may not save you if you have a really old machine with less than 2GB of memory, but Linux would run comfortably on most machines in that class.

Most.  Don’t get silly, that old Pentium 4 needs to be recycled.  I could get something  to run on that, but it would be limited and I’m not really interested in doing free support.

Also, if you really are going to keep your old machine and upgrade to Windows 7, remember that Windows 7 is an install not an upgrade.

About 30% of all desktop computers run some form of Windows XP.  I’ve read statistics that “Some Form Of Windows XP runs on 95% of all ATM Machines in the US”, although I really doubt that statistic.   That “Some Form” is probably Windows XP Embedded which is a very different monster than what you know and love on your desktop computer.   The networking component has been made more secure, although you have to wonder just how secure it really is.

I’ll stick with my earlier comments, time to upgrade folks.  XP is about to XPire.

Another Reason To Dump XP – Security Essentials Will Receive No More Updates

I dumped XP a while back.  I’m on a collection of old machines running Debian Linux which runs faster than XP does on the same hardware – Generally.

I also have two Macs, one running Lion, another on Mavericks.

The Windows machines are either on Windows 7 or the cringeworthy Windows 8.1.  Windows 8.1 does “seem” to run well, but the effort I have to put into making sure that the “Ugly Block Land” of the Start Screen has everything I want, and none of the chaff of their live tiles has turned me off of Windows.  I avoid using Windows 8.1 as a result.

There are also the security and privacy questions that I have about Windows in general.  Any software that “phones home” for updates is by definition a risk – whether it is a miniscule one or not.

The computer I use the most is a Windows 7 laptop, I’m comfortable there and will remain that way until I am forced off of Windows 7 for a business reason.

All that having been said, there are some folks who I Support/Chat/Help/Consult for (and so forth) that still have Windows XP computers that run every day.

Please upgrade those now.

Extended Support for Windows XP will be ending April 8, 2014.

Windows Update will cease to function.
Internet Explorer will no longer be updated and become even more abysmal to use in time.
You will be forced to use Chrome or Firefox for a “modern” browser.

Now the latest announcement – if you use Microsoft Security Essentials for your virus protection, you will no longer be able to get updates.

Seeing that I get an update on a daily or more than once a day basis on my virus signatures on Windows 7, that is a significant issue.

The XP user will have to pay for a virus protection program – and it is a big market with many names.  But by the time you get that virus, you won’t be able to save your data.

I’ve had one virus hit this machine in the time I have used it – one year.  While that clobbered my computer, I was able to restore from a week old backup.  All my data is stored either on a SDHC chip or on a network – so I was safe.  The hard drive on the machine is not for “permanent storage”.

Do you have that kind of regimen?

I have a good friend and neighbor who clicked on a link in an email and immediately knew he had a Cryptolocker Virus screaming at him that if he didn’t pay 300 bucks for a ransom, his info would be passed to the FBI.  While that threat is bogus, it shows how easy it is to get a virus now.  For XP Users on April 8, 2014, it will get easier since they are already writing viruses to take advantage of back doors and other exploits.  At current 30 percent of US Computer Users run Windows XP.

At any rate, if you are one of those folks who can’t afford to pay the 100 Dollars US for a copy of Windows 7 or 8, I strongly recommend looking into a free copy of Debian or Ubuntu Linux.   Since they run Firefox as a browser as the default, you’ll be fine.

After all, why spend 100 for an operating system when a new computer runs around 200 dollars for a “beater”.  If someone is running XP then their computing needs are a bit more modest than someone who needs a top of the line beast.