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Fred Koschara

Phishing joke of the day for 3 January 2019

Jan. 04, 2019, under hilarious, really???

stop phishing sign and fishing pole with hook

Gee, I wonder if I should “revert back to” Hildegard to get my good news from Facebook: Clearly “she” works at Facebook, they all have email addresses at consultant.com and send messages from noreply@accounts.com, right? That Hacker Way address in Menlo Park also tells me it’s a legitimate message, and the fact I’ve had to send bitcoins to all those guys with dirty secrets really makes me confident aztekcomputers.com@wfredk.com is a good email address, surely I’ve got to “revert back” to “her”!

My only question is how do I revert back to somebody who wasn’t me in the first place???

——– Original Message ——–
Subject: New Facebook Message for aztekcomputers.com@wfredk.com
Date: 03 Jan 2019 15:41:35 -0800
From: Customer service<noreply@accounts.com>
To: aztekcomputers.com@wfredk.com

Hello

Good day My name is Hildegard Evans from the Facebook
headquarters based in the USA, I am a Facebook Online
Coordinator.

Am contacting you because I have good news for you from Facebook

Kindly revert back to this to claim Your good news from facebook
:Hildegard.evans@consultant.com

Thanks

Facebook Cordinator

Hildegard C. Evans
Hacker Way, Menlo Park, 94025
(612) 440-8719
Email: Hildegard.evans@consultant.com

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Expanded Playlists section

Dec. 23, 2018, under music

I’ve added several playlists to the Fun & Games section of this site.  The Playlists page now includes these playlists:

I have lots of other playlists from the past to add, and occasionally build new ones, so the list is going to grow…

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Jumper wires for Arduino, Raspberry Pi, breadboards, etc.

Dec. 14, 2018, under cool tech, product reviews

When building a project around an Arduino, Raspberry Pi, Beaglebone, etc. board, or anything on a solderless breadboard, you frequently find a need to connect pins together.  With a solderless breadboard, you can just strip the ends from a piece of wire and go from point A to point B by inserting the ends of the wire.  That doesn’t work so well for the male pins on the processor boards.  You also have to be careful to not strip too much or too little from the end of the wire, or you might have shorts or poor connections.  If you want to keep a group of wires together, you’ve got to twist them into a bundle, or wrap ties around them.

There’s an easier way: REXQualis 120pcs Breadboard Jumper Wires. These are made from 40 conductor ribbon cable, with 40 individual pins crimped on each end.  The package incudes three 20cm (8″) pieces of ribbon cable.  One has male pins on both ends, one has female pins on each end, and one has male pins on one end and female pins on the other.  That covers pretty much all of the connection types you’re going to encounter.  If you want individual jumper wires, just peel them from the ribbon cable, it easily separates between the conductors.  For a group of wires, peel off the number you need, and they’ll neatly stay together.

If you ask me, this is pretty cool tech!

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3DMagix, 3DMagixPro and IllusionMage are scams

Nov. 05, 2018, under 3D, bad business, call to action, disturbing, opinions

These “products” are simply rebranded copies of Blender – a free and open source 3D creation suite that you can download and use for free.  3DMagix, 3DMagixPro and IllusionMage are scams because they are selling you software that don’t have to pay for.  They advertise heavily via email, and get away with their scam only because people don’t know any better.

If you want to do 3D animation, do yourself a favor – go to Blender.org and download the software for free and help put the scammers out of business.

For more information, see the page about the 3DMagix, 3DMagixPro and IllusionMage scam on the Blender Web site.

 


To support my work, please buy a pre-publication copy of  Race To Space.  For more info about the project, see the Race To Space site, subscribe there to be kept abreast of its progress.


We are going to run out of oil. Before that happens, we MUST have a replacement source of energy and feed stock for our civilization that has become so dependent on plastic. The time to act is NOW!! Please visit SpacePowerNow.org to help build a solution.

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HumanMathTest, an open source PHP class

Sep. 24, 2018, under software dev, Web dev

HumanMathTest illustration

I’ve published my first contribution to the FOSS community on github: HumanMathTest implements a math test ‘bot deterrent PHP class for use in online forms.

This class is used to create an image to be included in an online form that shows a simple math test the visitor must solve when submitting the form. The operands and operation are stored in the $_SESSION data for the page. After submitting the form, the visitor’s answer is checked by calling the verify() method to compare their entry vs. the session data. If an error is found, the form submission should be rejected.

The demo page illustrates many of the options available, and includes a link to download the fully commented source code, including that of the demo and example pages.

 


To support my work, please buy a pre-publication copy of Race To Space. For more info about the project, see the Race To Space site, subscribe there to be kept abreast of its progress.


We are going to run out of oil. Before that happens, we MUST have a replacement source of energy and feed stock for our civilization that has become so dependent on plastic. The time to act is NOW!! Please visit SpacePowerNow.org to help build a solution.

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I’ve stopped selling on eBay

Jul. 03, 2018, under bad business, bootstrap finance, disturbing, really???

Purple turtle figurine, previously for sale on eBay

Purple turtle figurine

I recently sold a small item on eBay:  I bought a 10-piece lot of small turtle figurines a few years ago for $40, so the cost for each item is $4.00.  I had them listed for $4.95 each, plus shipping, so my gross margin on each sale would be $0.95 – not a lot, but at least it looked like a profit.

At that price, I couldn’t offer free shipping.  I listed the shipping and handling as $1.00 for handling (to cover the cost of a box, packing material, tape, etc.) plus the actual cost of shipping via the customer’s selected method.

The customer paid $16.36 to buy this $4.95 item – eBay added $11.41 for shipping and handling to the bill, which astounded me.  As it turns out, though, that wasn’t out of line, considering the actual cost of sending the package from Wellsville to Tulsa, Oklahoma via FedEx Home Delivery was $10.39 (after eBay’s bulk discount):  The assessed shipping and handling charges left me with $1.02 to cover the cost of materials.

Adding the gross margin from the sale, plus the handling fee, it would appear I gained $1.97 from the transaction.  The problem, though, is that there are fees involved:  eBay charges a 10% “final value” fee for sales at this level, so I had to pay them a commission of $0.50 to make the sale.  Fair enough, but now my gross margin is $0.45.  Then, PayPal charges 2.9% plus $0.30 per transaction to process the payment – so PayPal collected $0.77.  Now my gross margin has disappeared, and I’ve already lost $0.32 on the deal – and that’s assuming my time has zero value, and there were no costs in packing the figurine to send it.  Using those assumptions, I’ve still had a net income of $0.70 because of the handling charges that the customer paid.

However, today the last nail in the coffin arrived:  eBay’s invoice for the month of June shows they have assessed a $1.14 “final value” fee on the SHIPPING CHARGES!  Ignoring everything else, that means they charged $0.12 more for their profit on my mailing the package to the customer than I received as a handling charge.

Together with the gross loss from the transaction, the loss from the shipping charges means I had a net LOSS on the $4.95 sale of $0.44.  No business can survive with a 10% loss on every deal.  That plan is fundamentally flawed, and is the reason I will no longer be trying to sell things on eBay.

I tried sending them an email about the situation, but I expect it will bounce…

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What’s wrong with sales tax?

May. 08, 2018, under call to action, opinions, philosophy, tax evils

Everything.

How does this happen?  A buyer and seller come to agreement on the cost of something.  The buyer gets out his money to pay for it, and the seller says “Wait, I have to add the sales tax.”

How much is the sales tax?  Depending on where the transaction is taking place, the state, county, town, city, and who knows what other government, wants “their” percentage added on.  What percentage?  Well, that depends on where you are – and how many of those governments are reaching into your wallet to take your money, and how much each of them thinks it can get away with.  For example, in New York City, the rate is 8.875% – 4% going to New York state, 4.5% to the city, and 0.375% for the Metropolitan Commuter Transportation District – and that’s not the highest rate in the country:  According to the Tax Foundation, that ignoble title falls on Birmingham and Montgomery, Alabama, each with a 10% tax rate.

We now return to our regularly scheduled transaction, already in progress.  The seller announces a new price, not the one that had previously been agreed on, but a higher one that the buyer has to cover.  The hapless buyer pays the new price, feeling shafted, and the seller, if he has any morals at all, feels guilty about taking more than they’d agreed on in the first place.

Admittedly, the seller doesn’t get to keep any of the additional money he collected as sales tax, he just has to hold onto it, keep track of it, and at the end of the month, or quarter, or whatever the local rules say, promptly send it off to the government(s) in whose name he collected the tax.

Do you see something else wrong with this picture?  How much does the seller get paid for collecting, keeping track of, and sending the sales tax to the government(s)?

Zero.

That’s right, the seller is an unpaid tax collector, extorting (tax) money from the buying public without receiving anything in return.  Why, then, would anyone commit such a crime?  Because if they don’t, the government(s) will confiscate their business, impose fines, or send the merchant to jail:  The seller, under duress, is paying protection money to the government(s) to keep them off his back.

Now we have states arguing that because a buyer is in their state, that gives them jurisdiction over an Internet seller who is not in their state:  They are trying to forcibly deputize every merchant in the country as their tax collectors – without pay.  Instead of being a non-consensual unpaid worker (i.e., slave) for one, two or three jurisdictions as they are now, they want to have every business in the country collecting, counting and sending money to any jurisdiction a buyer happens to come from.  That would be like saying if someone from Omaha got off a cruise ship and walked into a shop in Key West to buy something, the Florida merchant would have to collect and manage Nebraska sales tax.  In addition to being a bookkeeping nightmare for American merchants, it will turn buyers to overseas sellers who don’t have these ludicrious rules to follow.  This has to be stopped, or it’s going to destroy the American economy.

As of today, May 8, 2018, eBay has a petition they are circulating to gather voices against states being able to impose taxes on Internet merchants who are not physically located within their jurisdiction.  Please go to https://t.co/JMhYbuZvlV to add your signature, it will only take a minute.  The money you save will be your own!

How did this all get started?

Some time in the early 1930’s, during the USA’s Great Depression, many state governments were in danger of going bankrupt.  In order to avoid such a failure, they would either have to cut expenses to stay within a balanced budget as a business would (heaven forbid!), or raise taxes.  Raising existing taxes could only be done on a limited basis before a tax revolt took place, what they were looking for was something with a broad base, so lots of people could be taxed “just a little bit” but they’d make up for it in volume.  A direct tax on labor didn’t seem like a good idea because it was feared it would endanger productivity.  Instead, some genius in West Virginia or Kentucky came up with the idea of a tax on the sale of goods where every merchant in the state was deputized as a tax collector, whether they wanted to be or not.  For the states, it was a win-win situation:  They got lots of money so they didn’t have to worry about nuisances like balancing a budget, and they didn’t have to pay anybody to collect it.  Once the pioneering states pulled it off, and got away with it, the idea spread like wildfire until nearly every state in the union has a sales tax.  And if the state can get away with it, why not the county, or the city, or some other synthetic jurisdiction?  After all, once the merchants had been convinced they had to collect the sales tax for the state, how could they object to collecting taxes for more localized governments?

It all stems from the “divine right of kings” (assumed by any government in power) to impose whatever laws and taxes on their subjects that they feel are appropriate.  The fact it was elected officials who enacted sales tax laws does not make it a voluntary choice of the populace:  It was the government adding a new cost onto the public without their consent:  Did anyone vote for a legislator whose platform included adding a new type of tax on their life?  No, it is, in fact, taxation without representation – it was an act undertaken by the government, for the government’s sole benefit, without asking for agreement from the governed.

Taxes, per se, are a crime against the populace, committed by the government imposing them:  Without a prior agreement, stating what was being purchased, for how much, and under what terms, the government presents a demand for money to the subject being taxed.  That person may decline to pay the demand on the grounds that they never agreed to it in the first place.  However, the government will impose whatever sanctions it feels are necessary to collect the money until, under duress, the subject pays.  This is a classic case of one entity initiating the use of force to cause another to do something against their will, or otherwise deprive them of their life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.  That is the fundamental definition of the commission of a crime.  I cannot imagine a rational argument wherein the mere fact that the action is undertaken by a government makes it not a crime:  It may be lawful – conveniently, since the government wrote the law – but it is still a crime.

But, you say, the government has to have money to pay for essential services!

If the services are essential, people will pay for them when they use them if they are not already being subsidized, and therefore expected to be “free.”  (Maybe railroads would still be viable if “free” roads weren’t sucking all of the traffic off them.)  There are plenty of (business) models that can be used as templates for how to do this, even within the governmental system itself:  Every toll road in the country adds more to the government coffers than it takes out.  Water and sewer services are metered and paid for proportional to use.  Similarly, if people bought police and fire department insurance, the cost of calamities could be spread across the populace without the imposition of taxes.  Even national defense could be handled the same way:  The government could offer broad-based “defense insurance” with a mix of services, or people could selectively buy “army insurance” or “navy insurance” or “air force insurance” depending on who they think is going to provide the best defense for the country.  (I suspect the real “danger” with such a plan – from a government perspective – is that with such an option, people might not buy military insurance at all, and then we’d have to all just get along instead of parading our weapons systems all over the globe.)

Governments should be providing their services within a balanced budget just as any other corporate entity is required to.  If a government wants to provide an unprofitable service, such as underwriting the cost of housing for disadvantaged families, it should be providing that service from the profits it makes on the other services it provides.  Using taxes to arbitrarily pay for programs leads to spending without contemplation of the cost or consequences:  It’s really easy to spend money when it’s not yours and you have a blank check in hand.

So, what’s wrong with sales tax? Everything.

 


If you’d like to support my work, please buy a pre-publication copy of the Race To Space book.


We are going to run out of oil. Before that happens, we MUST have a replacement source of energy and feed stock for our civilization that has become so dependent on plastic. The time to act is NOW!! Please visit SpacePowerNow.org to help build a solution.

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The #RaceToSpace project now has its own site

Dec. 26, 2017, under bootstrap finance, call to action, goals, progress reports

I’ve finally gotten the initial version of the new site for the Race to Space project up and running. There’s a teaser on the Home page, an opportunity to pre-order copies of the book at discounted prices, and the “Corporate” section has a copy of the investor goodies I first published on the L5 Development Group Web site.

Check out the new site, and if you’re sufficiently intrigued, pre-order a copy of the book.

Race To Space

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#BlowUpTheTunnel renamed to #RaceToSpace

Dec. 03, 2017, under bootstrap finance, call to action, goals, progress reports

Someone told me they thought the name of my #BlowUpTheTunnel campaign was promoting domestic terrorism – really?!?!?!?  That idea was so totally out of my perspective when I built the campaign I couldn’t believe it.

Now the project has grown in scope, and a new name is in order:  It’s now called #RaceToSpace. Instead of just resulting in a book describing how to get space colonies and solar power satellites built, there’s a full-length “predictive fiction” action novel thrown into the mix – and maybe a major motion picture, if things go right.

The campaign to underwrite the project is on GoFundMe, donations are now being accepted…

Race To Space

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R.I.P. Dr. Jerry Pournelle

Nov. 30, 2017, under history

I was deeply saddened tonight to find that Dr. Jerry Pournelle had passed away, the world has lost a truly great mind.  His science fiction captured my imagination.  His Byte columns entertained and informed me.  (He would have endorsed my wCapLock utility for making the CapsLock key work like a typewriter does if I’d gotten the marketing together, IIRC – my bad.)  The Pournelle political axes is a brilliant insight, one that I frequently cite from my perspective in the top left corner.  I’m going to miss the man I’d hoped to meet one day.  I’m sorry for everyone who has suffered from this loss.

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