Category Archives: Wally of the Week

No Good Deed…

Here’s a story from the Land Down Under.

Kenan Basic, a 36-year-old carpenter, stopped to help a nineteen-year-old woman by the name of Caitlyn Gray, whose car had broken down. He repaired her car, they hugged each other, and she went on her way.

She then went to the police and swore out a complaint accusing him of stalking her, asking her for sex, and groping her.

Mr Basic was then arrested and and charged with indecent assault, and jailed. He was denied bail. He was in jail for a week. He lost his job, and his wife filed for divorce.

Who is this paragon of pulchritude that Mr Basic risked his very liberty to proposition and grope? What does she look like?

When the police could not find any surveillance video or any other corroborating evidence to support her story, they became skeptical. Finally, she admitted that she had made the whole story up.

He was vindicated and released. She was found guilty of “knowingly making a false statement.

She has been jailed for nine months, five of which are mandatory before parole… but unlike him, she was immediately granted bail.

Apparently the presumption of innocence only applies if you are female.

He plans to sue. And he should.

Don’t! Stop!

When booking a flight recently, I made the mistake of giving the airline my phone number. This is what happened:

  • First, they tell me to reply STOP to cancel.
  • Then when I do, they tell me to reply STOP * to cancel.
  • Then they tell me that I am opted out.
  • Then they tell me that they are sending messages again.

Good Grief!

Christmas in… August?

Just got this in my email:


My coverage does not run out until the end of the year, but they are trying to get me to pay up now; more than four months before the bill is due.

*SIGH*… They do this every year.


Or: When Security Isn’t.

I recently got an email from the good folks at the Social Security Administration (SSA). They have added a feature that requires you to type in a Security code that they text to your phone every time you want to log in to your “My Social Security” account.


On the face of it, this sounds like a good thing. But it isn’t. Let me count the ways…

  1. Texts are inherently insecure. They can be read by your network operator and phone provider. Due to the sheer number of texts passing through the system, this is not such a problem when a one-off secret is transmitted via text (say to validate a new device), but requiring this every time you want to log in is ridiculous.
  2. Not everyone has free texts. In order to keep my unlimited data plan (Thanks Verizon!) I have to pay for every text I send or receive. As a result I have texts disabled and use data-based chat apps (like Signal and Threema) to text with friends and family. This means that I cannot use any text-based system.
  3. It’s a cheap solution. Texting codes is not security done right, it is security done cheap. There are better ways to do this; one is to use a code generator like Google Authenticator. Another is to use a hardware token like a Yubikey.
  4. You have no choice: “If you do not have a text-enabled cell phone or you do not wish to provide your cell phone number, you will not be able to access your my Social Security account.” Translation: Do it our way or leave. Email or voice notification would work fine… but they aren’t offered.

Only the Government could get away with something like this; any private organization that had such a “my-way-or-the-highway” attitude would soon find themselves shuttered. Some other options would be a good idea. Even the option to eschew two-factor authentication entirely is a valid choice if the user is advised of the risks.

Where’s the “Give-me-my-money-back” button?

The Smell of Desperation

I recently had occasion to rent a car at a nearby car rental establishment. I noticed something in a corner of the contract that I had never seen before:


When I asked about this, I was told that this was new; they were instructed that if the customer had recently arrived by plane, they would have to charge them an airport tax, as if they had rented the car at the airport location. Since it is the state, not the rental company, that profits from these taxes, we can safely assume that this was the Government’s doing.

The logic behind this “new tax” is tenuous indeed. I had always thought that Airport taxes were charged at airport locations, and whether or not you just got off a plane was irrelevant. Apparently I was mistaken. So by this logic, if I drive to the airport and rent a car there, I should not have to pay airport taxes, since I did not just get off a plane. Somehow, I doubt that I would get out of paying that tax.

You can almost smell the State’s desperation to find some new untapped stream of revenue. I can just imagine some bright spark in Frankfort probably said something like “Hey, sometimes people fly in and rent cars elsewhere to get out of paying airport tax! We need to do something about this!“. Oh no you don’t: Last time I looked, tax avoidance was not the same as tax evasion, and it was completely legal.

So this is not an extension of an existing tax, this is a new tax – and one that the prospective purchaser can avoid paying by simply initialing “True“.

Given that this it a tax that can be easily avoided by lying, I wonder how much additional revenue it will generate?


I recently purchased a replacement battery from an eBay seller. I was looking for a NFC battery, and that was the item pictured, so I ordered one.

When the item arrived, I realized that it was NOT an NFC-equipped battery. I notified the seller and his response was t#Fair enough. I did a little research and found that a lot of fake batteries are sold as OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer, in this case Samsung).

Why do they do this? Mainly because an OEM battery is worth $10+ (in the stores, such a battery is about $30), while an aftermarket one is worth less than $5. So there is money to be made in faking it. I also discovered several tests that would allow me to tell if a Samsung battery was genuine.

Test#1: The Back of the Label

In this video, the author claims that the back of the label of an authentic OEM battery is a pewter color – the same color as the front of the label – while the back of label of a counterfeit battery is a silvery color.

label color

Verdict; FAIL

Also note that the label of the original battery opens from the left, while the eBay one opens from the right. While not conclusive, this is certainly cause for concern.

Seller’s response: “We get these direct from our actual Samsung distributor which is our Samsung supplier and they jut informed me that the batteries come from different manufacturers and not all them will have the same information on them…” Oooo-kay…

Test #2: Serial number printed on the battery

According to Samsung, all batteries have a serial number printed on the battery under the label. You can see this in the battery on the left. There was no such serial number on the battery on the right.


Verdict: FAIL

Test #3: QR-Code

Samsung batteries have a QR Code printed on them. Both batteries had a QR-Code, but only the code on the the original battery that came with my phone was readable. The code on the eBay battery could bot be read no matter how hard I tried. Verdict: FAIL

Test #4: Model and Serial numbers printed on the label.

I contacted Samsung and asked them to help me with the model and serial numbers. According to them, the model number printed on the eBay battery was a proper Samsung Part number, but the part in question was an NFC-equipped battery – which this battery was not. Samsung’s response was to “contact the suppler”, which is a polite and legally-safe way of saying that they did not believe that it was genuine. Verdict: FAIL

The seller offered me a full refund.

What do you think?

The Large Print Giveth…

Got this in my inbox:


The Large Print Giveth…

One day I was feeling peckish and decided that Pizza would be nice. So I clicked on the big friendly-looking “Order Now” button. On selecting my local Pizza Hut Emporium, I got this interesting little pop-up:


…the small print taketh away.

Would I like to check out their current offfers? Er… no.



Way to go Pizza Hut! You just drove me straight into the arms of the competition. Papa John’s, here I come…

They can’t park, either

I have often remarked – mostly in jest – that Hoosiers can’t drive. Like most generalizations, it is mostly untrue; some of my best friends hail from the great state of Indiana.

On a recent road trip, however, I stopped at a service station to fill up, and snapped a couple of pictures. Five vehicles, all with Indiana plates (anonymized for privacy), not one of whom could get their vehicles between the lines.

Here we go again

It’s that time of the year again; Apple announces a new product – in this case the new iPad – and the “gotta-have-it” mob collectively lose their ever-lovin’ minds. They get all excited and caught up in the stampede to have the latest-and-greatest new toy.

All for a product that isn’t actually out yet.

The hucksters are out in force too, hurrying to the front of the line, then offering that place for a small fee.

And so are the shady operators who buy them up and ship them off to countries where the new shiny isn’t out yet. The worst one is China, whic is ironic, considering that the iPad was made there, shipped here, and then shipped back there. Ain’t globalization wonderful?

It’s not all bad news, though. Many of those happily forking over between $500 and $800+ for a new iPad will be upgrading from their older model, which means that they will be trying to unload the old one on Craigslist, This means that those of us who have our heads screwed on right can snag a previous-generation iPad for half the price of a new one.

Me? I’m perfectly happy with my Nook Color running MIUI Android. For $130 + a microSD chip and a couple of hours of my time I have 80% of the capability of an iPad for 20% of the price.

How to go Bankrupt

My mother is spending a month with us. She flew in last Saturday… and her arms are still tired. Since our local “International” airport… well… isn’t, her flight came in through Miami.

The two-leg flight was so exhausting that she asked me to change the flight so that she gets a few days in Miami to rest up.

I spoke to the airline. They wanted to charge me a $150 change fee, along with the extra cost of the internal flight to Miami, total: $300.

I than asked if I could arrange a flight to Miami with another airline and cancel the first leg of the trip. They wanted $150 for this.

Wait a minute… I am offering to give them a seat on an internal flight that they get to sell again, and they want to charge me for the privilege?

You betcha; they gave me some guff about the internal flight being a “feeder” flight (translation: a seat on a flight that nobody wants), and they actually had the gall to state that the direct London-to Miami return flight costs more than the two-leg London-Miami-Louisville-Miami-London flight.


Anyway, there was no changing their minds; even though I am actually giving them something and aking for nothing in return the $150 “change fee” is set in stone.

Sheesh, what a way to run a business. With an attitude like that, it’s a wonder that they haven’t gone bankrupt.

The airline? American.