Monday, April 20, 2009

Secure Log-in

It's hard staying ahead of the hackers and phishers and everyone else trying to steal your money. I came across this neat little tool from Verisign called VIP Access (Verisign Identity Protection). It adds an extra layer of authentication to your username and password login. You download an app to your mobile phone (Blackberry, iPhone or select smart phones); you can even download it from the Apple App Store.

You are assigned a permanent identifier by the VIP app which you then associate with your eBay or PayPal or other compatible on-line account. Running the app from your phone, it generates a 6-digit code every 30 seconds that is necessary to enter these web sites after you enter your username/password. No code, no access. Especially for PayPal, this is a welcome security layer. (eBay makes it easy to just add the 6-digit code at the end of your password, e.g., password123456.) Other on-line sites that can use this are Geico, AOL, American Bankers Association, T-Mobile, Merrill Lynch and many (lesser known) others. I expect this list to grow though.

For more information, go to

To get the VIP app for your mobile device, go to

Friday, April 17, 2009


It's been a long, long winter. Summer is coming and with it the songs of Jimmy Buffett and the carefree, feel good sounds and attitude of beaches, boats and bars. But I've been in CA all this week and it's damn cold and windy. Doesn't feel like summer at all. So I was listening to Fruitcakes today to get my head a little nearer to Margaritaville.

Some great lyrics that I felt like sharing:

"Take for example when you go to the movies these days, you know. They try to sell you this jumbo drink, 8 extra ounces of watered down cherry coke for an extra 25 cents. I don't want it. I don't want that much organization in my life. I don't want other people thinking for me. I want my Junior Mints. Where did the Junior Mints go in the movies! I don't want a 12 lb. Nestle's Crunch for 25 dollars. I want Junior Mints!"

"I was out in California where I hear they have it all. They got riots, fires, mud slides. They've got sushi in the mall. Water bars, brontosaurs, Chinese modern lust. Shake and bake life with the quake. The secret's in the crust."

"Religion! Religion! Oh, there's a thin line between Saturday night and Sunday morning."

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Virgin America Rocks

My first blog post airborne, Virgin America flight #351 somewhere over Lake Ontario. Altitude 36,178 feet, Airspeed 517 mph.

I've been flying for many many years so it is a treat to try a new airline. Virgin America. I heard recently that VA had started US domestic service, more interesting to me was their BOS-SFO non-stops. I had always heard Virgin Airlines had fantastic service, but had never flown them to the UK, I guess that makes me a Virgin virgin, So here was my chance to see the magic of Richard Branson. I have not been disappointed. Here are some highlights.
  • Food served on the flight, big deal right? No, you order it from your touch screen screen at your seat and they bring it to you anytime in your flight. Yes, I'm in Coach.
  • In-flight internet, $12.95. Easy decision, though I've allowed one of my last sanctuaries to be invaded.
  • Power. Airlines that have power for your laptop in coach (and there are too few) only give you the cigarette lighter adapter DC connection. I fly enough to have bought one but most people don't. VA gives you a real 110V plug outlet. Oh and if you need to charge your ipod or phone, there is a USB port to charge those as well. How tough was that.
  • The on-screen interactive environment is called Red and gives you live TV, Radio, movies (free and $), video games, seat-to-seat chat.
  • Mood lighting on the plane. Actual photo from my seat.

And the price was very competitive with American Airlines, United and others. In the end, I have a feeling this flight might be too short. ;-)

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Selling Free Stuff

One of the more interesting parts of holidays is catching up with what family is doing. Today was Easter and I got the usual family dose, but a little gem slipped into the conversation with little notice by anyone else. My nephew, who has a hankering for making money buying and selling online, has a new gig. He sells public domain books on for Kindle users for $1. Basically, he's selling free stuff. Why would someone buy this? Convenience, lack of computer skills, not everyone is aware of how much is actually available in the public domain.

Is it profitable? He's making about $10 a day which amounts to about $300 a month. For a college student, that's good jing, very good.

By the way, if you are fortunate enough to have a Kindle, you know they're excellent. But if you have an iPod Touch or iPhone, Amazon recently released a Kindle app (go to the App Store), which allows you to buy and read books on your iPod. The page size is of course much smaller than the Kindle, but still very readalbe. I just finished reading a book on the iPod Touch and it was very easy to read. (The book was Dean and Me, by Jerry Lewis, a great book and I'm pretty fussy; I read only 1-2 books a year.)

Sunday, April 5, 2009

New BlackBerry OS - VERY Worth It

I've been using a BlackBerry Curve (8310, AT&T) for over a year now. Good device, but after I started using the iPod Touch, I realized how stuck the Blackberry was in "text mode". Emails were bland monotype text messages, no color, no images. I noticed my son's BB Pearl had a much better UI but I simply attributed it to the newer and different model.

Then on a business trip last week a friend told me about the operating system upgrade v 4.5 (I was still on v 4.2). What a difference! It's like having a new BlackBerry. Emails are displayed in rich HTML, calendar and contacts are better displayed, the browser is better and makes use of the trackball to move around the page in two dimensions. Even has a Word and PowerPoint editor through a feature called Documents to Go.

The upgrade is free and details are at NOTE: Make a backup of your BlackBerry first and then follow the OS upgrade directions to the letter; after all you're playing with the device's operating system, akin to doing a brain transplant. Do it wrong and you'll spend two hours on the phone with AT&T & BB Tech Support fixing your screw up.