BPuhl’s Blog

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Archive for the ‘Friends and family’ Category

Facebook is going to allow user names on June 12th

Posted by BPuhl on June 10, 2009

If you use Facebook, you might notice a box when you log in that says beginning June 12th, Facebook will allow registration of user names.  If you “click here” to have them send more info, you’ll receive this in your registered email inbox:

Starting on Friday, June 12th, at 9:01pm, you’ll be able to choose a username for your Facebook account to easily direct friends, family, and coworkers to your profile.

To select your username, visit the link below after 9:01pm on June 12th:


To learn more about usernames, visit the Help Center:



The Facebook Team


So what does this mean?  Well, for one thing, it means that if you’ve got a common name – or – if your like me, and you KNOW that there’s someone else on Facebook with the same name (since he and I are actually friends on Facebook), then it means that you want to “claim” your user name as soon as the application opens.

I did seen an interesting article here http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jonathan-handel/trademark-protection-and_b_213756.html about trademark registrations and how Facebook intends to handle squatters.  So don’t bother trying to register facebook.com/McDonalds, you won’t have it for long if you do. 

I like the very last part of that article though.  There is already a recommendation for what to do, if somebody maliciously claims not only your trademark, but also fills out the forms sufficiently such that you (the legitimate owner of the trademark) actually can’t use the automation to claim it back.

Oh how much fun Identity Management can be 🙂


Posted in Babbling and Blabbering, Digital Identity, Friends and family, Identity and Access, Random Tecnical Stuff, Randomness | Leave a Comment »

Collection agencies….

Posted by BPuhl on April 10, 2009

I have had a few discussions recently at work about ways to make things more convenient.  Either convenient for our users (cloud services), convenient for our customers (single sign on), etc… 

But a one-two punch hit me, when I just had 2 close friends – both of whom have been impacted by the financial mess – have their identity attacked because something that had built in security controls (checks) was made to be more convenient (by phone), and in the process all of the controls were removed so my friends were vulnerable.

Really, I call it fraud, or identity theft, or just plain robbery…  But in both cases, the banks say that there are no laws against this:

My friend lost her job, and fell behind on payments.  She owed $1100 for this months rent, $4400 to a creditor that by this point had gone to a collection agency, and some other bills (credit cards, gas, electricity, etc…).  Through creative budgeting and working with parents, friends, and anyone else, she scraped together $5000 that she could use. 

With the new money available, she came up with the following plan:

   $1100 for rent
      900 for the other bills
      500 to the collection agency
      The rest to be used for the following months rent, payments, etc…

She called the collection agency, and agreed to pay them $500 now, and then set up a payment plan for the rest of the money.  That’s where the first mistake happened:  They wanted the payment as a “check by phone”.  So she voided a check, gave them the info, etc…

The collection agency first attempted to clear the check for the full $4400.  Because the money was in the account, the check cleared – of course, this meant that she couldn’t pay any of the other bills, or her rent, etc…  And she had already tapped out her friends, parents, etc…

You can imagine that the calls to the collection agency were like:  “Sorry, sucks to be you – we’ve got our money now”

The bank was equally useless:  “You gave them a check by phone, the money was in the account, they cleared it…Sucks to be you”

This was just completely ridiculous, but it shows that in the absence of standards or protocols, there is no shortage of people that will offer things for the sake of “convenience” which blow the hell out of “security”.  If you have to write a check and sign it, then you fill in the amount, etc…  modification of that is check fraud.  But those security controls went out the window when banks allowed people to do “checks by phone”, and there is absolutely nothing to prevent unscrupulous people from raping your bank account if you give them the information.

The second case is similar, but with a slight twist

My friend has slowly but surely been paying off debts that were racked up over a period of time, and has been working through one of those debt consolidation management companies.  Since she wasn’t getting the resolution that she needed from the company, she took back the money that was in their escrow account and started working with the collection agency independently.

On the first phone call, she had an $7,000 debt and worked with the agency to negotiate down to where they would accept $4300.  Seems like a good deal, so again, check by phone for $4300.

A couple of days later, she received a notice from the collection agency, indicating that they “Had an agreement for an initial payment of $4300”.  In other words, the deal they made on the phone was a lie, instead of negotiating the total, they just wanted an initial payment and were going to keep going after her for the remaining balance.

Ahhh…but the check by phone hadn’t cleared yet.

So a quick call to the bank, a $28.00 stop payment charge, and there was a stop-payment for that check before it cleared.

Good right?

Not so much.  2 days later, $4300 was withdrawn from the account anyway, by check #1001 (not the check number she gave them).  A long, convoluted, multi-transfer call back with the bank this time, and they could see where the initial check number had attempted to clear, been rejected (the stop payment), and then the company had re-submitted another check by phone with the different check number and got the money.

After several days of arguing, it’s still unclear whether the bank is going to say “Sorry, sux to be you” or if they are actually going to help.  I’m not holding my breath.

So again, the safety features around checks – being numbered, signed, amounts written (twice) – are all placed into the trusting hands of the least trustworthy person (the merchant that wants your money), and there is remarkably little recourse.  I suppose you could go get a lawyer, etc…  But during that time the money is gone, life still needs to be lived, and a lawyer is going to take 30% of whatever you get back anyway (or some amount of payment)…

All for the sake of convenience (to whom?)

There are better ways, one of which I really like.  I’ve had a credit card with CitiBank since college.  And many years ago, they came up with this idea of virtual account numbers for your credit card.  You can go to their website (or they have a downloadable application), and if you want to make a purchase, you can get a one-time use credit card number (with expiration and CVC) for that one purchase.  I haven’t used it in a while, but IIRC you can even specify the amount of the purchase you’re going to make (which is really the protection).  This is great, because the security of a credit card is handing the piece of plastic with the signature on the back to the person behind the register.  With online purchases, you can’t do that, so instead lets take the things which you can control (amount of purchase, usefulness of the number after it’s been used properly) and control those instead.  Reasonable mitigations.

This is the type of control that we’re going to need if we want to protect our resources in a more “convenient” (read: Online) world.

Posted in ADFS, Digital Identity, Friends and family, Identity and Access, Randomness, Rants | 3 Comments »

Zune Warranty Coolness

Posted by BPuhl on September 25, 2008

Second Zune post in as many days – Wasn’t intentional, but the FedEx guy just stopped by and I thought this was too cool not to blog about!


For Christmas 2007, I got Sammi an 8GB, hot pink Zune from http://zuneoriginals.net with the “Love 2” (butterfly’s and hearts) engraved on the back and “Sammi Puhl, Christmas 2007, Love Mom and Dad” on the back.  Not a bad right? 

Bad news:  This past spring, it was stolen by some kids at school. 
Good news: She knew who did it, and it didn’t take long for me to arrange with the other parent to get it back. 
Bad news:  In the meantime, “someone” had taken a screwdriver/knife/something and scratched the text off the back

So for the past many months, there has been a small piece of tape on the back of her Zune, covering the scratches, and she used/abused the thing like crazy.  Loves it.

Bad news:  It started to break.  I tried all of the firmware/software resets, including e-mailing back and forth with Zune support, but it looks like a hardware issue.
Good news:  Under Warranty still!  – Went to http://service.zune.net, filled out the form online, and printed out the confirmation sheet

This is where it got interesting, because the support site didn’t include any address to send the Zune to.  Instead, a few days later, a pre-paid FedEx package designed and built to protect the Zune in transit showed up.  Off on it’s way it went…

Fast forward about 2 1/2 weeks…

Last night, Sammi asked me whether I had heard anything about here Zune.  “Nope, I can go online and check tomorrow though.”  Then I went to set her expectations appropriately, and explained what “refurbished” means – since that’s what I was expecting to show up.

This morning:  FedEx shows up with a box from Zune Originals.  In the box was a brand new Zune, with the original design, AND THE ORIGINAL TEXT!  Woo hoo!!!!

This may have been what some of you would have assumed, but having worked in customer service for way too many years, I tend to set my expectations pretty low, and am usually just pleased when everything works.

This is awesome!  I’m ecstatic with the flawless way that this worked out and that they sent us back a brand new one with all the text! I don’t think this could have been any better or gone any smoother.




(Same note as last time: 
To the iPod folks:  Comments are appreciated, especially the ones describing your awesome experiences.  As a general rule I don’t delete/edit comments, but any comments of, “You should have bought an iPod”, aren’t going to make it because that’s just lame)

Posted in Babbling and Blabbering, Friends and family, Randomness, Sammi | 2 Comments »

Ms. Wizard – A Science Experiment

Posted by BPuhl on March 14, 2008

Ok, well, maybe this isn’t exactly a science experiment.  More of an editorial on cause and effect.  Actually, what this really started out as, was a place for me to vent all of the anger and frustration at my teenage daughter, which had built up as I had my head inside of the dryer, sucking fumes of Isopropyl Alcohol with my lungs on fire.

but that’s probably getting a little ahead of myself. 

After spending some time outside, clearing my head and lungs of the noxious fumes, pondering on all of the ways in which to dispose of her body, it started to occur to me that maybe it wasn’t intentional…wasn’t malicious…and didn’t really even have anything to do with the fact that she’s a teenager.  In the end, I decided it must have just been dumb, bad luck.

After all…who hasn’t, at some time in their past, left a pen in the pocket of jeans or a sweatshirt when they washed it.  Right?  In fact, I can distinctly remember several times, moving the clothes from the washer to the dryer, and finding a pen lying on the bottom of the tub.  Toss that one in the trash.

So what kind of luck does it take for this pen to make it into the dryer?  Not a huge stretch of the imagination.  Done that before too.  But I have NEVER, EVER for the life of me, EVER heard of a pen in the dryer with some clothes EXPLODING like this goddamn thing did!


Everything in the dryer at the time, got ink all over it, and then the dryer “caked on” the ink to the inside of the barrel.


Tried soap and water.  Nope.  Tried Gunk-Off.  Nope.  Tried 409.  Nope.

Ahhh, but rubbing alcohol, that worked like a somewhat-lucky-sort-of-half-assed-but-still-got-most-of-it-off charm!

So the answer to the question ladies in gentleman, is that THIS is how I ended up with my head stuck in a dryer wiping down the inside with rubbing alcohol.

Posted in Friends and family, Randomness, Rants, Sammi | 1 Comment »

Time to Rescue a Damsel in Distress – 8 minutes, 45 seconds

Posted by BPuhl on January 24, 2008

The tools:

One pair of regular scissors

One folding pocket knife

4 years of college education in mechanical engineering

The Challenge:

Remove Princess Annika Barbie and her magic pegasus light-up wand from the plastic packaging


The Procedure:

Began by first carefully cutting away the “sealed” edge of the packaging, allowing me to remove the back panel of protective plastic and lift the entire interior assembly from the front plastic.

Next, seperate the 2 halves of cardboard, revealing the ridiculously complex series of wires, plastic, and string inside which are used to hold the doll and magic wand perfectly in place.

Focusing on removal of the magic wand:  Carefully pull the wand away from the cardboard.  Attempt to slide knife in between, carefully cutting away the plastic tabs holding the upper portion of the wand in front of the critical “press here” opening (it lights up).  Small slip-up, knick index finger of left hand…not bleeding that bad.  Lift wand out of it’s cardboard prison.

hmmm…that was easy….too easy…

Looking again at the back, her arms are held in position by plastic coated wires.  Prior experience with this has shown that these wires are impossible to cut.  Best to spend several minutes peeling the ends of the wires away from where they have been taped to the cardboard, untwisting them, and pulling the arms free from their steely bounds.

Next, comes the hair – How did they get her hair to stay like that?  Using carefully color matched thread, they have SEWN her hair to the cardboard, using a piece of plastic to hold it in place.  Fortunately a quick tug on the plastic and the thread undoes itself – ahhh, you Mattel packaging demons are pretty slick! 

But the first attempt to pull her head away from the cardboard fails as I realize that they used those same little plastic pieces that stores use to attach price tags to clothes – to hold her head in place!  Argh…  snip, snip – head is free.

Oh but wait, there are three more of these, running down her back, making sure that no matter what manner of shaking occurs during shipping, her beautiful dress remains in perfect position.

Lifting her straight up, removing her feet from the holes in the cardboard “box” structure at the bottom


just under nine minutes, no stitches, and only a little bit of blood.  Now, where’d I park my white horse again?

Posted in Anika, Friends and family, Randomness, Rants | Leave a Comment »

If a little is good…

Posted by BPuhl on November 21, 2007

Then a whole lot must be a whole lot better! 

At least that must have been Anika’s theory on toilet paper this morning.  oops.

Posted in Anika, Friends and family | Leave a Comment »

Posted by BPuhl on April 1, 2007

Nothing will destroy a wonderful friendship with someone of the opposite sex…like dating them.

Posted in Friends and family, Nuggets | Leave a Comment »