Beware of product quote phishing scams!

A new type of scam is become more common, in which criminals use requests for a quote to trick businesses into handing over passwords. They do this by providing a link to a site that supposedly holds details of the products they want a quote for, which requires a login using an e-mail address. Here is an example:

Date: Sat, 30 Mar 2013 15:04:07 +0100
Subject: Please send us your data sheets and your price list regarding this product.
From: “Agung .” <agung.suryagungfuniture@gmail.com>

Dear sir/madam,

We are interested in the purchase of your products and services. we want to make order from your company and we are urgently in need of these products. You are advised to log in into our site to view the photos and specifications of the exact products we need ASAP and kindly tell us the cost of the products and the FOB to Durban, Sea Port.

Copy and paste the link to your http://anhuifuhuangimportexport.yolasite.com

NOTE: You can only view this product page if you carefully log in with your exact email and password you are using to communicate with us, as our need products specifications and designs is exclusively for our Company and has been protected for our exclusive right to protect our business.

We earnestly await your swift response to enable us to make deposit payment so that you can start the production immediately.

Kind regards,
Director of Operation

You should never enter the password to your e-mail account (or other passwords such as for Facebook, Google, Amazon, eBay and PayPal accounts) on a site other than the proper website of the service. Furthermore, you should only enter the password on pages protected by SSL (padlock icon visible in the browser, URL starts with http://). Scam sites typically are not SSL-protected.

OTC Pump and Dump scams: PacWest Equities (PWEI)

Another stock is being spammed by pump & dump scammers. Never buy stocks advertised by spammers!

Example:

This Chart is an Absolute Bull! You`re Going to Get it First!!! This
Stock Closes Green for Third Straight Day!

Trading Date: March 29th
Company Name: PacWest Equities Inc.
Tick: P W_E I
It is now: .2326
Short Term Target: .65

This Company is our Low Float, Big Bounce Opportunity for Today. This
Stock is on High Alert for Today!

Example:

It Surges Ahead on Elevated Volume! This stock could be a possible Buyout
Candidate!

Trading Date: Fri, March 29th
Company: PacWest Equities Corp
Stock: PWE_I
Last Trade: $0.2326
Target: $0.75

This company is on the brink of a Big Breakout. More gains coming this week!

Example:

It is in the green and should keep moving up tomorrow! Special
Report (Read Inside)!!!

Trade Date: Mar 29th
Company Name: PacWest Equities Inc
Symbol to buy: PW_E I
Last Trade: $0.2326
Short Term Target: .50

High Alert Today! Stock Profile!!!

UPDATE: New OTC scam using shares of “Liberty Coal (LBTG)” on April 15, 2013:

Great news for L B T_G – Liberty Coal – that will deliver huge
returns!!!

Takeover offers are back on the table that will boost L B T_G
prices up to the $.20 – $.30 range. Right now L B T_G is
selling for a very low price, so the money to be made is
amazing! Even Management want to acquire L B T_G because of
their enormous coal find that can bear shale oil. Don’t
hesitate if you want to earn big on this take over before it
gets out to the rest of the public! Buy all the L B T_G you
can afford on Mon, Apr 15.

Another one:

Breaking intelligence for L_BTG – LIBERTY COAL ENERGY INC – that
will turn a quick profit.

Buyout plans are going ahead fast that will drive L_BTG shares up
to the $.20 – $.30 range. Right now L_BTG is selling for pennies,
so the money to be made is huge! Competitors want to buy out L_BTG
because of their seemingly unlimited coal reserves that can draw
out shale oil. Take action now to earn big on this buyout prior to
other investors. Buy all the L_BTG you can possibly get on Tuesday,
April 16, 2013!

Another one:

Why PetroChina should acknowledge in S CX N? ExxonMobil captures
$14 Bill after Arkansas Oil Spill. GP will implement S CX N
solution. Lawmakers to lift the current restrictions vs huge
Oil. As buyers we could benefit from Big Oil, while decrease
tomorrows hazard. Assist large Oil remained responsible by
owning S CX N on Monday Apr 29.

Another one:

Attention headlines for G T R L!!! Films will be treated akin
capital investment by Bureau. BEA is substituting counting federal
revenues. A film can be purchased time after time be could analyzed
as a financial vehicle it shall be valuated after so the stock
price shall grow. Show firm G T R L could be bought more then a 3
USD.

Name: Get Real USA
Stock Symbol: G T R L

This analyzing bill is not void yet, add now buy 7000 stocks of G T
R L on April, 29!!!

Another one:

Acquire a abrupt 50% with B Y S_D!!! Reasonable at barely 0.01!!! Only a
fraction of a cent! Bayside Petroleum Corp. (B Y S_D) guaranteed to burst.
Set your order right now!!!

Time has come for marriage equality

As the United States Supreme Courts starts considering the issue of same sex marriage, I can’t help thinking of the fact that as recently as 1967 my wife and I could not have got married in some US states because of racist laws. That was when the Supreme Court ruled in Loving v. Virginia that the state’s anti-miscegenation laws violated the constitutional rights of interracial couples. I think I can empathize with same-sex couples who are still denied the right to marry by unjust state laws today.

Today the historic reality of those racist laws is shocking to us. To our children and grandchildren, discrimination against gays and lesbians will be equally offensive. Same sex marriage takes nothing away from marriage between man and woman, it adds to it. If formally recognized long term commitments are beneficial between men and women, why deny them to other loving couples? I am confident that equality for same sex couples will come.

Western Digital 4 KB sector drive alignment for Windows XP and 2003 server

If your existing Windows XP or Windows 2003 Server machine needs a new C: drive, there are ways of upgrading to one of the latest drives without a complete software reinstall, but you may encounter some stumbling blocks due to the new Advanced Format technology, which uses 4 KB sectors.

When one of my PCs developed hard disk problems and I had to upgrade one of its drives, I also checked out my other machines. I found the C: drive of a Windows 2003 Server machine was about to fail. Windows 2003 is basically the server version of Windows XP, with which it shares most components. I opted for a 1 TB WD Red drive (WD10EFRX) by Western Digital, since these drives are designed for 24/7 operation, primarily for use in Network Attached Storage (NAS) appliances (desktop drives are only designed for an 8 hours on, 16 hours off use pattern).

I did not want to reinstall everything from scratch on that machine, so I used a Linux boot DVD and the GNU dd utility to mirror the failing drive onto the new WD Red drive (“sudo dd if=/dev/sda of=/dev/sdb”). As a result, all the partitions were in the same place and the same size as on the old drive, a Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 320 GB. The partitions on the old drive had not been aligned on 4 KB boundaries as is recommended to get decent performance on modern Advanced Format drives, so I needed to run an align tool to move the partition to the proper place. Western Digital offers one free to its customers, so that should be easy then, right?

No quite. I encountered all the troubles described by others in this thread: Basically, the download link for the WD Align tool (AcronisAlignTool_s_e_2_0_111.exe) takes you back to the same page, over and over, without error message. It turns out that you need to be registered and logged in to the WD site for the download link to do anything. You need to register both your contact details (name, e-mail address, postal address, phone number) and your hard disk’s serial number. For the latter I had to shut down the machine again and take out the drive once more to take a look, because the number is not printed on the cardboard box, only on the drive itself.

Once I registered my new drive, a download link did appear next to the registered product, but from it I found I could only download Acronis True Image and not the Acronis Align Tool (Advanced Format Software, WD Align). The WD Red series drives are all Advanced Format Drives, as is pretty much every drive made since 2011, but WD say it is designed for NAS use and hence don’t see the need for a fix for what they see as a Windows XP problem.

Various people online recommended a download site in Ukraine that apparently offers a copy of that program, but if you’re downloading from sites like that you risk installing malware on your computer. Beware!

There is a safer solution. I had to register another Western Digital drive, an old WD10EARS to get a usable download link for Advanced Format Software. If you don’t happen to have one lying around, a Google image search for WD10EARS will show you many photographs of disk drives with clearly readable serial numbers on the label. And apparently, these serial numbers will do the trick! 😉

After I downloaded the software, I ran it to make a bootable CD (it also seems to be Linux-based), booted and ran it and 1 hour and 30 minutes later my C: partition was showing up as properly aligned.

I can understand that Western Digital wants to restrict the use of licensed Acronis software to its own customers, denying other brands a free ride. However, the hoops it is making people jump through to be able to use one of their new drives as an upgrade to an existing Windows XP machine is just ridiculous. If a login is required to do the download, it should clearly say so. And if a drive uses 4 KB sectors (Advanced Format), its serial number should qualify you for the download. There are millions of existing XP users out there still and many will need new hard disks before they need a new computer.

OTC Pump & Dump scams: County Line Energy Inc (CYLC)

County Line Energy Inc (CYLC) is the next OTC stock being pushed by “pump & dump” stock scammers. Beware! Spammers advertise stock because they want to sell theirs, not because it’s a good idea to buy it (it is not).

Here is a spam sample:

This is our newest award winning pick, be sure to act fast! Exciting
New Trade with Increasing Sales.

Trade Date: Mon, March 18th
Name: COUNTY LINE ENERGY INC.
Stock Symbol: C_Y L C
Last Trade: $0.019
Target: $.15

It is our Day-Trade Bounce back Play. This Company is unique!!!

Other stocks spammed by the same scammers recently: Pengram Gold Corp. (PNGM), GOLD & GEM STONE MINING, INC (GGSM) and Microelectronics Technology (MELY).

See also:

OTC Pump & Dump scams: Pengram (PNGM)

Pump and dump scams are investment scams in which a scammer acquires stock (usually of little known OTC stocks), then drums up demand (often via spam emails) and offloads their stocks at inflated prices.

Steer clear of any stock promoted via spam: Their prices will collapse no later than when the spamming stops and people realize there are no other buyers. Such stocks can become near impossible to sell. In any case, a buyer will have lost most of their investment.

One such stock currently being promoted is Pengram Gold Corp. (PNGM). The spamming started around March 9, 2013 and trading volumes went up in the next couple of days.

Here is a spam sample:

Pre Announcement! Major Momentum is Brewing for This Beast.

Trade Date: Thu, Mar 14th, 2013
Company: Pengram Gold Corporation
Trade: P NG_M
Closed Price: .027
Long Term Target: $0.20

It Releases Breaking News! Our New Pick Under A Penny!!!

Right up to that day and from one week before, they had been spamming stocks of GOLD & GEM STONE MINING, INC (GGSM):

Morning Dip spells Big Opportunity. It Should Continue Upward
Trend!

Date: March, 4
Company Name: Gold and GemStone Mining, Inc
Tick: GG SM
Latest Pricing: .017
Short Term Target Price: 0.35

You Need To Read This Story. This week is going to be even
better than the last.

From Feb 17-21 it was stock of Microelectronics Technology (MELY):

This Stock Continues to Climb!!! We are on fire..

Trading Date: Tue, February 19th
Company: Microelectronics Technology
Ticker: M_ELY
Closed at: $0.0163
9-Day Target: 0.10

It continues soaring! Are you missing out? Building a strong
support for a push higher!

It only takes the scammers a couple of days to unload their existing stock, then they start promoting the next one.

Occasionally the US Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) will suspend stocks involved in such trading patterns, as it did in 2011, to protect potential buyers from being scammed.

A hilly 200 km brevet in scenic Izu peninsula

Yesterday I cycled 200 km across the mountains of west Izu (Shizuoka prefecture, Japan) on my Bike Friday folding bike. I had resolved do at least one century ride (160+ km) every calendar month of this year, some of them organised events, but most personal rides. BRM309 200 km by AJ NishiTokyo was my first official brevet of the year. I completed it in an official time of 12:58, i.e. just over half an hour under the 13 1/2 hour time limit.

The scenery was beautiful and the weather perfect but the course tough. With a highest point of 450 m, I first found it hard to believe that this course should really have more climbing (3159 m total) than the 300 km Fuji brevet I did last May (2800 m total), but except for the first and last 10% and some short stretches through the towns on the coast, this was a pedal-powered roller coaster! On the smaller roads grades of 8-11 percent were not uncommon.

I loaded the Bike Friday into the Prius the night before (no need to fold the bike or take off the wheels), went to bed at midnight and got up at 04:00. A little after 06:00 I got off Tomei expressway at Numazu and drove near Mishima station, where I found a 1000 yen ($10.50) a day car park. One couple dressed like randonneurs was already setting up their bikes in there.

An hour from home on the expressway it had suddenly struck me I had left my reflective vest at home. No vest, no brevet! But it was already too late to turn back. Fortunately the organisers had some stock and sold me one for 1600 yen ($17). To start with I was wearing new bib shorts and new jerseys (two layers for the morning and evening chill). GS Astuto’s HauteRoute shorts proved exceptionally comfortable, like wearing your best pair of pajamas at home. I sweated a lot, in fact my cheeks were white with salt afterwards, but the shorts and jersey kept me comfortable. The deep pockets safely stored wallet, camera, keys and some food.

There were 60 riders in two blocks of 30, starting at 7:30 and 8:00. They started us in smaller groups. I was wearing my heart rate belt and wanted to aim for a consistent workout throughout the day, but I worked much harder during the first 50 km than I had intended and less hard later on. When you have some other fast guys to follow (which would save you having to navigate) it is tempting to hang on at whatever cost. We headed through town and along a river to the south. After 20 km the route started climbing, peaking at a tunnel about 450 m above sea level, then down to the coast. We made the first 50 km in 2 1/2 hours, putting me more than half an hour ahead of the pace needed for completing in time, and that is what I also finished with.

I glimpsed Mt Fuji across the bay from near Toi.

The coastal road went to Matsuzaki through many tunnels and a couple of climbs. After Matsuzaki we climbed the second highest pass on a small mountain road and it was very pretty. Plum trees (ume) were in bloom everywhere.

PC1 (point de contrôle 1) was at 95 km, almost at the half way point, but there had also been a safety check at the first tunnel (lights!). We were given pastries baked in the shape of bicycle cranks.

From the control point we headed west to the coast, which we mostly stayed on. As mentioned before, the coastal road goes mostly up and down. It only becomes level again at the north west corner of Izu. The top third of the west coast was the hardest part. There were few villages, no shops and it was gradually getting dark. I had somehow expected the second half of the ride to be easier than the first because the maximum elevations were much lower, but it was actually harder. Between Toi and the north coast there were no flat portions in towns between descents and climbs, because there were no towns (or more appropriately, there were no towns there because there was no flat land).

The following was a sign we had to spot and then write down the Kanji characters, as part of a quiz question. As a Kanji-challenged foreigner, I got dispensation to bring back a picture instead:

Izu used to have a lot of terraced rice fields built into the hills because there wasn’t much flat land. Much of these fields now lie fallow or have been turned into sugi tree plantations contributing to the hay fever epidemic in Tokyo.

Mt Fuji at dusk:

I completed!

Having my brevet card checked at the finish:

Garmin Edge 500 on long rides

Since January I’ve been using a Garmin Edge 500 with heart rate monitor strap for logging bike rides. Garmin quotes a battery life of “up to 18 hours”. After this 13 hour bike ride, it showed a remaining battery capacity of 21%. Extrapolating from this, the battery would have lasted about 16 hours in total.

I was not just logging the ride (GPS data) but also using the heart rate strap and had the Garmin track a course with turn-by-turn instructions, which probably draws a bit more power. I had created the course as a TCX file in RideWithGPS while looking at the course as published on http://latlonglab.yahoo.co.jp.

In any case, 16 hours is enough for a 200 km brevet with its 13 1/2 hour time limit, but not enough for a 300 km brevet with its 20 hour limit, unless you are a really fast cyclist and/or the course is extremely flat. For my 300 km brevet I am planning to use my Garmin Edge 500 power hack, a special USB cable that allows me to charge the device while logging and navigating.

Garmin Edge USB power hack

I use a Garmin Edge 500 for recording most of my bicycle rides (I do at least one ride of 160 km or more per month on my Bike Friday Pocket Rocket). One problem with the Garmin is that some of my rides will take longer than the Garmin’s battery will last, but if you try to use an external power source to top up the charge, it will instantly end the recording. Here is my working solution:

Garmin quotes “up to 18 hours” of battery life, but last May I did a 300 km brevet with a 20 hour time limit. There are also 400 and 600 km brevets with 27 and 40 hour time limits (I am not thinking about 1200 km events yet!). While the Garmin has a USB port that it can be charged from using a cable, it won’t normally operate as a GPS unit while connected to a USB power source. Any GPS recording under way will instantly be terminated when you plug in the cable. So what can you do about that?

I searched a bit on Google and found that when you plug a USB cable into the socket at the back of the Garmin, it tests pin X on the USB mini connector. On normal cables (including the one that comes bundled with the Garmin Edge 500) that pin is left disconnected. Unless it finds it tied to ground (GND) as you supply external power to the Garmin, it will switch into a passive storage device mode. In that mode it provides read/write access to a PC via the USB port with all GPS functionality and user interface disabled. The screen will display only the brand name and it won’t respond to any buttons being pressed. If pin X is tied to GND, it will operate normally.

This behaviour mirrors the way pin X works on smart phones that support the USB “On The Go” (OTG) specification. USB OTG allows smart phones to drive certain peripherals such as memory card readers, in the same way a PC can drive those peripherals. Normally when a smart phone is connected to a USB port, it acts as a passive storage device to which a PC can upload MP3 files or from which it can download photographs (JPEG files). With an OTG cable, the phone remains the active end. Pin X is the magic key that tells the phone which way to behave, active or passive. It all depends on whether the USB plug is an OTG plug or a regular one.

My cheap low-tech solution was to buy a USB mini OTG adapter (480 yen – about US$5) on Amazon. This has a USB mini plug with pin X wired to GND on one end and a female USB-A connector (like a USB socket on a PC) on the other. To get power into this I cut the USB A plugs off two old peripherals (such as an old USB mouse), stripped off the ends of the wires in the cable and connected black to black (GND), red to red (+5V). This was not too hard even for my soldering skills. A bit of insulating tape and voila! We have a new male-to-male cable that can draw power from any USB power source and feed it into the female end of the OTG adapter. When I plugged it all together, I could run the Garmin in GPS mode while running on external power from my USB battery.

Lawyer Note: Do not use a male-to-male cable or OTG adapter for any other purpose. Do NOT connect the male-to-male cable to two PCs. Do NOT connect the OTG adapter between a phone and a power source. Only ever connect the cable to the OTG adapter. Only ever connect the OTG adapter to the Garmin. I won’t be responsible for bad wiring mistakes or other stupid mistakes. Don’t sue me if your Garmin or house goes up in smoke!

Here is the photographic evidence that it all works for me:

You can find USB Mini OTG adapters and USB Mini OTG cables on DealExtreme (dx.com). They also have USB-A male-to-male cables and adapters, so you don’t have to make your own as I did (though it’s not difficult if you have at least very basic soldering skills). Any combination of a USB Mini OTG cable or adapter and a USB-A male-to-male cable or adapter should work.