Friday, July 4, 2014

My adventures on the Medicare website.

Yes, I'm going to rant. I was trying to find something medical related and to do so required that I find a supplier for this particular item. (Actually I wanted to change suppliers.)

So, first step, type a query into Google and see what pops up.

Ah! Great, the US Government's website for Medicare has a list of "approved" suppliers. Let's click on that. After all it says: 'Medicare.gov: A federal government website managed by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services'

The first thing it says is this:

The page could not be loaded. The Medicare.gov Home page currently does not fully support browsers with "JavaScript" disabled. Please note that if you choose to continue without enabling "JavaScript" certain functionalities on this website may not be available.

WTF? Let me see if I can understand what it says. "We don't support the *basic* RUDIMENTARY functions of a browser, we only support the more "advanced", security riddled, vendor specific and overly complex functions requiring JavaScript. Huh? What the hell do you mean you don't support browsers without JavaScript? How do you design a webpage to not support the most basic functionality? Good thing no one that comes to "Medicare.gov" is disabled in any way. I bet the speech systems make a big difference with JS.

Okay, let's see what crap isn't permitted....

Okay, optimizely.com, don't know who you are so you're not getting through. Ah, cms.gov and medicare.gov. Not too sure but I'll permit those scripts. Then we'll see what happens.

Ah good, we get through without a warning. Let's see if I can find what I need now. Way down the bottom, "Where to get covered medical items." Good, let's click on that. Not bad, now it needs my zip code. I do so and click "Go" and this is what's left....

That's all she wrote. So, let's see NOW what scripts are disabled. (Because needing to use Javascript to draw a little whirly thing is so important.)


Seriously? You can't tend to your customer's needs without "microsoft.com" Really? The company you sued in federal court for anti-trust violations? Hmmm...  Our tax dollar at work. Great. So, let's see what else we can discover about this.

Don't know who (or what) mxpnl.com is so they're not getting through. I'll relax my rules enough to let google.com through and see what else happens. Nada. Okay, let's try letting through the googletagmanager.com

Seriously? It STILL doesn't work? Let's see who we need to let through *now*. Okay, google again. Prefer not to but I'll risk it.

Chartbeat? Eff-off, don't care that you want to keep track. mxpnl? Still no, nor Macro$lop. I don't trust you. Let's turn on the last google request.

Done. Now let's see what happens... *YAWN* Still nothing. Tick...Tock...Tick...Tock... Nope, still nothing.

So "Medicare.gov", you mean to tell me that you can't do what your average high-school student can do and design a website that provides even the most rudimentary *information* to your constituents? Really?

Wow, I need to get a job there. Imagine being able to be this bad and keep your job? Oh, and BTW, while I've been doing all this (writing and taking screen shots) I've had an Opera browser running on the *FIRST* page and it still hasn't responded. :)

I see a little thing down the bottom of my current FireFox screen that says "Helpful Links" and a subtopic "Site policies & important links" that takes us to "cms.gov" which is the "Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services" Okay, so let's see what they have to say...

There's a link for "Accessibility and Compliance with Section 508" let's see what that says. Hmmm.. More humor of the Dilbert kind.

Unless doing so would impose an undue burden on the agency. Wow. Talk about a skewed reality. You can't provide the information in the most basic form and that's an "undue burden"? So you force the populous to sacrifice security? Wow.

Okay, let's be reasonable, I'll read on and see what I find. Oh! A link that might help "Policy for Linking to Outside Websites" Yes, that will help! It says:

Wow. What a crock. Why the heck do you need to involve Macro$lop in my search for medical supplies? Please explain that because I don't see ONE item on that bulleted list that matches up with that need.

Okay, let's read on...

It also says:
Hmmm.... Where's that... Nope, can't find ANY link with that title. So, that's useless but I do find an interesting tidbit on the end of that notification "CMS disclaims responsibility for the content and privacy policies of non-.gov websites." Wow. Really? You mean you're going to compel me to permit these third party, non ".gov" website/businesses into my computer or you're not going to service me? Great idea. Just freakin' spiffy.



Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A thought on privacy and/verses security.

I had a conversation recently and one of the questions posed to everyone was one of those commonly asked questions and I thought I'd expand on my response.

The question was "What do you worry about when it comes to security?"

My response got the attention of the folks at the table and that response was "You."

There's two weak spots in "my security" chain-mail. The first one is the information that is in the hands of people I know. I'm sure you're already saying "Huh?" to this. Let me give you an example. Most of my friends know, by random conversations that my mother's maiden name is Logan. (Yes, like the airport and there's even a chance we're related. Ok, I may also stand as much of a chance of hitting the lottery but that's a digression for another time.)

So, right there is a chink in my security armor because if one of my friends mentions this fact in "the wrong circles", one of my so-called "Security questions" suddenly has no value and that hurdle for a "bad guy" to get through in order to "become me".

Because of the erroneous dependency on this sort of information, the "imperiousness" of that chain-mail security net has a number of weakened links.

So that's one of the two problems. The other one is the companies that get my private information. Not the first level recipients of this information, my doctor, dentist, electric company, etc. the ones I'm worried about are the second and tertiary level entities who are able to get their hands on this information. Every layer/step away from me, the originator of the information, is weaker than the one before it and that worries me. Every time we/I'm required to give my personal information out we/I'm also give permission to the primary recipient of this information to use this information and they "give us" their rules of behavior by which they will handle my information. At no time are we/I given any rules or power about these secondary recipients of this information. So, just like previously stated example, every step/layer away from the primary source of information (me) the thinner the wall of security surrounding it.

And the other part of the concept of security is the idea/illusion/belief of punitive responses to compromises of this security. If someone "in my circle" discloses sensitive information, I have *some* recourse to offset any losses I suffer because of this. Additionally, if one of these primary companies does something stupid, I have *some* recourse for compensation but if one of *their* "vendors" who gets this information does something stupid, I'm "S-O-L" and I might as well sit back and watch my life swirl around the bowl because there's nothing I can do about it.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Brick & Mortar shops are safe.

If anyone tells you that "Brick and Mortar" shopping is a thing of the past you can point them to this screen shot I got when visiting "Onecall" (got it multiple times too...).

I happened on their site and clicked on the "Best Deals of the Week" banner, and chose "Camcorder" to see what options I might have.

Let's see what the system found for me.....
  1. A panasonic shaver.... Don't know how that'll work.
  2. A "Personal Utility Cart". Damn, I hope the camcorder I get won't need a personal utility cart to use it.
  3. Ah, how about a $200 saute pan. Hmmm... A bit clumsy when visiting Disney.

Why will brick & mortar businesses never completely fail? Because they don't waste our time!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Product test review for LG BD670 Blueray Player

Unsolicited product test review.

Subject: LG BD670 Blueray Player review.

    LG - BD670 Blueray Player

Manufacturer: LG
Model: BD670
Product cost: $109.00
Would you recommend the product to your friends: (Yes or No) No, I'd warn people away from this unit.
What attracted you to this product: Cost/Manufacturer
What is it's best feature: Size.
What is it's worst feature: High-pitched noise from it.
Support (or lack thereof.)

    Rate it using the terms "Excellent"; "Good"; "Fair"; "Poor"; "Unknown"; or "N/A" for not applicable; in the areas of:
      Performance: Good
      Quality: Good
      Design: Poor
      Ease of Use: Poor
      Durability: Unknown
      Size: Good
      Versatility: Poor
      Power: N/A
      Rated against similar products: Unknown
      Overall rating: Poor



My Comments and Opinions:
  1. The reports found on the web about the high-pitched noise from this unit are accurate. Don't know exactly what it is but I'm sure it's a motor of some sort, maybe a fan. Don't know.
  2. The "Apps" they crow about are horrible, most of them are repackaged movies of highly questionable value. The other thing is the "Apps" that aren't movies seem to be geared to children or niche markets, and trying to dig through the pile of this to find anything interesting is just too much work to be worth it.
  3. Oh yea. When I turn it on and go to the "Premium Apps" "App", I keep getting that there's access for it in my country. Just stupid.
  4. Wait until you have to enter a username/password on the screen using the cursor buttons on the remote! That'll drive you bonkers inside the first five minutes. (The "Auto Login" function doesn't seem to work reliably either.)
  5. Another thing seems to be really poor buffering. It's not unusual to be streaming a movie on my local network only to have it lock up for an indordinatly long time with no indication that it's trying to get the data then to have the audio/video out of sync. The other thing I find amusing when this happens is that the movie attempts to catch up to itself. The movie, once enough data hits the machine the movie runs in "fast forward" style catch up. You'll find that sort of thing listed under "bad engineering".

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Cheap NAS at home.... The saga...

For those that have read my previous postings about the Coolmax CN-330 and are looking for those posts, forget it. I've taken them down. Why?
  • 2012-January:
    Another update. I called them after hunting around for a number and I got the same basic crap. "Tough Luck", they'd be willing to sell me a fan but they won't make good on the ones that have failed. When I asked for the name of the person in charge, the guy told me "There's no need for that." and then hung up on me.
  • 2012-January:
    Well, I am sorry to say that I'm now compelled to report that I've had yet another fan die on this product, that makes for a total of four fans since I got this unit in July of 2010. Way too many for anyone to say that it's a fluke.

My most recent exchange with them "ended" with their statement:
Basing on the date, is 2010. This unit comes with 1 year warranty only.

Yes, that's the dumbest thing any company could say to a customer.

Why? Dunno.

The long and short of it is, I can not recomend this product in the slightest. Yea it's slow but it was cheap. The problem is, coolmax fans are pieces of crap. I've now done some poking around the net and I've found that there's a lot of folks complaining about the fans on the power supplies (and this NAS) and subsequently complaining about the crappy support. So.... Move on, time to find a new toy. It just occurred to me, here's a product review I did:
Unsolicited product test review.


Subject: Coolmax CN-330 NAS (Network Attached Storage)

Manufacturer: Coolmax
Model: CN-330
How much: US$100
Would you recommend the product to your friends: (Yes or No) No, never.
What attracted you to this product: Simplicity. DIY. Cost. Features.
What is it's best feature: Simplicity. Not feature laden.
What is it's worst feature: Toss up between the lousy fans that constantly fail or the support organization that doesn't answer emails or even care about the customer.
If you were in charge, how would you improve it: There's many ways but they don't pay me for this.

Rate it using the terms "Excellent"; "Good"; "Fair"; "Poor"; or "N/A" for not applicable; in the areas of:
Performance: Fair
Quality: Fair
Design: Poor
Ease of Use: Fair
Durability: Poor
Size: Good
Versatility: Poor
Power: Good
Rated against similar products: Poor
Overall rating: Poor

My Comments and Opinions:

I think I've made my opinions clear now.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

A Most Religious Day For "Computerphiles"

This is something I wrote a long time ago...



A Most Religious Day For "Computerphiles"
by Michael Tiernan (c) 1986-2011

You could feel the tension in the air, for according to the prophets this was the day it would happen. We, meek pilgrims would behold the words of a god. A few chosen ones would be able to catch a glimpse of him as he spoke those holy words usually reserved for high priests and the powerful.
Pilgrims came from far and near in hopes of being able to get closer to him. Some came dressed in the traditional clothes of the religion, some came from obviously more affluent positions.


Quietly we entered the hallowed halls of this place of worship. Through the great doors we approached the temple itself. Sentry at the door stood fast. No one but the chosen would enter. We were earlier than most and he suggested that we pay homage to the gods by meditating in front of the implements through which they ministered our religion.


As we did, images of of slaves freed from their bonds of torture and the enslavers caught in their own web of toil came to view. These great mechanisms of worship were still powerful, capable of building or razing a complex structure in seconds, though they sat dormant. Artifacts of a world few remember or can imagine. The holy words were encased in glass so any could read them. Here we were, common peasants, reading the holiest of scriptures like any of the high priests were able to do. Truly beautiful icons, the work of obviously superior beings, here for all to see. We passed many other pilgrims in varying states of meditation, sOme quiet and sublime, studying the holy words to remember them for all time; some were exalted, disbelief of where they were showing on their faces.


The moment came. We were escorted into the alter room itself. Peasants sitting elbow to elbow with the affluent, all here for the same purpose, to be blessed with the words of the god himself. Quietly a hush fell over the crowd; it was beginning. The highest of high priests, the minister of the temple, was about to speak. He welcomed us in a strange, but not-so-strange tongue. He explained why a god would choose to bless this temple, for this was a day of praise for the early martyrs. The works of their religion were on the alter in proud display. We were told of their dedication to the religion and the personal credos that they lived by and how through these people we were given a purpose in life. As he spoke on his words became lost in the euphoria of the moment.


Then it happened, an image appeared in the room. IT WAS HIM. The god himself. He came forward and spoke to us. "Let me tell you a story," he began. "A guy goes to see his doctor and the doctor tells him "I've got bad news for you, you've got only six months to live." Shocked the patient exclaims "What am I to do? Six Months? That's all?" The doctor calms him down and says "I've got an answer. Move to Cupertino, California and get a job writing software for Apple Computer Co." The patient pauses a moment the asks "This will cure me?" "No, but it will be the LONGEST six months you'll ever have."


Such began an evening to remember. For here in the auditorium of the Computer Museum in Boston, I, along with hackers and business men alike, got to meet one of those people that you only hear about - as if he was a vapor that no one really can prove exists. I listened as he recounted how the simple idea of two mischievous and creative kids would become the cornerstone to what we now know as the computer revolution. Never would I have imagined that I would even get to shake the hand of Mr. Steve Wozniak afterwards.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

What do you mean you still don't know what we mean?

So, I'm chatting with a friend about people's quality of work and we were laughing about some random things when he mentioned my earlier post about the Amtrak "Downeaster". He asked me if I'd ever tried it again. "Nope, never did." So, while were talking on the phone, I decide to try it.

We had a good bunch of laughs about this again. I really wonder how crap like this can make it through the most basic of software development processes.

How did it go? Like this.

I go to the website http://www.amtrakdowneaster.com/ and enter into the "fare finder" the same basic information. I put in "boston", "December 1" as a departure and "portland, me" as a destination and include "December 10" as the return date.


Here's the input screen:


How simple is that? Not easy to screw it up! Oh but wait! We have professional monkeys writing this code! What do I get when I hit "Next"? TWO errors:

"Problem with Station or City Name"?  WTF? The first screen says clearly Boston on it. Obviously "Portland ME" made sense, it parsed that and figured out "POR" as the three digit code. Ok, so what's wrong with "Boston"? The error message says "select a station from the lists provided". Oh goodie. Here we go again! So, while we're both on the phone laughing at this stupid crap, I click the link for "Station List" and get the same popup list... Ok, let's see what's under "B" for Boston....

Ok, I can choose any one of four entries for "Boston" oh... except that the *ONLY* choice I can make for a trip to Maine (after all, this is the "Downeaster" I'm booking my ride on) is "Boston's North Station", guess "Boston" isn't clear enough still. 


Ok, so that's stupid *S*T*I*L*L*.


Let's look at the second error. The year automatically picked last year? Was someone out to lunch when they coded this part? We're almost apoplectic talking about this as we do this.


So, while we're talking, he sees the banner on the screen adverising "Specials & Promotions" and there's a two-for-one package so he clicks on it and gets the following screen:
Nice! Errrr.... How do you book it? Hmmm.... Not a single button that will take you to any screen that will allow you to book the trip. But they do tell you what "train numbers" get the discount. Great, and that information is useful how?


I think I'll drive.