Swollen MacBook Pro 17″ Battery Ready to Explode?

I had to replace my MacBook Pro 17″ Battery again a few months back due to the swollen battery issue. I just left the old one on my desk on top of a few Apple product boxes figuring I’d take it somewhere to have it recycled. Just last night I was cleaning up in the middle of the night (don’t ask why I was up) and noticed that it had had swollen even more. In fact, it looks like leaving it charged kept feeding the expansion of the battery cells. Its at the point where the entire case is separating. I think I’ll take it to an Apple Store and have them recycle it so that they can see how bad they get. Hey, maybe they’ll give me another one!

iPhone Settings “App” Slow to Load?

Recently I had started to notice that the Settings app on my iPhone 3GS was really slow to load. It was probably taking 2-3 seconds to load up. This was a pain especially when I wanted to adjust the brightness on my iPhone so I could use it as a flashlight. Silly I know, but its damn useful in a pinch. Anyway, I started to think that the issue was how many applications I had installed on my phone and also how many of them installed a settings widget on the phone as well. Flipping through the 6 or 7 pages of apps I had installed on my phone I decided that half of them I never used or had only used once or twice to play around with them. So I removed a bunch of them. Turns out, I was right. More times than not, the Settings app loads right up with very little waiting at all. I know that 2-3 seconds isn’t really that long, but when you’re impatient, it can seem like forever.

Removing Windows 2011 Security Center Spyware/Virus

Recently I offered to fix a friend’s Dell Vostro 1000 laptop running Windows XP Home Edition. He said that he hadn’t been able to get on to the Internet for 3-4 days and that he kept getting these weird security pop up windows. I had a good idea what the issue was as I’ve seen these attempts to install the same type of software on my systems. So, once he dropped the laptop off, I started to look at what the issue was. Oddly, I was able to connect to my wireless service, so I’m not sure why he couldn’t connect to the Internet. Perhaps that’s another issue. But, on to removing the spyware. The first thing I did was create my own account with Administrative privileges. Then I started the system in Safe Mode with Networking and installed and ran the following programs:

Each program found different issues with the system and I was able to remove some nefarious programs that were causing his issues. I also ran CCleaner from Piriform which allowed me to remove any unwanted files from browsing the Internet as well as removing any unnecessary Windows Registry entries. At this point, I figured that the system was clean so I gave it a reboot.

I logged back in to Windows in normal mode and used his Windows account. The Windows 2011 Security Center spyware was gone, but something else had happened in the process. Even though Windows had Automatic Updates turned on, I was getting a popup in the toolbar suggesting that it wasn’t. This lead me to believe that there was still some spyware installed. So I ran the above utilities under his username to just make sure I got everything. Nothing.

At this point I decided it was time to install some of the utilities Microsoft provides to protect your system (as well as turning Windows Firewall on). I downloaded:

I ran installed and ran Windows Defender first. After the install, I couldn’t update its definitions, which I thought was odd. So I installed and ran the Malicious Software Removal Tool. It didn’t find any more spyware. At this point, I was pretty confident there wasn’t anything else wrong with the system in terms of spyware or viruses. To get the Windows Defender definitions to update, I ran Windows Update manually. I selected the updates to install, but none of them worked. Now I was starting to think that whatever spyware that was installed, had hosed the system. So back to Google I went to search for a solution.

I found this Microsoft Knowledge Base article outlining some steps to take to get Windows Update to work again. I was a little wary of running some of the scripts they recommended, but I figured it came from Microsoft so it might be worth the risk. Besides, his computer was still sort of hosed. I followed each step in order, then rebooted the system. The Windows Update alert in the toolbar was gone, but Windows Update still wasn’t quite working.

Some more searching lead me to another Microsoft Knowledge Base article outlining how to obtain the latest version of the Windows Update Agent. I downloaded this (x86 in my case) and installed it. I rebooted the machine again and crossed my fingers.

Low and behold, upon restarting, Windows Update and Windows Defender definition update worked. All because of a little spyware that was installed. Bottom line folks, don’t click on or install any sort of security popup you see online. They’re bad news.

A couple of other issues I had with this laptop. It kept shutting down on me. A search on Google revealed that dust will cover the fan cover on the bottom of the laptop and cause it to overheat, which is bad. I cleaned it off with a little compressed air and made sure the vent was exposed when working on the laptop. It stopped shutting down and didn’t get nearly as warm. Another issue, from the laptop shutting down actually, was that it shutdown while running chkdsk. After restarted, I got the UNMOUNTABLE_BOOT_VOLUME blue screen. I just booted the system into Recovery Mode using a separate install disc and ran chkdsk from the Recovery Console. Specifically, I executed two commands:

  • chkdsk /p
  • chkdks /r

The first one verifies the disk and makes sure its not marked as dirty and the second actually runs through any repair steps to make sure the disk is in good order.

Anyway, a lot of work to fix one silly issue. I’m just glad that I was able to remove the spyware and get the laptop to work properly again.

Microsoft Buys Skype

I just saw a press release here stating that Microsoft has an agreement to by Skype for $8.5 billion. Nice chunk of change for those parties involved (Silver Lake, eBay, etc.). What I find most interesting about Microsoft agreeing to buy Skype is that it appears they want to keep pace with Google in this same space. Google offers their chat service through Google Talk (MS does too through Live Messenger), but more importantly they have their Google Voice which allows people to communicate via voice from their computer or even their cellphone. I think it makes sense for Microsoft to get into this space to just keep pace with what Google is doing out there. What Microsoft does with Skype long term (hopefully doesn’t kill it or make it suck more than it does) will be interesting.

Has Google Changed Their Search Results Styling?

I opened up Chrome tonight and did a Google Search and noticed that the styling of the search results has changed. When I did the same in Firefox 4, I didn’t see the same changes. This leads me to believe one of a handful of things:

  1. This is specific to Chrome
  2. Their testing the changes on a limited basis

It could be either really, but here’s a screen shot of what I saw:

I kind of like the changes. A few other things I noticed is that the styling for search results and AdWords is almost exactly the same. Nothing really jumps out at you, which I kind of like. It means everything on the page has the same “weight” when a user is looking at results. Thoughts?

Unusual Google Traffic Notice When Searching

I was doing some keyword research for a site the other day and ran into a page from Google based on my searches and looking for SERP results:

There are tools out there that can do this, but we hadn’t finished our signup process for one of the better tools out there. Anyway, it looks like my constant searching (for similar terms probably) and paginating looking for our placement caused Google to notice. Their message:

Our systems have detected unusual traffic from your computer network. This page checks to see if it’s really you sending the requests, an not a robot.”

So apparently Google will get wise to the number of queries you make, the types of queries, and how you use the results. Personally, I have no problem with this. After typing in the Captcha phrase (I hate Captcha by the way), they return you to the next results page.

Fake Twitter Site

I was going to Twitter tonight and forgot to type in the second ‘t’ (twiter instead of twitter). Took me to a site that looks almost like Twitter, but with a survey popup instead:

It looks like its a survey site looking to gain access to email addresses. They made the site look legit enough to make a lot of people probably think its really Twitter interested in a user’s input, but it’s not. After you answer 3 simple questions, you’re asked what you’d like to be entered to win (iPad 2, Victoria’s Secret Gift Card, or $1,000 Gift Card). Obviously you’re not going to win anything, but the site owner will certainly take your email address and sell it to make a tidy profit. Users beware.

What Twitter Means for Your Google SEO

The “intertubes” was abuzz recently with news that Google was going to add social media to its algorithm, meaning that tweets could be of more importance in the future. But exactly how important? I’m not sure anyone really knows, but a few things I would assume out of the gate:

  1. Massive tweeting on your part probably won’t have much effect on any traffic sent your way on Google’s part. I honestly don’t think Google will take the text from a tweet just on face value. I believe they’ll use that in conjunction with other metrics when placing a value on the importance of a tweet.
  2. Your followers will probably play an important role in the effect of tweets. Just like how similar web sites linking to your site help with your ranking (based on keywords, linking, etc.), the same will probably be said for your Twitter followers. For instance, if you’re into Ford Mustangs and you promote your Ford Mustang site on Twitter, other Ford Mustang related Twitter accounts will be more valuable to you than a Twitter follower who’s all about Britney Spears. Makes sense.
  3. The depth of your tweets will mean the most. What I mean is, how many times does your tweet get re-tweeted? By having a tweet re-tweeted a ton of times basically means whatever you had to say started to really catch on and people thought it was important. More value would be placed on a tweet Google could tell the social network found important.
  4. A combination of all of the above. I’m not sure anyone has any solid idea on how Google is going to use Twitter data. My guess is they’ll use a combination of my assumptions above when placing a value on anything it gleams from Twitter.

What’s almost certain is Google appears to be applying more metrics to its algorithm. Whereas domain names, inbound links, domain age, etc. was of utmost importance several years ago, Google is going to look into more metrics when applying your search rankings. In my opinion, this is a good thing. At the end of the day, it puts more relevant topics first based on how people are using the information across the web. Only time will tell what the importance of these changes will be though. What does everyone else think?

Commission Junction Customer Support Fail

A couple years back I joined Commission Junction to test out my affiliate marketing chops. Mostly I was interested in trying to generate a little side income. For a while, I ran a site that I did reviews of music that I enjoyed and tried selling concert tickets through StubHub. I didn’t rake in the money, but I did alright with it. Life basically took over and I didn’t put anymore effort into it. Lately, I’ve decided that I have enough traffic to this site to attempt to generate some income. If you’ve noticed, I’m displaying some Google Ads here and there across the site (hopefully not that annoying to you). So, I went back to CJ to log into my account. For a while, I couldn’t remember my password, so I filled out the forgot password form. This is what I got:

Error: The email address does not belong to an active Commission Junction user

At this point, I figured that they just deleted my account since I hadn’t been an active user for a long time. So I went to their signup form to create a new account with the same email address. This is what I get:

The email address you have entered is associated with an existing account. Please use another email address or log in to your existing account.

Now a little frustration is setting in. CJ is telling me that when I try to retrieve my password that an account does not exist for my email address. But when setting up a new account, it does. How can that be? At this point, I start trying every password that I use online. Getting lucky, I think I found out which password I had been using a Commission Junction. However, I couldn’t get my account to log in. This is the screen they show me:

Our records indicate that your account has been deactivated. To try again, please go back to the login page.

I’m baffled at this point. First, why can’t CJ get some consistent messaging going on in their system. Second, why would I try to login again if you just told me that my account was deactivated? How would trying again fix that?

Now it was time to contact their customer support through their help link for logging in. I tried to get a solution from them 3 times, but to no avail. This is the canned response they send me no matter what I type in their help form:

Your request for assistance cannot be accepted because your email address is not registered with an existing account.

Gaaaaaah! Really CJ? I have an account. Your system keeps telling me it’s not active. Then how can your email system tell me that my account doesn’t exist? Apparently Commission Junction just doesn’t care about small affiliates or to even have a system that actually gives you some useful information.

I suppose I could call them to try and have this resolved, but at this point I’m just not interested. I’ll set up a publisher with another affiliate system like ShareASale.

UPDATE:  I just wanted to update that I wasn’t banned from Commission Junction for violating their terms of use or terms of service. I believe my account was just deactivated for lack of use.

Email Unsubscribe Forms – What Not to Do

Just like everyone else, I get a lot of junk mail. Some of it I’ve signed up for years ago and some just shows up. I received an email from some company called ATLANTIC-ACM this morning. No idea who these guys are, so I went to unsubscribe from their list. I use Chrome and Firefox 4 most of the time and I saw this when I clicked their unsubscribe link from Chrome:

This is basically what it says:

Unsupported Browser (Safari AppleWebKit 534.16 WinNT)
This product requires Internet Explorer 6.0 SP1 or later, or Firefox 1.5 or later

Really?!?!? In this day in age you’re forcing someone to use a specific web browser? Especially for something as simple as an email unsubscribe form. This is just rediculous. If you’ve built something like this into your site, you should know better.